Reaction to a report of the Oilers shopping for a defenseman, questions over Ales Hemsky’s future, and suggestions that Ilya Bryzgalov might help the Oilers goaltending.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Dan Tencer noted the strong start to this season by Oilers winger Ales Hemsky. If Hemsky plays this well throughout the season, Tencer believes it’s automatic he’ll be moved at the trade deadline if the Oilers are again out of playoff contention. However, if the Oilers are in the playoff hunt by then, he wonders if they would keep him for the remainder of the season.
David Staples reacted to a recent reports by TSN’s Bob McKenzie claiming the Oilers could be looking for a goalie or a defenseman. Staples feels the defense isn’t doing that badly and would be surprised if GM Craig MacTavish sought another blueliner. He noted the goalie tandem of Devan Dubnyk and Jason LaBarbera are off to a weak start.
Jim Matheson, responding to a reader’s e-mail asking if the Oilers had the cap space to sign free agent goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, doubts the club would make that move unless they find a trade partner for Devan Dubnyk.
SPORTSNET.CA: Gord Stellick, however, believes it couldn’t hurt the Oilers to take a chance on Bryzgalov with a one-year contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Dubnyk continues to struggle throughout October, it could push the Oilers into the market for an upgrade. Forget about landing Ryan Miller from Buffalo. He’s got a partial no-trade clause, carries a $6.25 million salary for this season, is eligible for UFA status next summer and the Sabres want a healthy return for him. The Anaheim Ducks aren’t willing to part with Jonas Hiller or Viktor Fasth (at least, not at this point in the season) and the Leafs won’t trade James Reimer as that leaves no suitable backup for Jonathan Bernier, who has never played a full NHL season as a starter. That leaves Bryzgalov as perhaps the only viable option. If the Oilers get desperate enough, they could pursue that option.
As for Hemsky, if he stays healthy and plays well, he’d attract considerable interest at the trade deadline, but if the Oilers are battling for a playoff berth, I believe they’ll keep him. Making the playoffs will mean more by that point than getting something back for a player due to depart next summer via free agency.
While the Oilers defense isn’t doing that badly, it remains to be seen if they can improve over the course of this season. I have no doubt coach Dallas Eakins will keep them working harder but I’m not convinced there’s enough depth on the Oilers blueline to withstand the physical rigours of a long season.