The Edmonton Oilers' first trade of the day isn't exactly a blockbuster, but it is an interesting deal. Shawn Belle played well enough in Oklahoma City at the beginning of the year to earn a call to the bigs, and played well while he was here to stay. But he didn't stay. Instead, Belle was sent back to the Barons, but in the next several weeks his offense fell off the map - after 15 points in his first 17 games (before the recall), he managed only 5 in 22 games after being sent down. And just when things seemed like they couldn't get worse, on February 2nd, they did.
On February 2nd, Zack Stortini cleared waivers and was sent to Oklahoma City. Obviously, this was bad news for Stortini, but it also left the Barons with a bit of a conundrum. An AHL club can only ice six "veterans" (players with more than 260 pro games before the start of this season), and with Stortini joining the team, the Barons had one too many. Obivously top line talents like Alexandre Giroux and Brad Moran were going to stay in the lineup, and Ben Ondrus was the team’s captain. That left Shawn Belle, Bryan Helmer, and Jake Taylor, three defenders consistently in Oklahoma's top six. At the time, I thought Stortini was going to be doubly dishonoured and end up being the healthy scratch, but as it turns out, the lot fell to Belle.
Belle had been injured for a while, but before Stortini's demotion he was back in the lineup. Then when Stortini came down, Belle was suddenly banged up again. It was curious, and it seems now that Belle's only injury was to his pride when the team told him he'd drawn the short straw. Falling from the NHL to a healthy scratch in the minors is a tough pill to swallow.
And that brings us to today's trade. I don't know Kevin Montgomery all that well, but I do know that he doesn't count as an AHL veteran, which means that the Barons can actually use him. Belle may well be the better player, but neither Montgomery nor Belle are likely to become NHL'ers. As such, this is a deal that makes sense for everyone involved. To be perfectly honest, I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner.