Best Oiler Trades to Never Happen?: Edmonton's New No. 1 Line Knows the Answers

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Best Oiler Trades to Never Happen?: Edmonton's New No. 1 Line Knows the Answers
(Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)

The Oilers have a history of trade transactions and signings that come under fire. In the past few years, Edmonton has been at the forefront of the hockey world, thanks to players like Dany Heatley, Michael Nylander, and Chris Pronger...all of whom have all painted Edmonton with a negative brush.

First, Chris Pronger came within one game of winning the Stanley Cup with the Oilers in 2006 only to demand a trade mere hours afterwards for reasons that still irk Oiler fans. Amidst other rumors and speculation, Pronger publicly condemned the city as unlivable.

Second was Michael Nylander, who had apparently signed a lucrative UFA contract with the Oilers, but simultaneously signed with the Capitals sighting that his family would prefer to live in Washington over Edmonton. He has since publicly commented positively about Edmonton and the team, but at the time his actions stung Edmontonians.

Finally, this past summer, Dany Heatley just wouldn't seem to go away. After asking for a trade from Ottawa, Heatley was unofficially traded to the Oilers. Edmonton waited and waited, only to find out that Heatley never had intentions of accepting the trade, knowing he'd rather finish his career in a city that hated him than in Edmonton.

As a result, Oiler fans have wondered for years, just what the Oilers would need to do to be attractive to NHL players.  

After Thursday night's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, fans in Edmonton are starting to sing a different tune.

The Oilers looked all but finished after the first 30 minutes of Thursdays game, until; as if on cue, Dustin Penner, who has been directly and indirectly linked to Nylander, Pronger, and Heatley, decided to take over.

With a five point night, Penner and his new No. 1 linemates, Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky, single handedly gave new life to Edmonton, resulting in a 6-4 Oilers win and a whale of a contest.

Penner left that game tied for fourth in NHL points (14) and goals scored (7), as well as tied for third in the plus/minus ranking with a plus 9. Not bad for a guy who is only in Edmonton, because the Oilers had no other choice.

After Pronger exited the Oilers, Edmonton was desperate to make a statement to the fan base who had become deathly afraid that their Stanley Cup run was a once in a blue moon event.

Failing to sign their first option (Michael Nylander), then failing to yank from Buffalo their second option (Tomas Vanek), the Oilers tendered an RFA offer to Dustin Penner who's time in Edmonton fell under harsh criticism.

It's funny how things change.

While critics thought maybe the three players in the Heatley trade could out-score the 50 goal sniper, Penner is doing it by himself.

In San Jose, Heatley has since been moved to the second line and their second unit powerplay (a reason he requested a trade from Ottawa).

Michael Nylander, who was supposed to be Edmonton's number No. 1 center, can't even get a job on the team that signed him, while Sam Gagner has strung up four goals and four assists at almost a point per game pace.

And Pronger?... well Pronger is still one hell of a defenceman. Luckily for Edmonton, it's looking like so is Ladislav Smid (also part of the Heatley trade) who is second overall in NHL plus/minus with a plus-10.

As an added bonus, after a combined 13 points against Columbus, Ales Hemsky seems to have finally found his No. 1 linemates to play with.

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