I’m going to read between the lines here a little bit, which is always a risky exercise, so feel free to point out if I’m misinterpreting things here. If I’m not, we could have a very good idea what (if anything) the Oilers are offering for Dany Heatley.
Matheson’s latest column is about Jay Bouwmeester – essentially explaining why the Oilers aren’t interested in pursuing him. One of the reasons he listed got me thinking, though:
Edmonton would also have to move a blue-liner to bring Bouwmeester in and they aren’t prepared to do that.
Given that everyone and his dog (including me, although I’ll leave it vague if I’m the former or the latter) predicting that the Oilers will move a defenseman – generally either Tom Gilbert or Sheldon Souray – to address the hole at LW, this is a little bit startling.
It may also be a very good sign.
The hallmark of every team Kevin Lowe has put together has been a lack of balance – especially since the lockout. In 2005-06 he put a very good crew together, and took a reasonable risk by using a pair of budget goaltenders. Unfortunately, when things went south he didn’t try to address the problem until the trade deadline – a move that nearly cost the team a playoff spot and lined them up against the toughest team in the Western Conference in the first round.
The 2006-07 squad featured a lot of one-dimensional offensive players up front, but more critically an extremely limited blueline. Steve Staios and Jason Smith were fine defensemen, but not exactly noted for their ability to move the puck. The team’s first pass quickly became comedic (…and he banks it off the boards, again) and we all know how that squad faired.
The team in 2007-08 featured a truckload of rookies – Gagner, Nilsson, Cogliano, Brodziak, Gilbert, Grebeshkov, Stortini – and finished surprisingly close to the playoffs, for reasons that remain disputed but most definitely included some lucky breaks and a phenomenal (and unsustainable) shootout record.
This past season featured a team with a bunch of holes at forward. Cheap options like Marty Reasoner were ignored, and that, combined with the Jarret Stoll trade, left the team critically short of both penalty-killing forwards and guys who could handle the other team’s best players. The most glaring weakness to many was the first line LW position – a position that has been a weakness since Ryan Smyth was dealt.
In any case, the point is that Kevin Lowe built teams with some stengths, but also with obvious weaknesses. Trading away from a position of strength to fill a position of weakness was a hallmark of this era, and generally it meant that new holes were created to fill old holes.
That line of Matheson’s is an indicator that things may be changing. Steve Tambellini has a team with a strong blueline; a blueline that he seemingly intends to retain. Could it be that the Oilers’ G.M. plans to fill out his lineup without weakening its current strengths?
This is also consistent with the Oilers’ cheap plans for goaltending (highlighted here by Robin Brownlee and then later by Matheson) since they obviously need to make cap decisions somewhere to retain their defensemen, although one might argue that depending on how Tambellini fills that slot he could be creating another hole.
In any case, the obvious options for that LW position are Gaborik, Havlat, and Heatley. I’m fairly convinced that either of the UFAs would be a better option if healthy, but “healthy” is not a selling point for either of them. Heatley, on the other hand, is durable but has developed a reputation that isn’t remotely favourable, and at the same time is not exactly a guy who is useful at both ends of the ice.
IF the organization is pursuing Heatley, and IF that line about not trading away defensemen is correct, the only package that I can see the Oilers putting together for Heatley would involve Dustin Penner and Patrick O’Sullivan, perhaps with a lower-tier roster player (Nilsson, Pouliot, etc.), prospect (Schremp, Potulny, etc.) or draft pick. It’s a nice thought, and one that would help clear up the Oilers’ crowding at forward.