On this day in 1997, the Oilers acquire Roman Hamrlik from the Lightning
1 month ago
On this day in 1997, the Edmonton Oilers would acquire Roman Hamrlik from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Jason Bonsignore.
Hamrlik was a fan favourite and a big locker room guy. Drafted first overall to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992, the 18-year-old from Zlin, Czechoslovakia, had all the eyes on him when he stepped foot on NHL ice.
His rookie year was also the outcoming of the Lightning into the NHL. Unfortunately, for Tampa, they would land 22nd out of the 24 active teams that year with a record of 23-54-7 in 84 games. Hamrlik would finish with 6 goals, 21 points, and a plus/minus of -21.
Tampa would slowly rise up the ranks in 1994-1995 when they made a brief postseason appearance, but would ultimately luck out to the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round.
After a few more years and some head-butting with head coach Terry Crisp, the defenceman would have what he calls the worst season in his career. Aside from playing 79 games and racking in 40 points, his plus/minus would sit at -29.
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Coming off a stressful year, things changed in 1997 for the 23-year-old; he was no longer a kid who believed he had to make his mark in the NHL. He was a man who had learned the hardships of playing in the big boys club, and with that apprehension came the drive to change things around. In Tom Jones’ article, a scribe for The Tampa Bay Times, he quotes Hamrlik on his path to playing inspiring hockey once again.
“It’s a different feeling this season,” Hamrlik said.
“I’m just going out and really enjoying hockey again. I’m not putting extra pressure on myself. I’m not nervous out there. If I make a bad play, I just try to forget it. Before, I would let it bother me for the whole game.
Everything is different than it used to be, especially the way it was last year.”
The one piece Hamrlik was missing was a players-coach. He wanted someone who would encourage, motivate and instill confidence in him, quite the opposite of what Crisp had been doing. The unhappy relationship between himself and his head coach, alongside Tampa not having the cash to keep the high-paying blueliner around, meant it was time to shop the 23-year-old.
That’s how he wound up in the City of Champions; on this day in 1997 that sent bust draft pick Jason Bonsignore, Steve Kelly, and Bryan Marchment to the Lightning Capital of North America, the Oilers picked up Hamrlik along with teammate Paul Comrie. In 5 years with Tampa, Hamrlik played 377 games with 52 goals for 185 points and a plus-minus of -124.
The 1996 All-Star would stay in Edmonton for three years. He would average just shy of 25 minutes of average ice time and become one of the best defencemen for the team at the time. He could shoot hard and hit harder and had strong power play and offensive abilities.
Due to budget issues, Hamrlik would be traded to the New York Islanders on June 24th, 2000. The barter would bring Eric Brewer, Josh Green, and a second-round draft pick in 2000 to the Oilers.
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