Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe has been called an idiot, an idiot, and also a jerk and an idiot. Even when he's given credit for a move, like the Tomas Vanek offer sheet, it's due to its boldness rather than its fiscal or managerial good sense.
But this summer, he's been pushed by new owner Daryl Katz to make an impact and remake the Oilers' roster. And here's what he's done:
• Acquired defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky for forward Jarret Stoll and defenseman Matt Greene; essentially bringing in a top-flight defenseman for a disposable forward who wanted to be in L.A. anyway and a depth defenseman.
• Finally dumped the forever-trade-bait Raffi Torres to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Gilbert Brule, hoping that Brule's return to his hometown might be the kick-in-the-rear the former lottery pick needs to find his game in the NHL.
From a Carolina perspective, Bubba at Canes Country had the right take on Cole before the free-agent deadline:
No team is going to trade a promising player with a low salary for the 4 million dollar expense of Erik Cole. These types of trades are usually close to dollar for dollar because of the salary cap. Another problem with trading Erik Cole is that he only has one year left on his contract. Why would Vancouver trade Kevin Bieska for Cole, when their defenseman is under contract for three years, and they could lose Cole after just one?
This is why Cole's move to the Oilers is "one of the least surprising trades in recent memory." The Canes wanted a puck-moving defenseman (even though some fans are obviously questioning Pitkanen's toughness), and if the choice was between Cole or Justin Williams for a D-man, it had better be Cole. But they're going to miss him.
As for Lowe, it's a shrewd acquisition: Cole's going to make his coin and then either free up $4 million or skate away. Covered in Oil sees Cole as "a more consistent, better version of Torres," but that's shortchanging him: Cole (when healthy) is a game-changing energy player, like (but at the same time, completely unlike) Sean Avery.
With Dustin Penner, Cole and Ethan Moreau, the Oilers are quite solid on the left side. Giving up a talented offensive defenseman like Pitkanen is tough, but The Copper and Blue said it best: If the deal is Cole for an RFA Pitkanen, then you make the deal.
Lowe's on a roll right now. He's made some waves; now what about the big splash?