On his Twitter feed today, USA Today star hockey columnist Kevin Allen wrote: “Hearing and believing the Edmonton Oilers would like to move one of their top four D-men to give them flexibility to make other moves.”
Well, anytime you hear the word “D-men” you have to begin to conjure up moves in your mind and take a look to see if anyone would fit in with the Boston Bruins. Lubomir Visnovsky and Sheldon Souray both make in excess of $5 million, so they’re out. And Steve Staois checks in at a reasonable $2.7 million, but the Bruins already have enough defensemen of his ilk (Aaron Ward, Andrew Ference).
But then there’s Tom Gilbert. The 26-year-old right-handed shot brings a $4 million cap hit and he’s signed through 2013-14. The ridiculous length of his deal is the only thing that would scare me off a guy who put up 5-40-45 totals and a plus-6 rating in 26 games last season. He can quarterback a power play, block shots and do pretty much everything the Bruins ask of their blueliners. He’d instantly push Ward down to third-pair status and open the door to the Bruins dealing Ward or Mark Stuart for help up front. Why help up front? Because obviously any deal with the Oilers would involve restricted free agent Phil Kessel going west. Whether you’re in the ‘trade Phil’ or ‘keep Phil’ camp, you’d have to contemplate a deal that brings back a player of Gilbert’s caliber. The Oilers are pretty set at right wing, so maybe the deal would be expanded and a forward would also come back to the Hub. Edmonton would probably want a backliner (Stuart?) to take Gilbert’s spot.
Another defenseman that might be on the trading block, according to Al Cimaglia of ESPN Chicago, is Cam Barker. Although he’s a former first-round pick, the 23-year-old Barker doesn’t bring the NHL pedigree of Gilbert. But he’s a puck-mover who put up 6-34-40 totals this season. A restricted free agent who made a little less than $3 million this season, Barker is going to be a tough sign for the Blackhawks, and a tough fit for another team that acquires him because of his hefty cap hit and his somewhat slow development into a top-pair guy. He spent the better part of the playoffs on a third pair. I don’t see the Bruins being too interested in the lefty shooter, and obviously a team with the ‘Hawks’ firepower wouldn’t have much interest in Kessel.