03/02/2015 12:17 EST | Updated 05/02/2015 05:59 EDT

Oilers trade Petry to Habs as focus remains on draft picks and future

EDMONTON - Reality forced the Edmonton Oilers to trade Jeff Petry in their one selling move at the trade deadline.

Languishing at the bottom of the Western Conference, the Oilers sent the pending-free-agent defenceman to the Montreal Canadiens for a 2015 second-round pick and a conditional fifth that could end up being as high as a third.

"As well as Jeff played all year, we cant lose sight of the big picture here," general manager Craig MacTavish said at a news conference Monday. "We can't lose sight of the fact that we're the 29th team in the league, and we have to handle our assets appropriately."

The 27-year-old Petry wasn't coming back next season, so MacTavish had no choice but to deal him. Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin said he and MacTavish talked off and on about Petry for a couple of months.

MacTavish was hoping that the price could be as high as a first-round pick when the Los Angeles Kings sent their top choice and a prospect to the Carolina Hurricanes for defenceman Andrej Sekera, but at best Edmonton will get a second-round pick and a third-rounder only if Montreal makes it to the Eastern Conference final.

"We knew what we were looking for and we set the price and at the end of the day we were able to get the deal done," Bergevin told reporters in San Jose.

The Oilers now have two first-round picks (theirs and Pittsburgh's from the January trade for David Perron), two second-round picks (theirs and Montreal's) and two third-round picks (theirs and Ottawa's from the 2014 deal for Alex Hemsky).

In the wake of trading Petry Monday, MacTavish said it's important to evaluate this team down the road, not immediately.

"I think we're considerably better: Exciting times for the organization to have as many draft choices as we do going into the next draft," he said. "We have enough picks to potentially fill some of our obvious holes going forward."

Defence remains a hole after sending Petry to the Canadiens. The club also announced that blue-liner Keith Aulie cleared waivers, as expected.

MacTavish said many teams were interested in Petry but that he wasn't the top target for most. Oilers players appreciated the way Petry handled the trade rumours in recent weeks.

"He just kind of was playing the game and playing as well as he can and obviously playing at a level that made him very attractive for some teams that want to make a push during the playoffs," captain Andrew Ference said.