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Stauffer sounds off on Kotalik & Heatley

by Bob Stauffer / Edmonton Oilers
Edmonton Oilers right wing Ales Kotalik (21), from Czech Republic, celebrates after scoring the game winner past St. Louis Blues goalie Chris Mason (50) in the overtime shoot-out of an NHL hockey game in Edmonton, Alberta on Tuesday, March 17, 2009. Edmonton beat St. Louis 2-1. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jimmy Jeong)
Today Glen Sather’s New York Rangers signed Ales Kotalik to a three-year deal worth a reported nine million dollars.

Kotalik, who joined the Oilers for the stretch run after coming over in a trade deadline day deal from Buffalo, had a strong finish to the season in Edmonton, scoring seven goals and picking up 11 points in 19 games.

He played well, clearly benefitting from chemistry with the Oilers top forward, fellow Czech-mate Ales Hemsky, and also capitalizing on a big night with Sam Gagner against an injury-depleted Colorado Avalanche. As a result there certainly was a sentiment from a large percentage of Oilers fans that that the team should step up to bring him back.

However a few things conspired against Kotalik remaining with the Oilers, including Kotalik himself.

With all due respect to Ales, he is a complimentary player who is at best a second line forward and he is 30 years old, and that combination hardly makes him a steal at three million per season.

We also don’t know what the Kotalik camp was looking for to remain in Edmonton, but given the history of free agency since in the lock-out is it too much of a reach to suggest that it may have been north of the three million per he “settled” for in New York?

Obviously the on-going Dany Heatley sweepstakes played a part in this as well. Currently the Oilers have too many forwards under contract, and as GM’s are finding out this summer it isn’t exactly easy to move contracts around the league.

As it stands right now two significant parts of the Oilers future need to be re-signed for the 2010-2011 season, Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano. That becomes more difficult to do if three million dollars in cap space is tied up on Kotalik.

Ottawa Senators' Dany Heatley attempts to bat the puck past Edmonton Oliers goalie Dwayne Roloson (partially obscured) and Oilers' Denis Grebeshkov, front left, of Russia, during second-period NHL hockey game action in Ottawa, Thursday, March 5, 2009. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Fred Chartrand)
The Oilers also believe they also have some fine young forward prospects coming down the pipe including first-rounder’s’ Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson along with You Tube sensation Linus Omark

Edmonton will need room and opportunity for at least one of these players moving forward, Kotalik could have potentially muddied that picture even further.

And let’s face it most experts would suggest the Oilers are probably two-to-three players away from taking another step forward. Is that more likely to happen with a 30-something Kotalik or with the upside of an Eberle or Paajarvi-Svensson?

Had Heatley been acquired by the Oilers in the rumoured deal (Cogliano, Dustin Penner and Ladislav Smid) there may have been a greater impetus by General Manager Steve Tambellini to have gotten something done with a Kotalik-type forward - though probably on a shorter term.


Many people have had a lot to say about the Oilers pursuit of the Senators winger. Some experts and some fans don’t think the Oilers should touch him with a 10-foot pole.

But ask yourself a question.

If you were GM for a day would you not do everything possible to try to land what amounts to a one of the three or four true snipers in the NHL? Especially one who is probably not going to go for market value when all is said and done?

Nothing changes the outcome of a game more than a goal, and the Oilers lack of a true elite finisher for the last decade-plus has unquestionably been the team’s greatest weakness.

Keep that in mind.

Bob Stauffer is the Color Analyst for the Edmonton Oilers Radio Network and is a regular contributor to the Oilers rightsholder 630 CHED.

He is a former columnist with the Edmonton Sun and hosted "Total Sports", an afternoon drive show on the Team 1260 for five years.

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