It says here: Brownlee's off-season predictions

Robin Brownlee
April 10 2008 12:00PM

(With the pressure of the stretch drive past him, Lowe turns his attention to the off-season.) If you haven't lapsed into a coma reading playoff predictions and watching that wretched Maggie the Monkey make fools of hockey insiders on TSN, let's get down to prognostication that matters in this non-playoff corner of the NHL. Specifically, what we can expect with the Edmonton Oilers between now and when "wait until next year" begins with the opening of training camp in September. After season-ending sessions with coach Craig MacTavish and GM Kevin Lowe, and bolstered by a big dish of inside poop from sources reliable and dubious, here's what I know, what I think and a combination of both. So, feel free to print these off and stick them to the fridge door beside the grocery list for future reference. Or not.

Take it to the bank

  • Joni Pitkanen is the Oiler most likely to be traded. In fact, I'd be stunned if Pitkanen is around when training camp begins. First, if agent Larry Kelly is looking for a deal that pays $4.5 million a season, as I'm led to believe, he's overvaluing his client by about $1 million. Pitkanen, despite having the pain threshold of a four-year-old, has cachet around the NHL and could be the centrepiece of a deal that would land the Oilers either a top-six forward or a top-10 pick in the Entry Draft.
  • Lowe isn't going to trade Jarret Stoll after a miserable season because he simply won't get anything resembling value in return. Don't be the least bit surprised, though, if the Oilers take Stoll to arbitration.
  • While Lowe insisted today he isn't concerned about offer sheets on his restricted free agents this summer after getting Brian Burke's undies in a bunch by poaching Dustin Penner, he'll move quickly on signings. Don't be surprised if Lowe gets Tom Gilbert, Denis Grebeshkov and Robert Nilsson signed to new contracts before July 1.
  • Marty Reasoner is allowed to walk as an unrestricted free agent, leaving Shawn Horcoff, Andrew Cogliano, Stoll and Kyle Brodziak in the middle for 2008–09. It's Brodziak—who'll earn just $500,000 next season—who makes Reasoner expendable.
  • Marc Pouliot gets a new two-year deal, and it's a one-way contract.
  • Rob Schremp gets traded at the Entry Draft.
  • Lowe and Burke will not go for beers or take a long, quiet walk together at the Entry Draft.

It could happen

  • Even though Kelly Buchberger has a year remaining on his contract as the head coach in Springfield of the AHL, he gets promoted to MacTavish's staff as an assistant.
  • After leaving the coaching staff to take a place in the TV booth as Jim Hughson's sidekick this season, Craig Simpson returns to the Oilers in a front office position. Think assistant GM.
  • Jay Bouwmeester of Florida and Shea Weber of Nashville are prime candidates for offer sheets.

Worth repeating

"I've heard through the grapevine two things. One, being they're going to give us everything we need to be successful. And that life is short, so let's get after it." —Lowe, when asked about the transition in ownership from the EIG to Rexall billionaire Daryl Katz next season.

One last thing

Anaheim over Montreal in the Stanley Cup. —Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 5pm on Total Sports with Bob Stauffer on Team 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 theoil
April 08 2008, 09:12PM
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If Pitkanen is gone as suggested the backend becomes a lot less dangerous. You seem to be implying that Pitkanen's unwillingness to play with pain has made him an undesireable in the room. Am I reading that right?

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#2 1011011
April 08 2008, 09:37PM
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Great pic. Good intel on the team.

OilersNation forever

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#3 PunjabiOil
April 08 2008, 09:49PM
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Thanks for the updates Robin.

The best comment is:

“I’ve heard through the grapevine two things. One, being they’re going to give us everything we need to be successful. And that life is short, so let’s get after it.” —Lowe, when asked about the transition in ownership from the EIG to Rexall billionaire Daryl Katz next season

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#4 PunjabiOil
April 08 2008, 09:52PM
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Even though Kelly Buchberger has a year remaining on his contract as the head coach in Springfield of the AHL, he gets promoted to MacTavish’s staff as an assistant.

Nice to see the old boys network alive and well.

