The Oilers' trade deadline day this year is only slightly different from last year. Last year, no one was untouchable. Every player on the Oilers team was up for grabs. This year, there are a few players that will be off of the table. The players that will not be dealt will be Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi and Linus Omark. After that group there is of course a group of players that would only be available if the Oilers were made an offer they couldn't refuse, an exceptional NHL ready player, or one in the NHL right now that would be a difference maker and an integral part of the Oilers rebuild. The second group of Oilers likely includes Ales Hemsky, Theo Peckham and Dustin Penner. Of course there may be other players on the unlikely to move list, but Oilers fans have learned to expect the unexpected on trade deadline day and to wait until 3pm before they celebrate, curse or give a sigh of relief.
Like it or not, most of the Oilers are up for grabs for the right price. There are some players that it would make sense for other teams to be interested in, there are some contracts that make attractive players unattractive (I'm looking at you Nikolai Khabibulin, Shawn Horcoff and Tom Gilbert), and then of course the wretched play of the Oilers makes many players undesirable. Professional scouts and GMs are able to see through that, however and there will be trade proposals that will reach Oilers GM Steve Tambellini for some of your favourite Oilers and even your least favourite Oilers. Steve Tambellini was the GM who moved Steve Staios to the Calgary Flames last year.
There are some Oilers that of course may look more attractive than others to the teams that are looking to make their minor tweaks to their line-ups. It's a matter of exactly what each team needs. Here are the players most Tambellini is most likely to receive calls about that he would be most likely to move:
Ryan Jones has fast become a fan favourite. With his amazing hockey hair (which he is growing for wigs for children battling cancer), his twitter account where he enjoys interacting with fans, saying how much he loves playing in Edmonton, his overall positive attitude and the way he fits in with the other members of the team it's easy for Oilers fans to get attached to yet another fourth line grinder. Jones seems to be more though. As a late bloomer, Jones might just now be reaching his potential or he might be having a good or lucky season. Jones at this point, and with his goals on the season would look attractive to many teams, but that includes the Oilers. The Oilers would let Jones go if the price was right, but as Jones is becoming one of the city's best and loudest advocates, it might cost the Oilers more than just his goals.
Jim Vandermeer was traded to the Oilers from the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for Patrick O'Sullivan, getting anyone for O'Sullivan was considered by most to be a very good deal. Vandermeer was an undrafted free agent when he signed with his first NHL club, the Philadelphia Flyers. After that first signing, Vandermeer has been traded five times and has played for both the Calgary Flames and now the Edmonton Oilers. The first game of the season for the Edmonton Oilers saw Vandermeer with the perfect pass along the board to Jordan Eberle for the rookie's first NHL goal, and the most memorable Oilers goal of the year. Then, Vandermeer seemed to fizzle out and fade into obscurity. Coming back from an ankle injury however, Vandermeer has been playing a physical game and making people notice him once again. Vandermeer has put himself onto the radar of other teams due to his experience, and play as of late. On the season, Vandermeer has a goal and eight assists. As a defenseman on this Edmonton Oilers team that's pretty good. Celebrating his 31st birthday next week, Vandermeer is in the final year of his 3 year $2.3 million contract. If the Oilers can trade him they will be getting a return. The possibility of the Oilers re-signing Vandermeer doesn't look that good right now. The Oilers are looking to get younger and cheaper, even now. Vandermeer might be a rental player for any team interested in him, but his physical play might be what a playoff bound team needs.
Kurtis Foster was acquired for his shot. When Foster is confident and releases from the point, Oilers' fan are able to see why he was attractive to the Oilers brass, and potentially to other NHL teams. Foster has however been slow to make shots and has not made the impact the Oilers had hoped for overall. Again, this may be due to the overall poor performance by the team. With one year remaining on his contract after this season, Foster might be see as more attractive and more than a rental player. As much as Lowe and Tambellini were interested in acquiring this defenseman last summer, it is doubtful that the Oilers are looking to keep him past the final year of his contract.
Colin Fraser was a member of the 2010 Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks, but only played three playoff games. Fraser was acquired from the Blackhawks in exchange for a sixth round draft pick and it's questionable if Fraser has increased his value so far this season. So far this season Fraser has 2 goals, 2 assists and has been an utter disappointment to many Oilers' fans. Fraser is not generating points, but as Bruce McCurdy points out, there are some anti-negatives to Fraser's game: "As befits his defensive role, Fraser leads Oiler forwards with 39 blocked shots. Despite his relatively low ice time totals, he ranks fifth in hits with 59. He's second on the team in Takeaway:Giveaway ratio at 1.24, with 21 and 17 respectively. He's second among Edmonton centres in faceoff percentage, albeit with a crummy 44%." (February 7, 2010) These factors may attract potential trade offers. At 26, Fraser has one more year on his current contract, making $825,000 this year and next might help a team through the playoffs and through next season as well.
