Second thoughts: finding a fit

David Steckel

I said the other day unrestricted free agent Manny Malhotra was the best option for the Edmonton Oilers in terms of a third-line centre who can win face-offs and kill penalties. I was wrong.

While Malhotra might be the best player who fits that description, he might not be the best option for the contract-heavy Oilers, and there’s a couple of reasons for that.

First and foremost, it looks like Malhotra, who made $1.5 million with the Columbus Blue Jackets last season, one in which he scored 11-17-28 and won 58 per cent of his face-offs, is expecting something north of $2 million a season on the open market. He’ll get it. That’s too pricey for the Oilers.

Second, with Malhotra being a UFA, GM Steve Tambellini has to take on a contract without giving one up. That’s not the way to go. The trade route is. The problem, of course, is finding a trade partner that has what you want and needs what you have.

I thought about that for awhile, did some checking and came up with a name who makes sense — those looking for a big splash or marquee dash can stop reading now. Nothing to see here.

That name is David Steckel.


Who? I know. If you’re thinking, Brownlee fell down the stairs and hit his big, fat head again, I get it. But hear me out or at least humour me, like you do with senile uncle Al when he asks who the hell you are for the third time at Thanksgiving dinner.

Steckel, for the vast majority of you who don’t have his name on the tip of your tongue, is a six-foot-five, 222-pound pivot who just finished his fourth season with the Washington Capitals. While his boxcar numbers are less than inspiring, 8-11-19 in 76 games, he fits the bill on several levels.

— Steckel, 27, is a demon on the dot. He finished the 2008-09 regular season among NHL leaders at 57.9 per cent. In 14 playoff games, he upped that to 58.4 per cent.

That’s no flash in the pan, either. In 2007-08, he was 56.3. In 2006-07, he was 65.1, although that was in a span of just five games.

— Steckel kills penalties and his face-off record shorthanded this past season was 153-130.

— He’s cheap. Steckel has one year remaining on a contract that will pay him $725,000 in 2009-10. Given that the Oilers already have about $51.3 million committed to salaries next season, price point, about one-third of what a player like Malhotra wants, matters.

— Lastly, and most important, it looks to me like the Oilers and Caps each have something the other team wants on needs. The Oilers need a face-off man and the Caps could use some toughness at the bottom of the roster after losing Donald Brashear. I’m thinking J.F. Jacques could be their man.


Jacques, 24, is young enough and tough enough, despite back problems that stalled his career before he returned this season, to be of interest to the Capitals with Brashear gone.

Jacques has one more year left on a contract that will pay him $550,000 next season. While the Caps might want a prospect or pick thrown in to swing the deal, Tambellini wouldn’t lose any sleep if he could move two contracts for one. He also has some depth in toughness and a logjam on the fourth line with Zack Stortini and Steve MacIntyre in the fold.

Those who’ve read this far can see this wouldn’t be a big splash or a sexy deal, but it might be the right deal to address a glaring shortcoming, and the Oilers could use one of those right about now.

I will text the Steckel suggestion to Tambellini and await word back. As always, when I know what his response is, you’ll know.

— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on Team 1260.

  • Robin Brownlee

    @ Nick Dynasty:
    Decent player but too much money unless the Oilers are moving more salary than his $2.5 M the other way.
    Another thing to keep in mind: I'm not so sure Darcy Regier is keen on talking trade with the Oilers.

  • Big Poppa Oil

    @ Robin Brownlee:
    It's all good brother. We are here to debate. Without debate, this would be a very drab, boring forum. I think what gets me most is those that have opinion but no knowledge to back up the opinion. If RB wants to suggest a trade such as todays blog, so be it. Some may think WOW great idea, others not so much. It's what makes OILERS NATION such a blast. I also find that if I need any info NOW on the OIl, this is the Place to come. Whether it's Brownlee, or Gregor, Gretz or Willis or Mccormick i think they ALL do a pretty good damn job!

  • Big Poppa Oil

    @ bingofuel:

    Big Poppa ain't nuthin to worry about. Bog poppa has hip arthritis at the young age of 38. Thought I was untouchable, thought wrong. Need hip surgery. All the years of Football and Hockey caught up with me. Talk about grumpy! Betcha Brownlee is in better shape than me now!!!!

    Thanks for the heads up tho bro. All good.

  • Constance

    Browner… this article is an embarassment to Oilersnation and the proud tradition of the hockey blog… why would anyone take a lump of human waste like Jaques in exchange for Steckel… the very suggestion is fan-boy esque to the extreme and speaks the the lack of both hockey knowledge and comman sense from some of the posters on the Oilersnation site… you guys have all the insite of connections of 1260's Will Fraser i.e. living in the same condo building as Patrick Kobongo doesnt make you an Edmonton sports insider…..

  • future champ

    I think river runner summed up just about everything that needed to be said in post 122. Brownstreak couldnt even bring himself to respond to more than a sentence of it. A slap of reality square in the face. Well done.

    future chump? thats weaker than weak sauce, especially since the proverbial brightness of the Cap's future compared to that of the Oilers' is like the sun to your nightlite. And save your inevitable history lesson BS. Congrats, you had stanley cups and gretzky and messier and others, and you traded them. Im over it.

    Finally, let me just say, before you get your thinking cap on, it all sounds like bla bla bla, Im bitter that I used to have a real job and now I dont so F everyone else, bla bla bla to me.

  • Robin Brownlee

    future champ wrote:

    future chump? thats weaker than weak sauce, especially since the proverbial brightness of the Cap’s future compared to that of the Oilers’ is like the sun to your nightlite. And save your inevitable history lesson BS. Congrats, you had stanley cups and gretzky and messier and others, and you traded them. Im over it.

    Chumpster — can I call you Chumpster or is Chumpy better? — I haven't won any Stanley Cups. I didn't trade anybody. I'm not part of the organization.

    Weak sauce? Please see comment #147.
    "Oilers" doesn't take the possessive. And "Cap's" should be "Caps'" when expressing the possessive. Please see comment #147.

  • future champ

    thats all you got? really? correcting grammar like a grade school teacher, oooh did i pass?

    this is a god damn BLOG remember, you dont write for the papers anymore, you arent my editor.

    funny thing is, im starting sentences with lowercase letters(gasp!)and leaving out punctuation(gasp!), and you still know exactly what i mean, hmmm.

    the fact that you wont(cant)address the vastly differing futures of the two teams,(we dont want your shit minor league goons(oh excuse me, tough guys)), but would rather correct grammar on a BLOG as if you hadnt been fired from a newspaper where things like that actually matter, is like waiving the white towel of defeat. and on that white towel is written: im a bitter sad little man.

    and no im not the their gm, i just know more about the caps than you do, and its not even close.

    hey, if blogging goes the way of your newspaper job, you can always be a stunt double for this guy:

  • clark grizzwald

    Brownlee, take it easy man the fact that you posted a baseless trade rumour akin to that of someone on a message board who starts off by saying "ok guys, i'm not really good at this kind of stuff but here it goes anyways" is the main reason you're getting flogged… fans want to hear insider information, i.e. something that isn't on…

    some other advice, quit saying "you know" every 5 seconds when you're on the radio because you're not the one getting interviewed and for humour purposes can you bring back your "heat on the oil" aka the bob layton 1 minute monologue segment back on the air?