Dick Tarnstrom, Left D
This one might not count in some people’s books, but because it’s 2 separate transactions I’m counting it.
Anyway, drafted by the Islanders in the 11th round in 1994, Tarnstrom started his career by spending 9 seasons in the Swedish pros. After 9 AHL games, the Islanders brought him over to New York, then after that 1 season traded him to Pittsburgh. In 2006 he requested a trade from the Pens and the Oilers traded Cory Cross and Jani Rita in exchange for him. He was a bottom pairing guy for the Oilers as they went on their Cinderella run to the 2006 Stanley Cup finals.
His contract finished, he left to go play in the Italian pro leagues for 1 season before re-signing with the Oilers as a free agent in 2007. However, with point totals of only 4 points in 22 games (another 2 assists in the 2006 playoffs) and 5 points in 29 games for the Oilers by 2008, he was deemed expendable by the Oilers and traded to Columbus in exchange for Curtis Glencross. After 1 season in Columbus, he went back to Europe to once again play in the Swedish pros and finish up his career.
Kent Nilsson, L Center
Swedish center Nilsson was drafted 4th overall by the Atlanta Flames in the 1976 NHL draft, and in the 2nd round by the Toronto Toros of the WHA in the same year. He played his first 3 years in Sweden and eventually chose the Winnipeg Jets in the WHA to start his North American pro career. After the WHA folded, his rights reverted to Atlanta, where he played for 1 season before the team moved to Calgary.
From Calgary, he was traded to Minnesota for 2 seasons. It’s unknown how he came to be an Oiler, but he came to the Oilers from Minnesota for 17 games in the 86-87 season, where he put up 5-12-17 in 17 games with a +10 and another 6-13-19 in 21 playoff games as the Oilers won the cup in ’87.
He then left the NHL to play in Europe where he played in the Italian, Swedish, Austrian, and Swiss pro leagues before returning to the Oilers in the 1994-95 season where he played 6 games, scored 1 goal and finished with a -5. He then played 1 more season in Germany before retiring. A brief time as an Oiler but he made it count by winning a cup.
Mike Comrie, L Center
Now we get into the really interesting names. Drafted by the Oilers in the 3rd round of the ’99 draft, local boy Comrie starred for the University of Michigan and the NCAA for 2 seasons and the Kootenay Ice of the WHL for 1 season before bypassing the AHL and jumping straight to the Oilers. In his rookie season, he put up 8-14-22 and a +6, with another 1-2-3 in 6 games in the playoffs.
After seasons of 33 goals and 60 points with a +16 and 45 PIMs in 82 games the next season and 20 goals and 51 points with a -18 and 90 PIMs the season after, things started to go south for Comrie.
He turned in a lacklustre performance in the 2003 training camp, and by this time had developed a bit of an ego so he elected to holdout in a contract dispute. The GM of the day, however, Kevin Lowe, was no stranger to having an ego and a competitive streak himself. These attributes are fine as a player, but as a GM not so much. Lowe had a deal in place to ship off Comrie to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Corey Perry in his prime and a 1st round pick.
However, Lowe ended up cratering that deal with an 11th-hour request that Comrie returns his $2.5 million signing bonus. Comrie rightly balked, so this became a soap opera of a player and a GM – both with huge egos – holding their ground to see who would blink first.
Lowe was forced to settle for a lesser deal with Philly when he shipped Comrie off to Philly in exchange for Jeff Woywitka, a 1st round pick in 2004, and a 3rd round pick in 2005. Neither the draft picks nor Woywitka turned out to be anything, so this trade was very much a failure for the Oilers.
Comrie became plagued with injuries for the rest of his career, though, so he moved around a lot after this trade. From Philly, he went to Phoenix, Ottawa, the Islanders, then back to Ottawa again. Wanting to bury the hatchet with the organization, Comrie signed an inexpensive 1-year deal to return to the Oilers for the 2009-10 season. He still suffered from injuries, but put up a respectable 13-8-21 in 43 games. He had 30 PIMs and a -9 to go along with that.
He only had 1 more season in Pittsburgh after that in his career, then injuries forced him to retire. In retrospect, there are 2 important questions to ask about Comrie: 1) Would Comrie have been a poor man’s Mario Lemieux if he’d been able to stay healthy? and 2) Imagine what might’ve been if that trade for Perry had been pulled off. Even if we had to trade him, we could’ve traded him for a huge trade haul and potentially gotten the team out of the decade of darkness a lot sooner. Otherwise, we would’ve had a core player for many years, possibly 2 depending on how that 1st rounder panned out.
Petr Klima, L/R winger
Klima was a Czech-born winger who had to secretly defect to the Detroit Red Wings to have an NHL career. One of many cloak and dagger moves necessary to get Iron Curtain citizens to the NHL back in the days of the Soviet Union.
Klima played 4 full seasons and parts of another one for Detroit, eventually being part of the blockbuster trade to the Oilers for Jimmy Carson in 1990. Carson, you may remember, was the centerpiece of the Gretzky “trade” the previous 2 offseasons in 1988, and demanded a trade out of Edmonton because he felt too much pressure having been traded for Gretzky.
So, 13 games into the 89-90 season, the Oilers traded Carson, Kevin McClelland, and a 5th round pick to Detroit in exchange for Petr Klima, Adam Graves, and Joe Murphy. Klima had a pretty solid career as an Oiler, winning a cup in his first season here in 1990 and scoring between 21-40 goals every year he was here the 1st time and between 53-68 points.
Having a toughness streak helped too, as he cracked the 100 PIMs mark 2 out of 4 years. He was -1 and +24 his 1st 2 years here, but was a bit of a defensive adventure the last 2, going -18 and -15 respectively. In 1993 Klima was traded to Tampa Bay, and from there to LA and Pittsburgh, later finishing up his season back with the Oilers, his 3rd team that year.
He put up 1-5-6 in 16 games as an Oiler that year – 1996-97 – with a -1 and 6 PIMs to go along with it. He also played 6 games in the playoffs but produced no offence. He’d also spent time in the IHL and the Czech and German pro leagues.
After his time with the Oilers, he went back to the German pro leagues, then to the AHL, then his final season in the NHL with Detroit, then 2 seasons in the Czech pros again to finish off his career. All told Klima played 786 NHL games, finishing 313-260-573 in that time with 671 career PIMs. Not bad.