Gilbert Brule is a tough character to define. Going into this season, it looked as though Brule may have turned a corner, found his game and turned into a late bloomer that the Oilers could really use. The Oilers did have a difficult time coming to a contract agreement with Brule last summer, but were able to avoid arbitration and sign a two year $3.7 million deal. Brule battled the flu for what seemed to be a good portion of last season, and had a similar situation this season. In fact Brule has not played since January 6th, but is expected to be back in the Oilers' lineup soon. In 34 games this season, Brule has netted just 6 goals and 2 assists and is not the player that it looked like he might become after his season last year. Once Brule returns to the line-up, someone on the Oilers roster will have to go down, but will Brule deserve to be with the Oilers more than someone else? Likely not. There may be another team out there willing to take a chance on Brule to see if he can make good on his 5th overall selection in the 2005 NHL entry draft.
Jean-Francois Jacques is supposed to play a physical game. Supposed to be an offensive producer, Jacques has not been living up to his expectations in Edmonton. Many fans had given up on Jacques last year and were disappointed that the Oilers extended him a one year $615,000 contract. Since his back surgery, Jacques looks as though he is fearful of hurting his back again, not that his back is bothering him. This boils down to a confidence issue. Jacques has been making attempts as of late to be the physical player he needs to be, and knows that he will be looking to sign another contract this summer. If another team pick Jacques up on trade deadline day, he will have the opportunity to try to earn his next contract through the final games of the season, and perhaps even in the playoffs. Otherwise, Jacques may be playing in the AHL once again, and hoping to make it back into the NHL.
Steve MacIntyre is one of the biggest men in the NHL. He looks as though he would be one of the bigger/better fighters. MacIntyre is however, not being used in that role on the Oilers team right now. It is true that not every NHL game has a fight, and MacIntyre is not on the ice when a fight might be called for. As such, MacIntyre has been another disappointment for Oilers fans. If there is a team out there that is looking to add size and toughness, and wants to use MacIntyre in their lineup, wants to give him the minutes, MacIntyre would be a good addition. He is popular in the locker room and among those who work with the team. At a very affordable $500, 000 contract that expires at the end of this season, MacIntyre might be on the move, but not too likely.
Jason Strudwick is a grizzled veteran. He is a favourite in the locker room and an asset to the community, but Strudwick cannot play 82 games a year anymore. Strudwick would likely want to play for many years to come, but the chances of that happening are not very good. Strudwick might be able to aid a team making their playoff push, but likely will be seen as a player that would sit in the pressbox and be used for emergency situations. Jason Strudwick will likely be an Oiler March 1st.
Nikolai Khabibulin has good games, and he has bad games. With his legal issues still a question mark, and his two years remaining on his contract, it is unlikely that a team will be calling sincerely interested in Khabibulin in exchange for much of anything except a bad contract, a problem in the locker room or an underperforming, over paid player. Khabibulin was brought in to help with young goalie development and that is likely the role he will maintain. There is good reason to think that Khabihulin may be receiving a nice contract to backup the developing Devan Dubnyk.
The next two players are an interesting pair. These two are what remains from the old "kid line" and are still very young. It seems too soon to give up on either player given the struggles of the Oilers over the past few seasons and the potential upside to either centreman. Tambellini will likely receive inquiries about both however.
Andrew Cogliano has been listed as potential trade bait for a very long time. Where there's smoke, there is likely fire. There is little doubt that the Oilers have been shopping Cogliano, but if no one has bitten yet, there are questions of whether or not Cogliano would be more attractive heading into the playoffs. Cogliano is suffering in terms of face-offs, but is emerging as a good penalty kill player. Cogliano has also accepted his role with the team and is working to develop into the player that the Oilers are asking him to. Cogliano could be a great asset for the Oilers going forward, or a great addition to a playoff team.
Sam Gagner has been working through development and all of the struggles that go along with it. Some nights Gagner is great in the faceoff circle, other nights, he can be the worst on the team. Some believe that Gagner is one of the MVPs on this Oilers team, while others see Gagner as a timid player who isn't living up to his expectations. I am in the latter court, but I am always willing to admit when I am wrong, or that there is a possibility that things can change. I will admit that Gagner has been having excellent chemistry with Linus Omark and Magnus Paajarvi, has been making excellent plays and passes and may be one of the reasons the Oilers have stood a chance in their most recent games. I do still see some plays I would rather not see Gagner make, but he is still a very young NHLer and he will have many more years in this league. Whether or not they are with the Edmonton Oilers remains to be seen. Gagner may be an attractive addition for for a team looking to add some youth and skill to their roster.