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#5 RobinB
April 08 2008, 10:14PM
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theoil: The pain threshold mention is my own take. Pitkanen is a different cat, that's for sure. I think Pitkanen is gone for three reasons. First, I'm led to believe he's pricing himself too high for what he's delivered. Second, the emergence of Gilbert and Grebeshkov, plus a healthy Souray gives the Oilers enough offence from the back end without Pitkanen. Third, Pitkanen would bring a greater return in a trade than Grebeshkov or Gilbert.

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#6 Shawn Mullin
April 08 2008, 10:16PM
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It didn't even happen yet PJO.

As for Pitkanen, I love watching him play and think his potential is endless. Trading him after his worst season (production wise) doesn't seem particularely smart.

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#7 theoil
April 08 2008, 10:51PM
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Thanks for the reply. I agree we have three guys with a similiar skill set. I'm not sure trading the guy with the highest ceiling is the way to go but, as always, it depends on what is available coming the other way. It will be interesting to see what Lowe can do dealing from strength this summer. I'm guessing that if Pits will sign for 3 years at 4.1-4.2 Lowe will wrap him up - maybe back loaded.

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#8 Hemsky is a gangsta
April 08 2008, 10:52PM
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Man I hope you're wrong on the stuff in the second section!!

It was reported the Oilers had interest in Pavel Kubina and obviously last year they tried to get Redden. I hope we would be looking at that type of replacement on the top pairing (not that those two players are the same) in the event of a Pitkanen trade for anything other than a comparable d-man and not moving up Grebeshkov and Smid into roles they might not be able to handle.

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#9 slats432
April 08 2008, 11:18PM
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Schremp at the draft....I would think that Schremp and the ANA pick to move up would also be a good idea.

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#10 theoil
April 08 2008, 11:23PM
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slats 432 - I'm not sure what Lowe will be dangling at the draft but I think he has more assets to dangle than in any previous year. I'm hoping to read all summer over at HF that Lowe overpaid for whatever move he is able to make.

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#11 Hemsky83
April 08 2008, 11:47PM
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A Pitkanen departure would be well-taken if it means we grab Bouwmeester via offer sheet....but we better be getting young talent/picks in exchange for Joni

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#12 fyvmvv
April 09 2008, 09:53AM
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Let's see now, what has changed in the Oiler philosophy since this last newser? OKay Okay Okay...Dump Pitkanen after one year. Let's get rid of that talent as quickly as possible. It sure worked with that untalented Lupul. I wonder if Reasoner has a twin? Maybe it's not to late for Mr. & Mrs. Reasoner to have another child. You can never have enough yuks in the dressingroom. Sure we have lots of room for another on-ice pylon. Talented, speedy D-Man hmmm. No that will never do. 'Hey Joni don't let the dressing room door hit you on the ass on the way out.'Now let's see what excuse can we use to get that uselessly talented Gagner out of here?

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#13 RobinB
April 09 2008, 10:43AM
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I'm happy to see these predictions are generating some comment. That's the point.

That's also the case over at HF, where there's a thread about my suggestion Pitkanen will be traded. Unfortunately, not enough people get it that this is more about my opinions and perceptions than it is something that's been whispered in my ear by Kevin Lowe or anybody in Oilers management. A poster at HF, under the name misfit, does get it and raises his response to what I've written beyond "Brownlee is an idiot," which is refreshing.

I'm not going to soften up any "hard news" or "scoop" item I'm sure about by mentioning sources "reliable and dubious" and qualifying it with "here's what I know, what I think and a combination of both."

The Pitkanen item is an educated guess based on the reasons and circumstances I've already listed and on discussions I've had with people close to the team over the course of the season -- nothing more, nothing less.

One thing I'd like to clear up. I'm on the record that I wouldn't have made the Pitkanen deal. I haven't hidden that. At the same time, I said on the air in mid-season that Pitkanen had opened up my eyes in terms of his talent level and that he was much better than I thought he was. I also admitted I may have mis-read Pitkanen by interpreting comments that he was a different kind of guy and a bit of a loner to mean he might be a "problem" or "cancer" in the dressing room. In other words, I have no axe to grind with him.

The point is this: I'm not going to fabricate trade items out of thin air just because I wasn't big on getting him in the first place. Nor would I ignore information or talk Pitkanen was a trade candidate because I liked the guy in the hope he wouldn't be traded.

If I'm right about Pitkanen being moved, I won't be claiming I "broke the story" first. It's my opinion. Take it for what it's worth.

