For all the bashing thrown the way of Chris Pronger for the way in which he departed from the Edmonton Oilers, the talented blueliner was and still remains, the best player to have pulled on an Oilers jersey since the departure of Mark Messier prior to the 1991-92 season. With that being the case, its no wonder the organization's return for trading the future Hall of Famer, following a memorable run to the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals, remains a point of contention for many in Oil Country.
In my opinion, there are some varying points of view when it comes to Pronger's departure from the Alberta capital but the two that stand out:
- Unhappy that he forced his way out of town, after signing a contract extension with the club and will never forgive him for it.
- Unhappy that he forced his way out of town, after signing a contract extension with the club but realize Edmonton basically stole him from St.Louis for next to nothing and appreciate what he did for this club during the 2005-06 season.
In my mind, it is pretty cut and dry. While I understand the mind set of those that fall into group one and as painful as the last six seasons have been since that trade, Pronger will always hold a special place in Oilers History.
There are those that hold former General Manger Kevin Lowe responsible, for what many have deemed as an awful return for the former second overall selection of the Hartford Whalers. Yet what many seem to forget, was the highway robbery he committed in grabbing the towering defenceman, out of "The Show Me State".
The Blues were looking to shed salary for two reasons, the impending salary cap and an unstable ownership situation. Enter Kevin Lowe and the Edmonton Oilers. Teams such as the Oilers had been handcuffed for years, by the league's inability to incorporate some sort of salary cap or revenue sharing program. That all changed with the implementation of the salary cap prior to the 2005-06 season and Edmonton decided to try their hand as big game hunting.
Not only did the Lowe mange to acquire Pronger and immediately sign him to five year $31.25 million extension but he did so by giving up Eric Brewer, Jeff Woywitka and Doug Lynch. Now certainly the Blues hands were somewhat tied by circumstance and apparently, the Oilers offer was the best they could do for their All Star defenceman. Making August 2nd, 2005, as one of the most important dates in this franchise's recent history.
Fast forward eleven months and suddenly the shoe was on the other foot. Obviously, no one liked the ensuing fall out from the initial trade request and ultimate dealing of Pronger to the Anaheim Ducks but the situation was what it was. While Edmonton wanted no part of moving the Canadian Olympian, their hands were ultimately tied. Meaning all that was left to figure out, was the return.
To say few were satisfied with the Oilers acquiring Ladislav Smid, Joffrey Lupul, the Ducks 2007 1st round pick, 2008 second round selection and a conditional 1st rounder if Anaheim reached the Finals over the next three years, would be a massive understatement. Having said that, if you look at that return and compare it to what Lowe gave up to acquire Pronger, was it really that terrible?
Many felt Lowe should have let Pronger sit until they found a better deal and make the move on the Oilers timetable. All well and good in theory but not exactly sensible from a business standpoint. This team had just fallen one win short of winning the Stanley Cup and in a matter weeks, it had all blown up in their face. Not a great situation to be in, by any means, and one that would not be easy to sell to a rejuvenated fan base.
It's not as though Pronger was this unknown commodity. Remember, when the Edmonton picked him up he already had a Norris Trophy and Hart under his belt and you saw what the return was. If anything, when you consider the situation, Edmonton's return didn't seem that bad.
Sure we can look back at it now and say Lupul was a bust, that ultimately turned into Jim Vandermeer through numerous trades but the fact that the "conditional pick" the Oilers received, for the Ducks winning the 2007 Stanley Cup, turned out to be Jordan Eberle...puts a whole new spin on things. Was their a fair bit of luck in Edmonton drafting Eberle with that pick? Of course but you could say that about almost anything. Be it in sport or day to day life.
While Chris Pronger will undoubtedly remain one of the most polarizing figures in the storied history of the Edmonton Oiles, his brief stint in the provincial capital will forever be remembered for it's lasting impact on the franchise's most recent and coming history. He was the main cog in the wheel during the run to the Cup Final in 2006 and his immediate departure led directly to what has been one of the darkest times in club history.
They finally seem to be headed in the right direction and out of those doldrums, thanks in large part to the departure of #44. He not only helped them bring in the likes of Eberle and Smid but their recent struggles have also allowed them to net the likes of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Justin Schultz and Nail Yakupov. It may have been a tough stretch for both the Oilers and their fans but it appears as though those days are about to come to an end, with both being paid back in spades.
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