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Oilers looking for impact at draft without top pick

by Brian Compton /

Craig MacTavish is eager to make some noise this weekend, when the NHL Draft is held at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

The 54-year-old, who was named general manager of the Edmonton Oilers on April 15, told reporters Tuesday he's seeking some grit to go along with the tremendous young skill the Oilers boast.

Though trade talks have heated up in recent days, MacTavish has yet to pull the trigger. That may not happen until Sunday, when the draft gets underway (3 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN).

After having the No. 1 pick the past three years (Taylor Hall in 2010, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in 2011 and Nail Yakupov last year), the Oilers enter Sunday's draft at No. 7. They finished third in the Northwest Division this season with a record of 19-22-7.

"I think there's a lot more activity on the phone lines in the last maybe week or so," MacTavish said. "So everybody, all the experienced guys, weren't putting too much effort into making deals a couple of weeks ago or a month ago. I was trying to do something, but I think the experienced guys recognize that there's always a need of a timeline for these deals. Somehow, they get done. And they knew the timeline better than I did. I put in a lot of calls, maybe needlessly. But it's good to get a pulse of what everybody's trying to do."

MacTavish was willing to make a trade as soon as the regular season ended, but the rookie GM quickly found out he was getting ahead of himself. More often than not, trades usually don't happen until after the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I'm motivated to do something," MacTavish said. "As one of my counterparts said, 'Sometimes you can feel like you're trying to push a stone uphill.' But we're really motivated to do something to help this current roster. My sense of where we're at as a hockey club is that I want to very definitely keep an eye on the future, I want to make sure we're able to add at least a big piece with that first pick. But outside of that, I'm pretty open-minded to doing anything.

"I also want to have an eye on the present roster and feel like we need to make some improvements on that present roster. It's a little bit of looking into the future and preserving what we've built to this point and adding to that, but at the same time, being much more motivated than we have in recent years to add something that's going to help the current roster and allow us to be more competitive next year."

If MacTavish is going to make a big splash, he might have to deal his first-round selection, something he said Tuesday he's not willing to do.

"I've had a number of offers for our pick, but nothing that even remotely would sway me to move it," MacTavish said. "You get varying degrees of realism when you talk to some of the managers, but at the end of the day, it's our decision to make. We know the default option is a good one and we'd get a very good player there (at No. 7)."

So, if MacTavish holds on to the pick, he's going to have to be creative and perhaps trade a couple of his current players in order to give his team a new look heading into next season. The competition will be fierce in 2013-14 when the Oilers move into their new division with the Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks.

"My current sense of that is that we try and use some of the existing players that we have now to try and make some trades for the meat that we've all talked about and everybody's readily identified is a real area of concern for our team," MacTavish said. "My sense is that we try and put together some packages to try and attract some of those players. We all know the division that we're going into next year. It's a big, strong division and we're going to need big, strong players to compete."

Edmonton did make some progress this season when it finished 12th in the Western Conference and 10 points out of a playoff spot after three straight years of being in the draft lottery. MacTavish, who earlier this month replaced coach Ralph Kreuger with Dallas Eakins, is hopeful there are better times ahead.

"We're consistently, hopefully continuing to work our way back from the front of the draft stage," MacTavish said. "We're out of the first row of tables on the front of the draft stage, so that's a start. We're hoping that in the very near future we'll be well back of that."


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