93 Days Until The Season Begins
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By Zach Laing2 months ago
Throughout the summer and into the fall, we’ll be counting down the days until the Edmonton Oilers begin their 2023-24 season with a daily trip down memory lane.
With 93 days left until the Edmonton Oilers season starts, let’s take a look at a player who wore that jersey number — Petr Nedved.
An Edmonton Journal article from March 4, 2004 written by Joanne Ireland, headlines the Petr Nedved trade.
Petr Nedved was here for a good time, not a long time and how good that time really was is, well, up for debate.
Drafted by the Vancouver Canucks second overall in the 1990 draft, Nedved broke into the league instantly, but it took time — and a few stops — for him to really find his game. His third year in the league, the 92-93 campaign, was his most successful to that point by far. Thirty-eight goals, 33 assists and 71 points were all career highs, but a bitter contract dispute with the Canucks resulted in a holdout and just before the trade deadline that year, he signed with the St. Louis Blues and Vancouver received Craig Janney as compensation.
He played well down the stretch scoring six goals and 20 points in the final 19 games of the year, but saw himself traded alongside Sergei Zubov to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Luc Robitaille and Ulf Samuelsson.
It was there, however, that he would take major strides. In 1995-95 he had far and away his best year in the NHL scoring 45 goals and 99 points in 80 games following it up the following season with 33 goals and 71 points in 74 games. But history repeat itself, and Nedved, once again, found himself in a contract dispute. It resulted, again, in him playing for another team getting shipped ot the New York Rangers with Sean Pronger and Chris Tamer for Alex Kovalev and Harry York.
New York would be far and away the team he played for most in the NHL lasting seven years. He drew in for 478 games scoring 149 goals and 351 points, but come the 2003-04 season, the Rangers — with GM Glen Sather at the helm — found themselves well on the outside looking on the playoff picture.
With a record of 22-31-7 and 58 points — 15 out of a playoff spot — the firesale for one of the worst teams in the league started. On March 2nd, they sent Alexi Kovalev to the Montreal Canadiens. The following day, more moves would be made.
Sather, like a modern-day Robin Hood, sent Nedved and goaltender Jussi Markkanen to the Oilers in exchange for a 2004 second-round pick, former 8th-round pick and then University of Michigan forward Dwight Helminen, and goaltender Steve Valiquette, who was playing for the Oilers AHL affiliate, the Toronto Roadrunners.
That night, Brian Leetch was sent to the Toronto Maple Leafs and over the course of the next five days, Sather would sell off six more players in separate deals that included Chris Simon to Calgary, Matthew Barnaby to Colorado, and Martin Rucinsky to Vancouver.
But Nedved was the real steal out of it all. The Oilers, who themselves were just two points out of a playoff position, got signalled by the deal that the team was going to push for a postseason spot.
“It’s definitely a vote of confidence,” Oilers captain Jason Smith told the Edmonton Journal’s Joanne Ireland. “We’re excited about it.”
Gator wasn’t the only one excited, as Ethan Moreau was very supportive of the deal, too.
“It sends the right message, that’s for sure,” winger Ethan Moreau said. “It just reinforces in everybody’s minds that we can do it.”
The cash-strapped Oilers didn’t have to worry about the money, either, as Sather’s Rangers took the full tab of what was left on Nedved’s $4.75-million USD contract. The team knew they wouldn’t be able to afford the $5-million option on his contract at season end, but with where they were in the standings, that wasn’t of concern.
Nedved came to town and gelled with the Oilers down the stretch finding life after what was a tough first half of the year in the Big Apple. He would score five goals and 15 points in 16 games and with him in the lineup, the Oilers would go 9-5-2 record.
He was a huge boon to the team and the Oilers’ offensive, and defensive numbers improved. They were scoring 0.3 more goals per game and allowing .2 less — both things you’d want to see from a team down the stretch run of a season. Nedved, alongside linemates Radek Dvorak and Raffi Torres became a trio to reckon with.
“A big part of our recent success is the play of Petr,” Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish told the Journal’s Dan Barnes in a March 16, 2004 article written 13 days after Nedved was acquired. “Petr has made a huge difference here in the way he’s played and the way he’s bought into system play.
