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3 players talk trade

by Dan Tencer / Edmonton Oilers

San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski, right, passes the puck as Los Angeles Kings defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky of Slovakia looks on during the third period of their NHL hockey game, Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2007, in Los Angeles. The Sharks won 3-2. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
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Late last night the Oilers swung a 3-player deal with Los Angeles that resulted in the acquisition of defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky. A native of Slovakia, Visnovsky adds more offense to an already gifted blueline corps for the Oilers. In his last 3 seasons, Visnovsky had 166 points in 231 games for the Kings. Headed the other way are forward Jarret Stoll and defenseman Matt Greene. Greene missed significant time last season with a broken ankle and ended up appearing in only 46 games. Stoll had a disappointing season where he amassed just 36 points and was a -23.

"I was a little shocked. I was excited, shocked...I felt a lot of different things," said Stoll, when asked what went through his head when he got word of the trade. He had heard his name come up in rumours all summer, but says that didn't make it any less surprising. "I don't think you can prepare yourself until it really happens."

Though he's unhappy that things didn't work out as planned in Edmonton, it's easy to get the sense that Stoll is nothing short of delighted at having a new go of it in Los Angeles. Not only is it a fresh start, but it's a fresh start in the city that he spends his off-season in. "I was excited to pretty much stay where I was," Stoll says. "I was in LA when I got the call and I live here in the summer."

Reflecting back on a disappointing final season with the Oilers, Stoll is confident that he'll bounce back. He says it's more about personal pride than it is showing up the team who traded him. "I don't care if I'm traded or not or who I'm playing for, I want to bounce back from an off year," Stoll says emphatically. "I'm fully confident that I'm going to turn things around and have a great year."

Despite having been traded, Jarret kept his usual appointment with Oilers strength and conditioning coach Chad Moreau this morning. He worked out with a few of his now former Oilers teammates and says they kept the mood light. "Everybody was laughing and we had a good time," Stoll said shortly after ending his workout. "We work hard together and we're friends no matter what team we're on."

Matt Greene kept his workout appointment this morning, too. "Back home in Michigan, yeah," he says. "Trying to get into shape so I don't embarrass myself when I get out to LA in a couple of weeks." And, that's Matt Greene in a nutshell. The Oilers arguably received the best player of the 3 in the deal, but there's no question that the Kings boost the humour quotient in their locker room. A very well liked player inside the locker room, it will be strange for all involved to not witness the standup comedy stylings of Matt Greene on a daily basis.

Story Time

A brief interlude, if I may, to relay a story about Matt Greene. Never one to shy away from a good joke or prank, my broadcast colleague Morley Scott enlisted Greene early this past season to pull one over on me. You see, for a significant period of time, the door to our broadcast location across from the Oilers dressing room at Rexall Place was decorated with a poster of Matt Greene. It was promoting a hockey camp that Greene was guest-instructing at and since the camp was long since over, I decided to take the poster down. It may or may not have ended up ripped to shreds in the garbage due to excess amount of adhesive.

Fast forward to practice the next morning. I was in the back of the dressing room chatting with Equipment Manager Barrie Stafford in his workshop. Matt was using one of the computers in the players lounge and called me over when I was about to head out for lunch. I can't publish all of what was said for obvious reasons, but in a nutshell he berated me loudly for tearing down his poster. I stammered and got red in the face and was completely mortified that I had incurred the wrath of one of the players. His act was EXTREMELY convincing.

I walked slowly back to my desk to get my things and, thankfully, Morley Scott couldn't keep a straight face. He told me how he'd set everything up and that I shouldn't be was just a joke. Greene, though, wouldn't admit it to me; I would ask constantly and just get a blank stare. Finally, on a road trip in Florida in January, all the guys were out on the terrace socializing when Greene walked up to me, shook my hand, and said with a huge smile: "We're good, right?"

Moving on now to the Kings, Greene is excited to step onto a blueline that includes sure-fire Hall of Famer Rob Blake.

New Guy in Town

As for the Oilers acquisition of Visnovsky, he was caught completely off guard by the deal. His no trade clause kicks in tomorrow and he feels slighted by the Los Angeles Kings management because they traded him to a team without consulting him. The Kings had told him all along that he wouldn't be moved until GM Dean Lombardi changed his mind and informed Lubomir recently that he would be dealt. "I'm very disappointed that they traded me because I had the GM's word," Visnovsky said this afternoon.

"Last night my agent Neil Sheehy called me and told me the trade was to the Edmonton Oilers and nobody from the LA organization called me. Big surprise for me."

Visnovsky's fiancee, also a Slovak, is pregnant with the couple's first child and will accompany him to Edmonton in September.

But, don't misinterpret his frustration or disappointment. He's clearly upset at the way he was treated in the end by the management in Los Angeles, but that doesn't mean he's angry about having to come play in Edmonton. "I'm very happy because I get to play for a Canadian team," he said. "Hockey is Canada's #1 sport, same with my country in Slovakia. I love countries that love hockey. The team has big history and 5 Stanley Cups and great fans. In LA, nobody loves hockey. They just love movie stars and basketball."

"I didn't expect the trade, but now I'm focused on the new team and want to be in the playoffs and I hope Edmonton will be there."

After putting up respective point totals of 67 and 58 in 05/06 and 06/07, Visnovsky's numbers declined a bit last year as he registered just 41 points. Pretty good by average standards, but not up to par for a guy who will make $7 million this season. Visnovsky says there's a simple reason why his numbers went down: Marc Crawford, the head coach, made him play the left side instead of the right for the first time in his career. He's emphatic that he wants to play the right side in Edmonton. "It's everything for my one-timer. My strong side is the right side. I hope the coach gives me the right side on the powerplay because I'm stronger there," Visnovsky says.

Dan's Dish: Early this afternoon, Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene were introduced to the LA media via conference call. One of the beat reporters asked Greene to describe his skill-set to the fans. "I'm a stay at home defenseman," said Greene. "I'm physical, I hit...and I stay at home. Until I got traded. I hope I can get a house or an apartment or something there."
You can listen to Dan on Inside Sports weeknights from 8 to 11 on 630 CHED.

Author: Dan Tencer

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