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#14 PunjabiOil
April 09 2008, 11:24AM
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The Craig Simpson rumour and Kelly Buchberger found their way onto the Journal today.

http://www.canada.com/edmontonjournal/news/sports/story.html?id=eda86d08-b556-4748-b367-43bd11884ff3

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#15 namflashback
April 09 2008, 12:08PM
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I like Pitkanen's skill set alot -- but agree that within this lineup there is some crossover in skill -- a whole lot of puck movement, but not much puck stoppage.

Substitute Pitkanen with a veteran LD such as Kubina or somebody from that NYR group would make some pretty strong pairings. I'd run an alignment like: Kubina-Staios: shutdown - 1st ESTOI, 2nd PKTOI, Kubina gets PP#1 Grebeshkov-Gilbert: dynamic movement - 2nd ESTOI, 2nd PPTOI, 3rd PKTOI Souray-Greene: size - 3rd ESTOI, 1st PKTOI

Damn -- that Hejda dude would have been alot less expensive and be able to do that job.

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#16 fyvmvv
April 09 2008, 12:14PM
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Mr Brownye, If Pitkanen is a free agent, he doesn't even think about Edmonton as a choice. This will be the teams only shot at him. If he is uncoachable, if he wants 4 mil plus and can't get realistic in his asking price then all bets are off. Get what you can. By the way who in the league would give him that kind of money? I may be overreacting to say the least but I like others get revved up when we see this Reasoner discussion gather speed and the seemingly high priority on keeping him. Reasoner is rather symbolic of the 'go for the underdog mentality' that exists in the Oiler organization. Oops!I may have just quoted a Stauffer-ism. Alot of people who follow the team closely see a rather casual and cavalier attitude about letting talent slip through the Oilers fingers. Letting Lupul & Sykora go with their 35 or so goals still chaps my tookus while our playoff chances get kicked out of town with them. "I am really excited about next year." saith KLowe is cold comfort indeet.

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#17 doritogrande
April 09 2008, 02:14PM
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Joni Pitkanen played more than half the season with half a groin? Anyone here try that? Because I have, and it's hell. We certainly have yet to see the best of Pitkanen, and I'm waiting patiently for the chance to see him again next year. His icetime will be very hard to replace if he's gone, as his emergence as a workhorse allowed Staios to play less minutes thereby allowing him to perform better, and by Pitkanen doing the heavy lifting allowed the other young 4 defenders a bit of a breather.

His fluid-like skating motion is like watching Scott Neidermayer lug the puck up the ice, and I'll be damned if I would give up that without at least investing some time and energy into negotiating. If he want's 4.5M, okay, let him have it. But he's got to take a 5 year contract to get that kind of money. We traded our captain to get him, so it'd be nice to have him make a lengthy commitment to the City of Champions.

Remember these words; if Joni Pitkanen leaves town this summer, the Oilers are a lesser hockey club next season.

Regarding the rest, if we take Stoll to arbitration, is there a chance he can be awarded less than his qualifying offer? Sign Gilbert and Nilsson as soon as both are done serving their country this spring, but deal Grebeshkov in the Montreal pump-'n-dump strategy. Keep Reasoner as veteran insurance, because someone's going to get injured. Like the Pouliot signing. Keep Schremp for another year in the AHL and have him lead the team (and possibly league) in scoring.

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#18 Wanye Gretz
April 09 2008, 02:35PM
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"We traded our captain to get him, so it’d be nice to have him make a lengthy commitment to the City of Champions."

Good call doritogrande, this has made me think - and this rarely occurs.

hmm

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#19 chad
April 09 2008, 02:40PM
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you can say what you want about pitkanen but this team is a completely different animal without him on the blue line. $4M per season seems resonable for a guy who can pretty much outskate any player in the nhl with his hands tied behind his back and somehow eating a sandwich. the guy only gets noticed when he screws up but he does so many things effortlessly that he rarely gets noticed when he does it right.

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#20 theoil
April 09 2008, 03:01PM
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//We traded our captain to get him//

I think the Flyers would be very surprised to hear they traded Pitkanen to get one year of Jason Smith so that doesn't really capture the essence of the transaction in my mind.

