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Oilers swing a deal on competitive Trade Deadline Day

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers

- History shows the Oilers have been one of the League's most active participants in the wheeling and dealing made famous on Trade Deadline Day.

Swinging 38 deals in 24 of the past 25 years entering the day, 2013 was no exception as General Manager Steve Tambellini shipped a fourth-round draft pick to the Florida Panthers in exchange for centre Jerred Smithson.

"He's excited to be coming out West to a Canadian city," said Tambellini. "He's well versed in everything Oilers. Jerred is well known for his defensive abilities and is a very strong faceoff person (54.8 percentage on the dot this season). He brings us size and some strength in that faceoff circle. He can play wing and centre. The fact that he's a veteran player is something that we've been looking for.

"I know he's excited.

"This was a move of, No. 1: Veteran Experience. And No. 2: Acquiring a versatile centreman, and we need help in faceoffs. There are going to be critical situations down the stretch where we'll need that.

"The more you can retain the puck, the better."

The Oilers are currently 30th in the League with a 45 percent success rate in the circle.

With veteran forward Eric Belanger (one of the club's key faceoff men) on the shelf with a "soft tissue," "long-term" injury according to Head Coach Ralph Krueger, the move helps the Oilers' depth at the centre position.

"That played into it," said Tambellini. "We have opportunities to bring people up with (Anton) Lander and (Teemu) Hartikainen, but we're going to need some experience."

The GM added that he was involved in some rather "significant" discussions elsewhere, but there was nothing overly intriguing and worth mortgaging the future over. With the club in striking distance of a playoff spot (a win tonight in Calgary would vault them back into eighth), the Oilers believe they can make it with the group they already have.

"Absolutely. That was an important message in itself," said Tambellini. "There were a lot scenarios where I could have moved people for some mid-round picks or higher in some circumstances, but that wasn't my goal coming into this Trade Deadline; it was to not take away form the depth in our dressing room and to show we trust this group. They have a wonderful opportunity to get into the playoffs here.

"They want to get in. That's their goal."

All season there had been rumours about Ryan Whitney's future in Edmonton, but the 1:00pm MT deadline passed with the 30-year-old remaining an Oiler.

As Tambellini explained, there wasn't much interest in dealing the defenceman. Whitney has played particularly well of late and has now posted three goals and 11 points in 27 games this season.

That production couldn't be replaced.

"He's playing well," said Tambellini. "He can move the puck at the right time and really take advantage of the transition our young players can deliver. I didn't see anything today where I thought I could replace that kind of a puck moving D. He's part of this group and has worked hard.

"A move like that would have taken way from our hockey club."

At this point the Oilers haven't discussed a new contract with Whitney as the focus is "purely on winning hockey games."

"Now's not the time, but in the right amount of time we'll have discussions with our free agents," said Tambellini. "That will take care of itself as we go along here."

Trade Deadline 2013 revealed the shift in the club's mindset. No longer are the Oilers ‘sellers,' but rather, a team on the rise that's content with the growth happening in the dressing room and on the ice. On a day when some other big names moved to some competitive locations (such as Marian Gaborik to the Columbus Blue Jackets), Tambellini isn't concerned.

The Oilers have been growing their talent pool internally, while others have been forced to relinquish valuable assets in an effort to acquire them.

"They want to try and acquire the skill level that some of our people have," said Tambellini.

Thirteen games remain and the rosters are set. Let the race to the finish line begin.

-- Ryan Dittrick, | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick
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