Thursday, May 26, 2011

On Doug Weight and a #1 Center

Doug Weight, who hung up his skates today after 19 seasons, was drafted 34th overall in the 1990 NHL entry draft by the New York Rangers. After appearing in only 65 games for the blueshirts, he was traded to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Esa Tikkanen in what turned out to be a steal of a deal. Weight went on to score 577 points in 588 games for the Oilers and was eventually named team captain. In the summer of 2001 he was traded to the St. Louis Blues and the Oilers have been searching for a new first line center ever since.

Last summer at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft Steve Tambellini and company had the opportunity to select a potential #1 center in Tyler Seguin but opted instead, as we all know, for dynamic winger Taylor Hall. Despite Seguin being one win away from a Stanley Cup Finals appearance in his rookie year, I think we all know that Hall was the right choice. However one year later the OIL have been given another chance to fill the hole that was made when Weight left. With top end prospects the likes of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Sean Couturier available, Stu MacGregor and his staff are certainly not limited in their options down the middle. While the draft is obviously not the only option to find a 1C, it's becoming more and more apparent that other teams are reluctant to let them go once they find them. There have arguably been only two legitimate 1C's traded in recent history in Brad Richards and Joe Thornton (although Jeff Carter's name seems to constantly be in the trade rumor mill these days), which goes to show how valuable they are. At this point in the rebuild of the Edmonton Oilers, it is probably not in their best interest to pursue a 1C via trade or free agency, as those that are under contract are mostly locked up long term at large cap hits, and those that are looking for contracts aren't likely to sign with a team working to get out of lottery contention without an overpayment. There is however something to be said about developing a player and having him come up through the ranks alongside other prospects in the system. Adding one of RNH, Huberdeau, or Couturier to the growing core of young centers, including Sam Gagner, Anton Lander, and Tyler Pitlick could set the Oilers up for years to come. With a number of talented wingers already on the roster, the need for centers to play between them is growing, especially one who can keep up with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle on a first line in the near future.

10 years ago the Oilers were forced to trade away their last first line center, and after a decade of fighting to be competitive in the West and only 2 playoff appearances since, it's time to fill that gap.

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