© — Photo by The Associated Press
The Tampa Bay Lightning traded St. John's native Teddy Purcell to the Edmonton Oilers for Sam Gagner on Monday.
Deal with Oilers unexpected, but St. John’s native sees opportunity in Edmonton
There were no moves involving National Hockey League players from Newfoundland Tuesday, but there was plenty of action in the days leading up to the frenzy that is NHL free agency.
On Sunday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning traded winger and St. John’s native Teddy Purcell to the Edmonton Oilers in what turned out to be a three-team deal. On Monday, the Winnipeg Jets gave Bonavista’s Adam Pardy a one-year $700,000 contract extension, while the Buffalo Sabres tendered a qualifying offer to Kilbride’s Luke Adam.
The biggest surprise had to be the Purcell trade, which saw the 28-year-old right-winger sent to the Oilers for centre Sam Gagner, who was almost immediately flipped to the Arizona Coyotes for a draft pick in a move by the Lightning to clear up salary-cap space.
Count Purcell among those who were shocked.
“It was a typical Sunday night ... I was home planning on what to do for dinner. Then I got a call (from Lightning general manager) Steve Yzerman and my world changed,” said Purcell from Tampa on Tuesday.
Appetite gone, Purcell opted for a glass of wine and tried to take stock of what had just transpired and his new future in the game.
“In this business, nobody is safe. I know that, but when something didn’t happen during the draft (Friday and Saturday), there was no way I was expecting to be traded.
“Yes, last year was my worst in the five or I guess the four-and-a-half that I’ve been with Tampa, but at the same time, Steve Yzerman signed me to a three-year contract extension (in 2013) for a reason,” said Purcell, who has two years left on a deal that pays him $4.5 million annually.
“So you’re thinking this is where you’ll be for the next little while. Then you quickly find out you’re not.”
Purcell had 12 goals and 30 assists in 81 games with the Lightning last season. His career high had been 65 points in 2011-12 after a breakout playoff run in 2011 when he had six goals and 11 assists in 18 post-season contests.
Whether his stats line had anything to do with the trade, he can’t say for sure, because he never asked Yzerman about the reasoning behind the deal.
“I know they were trying to free up money, obviously, but I didn’t ask why it was me who was the one being traded,” said Purcell.
“He (Yzerman) just told me that he didn’t like doing it, that we had built up a good relationship over my time here and that I had been a good player for the team.
“I just told him I appreciated the personal call to let me know because the last time I was traded (in 2010, when he was dealt from the Los Angeles Kings to Tampa), I found out watching TV.”
As for heading to Edmonton, it’s been only a little more than two days since the trade, but Purcell has already heard just about every quip that can be made about the difference between spending winters playing in the Sunshine State and northern Alberta, where the average lows in January are minus-17 C. Not to mention he’s going from a Lightning team that made playoff appearances in two of the last four years to the Oilers, who haven’t played a post-season game since 2006.
“It’s going to be change no doubt about it and not just for me,” said Purcell. “I had a lot of people who liked coming down here in the winter to visit and take in some games.
“But you know what? When it comes to the weather, it will make me appreciate any time I spend down here that much more, and I’d like to retire here some day. And when it comes to the hockey, I know I will appreciate playing in a market like Edmonton, where the whole city is so passionate about the game. I’m really looking forward to it.
They’ve got a great owner (Daryl Katz), they’re building a new rink, and they’ve got a general manager in Craig MacTavish who’s really trying to do something there. And I’m looking at it that it’s a good thing to be with a team that wants you and shows it by making a trade for you. Teddy Purcell on being acquired by the Edmonton Oilers
“They’ve got a great owner (Daryl Katz), they’re building a new rink, and they’ve got a general manager in Craig MacTavish who’s really trying to do something there.
“And I’m looking at it that it’s a good thing to be with a team that wants you and shows it by making a trade for you.”
Purcell plans to travel to Edmonton in the next few weeks, but has already had what he described as good phone conversations with MacTavish and Oilers’ head coach Dallas Eakins.
“I know I have to work hard and earn anything I have coming to me,” he said, “but it seems like there is more opportunity for ice time and on special teams then I got last year.
“This is a team that’s young, but one that has a lot of talent and one that is going in the right direction.
“We’re probably just a couple of pieces from being right in the picture for playoff contention. I want to be one of those pieces.”
Purcell’s not sure how Eakins plans to use him, but he does have some familiarity with a couple of the Oilers’ young stars, having played with Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on the Canadian entry at the 2012 world championship.
He also got some welcome news Tuesday when the Oilers signed unrestricted free agent Benoit Pouliot to a five-year, $20 million deal. Pouliot had been with the New York Rangers last season, but had been with the Lightning in 2012-13.
“We actually played quite a bit together that season, plus we have the same agent, so I was hoping he would sign (with the Oilers). I know he can really help turn things for the better.
“And I’m sure I can, too.”
Pardy had been on the verge of entering unrestricted free agency for a second straight year, but had also made it clear to Jets’ general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff that he wanted to return to Winnipeg.
The 30 year-old defenceman had six assists in 60 NHL games in 2013-13, joining the Jets after a brief start-of-the-season stint with the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps. He began as a depth defenceman for Winnipeg, but especially after Paul Maurice took over as head coach mid-season, Pardy found himself in a more regular role and delivered a performance that helped get him another one-year deal and a 16 percent pay raise.
Cheveldayoff thinks he might have been able to do better elsewhere.
“Adam Pardy signed blindly with us last year with respect to never being part of the organization,” said Cheveldayoff Tuesday. “And he obviously was a very useful part for us when we ran into injuries and such, and ended up playing essentially the whole season for us.
“I’m sure had he gone onto the market, he could have different options. It was only a couple of years ago, he was making $2 million (annually) as a player.
“So we feel very fortunate that he committed to us when he did, for the number he did.”