Linus Omark, the electric Swede who is fourth in American Hockey League scoring, possibly has played his final game for the Oklahoma City Barons.
The Barons return home to host the Texas Stars on Friday and Saturday nights. General manager Bill Scott and coach Todd Nelson are confident a young, rebuilt roster can duplicate last year's second-half run.
But it appears the Barons will have to do it without Omark. Reports indicate he's asked Edmonton general manger Craig MacTavish to trade him, according to the Norrbotten Courier, a Swedish newspaper.
Omark has very little leverage, however. The Oilers continued to own Omark's 2013-14 playing rights once he cleared waivers after he was cut after training camp.
Once Omark accepted a reassignment to Oklahoma City it eliminated any option of returning to Europe this season, according to International Hockey Federation guidelines.
“As far as we're concerned, Linus Omark is a contracted player with the Edmonton Oilers,” Scott said after Wednesday's practice. “He's been unbelievable for us. He's never worked harder. Clearly, he's one of our best players. As far as we're concerned, it's status quo.”
Omark probably will get his wish for a trade.
Rumors are Omark will be dealt before hockey's annual eight-day roster freeze (Dec. 19-26) kicks in midnight Thursday, a rule that prohibits transactions around Christmas.
“We hear speculation, but it's not like he's been talking about it in the locker room,” said Oklahoma City defenseman Taylor Fedun. “It's nothing like that. All you have to do is look at a stat sheet to see he's been a huge part of our offense.”
Thanks to YouTube video, Omark has burst onto the international scene. Omark has flashy offensive skills, including a between-the-legs move. The knock is his subpar defense. At times, he's lacked commitment to system play.
After leading Switzerland's pro league in scoring last season Omark hoped to earn a regular NHL job this season. A poor training camp showing with Edmonton set him back.
Omark realizes the clock is ticking. He turns 27 in seven weeks. This season, Edmonton called him up for one game. He probably would have to wait until next season, but returning to Europe is an option.
Omark has some Dez Bryant in him. Similar to the Dallas Cowboys' talented wide receiver, Omark has made headlines on and off the ice.
In his NHL debut three years ago, Omark won the game for Edmonton on a showboat spin-o-rama shootout goal that caused a stir. Omark also drew attention that season when he blamed politics for being demoted to Oklahoma City.
Edmonton isn't a good fit for Omark. The Oilers have several young, highly skilled forwards. But his stock could be on the rise. A couple of teams reportedly are interested. The past two months with the Barons, he's shown noticeable improvement on the defensive end.
Omark declined an interview with The Oklahoman.
“He's always been highly skilled, very creative. What stands out this year is he's so much more mature,” said Barons coach Todd Nelson. “Defensively, he's a lot more responsible. Our coaches have enjoyed him letting us work with him to make him a more complete hockey player.”
If he's traded, Edmonton probably will receive only a lower round draft pick or AHL player in return. The Oilers essentially are doing Omark a favor if they grant his request.
If he is traded, it would leave a gaping offensive hole in the Barons' offense. Omark (29 points, 14 goals) has nearly twice as many points as OKC's next leading scorer.
“We've already had 80 transactions. You adjust,” Nelson said. “But losing a player like Linus, if that happened, that's a lot more than one transaction. Our fans have seen him. He's very gifted.”
Fedun points out last year's Barons team didn't jell until offensive stars Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Justin Schultz and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins returned to Edmonton after the NHL lockout ended.
“We didn't have super-skilled guys, but everyone chipped in,” Fedun said. “You never want to lose a guy with Linus' skill. But if it were to happen, I don't think it'd be a poison arrow for us.”
If Omark isn't traded before the holiday roster freeze Thursday night, he might be traded after the AHL's mandated three-day Christmas break.
“We just take things day to day,” Nelson said. “Having worked with him, watching how much he's matured, I've really enjoyed my time with Linus. He's a special hockey player.”