Monday, February 27, 2012

Gilbert Goes Home As Oilers Acquire Nick Schultz At Trade Deadline

The Edmonton Oilers and Minnesota Wild managed to pull off a rarity on Trade Deadline day, an actual hockey trade. On a day that lacked its usual amount of wheeling and dealing, the two clubs decided to exchange veteran defencemen. The Wild acquired a puck mover in Tom Gilbert in exchange for stay at home defenceman Nick Schultz. While Schultz has an ugly -10 rating and all of three points on the season, Edmonton is banking on the twenty-nine year old becoming the calming presence this club's backend desperately needs.

In a move that very few saw coming, the Oilers decided to part with the six year veteran who was arguably the team's top defender during the first three months of the season. The emergence of youngster Jeff Petry, suddenly made the former fourth round selection of the Colorado Avalanche expendable. While not shocking that he would be moved by the Oilers, the fact that they decided to do it on deadline day, caught everyone off guard. Gilbert ends his time as an Oiler with 158 points scored in 384 games but the stats don't tell the entire story for the Minneapolis native. 

Tom was asked to play in a variety of different roles in recent years and while not best suited for some, the twenty-nine year old blueliner did whatever was asked of him. While not your prototypical shutdown D man, he took on the role over the last two seasons and became far more dependable then many thought possible. He continued to work on his overall game and finally started to add a physical aspect to his game. Edmonton did not have issue with Gilbert's game but were looking to add a different dimension to their backend. In order to get that, they had to give something up and that something was # 77.

In Schultz, the Oilers are getting a shutdown type rearguard that brings an element that was missing from Edmonton's defence. The ten year vet was caught off guard by the trade and having to face the prospects of leaving the only organization he has ever known. Having said that, he seemed very happy to be heading to his former Northwest Division rival. "It's exciting," Schultz said, "When you go in there and play Edmonton, they've had a lot of weapons and great young players. I think there's a great mix and it's a team that's going to be tough to play against every single night. It's a learning process and I think they're going through that right now, but we're not far away from being a really good team."

Like many kids that grew up in Western Canada during the 1980's, the former Prince Albert Raider was a fan of the Oilers during their dynasty years. "As a kid growing up in a small town in Saskatchewan, I cheered for the Oilers," he said. "It's exciting to get an opportunity to be an Oiler and be part of such a storied franchise. That's exciting, as a youngster watching the greats, growing up and cheering for them, and all of a sudden being a part of it. I've only heard great things about Edmonton and about the Oilers, so I can't wait to get there."

Schultz should arrive in Edmonton on Tuesday and will likely make his debut on Wednesday evening, against the St.Louis Blues. In all likelihood, the veteran defender will find himself paired with Ryan Whitney at even strength and probably Ladislav Smid on the club's top penalty killing unit. The Oilers do not need Nick to come in here and try to be a hero, they simply need him to come in and be Nick Schultz. 

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