Dear Steve: Please Don’t Trade…

The front page story over at TSN today is an opinion piece by hockey insider Darren Dreger, one of the most connected men in hockey, and it delves into the problems facing the Oilers and the things Steve Tambellini might do to address them.

One part of the column points to the possibility that Tambellini might make a trade, and lists him as “in the market for additional grit, a centreman and some help on the blueline.” While that’s a fairly generic list, some of those pieces might be expensive, and there are a few names possibly on the block that I hope Tambellini doesn’t move at this point in time.

The key players that I hope aren’t being considered right now include Andrew Cogliano, Gilbert Brule, and to a lesser extent Tom Gilbert and Dustin Penner. The reason is very, very simple: I doubt that Tambellini can get fair value for those players given how their seasons have started.

Tom Gilbert has been singled out for his poor play this season. Generally, he’s been described as error-prone and passionless, and those points are not without merit. I don’t know if he’s actually been less motivated – he’s still blocking shots, for example, as he currently leads the Oilers with 42 – or if the usual vanilla aspects of his game are just getting more play than usual because he’s been so bad, but that’s a bit of a side point. The main point right now is this: Gilbert’s suffering through probably the worst stretch of his career, his contract is structured so that he’s making boatloads of money this year, and Steve Tambellini probably can’t get more than a rusty nickel and a bad contract back for him in trade.

Meanwhile, Dustin Penner’s numbers have taken a bad turn. Most of this is the result of the misfiring first power play unit – Penner has only two power play points this season – and that will probably turn around at some point. His even-strength point totals are only a little worse than last season, and still quite respectable, so if he can keep those up and score some points with the extra man, it’s likely his value might be better at the trade deadline than it is right now.

Regular readers will recall that I stated several times I would have been willing to trade Gilbert Brule over the summer, had the right offer come along, and that I’d even have been asking around to see if I could get a decent offer. That stance, which was wildly unpopular in the summer, might be more popular now given that he has just three points through the first quarter of the season, but that’s precisely why I wouldn’t be shopping him now.

I don’t think Brule’s a bad player – which is what he’s looked like early this season – but I do think he’s a complimentary one, the kind of guy who needs to play top six minutes with talent if he’s going to put up points. Unfortunately, the addition of Eberle and Hall to Penner and Hemsky seems to have sown up all the slots for a top-six winger, and that means Brule’s been consigned to the third line to play with an assortment of guys who need help carrying the load. Predictably, his results have suffered. Because I believe he’s a better player than he’s shown to date, I’d be highly reluctant to shop him now.

Most of what I’ve said about Brule also applies to Andrew Cogliano. He’s not a four-goal player, the number he’s currently on pace for, and he’s not a 16-point player, the number he’s currently on pace for. I think he’s a player with serious problems – the most notable being that he lacks the defensive acumen and the faceoff ability to be an NHL centre at this point – but I also believe there’s a quality NHL’er underneath his current struggles. He’s frequently mentioned in trade rumours (and was once dealt for Dany Heatley) but I’d guess he has negligible value around the league after last season and his early struggles this year. If he’s got minimal value, it makes minimal sense to trade him.

There aren’t many players I would trade now. One imagines that players with real value – Ales Hemsky, Ryan Whitney – would be worth more at the trade deadline. Beyond those guys, the support players have generally struggled, and of course it almost certainly makes no sense for this team to trade a Paajarvi, Eberle, Smid or Gagner. There might be a minor deal out there, for a guy like Zack Stortini (who Renney doesn’t seem to like) or Linus Omark (if he isn’t going to get a shot here) or maybe a waiver pickup that makes sense, but beyond tinkering I’m not sure it makes long-term sense to make big changes now.

And this season, what makes long-term sense is all that matters.

  • Here is another problem. If Cogs season keeps going the same way it has been and the Oiler management doesn’t want to offer him a contract next year, that means he is gone and you didn’t get anything for him. Even a 4th round pick would be better than nothing. Same with Ryan Jones and Vandermeer. If management has already decided, and chances are they have, not to sign these guys next year they should try and shop them around for anything. Especially closer to the playoffs teams are looking for a backup plan thats gone at the end of the season just in case some injuries come along.

    My point being if there are guys they don’t plan on keeping, they might as well get something rather than nothing by letting their contracts expire.

  • Who is Darren Dreger connected to? Ryan Rishaug?

    Darren Dreger is not connected. He sells sports for TSN.

    Connected is a guy who brings another guy, A for B. Connected is a guy who finds a A guy for his B.
    Who is Darren Dreger connected to? Field reporters working for TSN around N.America; like Rishaug?

