LIKE A BOX OF CHOCOLATES

Robin Brownlee
March 26 2013 09:49PM

I believe it was Momma Gump who said, "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get." Forrest's mom must have had the Edmonton Oilers in mind when she coined that bit of wisdom.

That about sums up what we saw tonight as the Oilers, coming off a stretch of games that's been spotty at best, waltzed into the Scott Trade Center and beat the St. Louis Blues 3-0 to win in the Show Me State for the first time since 2009. Who saw that coming? Not me. I thought Ken Hitchcock's team would chew up Ralph Krueger's bunch and spit them out.

The opportunistic Oilers, backstopped by Nikolai Khabibulin, who made 43 saves for his 46th career shutout – again, who called that one? – not only beat the Blues on the heels of a disjointed effort in Nashville, they hung together and showed plenty of jam when St. Louis finally got revved up and picked up the physical pace.

The Oilers had goaltending, to say the least. The rink was tilted toward the Oilers end all night, but Khabibulin refused to budge. Speaking of stubborn, and every bit as important as the score, the Oilers showed plenty of push-back when the Blues, led by captain David Backes, tried to flex some muscle.

They got virtuoso performances from Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, who looked as good as they have all season reunited with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins between them. Feeble attack side, everybody looked engaged. Where was this in Music City or against the Blues at Rexall Place Saturday?

Tough read, this bunch.

THE WAY I SEE IT

. . . There's been absolutely nothing not to like about Khabibulin in relief of Devan Dubnyk this season, but that doesn’t mean I want to see him carrying more of the load in the games that remain. Khabibulin started out last season red-hot, then the wheels came off. At this point in his career, he's best spotted in without being overworked.

What I wouldn’t mind seeing, and I think it's something that GM Steve Tambellini should consider, is re-signing Khabibulin as Dubnyk's back-up for next season. The price has to be right, of course, and I wouldn’t be looking at more than one year, but if Khabibulin can still get the job done as a back-up with limited duty, I'd offer him a contract. That said, between now and then, I'd certainly accept calls from teams looking for a veteran back-up before the trade deadline.

. . . When Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins play together, the Oilers are a better team, period. I understand why it's tempting for Krueger to split them up in the name of a more balanced attack, but if the second and third lines are wanting, then tinker with those units and leave the top line alone.

ONE LAST THING

Jason Gregor has been talking for some time about the Oilers needing to unload one of their young core forwards to change the mix in the top nine. I happen to agree with him on that. The question is, who moves to land a player who brings experience and a different dimension?

Gregor offered a scenario to Jason Strudwick today, asking if he'd be willing to trade Nail Yakupov for New Jersey's David Clarkson, assuming Clarkson was signed to a new contract – he's a pending UFA.

I said I'd do it in a heartbeat, which I would. Not because I don't think Yakupov will turn out to be a very good player, but because I think Clarkson would bring exactly what the Oilers need – grit and skill capable of playing significant minutes – and because if I HAD to part with one of the kids, it would be Yakupov before Hall, Eberle or Nugent-Hopkins.

That, of course, drew a lot of razz from kooks people on Twitter, who seem to think the Oilers can land impact players for spare parts and the rights to Linus Omark. While I blocked them respect their opinions, I'd roll the dice and make that move.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 Rocket
March 26 2013, 09:57PM
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Robin wrote:

"When Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins play together, the Oilers are a better team, period."

I agree completely with this for now but eventually they're gonna have to start playing well with other players.

I believe Hall has already done that. He is a beast that pushes the pace of play.

Also, please don't trade Yakupov. I live in Yak city not Clarcksonville.

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#2 CdnMaDCoW
March 26 2013, 09:58PM
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I'd have to be the first to say it was all because Belanger wasn't a poison on the bench. It would be pretty tough to get rid of Yak, but if the price is right. Sign me up!!!

EDIT: If you weren't plodding of mind and keyboard, you could be first to say that. Alas, you are, so you aren't.

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#4 Racki
March 26 2013, 10:04PM
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I don't think trading Yakupov in a deal for a signed Clarkson is a bad idea, just think the Oilers could get more in addition to Clarkson for Yakupov.

You know what you get from Clarkson.. he won't likely get any better than he already is. He definitely addresses a need, but I think the jury is definitely out on what Yakupov's potential is.. and he's the type of player that should be able to thrive out East. So NJ should want to do that deal in a heartbeat, which tells me we should be asking for more than just Clarkson.

I realize fans typically overvalue their own players, but #1 picks don't often get traded (if ever) after a single year of hockey, never mind for someone who isn't racking up huge points (30 goals is nice, but it was only once, and outside of that year he hasn't put up big numbers).

