By Lori Bennett
National Sports Columnist
There is a giant oil leak out in Edmonton and the spill is landing in the crease. A month into the season, the Oilers have claimed just a couple of wins and are at the very basement of the NHL standings with the likes of the lowly San Jose Sharks. It’s the same old problem for Ken Holland’s team — the goalies have been abysmal, with the tandem of Jack Campbell and Stuart Skinner both sporting save-percentages well below .900.
Something had to give and on Tuesday, Nov. 7 something did. Jack Campbell, the twenty-five-million-dollar man, was placed on waivers for the purpose of assignment to the Oilers farm team in Bakersfield. The move was both dramatic and obvious at the same time. Campbell, who was signed to a five-year contract by Edmonton in the summer of 2022, has struggled mightily since moving out west. The
Oilers simply could not continue to try and make it work with Campbell while driving up the number in the loss column.
Calvin Pickard, who had been having a solid season for the Condors, was called up to replace
Campbell. The journeyman netminder brings a veteran presence to support Skinner, and hopefully help
him find his game. But it’s unlikely that he is the solution in Oil Country. Holland is looking at trade options, and he had better be looking hard. How many years of Connor McDavid’s prime is he prepared to waste before he coughs up some assets for a competitive goalie?
The conservative GM would like to lure Juuse Saros out of Nashville, but he’s also reportedly had a conversation with the Montreal Canadiens about veteran Jake Allen, who has had a solid start to his season in the Habs net. The Canadiens have been carrying three goalies to avoid losing Cayden Primeau to waivers, and they’ve been waiting for the best opportunity to arise to move one of them.
The problem for the Oilers is the cap hit. How do they deal with the Campbell contract so they can ad an upgrade? The Habs would be happy to take a buried Campbell, along with a rich sweetener, in an Allen trade were it not for the three expensive years after this one. This is a file to watch and may have already seen some action by the time you’re reading this.
The Oilers are not the only team ready to deal. Some teams have already been active.
A season can be decided early if teams fall behind, and the Minnesota Wild decided they were not happy with their defenseman. First, they shipped Calen Addison to the San Jose Sharks for a late round pick
and prospect, and then they sent a pick to Tampa Bay for veteran Zach Bogosian.
The Toronto Maple Leafs could stand to take a page out of the Wild notebook. Auston Matthews is tearing it up at a goal per game pace, but not all is well in Toronto.
With several defenders out of the line up due to injury, the Leafs have some depth players manning the blue line and it’s not going all that well. Add to that the underwhelming performance from summer acquisition John Klingberg. GM Brad Treliving can’t be thrilled with how his team is looking in the first year of his tenure, and no doubt he is coveting some of the guys he had on the back end last year. Would he be so cheeky as to try and navigate a deal with the Flames?
The situation in Calgary is only marginally better than it is in Edmonton and rookie GM Craig Conroy has some decisions to make. A rebuild might be the preferred route, but with the contracts committed by his predecessor to players that everyone knows can be so much better, a rebuild is practically impossible.
The Flames have a trio of pending unrestricted free agent defensemen — Hanifin, Tanev and Zadorov — and certainly the latter two would bring a rugged style of defending the Leafs are missing. Is there a deal to be made here?
Elsewhere, the ink is barely dry on the NHL indictment of the Ottawa Senators for their role in misrepresenting Evgenii Dadonov’s contract in an attempted trade in 2022, and a new incident is bringing the league’s judgement into question.
This past week news broke that a second former player was suing the Chicago Blackhawks, alleging that
in 2010 he had complained about a sexual assault by video coach Brad Aldrich, and that his allegations were not properly addressed by the team. In 2021 the Blackhawks settled with former player Kyle Beach.
The announcement was an opportunity for the hockey world to consider again why the NHL had come down harder on the Senators for a bad business deal than they had on the Blackhawks for covering up a sexual abuse scandal.
Is it realistic to expect that the culture will change when a misrepresented contract clause is punished more harshly than a sexual assault? It looks like we still have a long way to go.
Last Wednesday, Nov. 8, the Toronto Raptors played their eighth game of the season and with 10 per cent of the 2023-24 season in the record books, they landed at 4-4 for a .500 record and 10th place in the Eastern Conference.
Their record improved due to two wins in Texas. The Dinos pulled off a comeback win in San Antonio, and
then on Wednesday Pascal Siakam was the hero in a 31-point effort for the win.
This is likely what this season will look like for the Raptors – hovering around .500 and competing for a spot in the play-in tournament when the regular season is done. It’s not sexy, but it’s where they are at this point in their development.
The hope is that their fate improves as young players gain experience and the team develops chemistry under a new head coach. If they can show improvement, perhaps the Ujiri-Webster management duo will try to make a deal to strengthen the team, but it’s still too early for them to commit much. These
early games are an assessment period following significant off-season change – patience is advised.
Blue Jays Babble
MLB’s General Managers meetings took place this past week in Arizona. The meetings are usually the beginning of off-season business, with the seeds for future trades being sown while every team is together in one room. This year, the meetings were stalled, no pun intended, due to a stomach bug that impacted most teams.
Business will pick back up on Dec. 4 in Nashville when the teams are all back together for the Winter meetings. Perhaps some will be travelling with a little Pepto-Bismol in their carry-ons.
By Lori Bennett