    Any one can write a bunch of asinine possibilities on a strenght of a generic list. It doesn’t take a genius, analyst or an insider to figure out that the OIlers need; grit, a center and some better defense.

    Tom Gilbert would not get you sh!t in return right now. But, first oppurtunity Tambellini gets, once Gilbert is back on track, Gilbert should be traded. We have to put up with Gilbert until he proves worthy.

    Both Cogliano and Brule will be traded at some point of the season before the trade deadline.

    Hemsky, Penner and Whitney are not going anywhere. I don’t know why waste time typing that crap up. Or maybe I am wrong, maybe you are connected too.

  • Zamboni Driver

    There aren’t many players you would trade right now.

    On a last place (for a second straight year) team.

    Send in your resume:

    you’re a shoo-in!

    Updated: Though to be clear I don’t think they CAN trade any of this bunch other than Hemsky – who will be next year’s trade bait.

      • Zamboni Driver

        Should be, yep….but would you sign here?

        Shy guy, biggest fish in a tiny pond….

        When Slats comes calling with an @ssload of dough, and play in NYC where no one will know or care who you are?

        Or go to the sunbelt?
        Hell, I’d take a payCUT today to live anywhere else.

        I think he’s WAY gone….so should be traded.

  • @ Zamboni Driver:

    That’s kind of the point. There were plenty of changes I would have made this summer, but once you hit the ice with this group there’s not a lot to be done to fix the core.

    Minor changes – like the Tarnstrom for Glencross deal a few years back – are about the best we can hope for at this point, IMO.

    • Zamboni Driver

      I do think they need to do SOMETHING, though.

      For me, paste Cogliano in the pressbox and let him rot there…he’s going to do nothing, get nothing in any trade and he’s certainly not part of the future, so stop pretending that he is.

      I started to say Penner, but he’d just knock back ten or 12 tubs of popcorn and count his millions.

      Make the team uncomfortable.
      Help the kids understand that there ARE consequences for sucking.

      Benching Brule certainly isn’t enough.

  • Jonathan, we’re absolutely on the same page. I think the players that SHOULD be traded shouldn’t be right now. What I worry is that the sharks will be circling the Oilers and targeting players they shouldn’t trade now or ever. ie Ales Hemsky.

    • Fee Logolin

      See here is the basic problem with an article like this … “We need to do something, but man don’t do anything right now with these guys ’cause we won’t maximize what we can get for them, trade the marginal guys sitting on the bench instead.” Yeah that will help!

      Identify your Strategic Plan moving forward:

      1.Identify the core players in the years to come. Unless a really bombshell deal comes along, these players are untouchable (Hall, Eberle, etc.)

      2.Everyone else is fair game and you MUST consider trading them for whomever helps develop the core players.

      3. Let’s come to grips that we are not going to EVER get maximum potential for some of our under acheivers (Cogliano, Brule et al.) and the people we trade for them might in the end might not be the end solution but stop gap training tools to help develop the core group. This might even involve eating some salary short term to bring in someone who can be a useful teacher or warm body while the “kids” are learning.

      4. I am just starting to really think about this a lot so I might be wrong, but isn’t this how teams like the Penguins, Capitals, and even the Oilers of the 80’s did it?

      I like Cogliano, but moving forward, how does his skill set fit with the OVERALL team dynamic in the future?

  • Dan the Man

    I really think hot and cold streaks are somewhat irrelevant in today’s NHL trade world. NHL GMs are just as aware of them as we are.

    And since (from anecdotal evidence) it seems to take some time to put a trade together, or at least a major one, I’d think that fact makes hot and cold streaks even more irrelevant.

    It comes down to need and price. Winning the trade comes down to who is dealing from a position of power. It’s harder to make a good trade when on a losing streak to be sure, but I don’t think any particular month of play changes the value an individual player has with a GM all that much.

    The question with younger guys like Cogs…

    Is this a hot/cold streak, or is this what he is?

  • If the top 6 of the future is Hall/____/Hemsky and Paajarvi/Gagner/Eberle, then that leaves current Oiler properties like Cogs, Omark, Brule, and Penner on the outside looking in at the sweet minutes.

    When this team is ready to win I imagine there will be room for only one of those wingers (yes I’m counting Cogliano as a winger) on the 3rd line playing with Horcoff and someone with what can be described grit/jam/gumption/heart and size.

    I dont think holding out for these guys to regain their trade value is gonne work. This is the 28th placed club and it’s been relatively healthy through 20 games. It’s only gonne get worse from here on out. 2 or 3 of those names are going to have to get moved out for picks, prospects, or projects before they ever gain some decent value.

