The Edmonton Oilers are a mediocre NHL organization, and one that is desperately trying to shed that label. But then you have yet another failure by the organization—the Dustin Penner trade.
The Oilers were said to have gone into this year’s NHL trade season with no pressure and the ability to move players on their own terms. In fact, according to a Sportsnet report, the Oilers were reportedly not going to talk trade with the Los Angeles Kings unless 2010’s fifth overall pick Brayden Schenn was involved.
The Oilers, a team supposedly without urgency on the trade market, blinked first and wound up obtaining far, far less than Schenn in the deal. They were just as desperate to make a splash as any team out there.
Meanwhile, the Kings were considered the most aggressive on the trade front, with a top six forward at the top of Dean Lombardi’s wish list. Having made the playoffs last season, expectations were high for the team this season. Outside the top eight on deadline day, it was either go big or go home for Lombardi.
The Kings missing the playoffs this season could result in Lombardi getting fired—and he knows it. With Brad Richards never a realistic option, Penner and Ales Hemsky became the next names that he would need to acquire to salvage the season and potentially his job.
The Kings were the most desperate team to make something happen, and they landed the biggest name available without giving up Schenn, forward Wayne Simmonds or top goaltending prospect Jonathan Bernier.
The fact that none of these three young players were included signifies both Edmonton’s desperation to make a deal and Steve Tambellini’s failure as general manager. Instead, all Lombardi sent the Oilers’ way was Colton Teubert, a prospect who—due to the blue-line depth of the Kings organization with Jack Johnson, Drew Doughty, Matt Greene, Derek Forbert and others—would likely never have played a prominent role on the Kings to begin with. Add in a first-round pick and another conditional pick, and you have the NHL’s version of white-collar crime.
This trade was arguably the biggest deal in Oil Country since the Ryan Smyth departure. Smyth was a point-per-game 32-year-old who was going to play in New York only as long as its playoff run. The Islanders gave up two top prospects (Ryan O’Marra and Robert Nilsson) and a first-round pick for a short-term investment.
Penner is a 30-goal scorer, five years younger than Smyth was, and is under contract for next season. His return was a mid-grade prospect and a first-round pick. The two are very different players and are in different circumstances. But based on Smyth’s value, Penner should have received more than Teubert and a first-round pick.
I’ve mentioned before that Penner scored 30 goals last year and that only 1.5 percent of all NHL players did that. The fact that Penner was far and away the biggest name available would have increased his value, along with his age and that he’s under contract for next season.
Factor in a very weak free-agency group in which no one has scored more than 30 goals, and Penner suddenly looks like a longer-term investment. There are going to be no 30-goal scorers (not even Brad Richards has scored 30 in a season before) available through free agency this summer, and Lombardi knew it. Forget July 1; February 28 was the day to make a splash that would impact a team both now and for the foreseeable future. Any return not including Bernier, Schenn or Simmonds has to be considered a loss on the Oilers’ part.
Don’t get me wrong—Dustin Penner has not been the ideal player for Edmonton. The inconsistency and lack of true passion for the game were very evident throughout his tenure as an Oiler.
But this situation once again symbolizes the Oilers’ status in the National Hockey League as perennial failures and doormats. Just like Dollarama sells Coca-Cola cans for 50 cents, the Oilers are the flea market of the NHL, selling star players for a dime a dozen.