Tambellini, Oilers at center of draft storm
LOS ANGELES -- This is what happens when you stink as bad as the Edmonton Oilers did this past season: You find yourself at the epicenter of the NHL world for at least one day.
Edmonton GM Steve Tambellini found himself surrounded by a throng of media not far from the Staples Center on Thursday afternoon, talking about what he's going to do with the No. 1 overall pick when the draft starts Friday evening.
It is a moment that will have far-reaching ramifications for the Oilers and, in some ways, for all the other teams following Edmonton's selection (especially Boston, which owns the second overall pick).
From the outside, the decision might seem painfully simple: Select Taylor Hall, the standout winger from the Windsor Spitfires, or Tyler Seguin, the skilled center of the Plymouth Whalers.
It's believed the Oilers are leaning toward Hall, but Tambellini wasn't tipping his hand.
"We're close, but we haven't formally sat down as a group and said, 'This is who we're taking,'" Tambellini said. "I want to save that for tomorrow."
The Oilers could use a franchise center, but given the many holes in their lineup, the need to fill a specific hole isn't as pronounced as the need to select the best player. The Bruins, however, are in a different place. They have been to the playoffs the past three seasons and own the second pick thanks to the Phil Kessel deal with Toronto before the 2009-10 season. They also have depth at center, including Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Marc Savard. That's why there are persistent rumors the Bruins would like to move Savard, who signed a front-loaded, six-year, $30 million contract extension that kicks in next season.
If the Oilers do take Hall and the Bruins select Seguin, it would make sense for Seguin to step into a top-six forward role if he's going to be expected to make the jump from junior. Right now, there's no room for him to assume that kind of place.
There also are rumors Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli might try to put together a package to swap the picks so Boston could take Hall, who would be a better immediate fit for its lineup.
"I haven't seen or spoken to Peter today, but I'm sure we'll probably speak some time," Tambellini said.
Regardless of what happens, fans in both cities should be excited at the chance to add players who have the potential to be immediate difference-makers, not a few years down the road.
"Our scouts, they're excited. Not too many of them are going to sleep tonight," Tambellini said. "They're looking forward to that moment where we can make a selection with an impact player that is going to be a huge part of Edmonton and a huge part of the team and a player that, eventually, when we get to be a team that has a chance to win, we know this player will be a part of that."
The Chicago Blackhawks, owners of the 30th overall pick in Friday's proceedings thanks to their Stanley Cup victory earlier this month, began the process of off-loading contracts because of significant salary-cap issues. Not so long ago, the Blackhawks weren't all that different than the Oilers -- floundering, but assembling high draft picks as a result of their on-ice futility.
The bottom line, Tambellini said, is there is a cost at either end of the long road that stretches from bottom to top.
"So, you're paying a price at the beginning to build this thing properly," he said. "But at the end, you're also paying a price financially to know that I can only maybe sustain this for a year or two, right? And then you have to start unloading in this system and you're choosing, and who actually are your core and how do you go forward. So there's a price on both ends, no question."