Clarkson is definitely the right direction and type of player the Oilers need though, so before you pop a vein in your neck, I'm not saying it's a bad idea, just think the Oilers can get more in addition to Clarkson. If they're trading Yakupov, I bet a LOT of teams are listening. He'll be a ticket-seller for a lot of teams. But the Oilers need to move a good piece for a Clarkson/Stewart/Lucic (I wish) type, and Yakupov is certainly the most expendable because he hasn't trenched himself into the team like the other young "kids" have.

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#5 Manfly
March 26 2013, 10:05PM
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oh oh...now you did it Brownlee...you suggested what i have been saying to my friends all along...that Khabby is still better, when healthy, than anyone we have in our system right now, and likely just as good as any backup that will be a UFA this summer...the haters can't wait to get him off the books at the end of the season, and now you DARE say we should re-sign him? oh the horror!!

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#7 GVBlackhawk
March 26 2013, 10:10PM
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Manfly wrote:

oh oh...now you did it Brownlee...you suggested what i have been saying to my friends all along...that Khabby is still better, when healthy, than anyone we have in our system right now, and likely just as good as any backup that will be a UFA this summer...the haters can't wait to get him off the books at the end of the season, and now you DARE say we should re-sign him? oh the horror!!

Just ignore his established injury history, down-trending save percentages, poor record, and age.

Contract extension!

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#8 Racki
March 26 2013, 10:11PM
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On Khabibulin, I agree there too... great goalie when you ensure he's well rested. The Oilers have been a lot better at managing that load this year, I think, although he still wound up in the sick bay a couple times. I particularly like that Dubnyk feels he can learn a lot from him and clearly has a good thing going with him. Maybe one day Khabibulin stays on the Oilers organization past his playing days.

That said, I'm not sure he can string enough games in a year to balance the rest of the load with Dubnyk, cause I don't think Dubnyk can be ridden as much as he has been this year either.

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#9 Racki
March 26 2013, 10:12PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Agreed. I'd try to get more, or to get Clarkson for less, but I was choosing between yes and no on Jason's what-if?

Yah I didn't get to hear his "what if", which is why I had asked you on twitter if the scenario included NJ padding their end of the deal a bit or if it was a one-for-one. But that type of deal is a step in the right direction even though I'd be unhappy about losing a young top prospect without seeing what they can do. But it would be for the better for the team.

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#10 Alsker
March 26 2013, 10:14PM
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@Rocket

Rocket wrote:

"eventually they're gonna have to start playing well with other players"

Something Ales has not been able to do, if we need to shake up the top 9 or top 6 for that matter Hemsky+ prospect/draft pick/whitney/pecks etc. for Clarkson would work for me, hate to sell 64 short before honestly knowing what he has to offer

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#11 Maggie the Monkey
March 26 2013, 10:19PM
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I don't understand - isn't Clarkson possibly going to be a UFA in a few months? Why consider giving up a teenage player that has the potential to be a franchise cornerstone for someone who might be signed for free (so to speak) in July?

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#12 Rocket
March 26 2013, 10:19PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Agreed. I'd try to get more, or to get Clarkson for less, but I was choosing between yes and no on Jason's what-if?

I think you both bring very valid arguments to the table but I thought everyone at Oilersnation should be ripping their hair out over how bad the team is & demanding they trade every player.

Seriously though, trading Yakupov for Clarckson is only a maybe if NJ added something else. And not just garbage (Omark) pieces but quality prospects. Then I'd listen.

It seems first overall picks are looked at as special by everyone & Yakupov is still very young & not considered a bust yet so I would be very apprehensive in moving him.

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#13 Racki
March 26 2013, 10:22PM
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Maggie the Monkey wrote:

I don't understand - isn't Clarkson possibly going to be a UFA in a few months? Why consider giving up a teenage player that has the potential to be a franchise cornerstone for someone who might be signed for free (so to speak) in July?

As mentioned by RB, this scenario involves a SIGNED David Clarkson only... i.e., would you trade Nail Yakupov for a signed David Clarkson (presumably at a reasonable length and salary).

For the record, like the person above me, I'd only do it if NJ padded the deal. In a one for one, I'd be shopping Yakupov elsewhere even if Clarkson really addresses a key need.

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#15 vetinari
March 26 2013, 10:32PM
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Please... no more Khabibulin after this year... give him a gold watch, buy him a steak supper and wave goodbye to him on July 1st because we need to bring in and develop the next generation of goaltenders or at least go with someone a few years younger with less of an injury history and better consistency. I see Khabibulin being next year's Sutton if we extend him...