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#21 Tommy
April 09 2008, 04:34PM
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It all comes down to how much some of the lesser role players will accept. If Reasoner would sign a cheapy deal then I'd rather have him around mid-season when a couple guys are out with injuries. Clear out some of the contracts from the AHL side. Marty is making $950 this year, knock it down to $600 is he a better deal than Jacques this year was at $650? Hells yeah. There is a role for Reasoner on next year's team.

I agree with dorito to the extent that if you pay $4M+ for Pitkanen then he should make a long term commitment. Look at some of the other D-men who are getting ~$4M - Foote, Aucoin, Brewer, Zubov, Morris, Sarich is getting $3.6... Joni has wayyy more upside. So long term deal at ~$4Mish? Yeah.

Just generally, I'd rather see Lowe do a deal than make another free agent signing, I think he has a better record in deals.

Trade Torres and keep Stoll, Stoll can't get much worse and I have a feeling he'll bounce back. Keep Roloson too - he showed he can play 30 games a year.

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#22 cgrey
April 09 2008, 04:36PM
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that pic of kevin lowe is hilarious. would love to know what the context (the real one) is.

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#23 Tommy
April 09 2008, 04:50PM
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Oh and get rid of Mr. Glass.

Let's have a captain who plays 1/2 the games next year. OK?

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#24 fyvmvv
April 09 2008, 10:34PM
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Tommy Who are you going to sit or demote to make room for Reasoner? Personally I think he'd make a great pothole filler on 118th Ave. If it's a bargain you want I know a couple of guys the Oil could get a real deal on if a bargain is all you want.

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#25 PunjabiOil
April 10 2008, 01:12AM
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Yeah, the pic is hilarious. I'm guessing he was entertaining a bunch of kids.

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#26 Tommy
April 10 2008, 06:57AM
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I never said demote anyone. I said as use as a backup for when the inevitable injuries occur. Start him as a healthy scratch. When there are a couple key injuries you'll be glad you have someone who can PK and take faceoffs.

Just because you don't like him doesn't mean he still doesn't have utility, at the proper price.

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#27 oilers_rule
April 10 2008, 08:17AM
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Based on the comments K-Lowe made at the press conference, i have a hard time believing he will make any offer sheets this summer. he stated that he will not go into free agency the same way as last year, and that he's not looking to make any major changes like he needed to last year. that coupled with the fact that he does have his RFA's to sign who will be looking for raises this (except maybe Stoll) i don't believe he has the luxury / picks to do it anyway. and i would hate to put a lot of stock in a guy like Bouwmeester when it's rumored that he doesn't want to be here anyway. i would rather see Shremp and Roloson and possibly Raffi packaged up to try and get Jokinen. personally i believe that Reasoner will be back based on the way MacT was selling him during his post season comments. and we all know that Mact has more say in this teams personnel than he probably should.

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#28 Pat mc
April 10 2008, 08:43AM
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The same Jokinen who had no goals at even strength for 19 games and counting when the Panthers were trying to make the playoffs?

Pass.

The Pitkanen decision is a big one. The guy is the entire package but he's an enigma for sure. The fact that Lowe has opened talks with everyone but him says something.

Robin, thoughts on Horcoff. Will they extend him this summer, do you think?

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#29 oilers_rule
April 10 2008, 09:49AM
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do you think that jokinen would have that same record playing with hemsky? i think not.

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#30 RobinB
April 10 2008, 10:21AM
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Patmc: I don't see the need to extend Horcoff this summer. That doesn't mean it won't happen -- I haven't asked Lowe spcifically about doing so. From Horcoff's end, he's going to get a raise anyway with UFA looming, but it makes sense for him to put together a great start to next season and prompt the Oilers to come to him with an early offer.

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#31 Pat mc
April 10 2008, 01:12PM
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I don't buy it oilers_rule - the guy is getting first line minutes and linemates - is he playing with Hemsky? No. But if he is a star player then he had better produce when the chips are down.

And he does not.

Thanks for the answer Robin.

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#32 The Warrior
April 10 2008, 01:20PM
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Wow Nice of you to come out of retirement. The Warrior loves to read this stuff but wishes you wern't in semi retirement. an article a day would be nice

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#33 doritogrande
April 10 2008, 01:42PM
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oilers_rule:

Why would Florida be interested in Roloson? They have a #1 in Vokoun who thrives in playing 65+ games a year. They have no more need for a 3.5M backup than we do.

