WINNIPEG -- The Edmonton Oilers trading popular defenseman Tom Gilbert shocked the dressing room just hours before the conclusion of the NHL trade deadline.
Defenseman Ryan Whitney was trudging off the MTS Centre ice after the club's morning skate when he received word of Gilbert's trade to the Minnesota Wild for Nick Schultz from a team staff member. A look of surprise crossed Whitney's face before he continued his walk to the dressing room. Minutes later, several players sat in their locker stalls watching the deadline coverage on television.
Gilbert logged 47 games with the Oilers this season, chipping in 3 goals and 17 points. In all, the 29-year-old Minnesota native played 384 games with Edmonton and posted 33 goals and 158 points over parts of six seasons.
"I didn't see that one coming, I guess," goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin said after the club's morning skate. "[Gilbert is] a great teammate."
Oilers coach Tom Renney spoke with Gilbert, who was back in Edmonton recovering from a minor injury, by phone after the trade.
"As usual, it's nothing but first-class from Tom Gilbert," Renney said of the discussion.
Schultz, 29, will lend the Oilers more of a rugged presence on their blue line.
"They're two different players," Renney said of Gilbert and Schultz. "Nick is (offensively oriented), too. It might be a little more subtle, quite honestly. Good first-pass guy. Knows his way around his own end really well and is firm and decisive in how he decides to play people one-on-one."
Renney also likes Schultz's Minnesota pedigree.
"I think that he has been part of a really good program in terms of teaching young defenseman how to play that position. He's steady and durable, and we need that," Renney said.
Gilbert's exit means that young blueliner Jeff Petry will have to shoulder more of the back-end's offensive burden for the Oilers. Petry, who turned 24 in December, has 2 goals and 17 points in 54 games with the Oilers this season.
"Over the past month or month-and-a-half, my offensive game has picked up. I've started to feel comfortable and have not been afraid to mistakes and jump into the play," Petry said.
He seemed to thrive on his own and didn't really need any push from me. I certainly don't want to get in the way of the coaches. You see how that goes sometimes. I never really worried about it and just enjoyed the ride.
— David Ekblad on his son's [Aaron Ekblad] journey to the NHL, signing with the Florida Panthers