  • Mr Schollz

    As much as I agree with most of what you say not selling players at there lowest value. I still think cogs doesn’t really have a role now or in the future with this team. Sure he may get 20 goals eventually but that’s not necessarily what we need for the 3rd line. A lot of keywords being used to desrcibe what this team lacks: grit, pop, experience, effort. To me Cogs doesn’t really fill any of these (besides effort arguably). From my perspective it seem like a grizzled hard nosed 3rd liner would probably be the easiest thing to acquire at this point. Solid 1-2 defenseman aren’t exactly a surplus in the league. We’ve all been saying it but a 3rd line center who can actually win draws, get pucks deep, show up every night and rub out some other teams star players could literally have a huge impact on this team. Unfortunately for cogs he’s taking up that roster spot and not really being all that effective in that sense. Even if he heats up exponentially offensively I still don’t really see where he would fit in the top 6. (this is all from my iPhone so forgive my errors)

  • I read on (not sure if that site is based on spinning a wheel and creating a rumour from that) that the LA Kings are now considering offering Wayne Simmonds for a top 6 forward.

    My question for you Willis is if the Kings are interested Penner would Simmonds and a little more be a good upgrade or a bad downgrade for the Oil.

    I like Simmonds alot cuz he is gritty, has hands, kills penalties, big/strong and doesnt back down from battles. I read in a THN mag that he has fought tooth and nail to be in the NHL and I believe the Oil need more players like that in there bottom 6 to address the pride Renney stresses about. Another reason why I was so happy when they signed Foster cuz he could have packed it in after that horrific injury in Minny but he fought hard to rehab and be back to game shape.

  • Dan the Man

    I think I would be on board with a trade like Simmonds for Penner but it would all depend on what else is in the trade. maybe an low draft pick maybe 5th or 6th and Simmonds for Penner something like that. Or some sort of two for two. Penner and Brule for Simmonds a 2nd and a 3rd.

  • Dominoiler

    HA! Trading Brule after giving him a nilsson contract.. good luck…

    doesnt matter what dreger says, this team isnt getting any better anytime soon through trade.. only question is, imo, who gets traded at the deadline!?..

    Cogs goes for an AHL tweener prospect, unless packaged as a sweetener (hmmm, not sure if im thinking logically – how could he sweeten a deal!?)..

    maybe Souray can break his hand at least one more time by the deadline and prove to the hockey world that it is no big deal – he can come back from those no problem…

  • @ Fee Logolin:

    I don’t see Cogliano on this team long-term. I don’t really see Brule on this team long-term either.

    But if Steve Tambellini doesn’t think they’re long-term fits, why didn’t he deal them in the summer, when Brule’s value was high and Cogliano was coming off a late season tear?

    • Fee Logolin


      Could it be that there hasn’t been as much long term planning as we have been led to believe?

      Again, I haven’t spent a lot of time researching this but in the franchises that I mentioned, how many of the GMs and Coaching staffs made it thru the rebuild period and enjoyed the fruits of the rebuild? Maybe Mr. Tambellini was still working with an eye to short term success to insure job security?

    • Crackenbury

      How many times in the past year do you think Tambellini has tried to trade Cogliano? There has been no trade value for him since the middle of last season. The current lineup isn’t going to “get better”. I think they were hoping the team would have a better start than this and that Cogliano would have been part of it driving some interest for him. That plan didn’t work out so well.

      They’re in a jam now trying to unload anyone. No team has the luxury of giving up draft picks for roster players that may or may not help them. Every trade incorporates getting salary back making it almost pointless to swap bottom end players.

      The only player possibly available that I can see that would help the Oilers right now is Brad Richards, but as long as Dallas stays in the playoff hunt they probably won’t make that move. Oilers have the cap space and/or prospects to make it happen.

    • Ender

      Fair comment and good observation. I’m going to speculate and say that Tambellini didn’t expect all 4 of Hall, Magnus, Ebs, and Linus to be NHL ready. As it turned out Omark drew the short straw, but I think if Tambo could have a mulligan then Cogliano never makes it to camp.

      Cogliano’s time on this team has reached its end. I was a big Andrew supporter for the past three seasons, but he’s been given quite a few chances to grab the brass ring and it just hasn’t taken. Now, we have other developmental players who are in line for a turn. Too many kids, not enough ponies.

      As DMan09 pointed out, getting nothing at all for Cogs when he leaves forever in the summer is no darn good at all. Taking a 6th round pick and calling up Omark to fill the spot doesn’t improve the club much, but it’s better than nothing. The only question then is what’s more important to you: the pick for the big club, or OKC continuing to have the success they’ve started with?