As for trading one of the kids, it's going to happen at some point and Yakupov might be the best candidate because his value would be the highest while on his ELC and he would likely bring back at least a couple of key pieces and not spare parts... I just don't trust the current management team to be the ones to properly identify and secure the pieces.

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#16 Thinker
March 26 2013, 10:33PM
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Top six going forward seems set Hall nuge ebs Pajaarvi gagner yakupov Now we just need a bottom six, defence and backup goalie.

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#17 steelymac
March 26 2013, 10:34PM
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How about a signed Clarkson and Larsen for a Yakupov and a signed smid?

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#18 Rocket
March 26 2013, 10:34PM
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Thinker wrote:

Top six going forward seems set Hall nuge ebs Pajaarvi gagner yakupov Now we just need a bottom six, defence and backup goalie.

We also might need a new G.M.

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#19 Muji
March 26 2013, 10:39PM
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I agree that a Clarkson-type player is needed*

I DON'T agree that a signed Clarkson is fair value for Yakupov. NOT EVEN CLOSE.

I don't agree that we should keep Khabi next year. He's inconsistent and injury-prone. It's time to move on.

*a few Clarkson-type players are UFAs this summer:
- Ryan Clowe
- Dustin Penner
- Nathan Horton
- David Clarkson
- Raffi Torres

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#20 Serious Gord
March 26 2013, 10:41PM
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Then why the hell did the oil draft yak in the first place? The kid has the potential to be a hall of famer.

Gagner does not. Trade him (and hemsky) to fill the holes...

As for khabi - he can barely give your #1 a rest every five games without suffering an injury. We need a solid, reliable number # 2 , not one that hasn't had a healthy season for three years and counting.

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#21 Maggie the Monkey
March 26 2013, 10:43PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Please, try to follow along. The scenario Gregor offered was trading Yakupov for Clarkson -- with a new contract.

I followed that, by why not wait to try to sign him without giving up a player? Is it because there's a reason to believe that he'll only sign with the Devils? If so, would he not also demand a NMC or NTC from them?

Forgive me if I'm being dense. This monkey's had an exceedingly long day after very little sleep.

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#22 Serious Gord
March 26 2013, 10:44PM
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And as for the "box of chocolates" Confucianism;

I know what we are NOT going to get...

To see the oil play a playoff game this year.

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#24 Muji
March 26 2013, 10:49PM
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Serious Gord wrote:

Then why the hell did the oil draft yak in the first place? The kid has the potential to be a hall of famer.

Gagner does not. Trade him (and hemsky) to fill the holes...

As for khabi - he can barely give your #1 a rest every five games without suffering an injury. We need a solid, reliable number # 2 , not one that hasn't had a healthy season for three years and counting.

Trade Gagner and Hemsky to fill the holes? You mean... the holes that will be created when we lose Gagner and Hemsky?

This is Steve Tambellini-type thinking!

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#25 jdrevenge
March 26 2013, 10:51PM
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I typically have nothing to argue about after reading your articles but Yakupov for Clarkson is Mike Milbury... We have to be really careful here..

I don't disagree that trading one of the youngsters will be a necessity... I just don't think we have to do it right now.

We've all agreed that the oilers need toughness... the kind that a second round pick and a top end prospect would garner... trading a first overall is a bit of a stretch.

I think having 3 on the everyday roster has made us a little ignorant. Now is not the time to move one of them.

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#26 justDOit
March 26 2013, 10:54PM
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steelymac wrote:

How about a signed Clarkson and Larsen for a Yakupov and a signed smid?

My thoughts exactly. This evens it up.

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#28 Hair bag
March 26 2013, 10:56PM
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On Sportsnet the other day one of the guys (I think it was Kipreos) mentioned that with all the RFA's that are going to need to be signed in the next couple years with STL, Stewart might end up being the odd man out because they won't be able to afford everyone - wouldn't he be exactly what the Oilers need...

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#29 Hair bag
March 26 2013, 10:59PM
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On a goaltending note, maybe the Oilers should take a run at Bishop - sounds like a 2nd rounder and a prospect could get him. Him and Dubnyk could push each other to be number 1...

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#30 David S
March 26 2013, 11:01PM
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Khabibulin is 209/222 for .941 this year. Used properly and in a limited number of games, he's been pretty damn good.

If we can get him for $1.5M or we've got a cracking good backup, as we've witnessed tonight.

The real issue is Dubnyk. Yes he has a fair save percentage but he lets in far too many suspect goals that absolutely kill a team's momentum - i.e. the "Dubnyk softie of the game™".

