For a change, the Edmonton Oilers and Columbus Blue Jackets weren’t trading an aging player or expiring contract prior to Wednesday’s National Hockey League deadline.
Instead, the general managers of both clubs believe they upgraded their roster for what promises to be a tightly contested playoff race in the Western Conference.
In Edmonton, GM Steve Tambellini added veteran checking right-winger Jerred Smithson, sending a 2013 fourth-round draft pick to Florida. A right-handed shot, it’s believed Smithson would skate alongside left-handed centre Shawn Horcoff.
Rookie Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen made a splash on his first trade deadline day, acquiring scoring right-winger Marian Gaborik and defence prospects Stephen Delisle and Blake Parlett from the New Rangers for Derick Brassard, right-winger Derek Dorsett and defenceman John Moore.
He also picked up goalie Michael Leighton and a 2015 third-round draft pick from Philadelphia for netminder Steve Mason, dealt a fifth-rounder in this summer’s draft to Calgary for forward Blake Comeau and acquired goalie Patrick Killeen from Pittsburgh for future considerations.
The 16-14-7 Blue Jackets, with only one playoff appearance in their 11-year history (2009), entered play in 10th spot in the West with 39 points, one back of eighth-place St. Louis and No. 9 Edmonton.
The Oilers and Columbus have identical records but Edmonton boasts 14 regulation and overtime wins (ROW) to the Blue Jackets’ 12, the first criteria in settling a tiebreaker.
In their final 11 regular-season games, the Oilers don’t play St. Louis, Columbus or Nashville and have an April 10 home date versus Phoenix. But they do play the 25-7-5 Anaheim Ducks three times and West-leading Chicago (27-5-4) once.
The Blue Jackets are finished with Edmonton and Chicago but do have two games left with St. Louis and one each with Nashville and Anaheim.
The Coyotes and Predators, the 11th and 12th seeds in the West, are even in points (38) and ROW (14).
Phoenix GM Don Maloney subtracted some grit and offence from his active roster on Wednesday, shipping feisty Raffi Torres to San Jose and fellow forwards Steve Sullivan to New Jersey and Matthew Lombardi to Anaheim.
Phoenix (16-15-6) will play Edmonton, St. Louis, Anaheim and Chicago once each.
And Nashville (15-15-8) has three games against the Blackhawks and one each versus Columbus and St. Louis.
But they’ll go into battle minus defenceman Scott Hannan and forward Martin Erat, whom David Poile dealt to San Jose and Washington, respectively, on Wednesday.
Which team on the cusp of a playoff position will prevail down the stretch in a pressure-packed playoff race?
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