With time ticking down toward Monday’s NHL trade deadline, the guessing game continues as to who and what the Edmonton Oilers will receive in a trade for pending UFA defenseman Jeff Petry. Whatever the return, chances are it won’t be enough.
There’s been a growing chorus of “It didn’t have to be this way” as Petry has played the best hockey of his career in recent months, but that lament is equal parts hindsight and growing frustration over the failure of GM Craig MacTavish to get his team pointed in the right direction.
You can put me in the hindsight camp. I wasn’t for handing Petry whatever he wanted during negotiations that ended with him signing a one-year deal for $3.075 million July 7, but I thought, given the glaring lack of depth on Edmonton’s blue line, a deal for something in the range of $4-$4.5 million a season over four or five years was palatable.
It was obvious then that MacTavish and the Oilers didn’t hold Petry in the same regard as unproven Justin Schultz, the Norris Trophy candidate. They likely negotiated that way. The clock started ticking the minute Petry signed that deal. I thought there would be time to re-visit it before now. Save for recent talk about 11th-hour discussions, that hasn’t happened.
I’ve said and written more than once since then that Petry and agent Wade Arnott would be best-served to test the UFA market and I still feel that way, but that shouldn’t have prevented the Oilers from making a concerted pitch to take negotiations beyond where they were last summer. Nope.
I’m not talking stupid money or ridiculous term – even if the Oiler have been guilty of offering both to other players – just an offer that would give Petry and Arnott reason to pause and contemplate. An offer that made it clear the Oilers saw Petry as a piece of the team moving forward. He’s not a first-pairing defenseman on most teams, but he’s the best the Oilers have.
Too late now. That clock strikes midnight Monday and, while there’s been talk Petry is happier under new coach Todd Nelson than he was under dour Dallas Eakins – and is playing better hockey – we wait to find out where he’s going and what’s coming back.
History shows us, more often than not, it won’t be enough.
DALLAS IN DENIAL
Even the smartest guy in the room gets it wrong or screws up from time to time, but you’d never know it listening to Eakins, who apparently still hasn’t come to grips with the reasons he was fired by the Oilers Dec. 15.
Talking on FAN 590 today, Eakins credited the turnaround in the play of Nail Yakupov with the arrival of Derek Roy – at the same time absolving himself of having any hand in how badly Yakupov struggled during his tenure as head coach.
“I’m only speculating here, but I’m guessing that having a veteran centre like Derek Roy has paid huge dividends for Nail,” Eakins said. “That was something we couldn’t give to him while I was there.”
Eakins is at least partially right on both counts. Roy has been a factor in the significant improvement in Yakupov and, yes, that’s not a luxury Eakins had thanks to MacTavish’s insistence on rolling the dice on Mark Arcobello and Leon Draisaitl to start the season.
I’d suggest Yakupov’s improved play has as much to do with being put in situations to succeed by Nelson – being used at key times during games, seeing extended use on the power play and being used in shootouts – and the confidence that’s come from that.
No surprise there’s not a hint of mea culpa from Eakins. Rarely, despite his pitiful 36-63-14 record with the Oilers, has that been forthcoming from the smartest guy in the room. Anyway, you can read the full item here.
For my money, the Oilers’ best work at or near the trade deadline in the last 20 years was March 2006 when GM Kevin Lowe added Dwayne Roloson and Sergei Samsonov, both of whom played a significant role in getting the Oilers into the playoffs and all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.
Roloson was acquired from the Minnesota Wild March 8 for a first-round pick (Trevor Lewis 17th) and a third-rounder (Spencer Machacek 67th). Roloson went 8-7-4 with a 2.42 goals-against average and .905 save percentage down the stretch. He was 12-5 with a .927 save percentage in the playoffs before Marc-Andre Bergeron peed on the party by riding Andrew Ladd into Roloson and shredding his knee in Game 1 of the Cup final.
A day later, the Oilers shipped Marty Reasoner, Yan Stastny and a second-round pick to the Boston Bruins for Samsonov. Samsonov scored 5-11-16 in 19 games down the stretch and then added 4-11-15 in 24 playoff games.
The downside of that deal, historians will note, is the Bruins turned that second-round pick into Milan Lucic with the 50th selection that summer and Samsonov was only a rental, moving on to Montreal.
MY BEST GUESS
I’ve thought since it became obvious Petry would be traded that the likeliest destination for him would be Detroit. That hasn’t changed. GM Ken Holland is on the record as saying he’s been looking for a right-shot defenseman since the start of the season.
The other factor is Holland, like most GMs, is more likely to make a deal for a player he believes he can re-sign rather than just getting as a rental. Michigan is home for Petry and he’d have a chance to win, or at least contend, in Detroit. It looks like a fit from where I sit.
I’d expect the Oilers to get a prospect and a conditional pick (based on whether or not Petry re-signs) from the Red Wings.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.