“Craig MacTavish wants to be in on everything.”
That assessment by TSN’s connected Darren Dreger from Philadelphia this morning on the eve of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft has to be sweet music to the ears of long-suffering fans of the Edmonton Oilers on so many levels in MacTavish’s second draft go-round as GM after the reign of error and indecision by Steve Tambellini.
First and foremost, MacTavish HAS to be in on everything as GMs text and schmooze in the City of Brotherly Love because the Oilers remain at least two or three forwards and a proven defenseman away from filling all the holes on his roster.
The old saying is the first steep to recovery is admitting there’s a problem. MacTavish did that in recent days in ways Tambellini never did, stating the Oilers want to bolster the line-up with “four or five” players. Acquiring and overpaying Nikita Nikitin Wednesday was just the start, not the finish.
I tweeted in the wake of the Nikitin signing that I wouldn’t be surprised if MacTavish made another acquisition before the end of the day. That didn’t happen, although we did get word not long after the Oilers would be meeting with UFA defenseman Mark Fayne. The Oilers are also talking with Deryk Engelland.
TALKING THE TALK
I know talk is cheap and eyes tend to roll when managers like MacTavish offer up lip service about being willing to “do whatever it takes to improve the hockey club . . . yada-yada-yada.” As often as not, that’s an empty sales pitch meant to placate fans, not close deals. This is not that.
Years ago in the pre-Twitter era, former Oiler media man Bill Tuele, who rode shotgun for Glen Sather and Kevin Lowe, used to put travelling beat writers on high alert and scuttle tear-up-the-town plans – be it at the draft or at the trade deadline — by declaring, “Boys, I wouldn’t go far from the phone tonight.” More often than not, the phone would ring.
Between now and when teams gather on the draft floor Friday afternoon is when trade talks (and now wooing UFAs with a week-long window to make a pitch) heat up. It’s also the time teams and their PR staffs lock things down. They clam up. That said, as was my sense yesterday, I’m expecting phones to ring before the Oilers take the podium Friday afternoon. Like Dreger said, I expect MacTavish to be pitching until his arm falls off.
If MacTavish doesn’t get something done — that’s a possibility Oiler fans don’t want to contemplate — it won’t be because he’s at the dance hiding in the corner, blushing and looking away every time a suitor casts a glance his way. He’ll be “in on everything.”
MY TAKES . . .
- I think everybody can agree the signing of Nikitin and landing either Fayne or Engelland would address depth and prevent forcing kids like Martin Marincin and Oscar Klefbom into minutes they’re not yet ready to play. It doesn’t, however, give Edmonton a legit first pairing defenseman. If Nikitin is the big upgrade, it’s underwhelming.
- We know MacTavish has the third overall pick in play. The question is whether it ends up being a bargaining chip used to move up, down or acquire immediate help. Your guess (and theory) is as good as mine, but the chances of MacTavish moving it to trade down go way up if both Aaron Ekblad and the Leon Draisaitl are off the board when the Oilers select.
- As I already wrote last week, MacTavish is casting a wide net, but I keep coming back to Philadelphia as the likeliest trading partner. Of course, if MacTavish walks across the floor to the Flyers table, it’ll be to talk with new GM Ron Hextall. Not Paul Holmgren, with whom he had extended conversations about Braydon Coburn last June.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.