The Edmonton Oilers, mired in the league basement and in desperate need of an overhaul, have finally started making moves, yesterday sending defenceman Denis Grebeshkov to the Nashville Predators in exchange for a second round draft pick.
For the Oilers, this has no particular bearing on their immediate future. They’re a bad team on pretty much every level, from their AHL-calibre goaltenders to their small and defensively inept forwards. The blue-line had been the strength of the team, but with Grebeshkov gone, Sheldon Souray and Ladislav Smid injured and Tom Gilbert struggling through the worst stretch of his career, that isn’t the case any longer. The biggest question is whether they’ll dismantle it further, and I suspect they will; it makes no sense for a rebuilding team to move only the cheapest and youngest of their four big money defencemen. On the other hand, if the Oilers do plan on moving more of those players, did they need to clear out Grebeshkov at all? This doesn’t feel like a trade that there was any pressing need to make (and I’m not alone in feeling that way).
But what about the player Nashville is getting? Grebeshkov has struggled this season, both with injury and with poor play, but appeared to have broken through last year, scoring 39 points and recording a team-leading plus-12. Those are good numbers for anyone, but especially a defenceman ranked fourth on his team in power play time. Grebeshkov’s 26 even-strength points ranked him among the league leaders (12th in the NHL), tied with Dion Phaneuf and ahead of players like Niklas Lidstrom, Andrei Markov and Dan Boyle – despite playing in fewer games than any of them. That’s high-end offence, and on a hapless Oilers team blessed with offensive defenceman Grebeshkov was often overlooked.
He’ll fit in well in Nashville.