Buyer or seller?
With the NHL all-star break over and the Feb. 26 trade deadline looming, that’s a decision Edmonton Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe has to make in the next month — sooner, actually.
With 51 points from a 23-24-5 record as they prepare to face San Jose tomorrow, the 13th place Oilers are long shots to climb into the top eight in the Western Conference.
Lowe is working the phones as a matter of due diligence, and it’s likely he’ll decide which way to go in the next two weeks. My take is he’ll be a seller, and he can’t and won’t wait until the deadline to get busy.
Most deals don’t come together in a matter of days, so that pushes the decision date up. Lowe’s got to decide who he’s willing to make available, then he has to find takers and decide what he wants back in terms of players, prospects or draft picks.
It’s not necessarily about “shopping” players as much as it is about taking and making calls and finding out the wants and needs of teams looking to add for a playoff push.
In 2005-06, Lowe was a buyer, but it took months before he got Dwayne Roloson out of Minnesota to address a glaring deficiency in goal. Likewise, the acquisition of Sergei Samsonov was an on-again-off-again discussion that seemed dead at one point before Boston did the deal.
Last season, Lowe’s first indication he was in seller mode came Feb. 18 when he sent Marc-Andre Bergeron to the New York Islanders for Denis Grebeshkov. On deadline day, Lowe dealt Ryan Smyth to the Islanders for Robert Nilsson, Ryan O’Marra and a first-round draft pick rather than lose Smyth as an unrestricted free agent.
I’d suggest Lowe will take the next five games — four at home and one in Calgary — to decide which way to go. That will take him to Feb. 10, at which time the wheels get set in motion either way.
THE NAME GAME
>> Lowe has bargaining chips on his blue-line with which to acquire a top-six forward, the biggest being Joni Pitkanen. He’d love to get Pitkanen signed to a long-term deal rather than risk an offer sheet, but is Pitkanen interested in staying here?
Then, there’s Sheldon Souray and his wonky left shoulder. If Pitkanen indicates he wants a long-term deal, Lowe could try to move Souray, but who’ll take a contract that big, given the shoulder?
IT SAYS HERE
>> Roloson is the obvious candidate to be moved if Lowe is seeking to shed salary, but who will take a 38-year-old goaltender with another year left on his contract at $3 million US, given Roli’s record?
>> With Lowe up against the $50.3-million salary cap, he’s got Tom Gilbert, Jarret Stoll and Pitkanen to re-sign as restricted free agents. Something’s got to give and somebody’s got to go. Stoll?
Around the Rink: Oilers need to decide direction
Buyer or seller?