Hands up, all who saw that trade happening. After weeks of speculation, the much over-hyped trade deadline came with gusto and left with a whimper. With Sutton and Hemsky inking extensions, Smyth stating his desire to stay, and Gagner’s asking price far too high (assumed), only one Oiler was sent on his way to another city. Not the oft-speculated Khabibulin, as it turns out there is a limit to how desperate teams are for goaltending. Tom Gilbert, a name simply not brought up; as it was assumed his play this year had made him a member of the core going forward in the rebuild, is heading home to the state of hockey to anchor the Wild’s blueline. Best of wishes to Tom Gilbert, he wasn’t always my favourite player, but had started to assert himself as the player he can be, an effective puck moving defenceman who was solid in his own zone.
In return the Oilers get physical defenceman Nick Schultz. Now, I don’t pretend to be an expert on the Wild, since I try to avoid watching them play as much as I can. But the concensus seems to be that he’s a reliable middle pairing stay at home defenceman that doesn’t panic at his own end, he however, doesn’t have the puck moving skills or aptitude on offence that Tom Gilbert had, and it’s hard to look at this trade as being anything other than an immediate downgrade. Don’t get me wrong, I like Schultz, I think he’s a good pickup, I just don’t think Tom Gilbert was the price to be paying for him.
That was the price paid however, and it signals for me a few different things:
1) Welcome to the top pairing, 2012-2013 Jeff Petry, Petry’s shown some remarkable progress this year, and it’s probably why the Oilers felt okay in trading Gilbert away. I’m not quite sure that Petry is ready to play the tough minutes Gilbert was, but it just wouldn’t be the Oilers if we didn’t test out our prospects by throwing them into the fire.
2) They’re banking on Ryan Whitney being healthy and back to skating at a level he used to. Ummm.. about that… This might be the biggest “if” moving forward.
3) They have a top 2 dman targeted when free agency hits, or feel that one of Klefbom, Musil, Marincin, maybe Fedun is ready to step in next year.
Make no mistake, this a bold, bold move by Tambellini, making the club worse in the short term, in hopes that a number of things pan out to make it better moving forward. To use a chess analogy: it’s sacrificing a queen to take out a rook, in hopes that your pawn two squares away from promotion is unchallenged. If it works out, you’ve replaced the queen and are now in a better position to win. But a lot can happen in two moves.