Oiler GM leaves trade door open

Edmonton's Dustin Penner, left and Ales Hemsky take part in the pre-game warmup during the Edmonton...

Edmonton's Dustin Penner, left and Ales Hemsky take part in the pre-game warmup during the Edmonton Oilers game against the Chicago Blackhawks at Rexall Place on Wednesday. Oilers GM Steve Tambellini has the left the door open that the duo may be moved before or at the NHL trdae deadline on Feb. 29 (Codie McLachlan, Edmonton Sun)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:40 PM ET

EDMONTON - A year ago, Edmonton Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini approached the NHL trade deadline with an objective.

He was charged with cleaning up the mess and required to make room on the roster by shipping off high-price veteran and underachieving talent.

This year, the intent is not as defined, but the way the next two and-a-half weeks unfold, could be just as critical.

“This year there is not that pressure to say, we have to make room, we have enough room for our young players,” said Tambellini. “I’ve approached this deadline as other deadlines where I’m wide open to listening to ideas how other teams will make us a better team now and maybe more importantly in the future.”

Tambellini made some headway a year ago, trading away Steve Staios, Lubomir Visnovsky and Denis Grebeshkov to begin the rebuilding process.

He was unable to deal, then captain, Ethan Moreau, forwards Patrick O’Sullivan, Robert Nilsson or disgruntled defenceman Sheldon Souray, having to wait until the off-season to cut them loose.

This year, although they find themselves in a similar position in the standings, instead of simply unloading prior to the Feb. 28 deadline, Tambellini should be looking to gain a positive return on the few tradable assets they do have.

While both Ales Hemsky and Dustin Penner have gone on record stating they are willing to stay through the rebuilding process, it’s unlikely the Oilers will be able to keep the pair.

Both are among the team’s top offensive producers, who each have another year left on their contract at arguably a bargain price.

Yet when the time comes to re-negotiate an extension, both of their agents will point to Shawn Horcoff’s $6.5-million ticket and expect a similar cut of the salary cap pie.

With better offensive numbers than the Oilers captain over the past two seasons, it’ll be tough for the team to argue against it.

Tambellini would not discuss the future of the two and if or where they fit into the rebuilding process.

But if the team is looking to stay the course, at least one of them may have to go.

“Right now, they’re Edmonton Oilers,” Tambellini said. “Who knows a year from now, two years from now, at the trade deadline, who knows? All I know is that they’re good players for us right now.”


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