EDMONTON — Minnesota was Wild enough about Kyle Brodziak to flip a couple of picks Edmonton’s way, including the one that netted the Oilers a goaltending prospect.
The winger, set to become a restricted free agent next week, was traded to Minnesota in exchange for two draft picks which Edmonton promptly parlayed into defenceman Kyle Bigos and puckstopper Olivier Roy.
The Oilers sixth-round selection in the NHL entry draft also went to the Wild.
“We do need to change our lineup a little bit,” said Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini. “We’re willing to give some people a chance that they maybe haven’t had before.
“We also had a chance to pick up a goaltender in the fifth that our guys were very focused on.”
The Oilers also freed up some cap room.
Brodziak made $497,500 last season and had arbitration rights. What he didn’t have was the kind of grit former coach Craig MacTavish wanted from him on a consistent basis, and as a consequence, found himself being singled out on more than one occasion last season.
The two sides had been talking about a new deal for more than a month.
“There are some tough decisions that have to be made,” Tambellini continued. “I like Kyle as a person and a player, but we have too many players for too few positions.”
By the time the two-day draft concluded in Montreal, the Oilers had a tough guy in training, a goaltender and some offensive potential in their remaining selections.
They went overseas with their second pick, selecting Swedish forward Anton Lander. The six-foot, 185-pound forward was a linemate of Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, the player the Oilers had grabbed in the opening round.
Lander is a two-way centre who captained the Swedish entry in the 2009 under-18 world championships.
“He’s the captain of Sweden for a reason — high, high character,” one scout told the Hockey News. “He gets results through hard work and character.”
Last season, Lander registered 10 points in 47 games with Timra of the Swedish Elite League. Like Paajarvi-Svensson, he has a year left on his contract so he too will spend next season in Sweden.
“I talked to Magnus yesterday and he said Edmonton might pick you. I said that would be great, we’d be on the same team. It feels great to be selected by Edmonton,” said Lander.
This was the year of the Swedes with seven selected in the first round, 24 in total.
“There’s some high-end skill at the top of our draft, some toughness in the middle, and we were able to acquire a couple of extra picks. We’ll see ... but it was a good day,” Tambellini said.
With the first of two third-round picks they had to work with, the Oilers selected defenceman Troy Hesketh from Minnetonka High School in Minnesota. The six-foot-two, 185-pound prospect, who has been cast as an offensive defenceman, is a sophomore who already has a scholarship from Wisconsin.
The Oilers then selected, from the Western Hockey League’s Everett Silvertips, Cameron Abney, a rugged winger who racked up 103 penalty minutes in 48 games last season. He put four points on the board.
“We needed to try and get some physicality, some bigger kids who will play that physical game for us,” said head amateur scout Stu MacGregor.
The majority of the draftees will be in Edmonton next month for a prospect camp. Between then and now, the free-agent market will open. Tambellini said there may have been as much talk at the draft as there is on trade-deadline day but it was just that, talk. Turns out there are too many teams needing to move contracts before they can bring in more players.
“I think a lot of teams had plans of doing something at the draft,” said Tambellini, “but it’s very difficult to move contracts at this point.”
Brodziak, meanwhile, could not be reached for comment, but he will surely get a fresh start in Minnesota after playing 175 games with Edmonton. Minnesota’s new head coach, Todd Richards, tutored the St. Paul native when the Oilers shared a farm team in Wilkes-Barre.
“He’s a good fit for us,” Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher told the Minnesota Star Tribune. “He’s a player who can slide up and down your roster ... well above average faceoff guy on the right side of the ice. He can kill penalties, he shoots the puck well, so he brings a lot of versatility to the lineup.
“There’s a lot of things you can do with a Kyle Brodziak. There’s energy, there’s work ethic and there’s character.”
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