Mar 6, 2012; San Jose, CA, USA; Edmonton Oilers left wing Linus Omark (23) passes the puck against the San Jose Sharks during the second period at HP Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE
When it comes to the Oilers, fans in Edmonton are rarely in agreement on anything. Take Linus Omark for example: I think it's vast majority of the fans see a forward with a tremendous skill set but there is no consensus regarding how, or even if, that skill set will transfer to the NHL. Personally, I see Omark as a solid 35 point, third line player at the low end with the potential to play a bigger role on the second line. Others can't imagine a scenario where he will ever be a useful player on any NHL team. That's quite the discrepancy.
After a promising rookie season where he scored 27 points in 51 games, Omark struggled this season totalling only three goals (one of which was scored into an empty net) in 14 games and spent most of the season in Oklahoma City with the Barons. Those struggles combined with his often being a healthy scratch when he was in Edmonton (he was scratched in eight of the Oilers final 17 games) and his tweeted trade request a few weeks ago has fuelled specualtion that Omark, who will be a restricted free agent this summer, might be on his way out of Edmonton sooner than later. The thought of a trade itself doesn't bother me that much. The potential return certainly does.
Yesterday Mark Spector waded into the trade discussion hypothesizing that the return form Omark might be no better that a fourth or even a fifth round pick at this summer's draft. If that is the best the Oilers can get for Omark then the smart thing to do would be to re-sign him.
If the Oilers were willing to move Omark for nothing more than a fourth round pick I suspect that teams would be lining up to make that trade. Why? Because Omark has already proven that he is at worst a borderline NHL player and is therefore a much better bet to have a career in the NHL than any player drafted in the fourth round this season. Looking at the trade from that standpoint it's clear that the Oilers would not be getting a good return for Omark. In fact they're getting nothing more than the hope of a return.
So how then do the Oilers get more in return for Omark? Simple, play him. Play him with NHL calibre players. Put him on the power play. Play him 15 minutes a night. In other words give him every chance possible to succeed. And don't do it for a handful of games do it for the first 25 to 30 games next season and then reevaluate. At that point one of two things will have likely happened: either Omark will have shown he deserves a spot in the NHL or he'll have shown he doesn't.
If it's the former, and for whatever reason the team still doesn't see a role for Omark with the team in the long term, then they can trade him for significantly more than a fourth round pick. And if it's the later then the Oilers assign him to Oklahoma City and move on. Omark is no longer waiver exempt but even in the event that another team claims him off waivers the risk of losing him for nothing is certainly worth the potential reward. At most the Oilers are risking giving up a fourth round pick that is really nothing more than a roll of the dice anyway. But if the gamble pays off they might be able to get a second round pick or even a roster player, a return much more in line with Omark's actual worth. That's a gamble worth taking in my opinion.
But what about Omark, he's made it clear he'd like to get an opportunity to prove himself in another NHL city, would he be willing to accept this? Personally I like that Omark wants to show he can play in the NHL and that he wants to prove the "two" wrong but as a restricted free agent the Oilers hold all of the cards and if they want to keep him in the organization there isn't much he can do about that if he wants to play in the NHL. He might not like that but the Oilers can offer him something that a team acquiring his rights through a trade might not be willing to give him: an escape clause to Europe.
If the Oilers sit down with Omark and outline a plan similar to what I've suggested and also tell him that he'll be allowed to look for a job in Europe rather than play in Oklahoma City should he not make the most of his opportunity in Edmonton, then that really is the best Omark can hope for. He'll be getting a real chance to succeed with the Oilers and if that doesn't work out he'll be able to either move on to another NHL city and try again or return home, he won't be stuck riding a bus in the AHL unless he wants to.
Omark is an asset to the Oilers organization and right now that asset has never been worth less. The team could choose to sell low now and take what they can get or they could take a chance and see if they can't get more a few months from now. Looking at the risk/reward, I'd take the chance.