Oilers swing trade for Pronger

The Edmonton Oilers capped off Tuesday's spate of player movement in the NHL by trading for coveted defenceman Chris Pronger.

Pronger, 30, was acquired late Tuesday from the St. Louis Blues for defencemen Eric Brewer, Doug Lynch and Jeff Woywitka.

Edmonton prompted signed him to a five-year contract worth $31.5 million US, ie. $6.25 million US annually.

"People have been very patient with us, in Edmonton, because of our fiscal needs and responsibilities," noted Oilers chairman Cal Nichols. "So this has a huge message to it."

Pronger posted 14 goals and 40 assists for 54 points in 80 games in 2003-04, the final season before the league-wide lockout.

The native of Dryden, Ont., has played 11 seasons in the NHL, all but two with the Blues.

Pronger won the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player and the Norris Trophy as its top defenceman in 2001 when he had 14 goals and 62 points in 79 games.

He also led the league with a plus-52 rating that season.

"There's nothing in the game he cannot do," Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish said. "There's nothing in the game that he does not excel at.

"He's got an edge to him. Which we all know, in our (hotly-contested) division, is going to be really important this year."

The Blues not only tendered a qualifying offer to Pronger ($7.22 million US), but high-priced forwards Keith Tkachuk and Doug Weight as well.

Yet the opportunity to get Brewer, an all-star in 2003, left Pronger vulnerable as St. Louis struggled to justify using $19.7 million US of salary-cap space on three players.

The NHL salary cap is $39 million US.

"Eric Brewer has been a premier defenceman in the NHL for the past several seasons, and we are very excited about the talents he brings to the Blues," stated Blues general manager Larry Pleau said. "We're also adding two skilled younger defencemen who are clearly up-and-coming players at this level."

Brewer, 26, has 34 goals and 113 points in 404 NHL games since being drafted fifth overall by the New York Islanders in 1997.

Like Pronger, the Vernon, B.C., native helped Team Canada win the gold medal at the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic Winter Games.

"We all along said that we needed a puck-moving defenceman, and we've addressed that need," Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe said. "And the next stage of our needs is a centreman."

Pronger, who later played for Team Canada at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, has 94 goals and 400 points in 722 NHL games since being drafted second overall by Hartford in 1993.

He played two seasons for the Whalers before being traded to the Blues for Brendan Shanahan on July 27, 1995.

Pronger was named the top defenceman in the CHL in 1992-93, his final season with the OHL Peterborough Petes.

Lynch, a 22-year-old prospect from North Vancouver, B.C., played two games for the Oilers in 2003-2004.

He was Edmonton's second selection - 43rd overall - in the 2001 NHL draft.

Woywitka, of Vermilion, Alta., spent the past two seasons in the AHL with the Philadelphia Phantoms and Toronto/Edmonton Road Runners.

The 21-year-old scored six goals and added 20 assists in 80 games for the Road Runners this season.

with files from CP Online