The Writing Was on the Wall: Goodbye To Steady Steve and Slick Lubo

Antony TaContributor IMarch 4, 2010

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 24: Daniel Sedin #22of Sweden battles for the puck with Lubomir Visnovsky #17 of Slovakia during the ice hockey men's quarter final game between Sweden and Slovakia on day 13 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at Canada Hockey Place on February 24, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Lubomir Visnovsky was my favorite Oiler. The trade for Ryan Whitney was an overpayment in my opinion, considering there's only $1.6 million in savings and the throw-in pick was a sixth.

The trade with Steve Staios to a division rival was also a mysterious decision.

But what do you propose Tambellini do instead?

Consider this chart of salaries for NHL defensemen.

There are only 14 D-men that make more money than Visnovsky. In order to pick up a D-man with $5.6 million in cap hit until 2012-13 you better have a damn good reason—and that reason is Scott Neidermayer.

Watching Neidermayer at the Olympics, he looks like a guy who should've stayed retired and he looks like he's not entirely unconvinced that this is untrue himself.

Was there any other team in the NHL that was potentially looking for a top pairing D-man who costs more than Visnovsky? A team that needs such a player and can fit it under their cap?

Of players who have more years left on their contract, guys like Ed Jovanovski, Andrei Markov, and Bryan McCabe (who makes less than Vis) come to mind. All see their contracts expire in 2010-11. With Florida looking to rebuild, and with guys like Markov and Jovanovski near unmovable for Montreal and Phoenix (for different reasons of course), this rules out the Panthers, Canadiens, and Coyotes.

Ignoring Neidermayer (who has been mentioned) that left only Niklas Lidstrom on the Detroit Red Wings as a pending UFA and a candidate for retirement who may potentially need a replacement.

Of players who have a lower cap hit than Visnovsky, only Sergei Gonchar, Pavel Kubina, and Kim Johnsson are pending UFAs; all unlikely to retire, except Johnsson (whose career has seen better days).

Kubina was just acquired by an Atlanta team that lost Kovalchuk—cap space is available for him to be resigned. Plus there's no need for a team like Atlanta to add a guy like Visnovsky with Tobias Enstrom, Johnny Oduya, Ron Hainsey, and Zach Bogosian on the team.

Beyond that, Johnsson is an expensive version of Daniel Tjarnqvist and plays on the Chicago Blackhawks, who are already a juggernaut without adding three more years of Visnovsky.

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Gonchar is likely to get re-upped on a Pittsburgh team who doesn't have the cap room or prospect depth (after dishing out for guys like Hossa etc.) to go after a guy like Visnovsky (forget the Jordan Staal trade rumours, guys), but will still compete for the cup regardless.

So that left only Detroit and Anaheim who were potentially open for business. After we rule out trading Souray due to his injured hand and diminished value, the slick Olympian in Visnovsky was clearly the player with more value. Since the Red Wings are on the verge of a playoff spot—no deal for a guy sporting a 5.6 million cap hit is even possible or necessary, given Detroit's existing defensive depth.

Lastly, the Oilers will need to resign Sam Gagner, Ryan Potulny, Gilbert Brule, and possibly Andrew Cogliano.

And guys like Gagner won't come cheap.

Character guys like Steve Staios, who have stuck with the team through thick and thin, will take the hit in these situations. Once a candidate for the captaincy and a close confidant of former Oiler stalwarts such as Ryan Smyth and Jason Smith, the departure of Staios signals a total shift to a new balance of power.

With buyouts and salary dumps looming and rumoured for players such as Ethan Moreau...the old guard is clearly on the way out.

The writing was on the wall but I just didn't want to admit it, I guess.

I especially didn't want to admit it, since Visnovsky was my favorite Oiler.

But it has happened—the Oiler with the highest possible return (besides Hemsky) has been traded. The depressing part in this whole situation is that the Oilers received very little in return for Visnovsky.

But since only Anaheim and Detroit were possible suitors, this really left the ball in Anaheim's court.

Poor Steve Tambellini.

With Staios and Visnovsky gone, is this now Souray and Shawn Horcoff's team to lead?

Can these two recover from their last couple injury-prone years to lead a rebuilding Oilers team back to the playoffs?

Stay tuned.