Kukla's Korner Hockey

Kukla's Korner Hockey

A pointedly blunt Q and A with Oilers GM Craig MacTavish

06/23/2014 at 1:40am EDT

In a bit of a departure from his Monday "Hockey World" entries, the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson penned two very lengthy Monday-morning columns. The first focuses on the "conensus" top 4 prospects for Friday and Saturday's NHL draft in Aaron Ekblad, Leon Draisaitl, Sam Reinhart and Sam Bennett; the second column focuses on the state of the Edmonton Oilers, via a Q and A with Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish.

Matheson asks some incredibly pointed questions over the course of the lengthy Q and A:

Q: What about [Sam] Gagner? He’s been an Oiler since 2007 and a solid No. 2 centre for most of his time here. Are you trading him? He has two years left at a $4.8-million salary-cap hit ($5-million salary each of the next two seasons) and his no-trade clause doesn’t kick in until July 1.

A: He’s in the same category as everybody else. We’re all trying to improve our teams and our performance.

Q: Sam hasn’t asked for a trade like Ottawa Senators centre Jason Spezza, has he? Spezza wants a change of scenery with one year left on his contract.

A: No. Sam’s of really good character. He’s coming off a disappointing season from our perspective and his perspective, but I’m certainly not discounting the effect of the slash to the face and the broken jaw at the start. He missed training camp and a month of the season. He came back quickly. We were in such a poor state that he really felt the need to come back and turn things around. He had a hard time recovering from it, which is understandable. We fully expect he’ll have a bounce-back year. Players normally do. He had such a good lockout year.

Q: Don’t you have to trade solid pieces of your team to get help in other areas? Can you get that in the unrestricted free-agent (UFA) marketplace?

A: We need somebody who’ll go north-south with the puck from the back end. We need defence that can move the puck better. That’s a priority, but there’s not much of that in the UFA market. Historically, a big percentage of those signings in the UFA season are poor anyway. You’re often better sticking with your own guys, guys you know. You have to do your homework with free agency. Hopefully, we make some good decisions. We are going to target some people. We’d like a third-pairing defenceman who can block shots and kill penalties. A Mark Fraser-type guy.

Q: Do you need a first-pairing defenceman, through a trade or free-agent signing, who can play with [Justin] Schultz? Like a left-handed Dan Girardi? That would be ideal right? Or a Brent Seabrook?

A: I can’t mention any names. I think Justin has enough game. He’s not too needy out there.

Matheson continues in equally blunt terms...

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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