'Roli' of the dice

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

Dwayne Roloson isn't a guy anybody has put his reputation on before.

But Kevin Lowe just did.

If Roloson maintains his .910 season save percentage, Lowe's going to be real smart.

If, on the other hand, Roloson maintains his 6-17-1 record, Lowe's going to wear it.

All year Edmonton has waited for the Oilers' GM to get a goalie. When he finally did, the day before the trade deadline, Oilers fans didn't know whether to cheer or boo. Lowe didn't hit the home run here. He hit a ground rule double.

He didn't get the Oilers a Miikka Kiprusoff, the Calgary comparable. He got another backup goalie. A definite upgrade. But ...

That's Lowe's great gamble here. He kept his team together and added a goalie who he hopes will be better.

He's not asking that Roloson be great. He's asking that he be good - good enough to give his hockey team a chance to succeed - which Ty Conklin, Jussi Markkanen and Mike Morrison definitely did not do.

Despite a great deal to get Chris Pronger at the start of the season and good deals to get Jaroslav Spacek and Dick Tarnstrom, this is the one. No matter what he does today, this is the deal which sways the season.

Lowe didn't sound like a guy who thought he'd just knocked one out of the park.

"The win-loss ratio is a little unnerving," admitted Lowe. "His save percentage was the biggest thing for us."

Roloson, who had a .933 save percentage in 2003-04, is 13th in the league with his current .910. Morrison was 39th at .884, Conklin was at .870, and Markkanen, well, is off the chart.

JUST ONE MORE SAVE

That's the deal. All the Oilers want is one more save. If they get that in the final 20 games, this team could very well win the division. If they don't, they could miss the playoffs. He thinks he's done it. But he's not positive.

"If there's relief to kick in, it won't until we've won some games, put ourselves in the playoffs and had success," Lowe said.

Here's a stat nobody has made mention of this year. Since the start of 2006, the Oilers have won but two games against teams occupying playoff positions. Two.

Most of the losses have been by a goal. Roloson has been acquired to make one more save in those games.

"We're second in fewest shots against in the league," said Lowe.

Craig MacTavish was at the Oilers' optional practice when the deal had been made, but not made official. The night before he'd made some rather candid comments to the Sun about the deal getting done.

"You owe it to the team to give it a better chance to win. You owe it to the fans and you owe it to the organization to give it the best chance to win. You've seen the effort this team gives most night. It's the hardest working team in the league. You owe it to the players here. We're in a lot better position here this year. We have got to have some success. We have to add something in here to help this team now."

I asked MacTavish if he was convinced the deal would indeed do that.

"Yes," was his one-word answer.

An hour later, when it was announced, MacTavish told reporters: "We're excited to have him. I've always liked his character."

Roloson is no kid. The former Flame is 36. He's a free agent at the end of the year. His $1.6 million US salary means a $400,000 hit to the payroll for the rest of the season. These days that's free. The Oilers gave up a first-round pick in a bad draft year and nobody was traded.

"We didn't want to be sitting around wondering why we didn't get a deal," said Lowe of getting it done a day before the deadline.

They didn't even lose any prospects. Not on this deal anyway. Stay tuned.

"We hope to be busy (today). We're looking for another deal. Now we can move on to other things."

CONDITIONAL PICK

But this was THE thing.

If Roloson turns out to be a fit and the Oilers want to sign him for another couple of years, a conditional third-round pick will kick in as part of the deal as well.

Lowe has kept his options open in terms of hitting the home run in the off-season.

But this isn't about next year. This is about now.

It cost the Oilers a lot of points waiting for this deal to get done at this late date. Roloson has to get it done or Lowe will be fingered for sewering the season.

Welcome to Edmonton, Roli.

It's no place for a nervous netminder.


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