ARMCHAIR GM XV: DOWN A CHIP

Granted, the market was at best minute and any return wasn’t going to be much more than a box of tape or a bucket of pucks, but Edmonton Oilers GM Steve Tambellini has one less bargaining chip to play between now and the NHL trade deadline, thanks to Nikolai Khabibulin’s tender groin.

With the deadline arriving next Monday, the Oilers announced Khabibulin will be on the shelf for seven to 10 days because of a strained groin, which he suffered while digging pucks out of the net in the first period of a 5-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks Sunday.

That timetable, even at seven days, takes Khabibulin to the deadline and effectively puts an end to the possibility, however remote, of moving the 39-year-old along to a team looking for help in the crease. With Khabibulin having one more year remaining on his contract, the market for him was, what, Chicago and . . ?

If there’s a silver lining, the injury will give Tom Renney little choice but to take a longer look at Devan Dubnyk, who has yet to prove he’s the answer in goal down the road. Given the Oilers have a day off before each of their next six games, it’s possible he could start every one of them. No need to spell Dubnyk off with Yann Danis, who has been recalled from Oklahoma City.

For the most part, Dubnyk has struggled mightily of late. In his last five games, Dubnyk’s saves percentages have been .786, .870, .833, .897 and .915. Overall, he’s sitting at .905 with a 3.05 GAA. These are not the numbers, even allowing for the flawed team in front of him, of a goaltender who can carry the mail moving forward.

THE WAY I SEE IT

If you take Tambellini at his word, Khabibulin isn’t the only chip off the table because he’s already gone on record as saying he’s not going to move Ryan Smyth, who has drawn more interest from contending teams than pending unrestricted free agent Ales Hemsky.

This, from Jim Matheson’s Hockey World at the Edmonton Journal:

"Five teams, including the defending Cup champion Boston Bruins, were hot to trot on Edmonton Oilers winger Ryan Smyth. The Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators, New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings were sniffing around, too.

Nashville is lukewarm on Ales Hemsky; they’re definitely not as keen on him as they were on Smyth. They will not move golden boy defenceman Ryan Ellis, who helped set up (Jordan) Eberle’s dramatic last-gasp world junior goal in Ottawa. Nashville doesn’t want to give up a first-round pick in any deal because they did that last trade deadline for Mike Fisher."

Smyth, who can’t be moved without giving his consent, is also on the record as saying Edmonton is where he wants to be and that he has no interest in taking a run at a Stanley Cup elsewhere, even if he retains the option to come back with a new contract next season. Smyth reiterated that with me in a conversation in the last couple of days.

— Everybody paying attention knows the Los Angeles Kings are in desperate need of scoring help up front. They’ve got no shot, none, to do anything in the playoffs without that component. That fact, and it’s no news bulletin, makes Hemsky a possibility.

That said, I shudder every time I read somebody suggesting that taking Dustin Penner back in a do-over as part of a trade might make it work with Dean Lombardi. When I said last week that Tambellini should get what he can for Hemsky, I didn’t mean accepting less than nothing.

WHILE I’M AT IT

Some people are of the mind that Tambellini should do everything he can to re-sign Hemsky unless he’s got a better Plan B for a top-six forward in mind, and that’s certainly fair comment.

Others, including those supposedly in the know, have suggested that Tambellini might address fears about Hemsky’s durability by offering him a contract with less term than the four or five years he and agent Jiri Crha are seeking or by putting a pact laden with performance bonuses on the table.

I’ve had a reader ask about this possibility in recent days and yesterday, the person who calls themselves TreenasOil on Twitter indicated the Oilers are doing exactly that by tweeting the following: "Oilers working on a bonus laced contract for Hemsky with term."

While that makes perfect sense, it’s not allowed under the CBA. Here’s the language on bonuses:

"Performance bonuses will only be permissible for the following types of players: (1) players on entry-level contracts; (2) players signing one-year contracts after returning from long-term injuries (players with 400 or more games who spent 100 or more days on injured reserve in the last year of their most recent contract); and senior veteran players who sign a one-year contract after the age of 35."

Have a terrific Family Day.

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

  • Romanus

    Why is it that the same people who are lamenting the Oilers lack of quality vets to augment their elite kids want to trade a quality vet like Hemsky for what will only be prospects and picks – nobody is trading top six forwards or top pairing dmen for a 29th place team’s question marks. And as for goalies, I would argue that they are the last piece of the puzzle to put in place, and that a quality consistent goalie is not only a rare commodity, but can be a liability – I would argue that Kiprosoff in Calgary has masked the utter mediocrity of that organization and prevented them from slipping into lottery country year after year, keeping them from ever drafting a player of consequence that could help them. It sucks right now but I plead for patience.

    • Wax Man Riley

      I have to agree. Having a real, quality, consistent goaltender can mask how poor a team really is.

      Goaltending is important, especially in the playoffs, but as we see with teams like Calgary and Nashville; it can hide deeper issues.

      That being said, I wish we had either Kipper or Rinne.

  • Romanus

    Would still love to see Ales stay, but what about the Caps as a possible destination ST and him can’t make a deal in the next week? They’ve got 3.6M cap space, an owner who wants to win and some gaps in the top 6. Hemsky’s cap hit to finish the season would still allow another pickup on the back end. With Mike Green returning, they should start climbing back into the playoff picture (though tonight’s 5-0 L to the ‘canes looked ugly).

  • Wax Man Riley

    I would be slightly more inclined to buy into Smyth’s sincerity if he could take one for the team by going to a contender for a couple of months to get an asset and help the team out. Not to mention saving the owner several hundred thousand bucks. %500K ?

    Ryan Smyth seems to be all about Ryan Smyth and what Ryan Smyth wants. He failed to impress me in the manner that he behaved when the Oil opted not to sign him in his previous incarnation with the Oil. He was pissed right off from the start of that fateful season because Horcoff got signed first. Remember the ‘no hometown discount’quote from 2007?

    All of that and the fact he hasn’t performed very well this season has me wondering what the Oilers have to gain by signing him after this season at any price. Just sayin’…

    • Wax Man Riley

      Although Smyth may have said no hometown discount, the numbers at the time were the Oil offering about 5.25 vs Smyth wanting 5.5. He signed for 6.5 that summer. Although he said no discount, there really was one one the table.

      Next summer Smyth will sign with some team in August when teams are through the big name free agents and the evalute where they are. Someone will have a spot for a modestly price vetrean who has some goal scoring ability. Might even be the Oil.

  • vetinari

    I think Smyth will likely be resigned on a 1 or 2 year deal with a NTC (he wants to stay in Edmonton), but I would think he’s now a $2.5M to $3.5M 3rd line support player due to age and declining skills. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great mentor to the kids, plays through pain, can be thrown out in almost any situation, and demonstrates to the kids that there is at least one person on the planet who bleeds blue and copper.

    As for tradeable assets for the deadline, we’re screwed– unless we start packaging up players/2nd tier prospects and some picks in deals for quality players– and I don’t see that likely happening.

    I have a feeling that the Oilers trade deadline game plan has narrowed to only moving Hemsky and a defenceman (Peckham?, Chorney?) for most likely, picks and possibly, a prospect or two… I would consider the deadline a success if Tambi is able to move guys like Khabibulin, Barker, and Hordichuk at the deadline and a miracle if he can net back in return a young goalie and/or a top 4 defenceman.