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Oilers wheel and deal for O'Sullivan, Kotalik

by Adam Kimelman / Edmonton Oilers
Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mikael Tellqvist, left, of Sweden, watches the game-winning goal of Los Angeles Kings center Patrick O'Sullivan, right, in the shootout period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 20, 2008, in Glendale, Ariz. The kings won 6-5 in a shootout. (AP Photo/Paul Connors)
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For his first trade deadline as a general manager, the Edmonton Oilers' Steve Tambellini helped put together one of the most complicated deals in trade deadline history, a four-team combination that landed the Oilers top-end forwards Patrick O'Sullivan and Ales Kotalik.

The deal also involved the Los Angeles Kings, Carolina Hurricanes and Buffalo Sabres, and saw four players switch teams.

"It was basically trying to make sure all those teams, all their goals were accomplished," said Tambellini on a conference call Wednesday night. "We're happy with our results."

Tambellini said going into the deadline his goal was to upgrade his team's offense, and he did that in landing O'Sullivan, who has 14 goals in 62 games with the Kings, and Kotalik, who has 13 goals in 56 games with the Sabres.

"We feel we have two players that bring different skill sets," said Tambellini. "With Ales, he's a power-type of forward with a heavy shot, can play the point on the power play, can play the sideboards on the power play, protects the puck well down low. Patrick is a gifted, younger skilled player who's emerging in this League. The significance of both of them together, and what they should be able to bring with our special teams is important, and in a five-on-five standpoint, they can deliver in different areas for us."

O'Sullivan was fifth on the Kings with 37 points, and was fourth among the club's forwards in ice time per game at 19:25 per game. In 188 NHL games, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound native of Winston, NC, has 41 goals and 109 points.

Kotalik, 30, was fifth on the Sabres 32 points and second with 8 power-play goals. The 6-1, 227-pound native of Jindr Hradec, Czech Republic has 114 goals and 240 points in 426 NHL games over seven seasons in Buffalo. He will be an unrestricted free agent after the season.

To acquire the pair, the Oilers sent forward Erik Cole to the Hurricanes and a second-round pick they got from Carolina to Buffalo.

"Erik Cole is a great player and a very professional person," said Tambellini. "The reality of the situation is Erik is an unrestricted free agent this year and knew there was a possibility of him being moved. I was not going to move Erik Cole unless we accomplished all areas of what we're looking for, and we did."

The fact Buffalo was a part of the deal was a bit surprising. In the summer of 2007, the Oilers signed restricted free agent Thomas Vanek to a seven-year offer sheet that the Sabres were forced to match, and led to some bad blood between Sabres GM Darcy Regier and then-Oilers GM Kevin Lowe, who now serves as team president.

"I have relationships with all 29 other general managers," said Tambellini, who was not part of the Oilers' organization then. "If there was a deal in place and Kevin needed to speak to Darcy, they'd find a way to get a deal done, too. I don't see any issues there."

Kotalik joins his countrymate Hemsky in Edmonton. In fact, it was Hemsky who told Kotalik of the deal.

"We're friends for a long time," said Kotalik. "We've always talked about the possibility about if I get the chance to play in Edmonton. He was the first guy who let me know that I got traded. I didn't hear about it from any officials from any team. I got a message from him, 'Welcome to the organization.' I didn't know if he was kidding. Then I got a call from (Sabres GM) Darcy Regier and the coaches and then it became official."

Kotalik, a natural right wing, could move to the left side to join Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff on a line. O'Sullivan, who has played all three forward spots in three seasons with the Kings, didn't care who his linemates would be.

"The coaching staff is going to have a plan for myself and Ales," said O'Sullivan. "We just want to help the team and fit in and push for the playoffs. Whoever we play with, it's not going to matter."

What matters for O'Sullivan is the fact that he went from 13th to seventh in the Western Conference standings. While he said it will be hard leaving the young group in Los Angeles, a chance to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time certainly will soften the blow.

"I think the young group of guys in L.A., we grew up together the last couple years," he said. "… I'm just excited to come somewhere that right now they're currently in the playoffs and looking to make a run and continue playing. That's a big thing that's really exciting to me."

The Oilers entered Wednesday tied with Nashville and Anaheim for the final two playoff spots. But with conference foes Columbus and Calgary making major pushes, Tambellini said he really didn't feel the need to keep up. He saw a deal that benefitted his team, and will let the rest play out.

"From our standpoint, we can only control what we do," said Tambellini. "We feel our hockey club is better, we feel our hockey club is one that should make the playoffs. And we feel good about it. Our coaching staff is excited, our new players are going to be excited. We're looking forward to it."

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