Q: Would you trade Ales Hemsky for Steve Ott? If no, why not? Who would win the trade? (Brad Crosson)
A: Interesting idea. The Oilers give up a superior offensive talent for a longtime disturber who would bring sandpaper to a third-line. Hemsky makes more money ($5 million per season) than Ott’s ($2.950 million). Both are unrestricted free agents next July. Ott is 31, Hemsky 30. Ott had 24 points in 48 games last year for Buffalo; Hemsky had 20 points in 38 games for the Oilers. I believe the Oilers would make that deal because they are loaded with skill forwards, but Ott’s team, the Buffalo Sabres, needs abrasiveness as much as the Oilers do, so they likely wouldn’t be interested in such a deal. Ott’s been traded for a skill guy once before (from the Dallas Stars to the Sabres for Derek Roy). I suspect the Oilers would have to take another contract along with Ott for Hemsky to even out the dollars. Ott for Hemsky? Yeah, I’d seriously consider it.
Q: Who will be rookie of the year? (Ben Fyshe)
A: The Calder Trophy is a funny thing. Does anybody remember who the best NHL rookie was in 2009? It was Columbus goalie Steve Mason, not Anaheim winger Bobby Ryan, who was second. Which player would you rather have on your team? How about 2003? St. Louis defenceman Barret Jackman beat Detroit forward Henrik Zetterberg. I’m guessing Z is a better player and has been for several years. This is a long answer to a short question. It doesn’t always go to the player who turns out to be the better player over the long haul. It’s a one-year award. So, I’m not going to take Nathan MacKinnon, the first overall pick by the Colorado Avalanche. I’m going for Dallas Stars winger Valeri Nichushkin, who was the 10th pick. He’s an exciting, big guy from Russia, who will find his way onto the Stars’ top two lines. I think MacKinnon could be like Steve Stamkos in time, but Nichushkin, who got the overtime goal that sank Canada at the most recent world junior championship, is my pick.
Q: Are any Oilers veterans in danger of not making the team? (Joey Myopic).
A: Yeah, I’d say Corey Potter is in a real fight on defence. After years of moving around the minors, he scored a one-way contract ($775,000 this year) and the Oilers could certainly use his big shot on the point, but there is a lot of depth on the back-end. He was in that carousel last season with Ryan Whitney and Mark Fistric as a No. 6 guy, playing 33 of 48 games. If he was put on waivers before the start of the season to send him to the Oilers’ American Hockey League affiliate in Oklahoma City, it wouldn’t surprise me. I’d say the top six now are Justin Schultz, Andrew Ference, Ladislav Smid, Jeff Petry, Nick Schultz and Denis Grebeshkov. Potter has to fight off former Stars defenceman Philip Larsen, who has a one-way contract for $1.025 mil, for the No. 7 spot, I figure. Russian Anton Belov, finally here after visa issues, is starting late and has a two-way NHL/AHL contract, so could be sent to Oklahoma City, but I suspect he has an agreement with the Oilers not to be there long when he could make infinitely more in the KHL. Taylor Fedun and Brandon Davidson are also very much in the Oilers’ defensive picture.
Q: Can Taylor Fedun make the Oilers? I really like him. Smart, good work ethic, worked very hard after terrible injury. (Daniel Carlyle)
A: Fedun is one of those guys you pull for. He’s on the cusp of an NHL job. Smart on the ice, and as a mechanical engineer who build a hovercraft as a part of his thesis at Princeton, he’ll do just fine someday down the road when he isn’t playing hockey.
Q: What’s with the lack of Oilers afternoon games. Those are great to take the young ones to. (Daniel Wear)
A: I couldn’t agree more. U.S. teams are big on afternoon weekend games, but Canadian teams seem locked into night affairs (in part for TV’s Hockey Night in Canada, and they can’t come back with an afternoon tilt on a Sunday). The Oilers have had just 28 afternoon games at Rexall Place since they came into the NHL in 1979. This upcoming season, they have none.
Q: Do you feel it makes sense to dress Ben Eager if he shouldn’t fight because of his concussion history? Can he get by just playing the puck? (Dan Mowat-Rose)
A: He can get by getting in on the forecheck and pounding people. He’s a superior skater for such a big man (six-foot-two, 225 pounds), but Eager has also had a penchant for taking bad penalties. He definitely should be able to get one of the 14 forward spots if that’s the route new Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins wants to go with his size. The Oilers need bigger people throughout the lineup, which is why they badly need a forward such as Ryan Hamilton at six-foot-two, 230 pounds, to push his way to a spot on one of the top three lines and Will Action at six-foot-two, 195 pounds, to give Anton Lander and others a run as fourth-line centre when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is heathy. Eager has had concussion worries, but if he sticks to forechecking, he can be effective because he can score 8-10 goals a year.
Q: What is your opinion of Calgary Flames goalie Reto Berra? Will he be enough in Calgary to keep them out of a lottery position? (Scrubs 64)
A: Nothing’s going to keep Calgary out of the bottom five in the league as they rebuild. Berra was certainly better than Finn Karri Ramo here last Saturday in the split-squad game, but the Flames feel Ramo, who played the past four years in the KHL for Avangard Omsk, and journeyman Joey MacDonald are probably their top two goalies. There’s been talk of the just-retired Miikka Kiprusoff, living in Calgary, might come by the Saddledome to tutor Ramo. Berra, who came to Calgary as part of last season’s Jay Bouwmeester trade with the St. Louis Blues, is more of a wild-card. He’s 27 in January and hasn’t played a regular-season NHL minute, but he was very good at last spring’s world championship for the Swiss and is part of their initial Olympic team roster for Sochi. He stands six-foot-five and covers lots of net, but they might open the season with Ramo and MacDonald and see what happens. Ramo was signed to a two-year, $5.5-million deal over the summer, so they see the one-time Tampa Bay Lightning goalie as a starter.
Q: Which of the possible Team Canada junior returnees could make an NHL team this season? Does Griffin Reinhart have a shot with the New York Islanders? (Shawn Donaghy)
A: I think we’ll be seeing Reinhart back in the WHL as the Edmonton Oil Kings captain. The Oil Kings will eventually trade him at the deadline to a Memorial Cup contender for kids and bantam draft picks. The Isles have a good team with a host of returning defencemen. Certainly Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche) and Jonathan Drouin (Tampa Bay Lightning) are making their teams and won’t be on Brent Sutter’s Canadian world junior championship team this year. Morgan Rielly in Toronto has an outside shot at sticking with the Maple Leafs as long as Cody Franson is unsigned.
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