Here another one for the list of teams in distress that might possess some potential trade targets for the Bruins.
Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal today wondered in writing if the current Edmonton Oilers squad is the worst in franchise history. Through a look at the standings, the Oilers’ upcoming schedule and the major NHL team statistics, the veteran writer makes a compelling argument why the Edmonton franchise has never been worse.
Once Matheson delves into the individual-player reasons for the Oilers’ awfulness, that’s when things get interesting for the Bruins and other contending teams hoping to exploit the misfortune of some sellers at the bottom of the league’s overall standings between now and the Feb. 28 trade deadline.
To me, the forwards aren’t all that appetizing, but one defensemen in particular would be worth a try in black-and-gold sweater.
Dustin Penner, the 6-foot-4 forward, could be attractive. A winger by trade, Penner has even played a little center lately. Signed at a cap hit of $4.25 million for this season and next, however, Penner would be too big a risk for the Bruins. Sure, he popped in 32 goals last season and with 20 this year is on pace to reach that number again. But he’s also a guy known to lose interest in playing hard and isn’t that far off from his 17-goal year of 2008-09. The Bruins told us Michael Ryder would be a consistent threat and that Nathan Horton just needed a change to scenery to hit score at a 30-goal pace again. Can they really try to sell everyone on Penner as some sort of savior?
With his lack of size, Sam Gagner probably wouldn’t be much of a help to the Bruins, while Ales Hemsky is too expensive ($4.1 million this year and next) and injury-prone to be the deadline boost Boston needs. So the Oilers forwards are out.
Back on the defense, though, there’s one player the Bruins should seriously consider: Tom Gilbert.
With a $4 million cap hit until the end of the 2013-14 season, and with just 15 points in 56 games to show for his effort, the 28-year-old Gilbert might seem like a buyer-beware type purchase. Here’s what Matheson had to write about him today:
Tom Gilbert has struggled much of the year. Almost no points (three in his last 21 games, playing almost 25 minutes a game) and he’s minus-15. He’s had to play way more minutes than he should because [Ryan] Whitney’s ankle gave out on him six weeks ago, but when he has to go against big body forwards like Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry as he did Sunday, he has considerable trouble.
There’s no doubt there are risks involved in a Gilbert acquisition. Just two years ago, though, he was a 45-point player. And playing with mostly inexperienced or over-the-hill defensemen, and forwards that can’t even spell Selke on a couple of dreadful Oilers teams the last couple seasons could take its toll on anyone. The McKeen’s Hockey Pool Yearbook, which like Matheson pointed out Gilbert’s problems defending top-line forwards and getting into proper position, had this to say about Gilbert’s offensive upside before this season:
A talented and creative passer. … Makes smart pinches and stays composed in scoring areas.
Plus he’s a veteran of four NHL seasons, unlike Steve Kampfer and Johnny Boychuk — two players the Bruins have been relying on lately to be their puck-pushers. To me, Gilbert sounds like an upgrade to the D corps. While the Bruins might be wary of the length of Gilbert’s deal, they have to keep in mind that there’s no telling what the Collective Bargaining Agreement will look like after next season. So there’s no telling if there will be another roll back, a higher cap ceiling or a different way of computing cap hits and the team’s payroll. That he fits under the cap now and next season and could find his stride again surrounded by a better supporting case is all Boston should consider.
Best of all, Gilbert might be had at a bargain considering the Oilers’ position as rebuilders. They’d probably only want a pick or prospect. Boston could probably get away with keeping their first-rounders and possibly at least one of their second-rounders. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli and his Edmonton counterpart Steve Tambellini were involved in many conversations leading up to last June’s draft when they held the second and first pick overall, respectively. They didn’t get a deal done, but maybe eight months later they can swing something that’ll help the Oilers’ future and Boston’s present.