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Numbers Game: Wild, Oilers deal defencemen

Scott Cullen
2/27/2012 1:46:43 PM
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The Minnesota Wild and Edmonton Oilers swapped a pair of blueliners, moving a puck-mover for a stay-at-home defensive defenceman.

Numbers Game breaks down the deal.

The Wild Get: D Tom Gilbert.

Gilbert, 29, is a skilled defenceman whose production has fallen since his first couple years in the league, to the point that he has modest totals of three goals and 17 points in 47 games this season. Gilbert also has a minus-4 rating, while playing nearly 23 minutes per game.

To his credit, Gilbert ranked best among Oilers defencemen in shot differential this season (plus-0.1, per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play; www.behindthenet.ca) while facing the second-highest level of competition.

While Gilbert has size (6-foot-3, 206 pounds), he tends to play a passive game (his 1.15 hits per game this season was lowest among Edmonton defencemen), but his strength is in a puck-moving role and the Oilers have developed a couple of replacements this season, as Jeff Petry and Corey Potter have played significant roles for the Oilers.

As a rookie, in 2007-2008, Gilbert scored a career-best 13 goals, then followed up with a career-high 45 points the next season, but his numbers have declined since. 

Going to Minnesota is a good opportunity for Gilbert, a Minnesota native. The Wild's defencemen have been the least productive group in the league this season, with 10 defencemen combining for 11 goals and 74 points on the season. Gilbert will play a prominent role for the Wild, offering improved puck skills.

Gilbert's cap hit is $4.0-million for the next two seasons (www.capgeek.com), making him the highest-paid member of the Wild's defence, but a fair price for a player that is capable of playing in all situations and will log 22-23 minutes per game.

The Oilers Get: D Nick Schultz.

Schultz is a 29-year-old defensive defenceman that has established his credentials as a stay-at-home shutdown-style blueliner. He's struggled somewhat this season, managing three points with a career-low minus-10 rating in 62 games. He also had the worst shot differential (minus-8.5 per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play) among Minnesota defencemen.

Admittedly, Schultz tends to face quality opposition and has a long track record (plus-8 in 743 career games) to lean on, but Schultz offers a defensive presence that the Oilers sorely need. His 19:43 average ice time per game this season is his lowest since 2005-2006. 

Signed for two more years, at a cap hit of $3.5-million, Schultz will be counted on to provide stability to a unit that has been shaky, at best, in recent seasons.

Edmonton's ineffective defence prompted this move, but the Oilers may have overpaid, given the relative skill sets of the players involved. Since Schultz contributes so little at the offensive end, he will have to be substantially better than Gilbert defensively in order to provide equitable value.

The bottom line is, individual value aside, that the Wild and Oilers both add players with skill sets that they sorely need.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

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