Draft weekend proved to be an historic one again for the Edmonton Oilers. Not only did they once again select 1st overall and take the multi-talented centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but earlier on before the selection was made, news broke that the Oilers have swung a deal to bring LW Ryan Smyth back to Oil Country.
Initially, the deal was rumored to be Smyth heading from the Kings to the Oilers in exchange for Forward Gilbert Brule and a 4th round draft pick in this year's enrty draft. However, complications surrounding the deal surfaced as it was made known that the King intended to buy-out Brule once the deal was finalized. However, due to NHL rules, the buy-out could not take place due to an injury sustained by Brule last season that was not completely healed and the rule states that injured player cannot be bought out until they are healthy. This did not suit the salary strapped Kings, who earlier in the week acquired C Mike Richards from the Philladelphia Flyers at a whopping $5.75M cap hit and still needing to re-sign cornerstone defenseman, Drew Doughty.
The rumors started to swirl again who could be going to the Kings or if the Oilers would even land their hometown prodical son as the rival Calgary Flames were also rumored to be interested in the rugged left winger. In the end, and at the 11th hour, the deal was finalized with the Oilers: Ryan Smyth from the Kings to the Oilers in exchange for C Colin Fraser and 7th round draft choice in 2012.
A sigh of relief spread across Oil Country as the Oilers finally got back a major piece of their line up that was lost when what some would call a knee jerk reaction by management when contract talks brokedown between the Oilers and Smyth in 2007 and he was subsequentially dealt to the New York Islanders at the trade deadline; another dark day for many Oilers fans that compared it to the Wayne Gretzky trade in 1988.
But it appears time does heal all wounds and when Smyth made it known last month that if he were to be dealt from the Kings, that he would waive his No Movement Clause to return home to Edmonton. The sent a firestorm of speculation of how and who would be going to the Kings in exchange for what many fans call the "Heart and Soul" player they lost.
Well, fret not Oil Country, your Oilers are poise and ready to take the next step now rather than later. Many seem surprised with that statement, but with acquisition of Smyth to improve that leadership and "heart and soul" aspect to the team, not to mention the scoring numbers, coupled with the drafting of Nugent-Hopkins and defenseman David Musil this season aswell as Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle the previous two seasons, the current core could be ready again to make a significant push.
The only glaring question marks could be defense and goaltending. Many say that the defense is suspect, however, looking up and down there D corps with guys like Ryan Whitney & Tom Gilbert to help with the offensive side and Kurtis Foster, Ladislav Smid, Jason Strudwick & Jim Vandermeer to hold up the defensive end of things, it's true they're not the big names of Chara, Mike Green or Jay Bouwmeester, but they provide a solid base and a very defensive style that could be difficult to play against, provided the proper chemistry is found within the corps.
The other factor is disgruntled defenseman Sheldon Souray, who still has one more year on his contract with the Oilers and still would be too expensive for the team to buy-out. A rumor surfaced during the draft, that if both parties can put their issues aside, that Souray could be invited back to this season's training camp and given an opporunity to make the team. Should this this actually come to pass, the offense and two-way style he'd provide would be more than enough to address the questions of the defense and fill out the corps to the point that the defense would not be an issue at all. We'll just have to wait and see what happens there.
As for the goaltending, Devan Dubnyk (12-13-8) showed last season that he could very well be ready to carry the load of being the Oilers' starter; especially down the stretch, posting two impressive wins over the President Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks towards the end of the season. This, though, was only magnified by the abyssmal season put forth by veteran Nikolai Khabibulin (10-32-4). A season that was marred by controversy and embarassing distractions with things we need never mention again. This was a goaltender brought to Edmonton to replace the apparently aging Dwayne Roloson and to provide a "Stanley Cup winning" presence in the locker room but instead caused more distraction than the issues with Sheldon Souray. If the Oilers have any shot at moving the "Broken Wall" they should take it. The Phoenix Coyotes are looking for a goalie again, so that could be a nice fit, since we already know that Khabibulin already has a taste for the desert. Take a pick and a prospect and move on... Buh-bye... Please. Go. There's plenty of other goaltenders out there that actually win games or steal games. (*cough*cough* Roloson...)
That being said, should the chips fall into the Oilers favor for this season, you could see a significant change in attitude with these new/old look Oilers. Don't worry though, Oil Country... As Shania Twain said "Up, Up, Up... Can only go up from here." It's going to be exciting to watch the good young team with experience.
Thanks for reading.
Kruze's (Ideal) Projected Oilers Line-Up:
*without free agency
Kruze's (Probable) Projected Oilers Line-Up:
*without free agency