If anything the issue at hand is that we don't have a clear #1 goalie.

Well OK. That and our bottom six *spits* and weak D. *spits again*

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#31 justDOit
March 26 2013, 11:06PM
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New game: Sign Trade Waive.

1) Belanger Smid Fistric:

2) Clarkson Kovalchuk Larsson:

3) Kurri Ruotsalainen Anderson:

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#33 steelymac
March 26 2013, 11:12PM
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Thinking about trying to lure Larson from the devils Im thinking he could really help Klefbom adjust faster to the NHL,so what would it take

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#34 Bonvie
March 26 2013, 11:13PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

"The kid has the potential to be a hall of famer."

Because he was taken first overall? Like, say, Sidney Crosby or . . . Erik Johnson? Or maybe he just becomes a really good hockey player, which Clarkson already is.

I think trading Yakapov for an important piece of the future would be a wise move but I think it would be wiser to target a top notch D man such as a trade for Tyler Myers. Myers is a struggling player on a struggling team, but I still believe he will rebound and be the real deal. Not saying Buffalo would trade Myers but now would be the time to as they need to do something to change around their organization.

But the Clarkson type player and top pair Dman should be top priorities and its one thing to always draft the Best player Available but with the Oilers its come to a point where we have a lot of talented but small wingers both in the NHL and the organization, and we need to use assets to balance out the roster.

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#35 Serious Gord
March 26 2013, 11:14PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

"The kid has the potential to be a hall of famer."

Because he was taken first overall? Like, say, Sidney Crosby or . . . Erik Johnson? Or maybe he just becomes a really good hockey player, which Clarkson already is.

The three players you named are all known quantities - we know their potentials. . Yakopov has the POTENTIAL to be a HOF player. We have yet to see what he will become. Less than twelve months ago you and everyone else thought he should be the oils pick. Now you want to trade him for an established but finite asset. What has changed over that time period?

Nothing. The holes in this lineup are the same holes that existed a year/two years/ three years ago. The oil PBA in each draft yet hasn't moved any of the assets - the finite ones that needed to be moved IF that's strategy is going to work.

Now you are saying that the PBA strategy should be scrapped mid-stream - trade the undefined assets, KEEP the finite ones and aquire more finite ones. IOW trade high level long term potential for mid level mid term finite assets.

This you are saying that the past few miserable years were for naught. That rather than a dynastic sensational team we should settle for a middling one with just moderate potential to win a cup.

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#36 jomha20
March 26 2013, 11:15PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

"The kid has the potential to be a hall of famer."

Because he was taken first overall? Like, say, Sidney Crosby or . . . Erik Johnson? Or maybe he just becomes a really good hockey player, which Clarkson already is.

Or howbout the fact that the kid already has the hardest shot on the team... A shot that's supposedly stamkos like... Didn't stamkos win the rocket.... Oh... And he has speed to burn and throws the body, ALREADY!!! I guess trade is the first thing that comes to mind when a teen isn't given 16 min a game of the soft parade in every prime offensive opportunity like hall ebs and the nuge were .... How utterly sad.. Yes!! I did just sign up just to post this!!!

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#37 Oiler Al
March 26 2013, 11:19PM
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Forget Yak, when he matures, and gets some proper coaching, he could be a Datsyuk player.

I would suggest trading Hemsky,he's 10 years older.. and dosnt look like he's having fun out there.

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#39 jomha20
March 26 2013, 11:32PM
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@Robin Brownlee

I think you meant this for me... And no. Not trying to put words in your mouth... "Or maybe he just becomes a really good hockey player"... I agree clarkson would bring what we need ... But any trade for yak that would have a player of clarksons caliber as the center piece would be just atrocious ... And nobody seems to remember that all these top 6's around the NHL are on average over 6 years more developed than these kids ... And these kids are already holding there own... I just can't wait for 4 years from now and every one that was bashing timid tamby eats their shorts because these kids have filled out their frames and we have the best top 6 in the nhl

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#40 D
March 26 2013, 11:32PM
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It would be tough to part with Yak before seeing what he eventually could achieve.

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#41 Serious Gord
March 26 2013, 11:35PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Don't try to put words in my mouth.

In this particular case, given the scenario Gregor put forward (and because I agree this team is loaded with young talent but lacks needed dimensions), I would make this deal. It addresses one of the holes in the line-up you say has existed for years. Disagree if you want.

Your recommendations for action says a lot about your philosophy.

So do tell - in your own words why you think it was a mistake to draft the bpa last year. Or at least what has changed to make it a bad idea.