“There has been no breaking-in period for him.”
An Edmonton Journal article from March 16, 2004 written by Dan Barnes talks about the impact Petr Nedved has had on the Edmonton Oilers since being acquired 13 days prior.
That Journal article, however, was spot on.
It was too little too late.
By the time the regular season concluded on April 4th, the Oilers and their 89 points found themselves out of a playoff spot for just the second time in the previous eight years. That 2003-04 season would turn out to be pivotal in what was to come.
A labour strike that offseason forced the hockey world — at least in the NHL — to freeze entirely. No games were played in the NHL that season as the Oilers brought their AHL affiliate, the Roadrunners, closer to home. A number of Oilers stayed in town and played for the American League team including names like Raffi Torres, Jarret Stoll, Brad Winchester, Tony Salmelainen, Kyle Brodziak, Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, and others.
But before the lockout had even kicked off, Nedved had found a new home in the NHL: one with the Phoenix Coyotes. He inked a three-year deal paying him $8.7-million over the length of the deal — a number that was a mere $450,000 more than what Oilers GM Kevin Lowe was offering over the same term.
“I guess it shows he didn’t want to be here,” he told the Journal’s Jim Matheson, who reported that Lowe didn’t even receive a counter-offer from Nedved’s agent, J.P. Barry.
An Edmonton Journal article from August 27th, 2004 written by Jim Matheson details Petr Nedved signing with the Phoenix Coyotes.
Nedved, then 33, returned home to the Czech Republic to play a year of professional hockey there amid the lockout. It turned out to be a pivotal time in his career as after the lockout, he would signed with the Phoenix Coyotes, but would only play two more years of professional hockey in the NHL.
Out of the lockout, Nedved scored just two goals and 11 points in 25 games with the ‘Yotes, before he was acquired by the Philadelphia Flyers for Dennis Seidenberg and a swap of draft picks in January 2006. The downfall would continue as down the stretch run of that year and through the first half of the 2007-08 season, Nedved would six goals and 21 points in 49 games.
October 2008 would see him assigned to the Flyers’ AHL affiliate and saw Nedved bounce between the two leagues. That was, at least, until the Oilers tried to rekindle the past.
On January 2nd, 2009, the Oilers claimed Nedved, now in the final year of his three-year contract, off re-entry waivers. Though he had found his spark when the team had traded for him in 2003-04, Nedved and the Oilers wouldn’t be so lucky this time around.
His struggle continued scoring just one goal and five points in the final 19 games of the season. He would try a comeback with the New York Rangers ahead of the 2008-09 season, but he couldn’t make the team out of camp and returned home to the Czech Republic.
Nedved would play the following seven years there — the first with HC Sparta Praha, with whom he played during the lockout, and the following six as the captain of Bílí Tygři Liberec — his hometown team.
He’s found life in the game off the ice since his retirement working with the Czechia national team as their general manager since 2018-19.
While Nedved never won any individual accolades or even lifted the Stanley Cup, the late ’90s and early 2000s saw him be considered one of the best players in the game.
Amid a time when the tight-checking, trap style of play came to the forefront, Nedved was one of the highest-scoring players in the league during his peak years Between the 1995-96 and 2000-01 seasons, Nedved’s 363 points in 365 games placed him 32nd among all forwards.
Nonetheless, Nedved finds himself situated among a levy of Random Guys Who Played For The Oilers In The Late ’90s And Early 2000s, and very well might land on your PuckDoku grid one day.
How many days are left until the Edmonton Oilers start the 2023-24 season? 93! Can you guess who will be featured in tomorrow’s countdown?
- 99 Days Until The Season Begins — Wayne Gretzky
- 98 Days Until The Season Begins — Jesse Puljujarvi
- 97 Days Until The Season Begins — Connor McDavid
- 96 Days Until The Season Begins — Jayden Grubbe
- 95 Days Unit The Season Begins — The 1995 Draft
- 94 Days Until The Season Begins — Ryan Smyth
Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at email@example.com.
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