On less desparate teams yak wouldn't even have played in the NHL and yet you want to trade him. Why pull the plug on him now?

There are other assets that can be traded gagner/hemsky et al, that don't have potential for a massive blowback a few years hence - why not trade them?

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#42 jomha20
March 26 2013, 11:37PM
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And oops... But I think my point was made :)

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#43 Bonvie
March 26 2013, 11:39PM
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Serious Gord wrote:

The three players you named are all known quantities - we know their potentials. . Yakopov has the POTENTIAL to be a HOF player. We have yet to see what he will become. Less than twelve months ago you and everyone else thought he should be the oils pick. Now you want to trade him for an established but finite asset. What has changed over that time period?

Nothing. The holes in this lineup are the same holes that existed a year/two years/ three years ago. The oil PBA in each draft yet hasn't moved any of the assets - the finite ones that needed to be moved IF that's strategy is going to work.

Now you are saying that the PBA strategy should be scrapped mid-stream - trade the undefined assets, KEEP the finite ones and aquire more finite ones. IOW trade high level long term potential for mid level mid term finite assets.

This you are saying that the past few miserable years were for naught. That rather than a dynastic sensational team we should settle for a middling one with just moderate potential to win a cup.

Exactly you draft BPA, but year after year if you have an overabundance of skilled wingers without size like we do, and depth in our organization to replace that small winger, than you make good hockey trades using your positional strengths to fill out your roster.

I see Rieder, Omark, and Rajalla as three of our top five players outside of the NHL on our roster, but unfortunately the makeup of our team will not allow us to advance wingers without size unless trades or made.

I see Yakopov as a very shiny expensive bargaining chip, that will be able to fill one of our largest holes through a trade. The Clarkson scenario does just that it addresses a hole in the roster using an assest where you have a strength and are able to replace that asset on your roster and provide opportunity to a smaller winger in the organization.

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#44 Thinker
March 26 2013, 11:43PM
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If its me i trade everyone not on next years roster for as much as i can, and give some ahlers a cup of coffee, and draft high again. Players I like in this draft are jones, mackinnon, barkov, ristolainen, and monohan. If we can get one of them we are in good shape.

Hall nuge eberle Paajarvi gagner yak Penner horcoff hemsky Barkov Lander hartikainen Brown

Smid Petry Reghr J. Schultz Dekeyser N. Schultz Fistric

Dubnyk Ufa g

Not a perfect team. This next year will be the second infusion of youth. Hall ebs and gagner should be capable of holding their own. It's time to turn the lower roles to the kids. Lets see what they can do. That defense still scares me, but it will be on the rise at least. Next years goal is the eighth seed by my calculations.

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#45 Dog Train
March 26 2013, 11:44PM
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Khabby and the kids stole that game. We didn't generate a PP all game and we gave up numerous breakaways.

Hopefully a GM looking for insurance in goal saw that game. I applaud Khabby for working hard to keep his game at a high level at his age but he always does this when you are ready to write him off. He is playing to extend his career and I wish him luck with that but I would rather it be somewhere else. I would rather bring in somebody younger who can conceivably push Dubnyk for an entire season. Khabby is always one tweak from having our 3rd string goaltender having to come into a high octane game against the top team in the league like happened to Danis in Chicago.

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#46 DigDeepNBleedBlue
March 26 2013, 11:50PM
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Clarkson would be nice, but I don't agree. Yakupov's potential is unrealized. This kid could turn out to be the sh*t.

Hemsky might fit better for a trade with NJ. Bring back a pick (hope 1st) and Merrill. No?

NJ has a vet with offence who can contribute in their playoff push and Edmonton gets some magic beans and a respectable prospect.

I'd prefer that.

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#47 Fresh Mess
March 26 2013, 11:53PM
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I would be all for Yakupov and Hemsky in exchange for a signed Clarkson and Larsson.

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#48 Jeetz
March 26 2013, 11:54PM
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D wrote:

It would be tough to part with Yak before seeing what he eventually could achieve.

I also believe Yak City will be a star. That said I would wait until the draft lottery and then try and trade Yak for the first overall for Seth Jones

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#49 27Ginge
March 26 2013, 11:55PM
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Yak for Clarkson is a great deal. If by Clarkson you mean Henrique and Larsson.

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#50 Alex
March 26 2013, 11:59PM
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Eck. Why would you trade a 19 year old potential superstar for a 28 year old winger( we need a big center) with a career high 46 point season, and maybe a couple good years left. Add Larson and a pick and then it might be considerable.

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