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#34 oilers_rule
April 10 2008, 03:25PM
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true, but craig anderson the back up had 17 games since coming out of the "A" and really hasn't proven himself. his GAA is 2.25 and a save % .935. we all know that roli can give you 25-30 games and be pretty consistent. and he wants to play more than he did here. it was just a thought being that it will be hard to move him and jokinen will demand a high price to get.

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#35 oilers_rule
April 10 2008, 03:42PM
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Patmc:

did you ever consider he's not producing because he may be bitter about being stuck ther and not traded? or that he just doesn't want to be there at all? again, like i said above, it was just a thought about a top 6 forward to play alongside of hemmer.

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#36 OilersNinja
April 10 2008, 06:14PM
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I see the warrior is so full of himself he requires the need to refer to himself in the 3rd person.

Bravo Loser

The OilersNinja enjoyed this article and all the commentary that came along with it. Promotions all arround

If Joni is not a good fit in the locker room, I see punt him and see what he can get. Sure he possess a rare skill set amoung D man, but if there is no chemistry among his teamates then he is worthless. Although I do enjoy is smooth sleeky puck carrying ways, but if he is weird then lets see what we can get with him.

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#37 fyvmvv
April 10 2008, 11:05PM
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I heard on the tube or radio I believe, a discussion of pending ufa's and someone mentioned the Oilers being interested in Huselius. He is slick and creative and may provide some interesting offensive chemistry. I sure don't see him filling a gritty role on this team as Lowe suggested recently he wanted to look to add for next year. I wonder who could be a possible candidate for big time toughness with skill. I think someone like Fedoruk might fit here but they say the Minnie coaching staff love him.

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#38 RobinB
April 11 2008, 09:24AM
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As I suggested, the Oilers have got the ink done on one of their key RFAs very early -- the team has come to terms on a contract with defenceman Tom Gilbert. It will be announced this morning at 11 a.m. Details to follow.

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#39 Tommy
April 11 2008, 12:48PM
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$4M/yr for 6 years for Gilbert?

I like him, but that is too much $$$.

I guess Joni is gone for sure.

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#40 RobinB
April 11 2008, 02:15PM
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Tommy: Pitkanen gone for sure? That's crazy talk, isn't it?

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#41 Travis Dakin
April 11 2008, 03:35PM
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Sounds like low is inflating Pitkanen's value aritficially in comparison to get more in return now.

What is Lowe going to be looking for in return for Pitkanen? Realistically, what could he get?

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#42 Dom Pittis
April 12 2008, 01:25AM
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We absolutely need Pitkanen back next year just so we can give the kids one more year of on-the-job training. I'm not sure about inking him longterm because he's oft injured but we shouldn't let him go just yet.

Everyone can get caught up in the offense Souray provides -- and by everyone I mean Robin:) -- but Souray doesn't possess a good first pass and he can't lug the puck and his offense cames on the PP. Is the 37-77 combo enough when it comes to lugging the puck and making a good first pass?

I certainly don't think so.

As for waiting on the Horc extension, I hope Lowe's not about to make another Smyth like mistakes.

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#43 RobinB
April 12 2008, 06:56AM
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I'm not caught up in anything Souray provides. If you think that then you haven't been paying attention. I wouldn't have signed a player with an injury history like Souray to a five-year contract, and I've said that since the minute he arrived. The Oilers overpaid for Souray in term and in dollars based largely on the best season of his career -- and the numbers he put up came within a Montreal PP system thgat's ticked along fine without him. I've never seen Souray as a great puck-moving D-man.

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#44 Unknown Author
April 12 2008, 11:41AM
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All this crapola about 'maybe another offer sheet' from Klowe, but isn't it true that a team cannot sign a player to a sheet 2 years consecutive? Just checking.

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#45 Dom Pittis
April 12 2008, 04:35PM
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Good to hear, RB.

Not sure where you were working at the time but after that deal was signed, I kept waiting for someone in the media to come out and call it like it was: the heights of shit.

My favorite excuse on the Souray deal comes from Rishaugh who argues you can't judge the player just yet because he was hurt. Apparently, durability does not equal to value in Ryan's world:)

Anyway, back to my original point, I've liked Pitkanen less as an Oiler than I did as a Flyer but I wasn't watching him every game back then either. I know he has some issues but I still think we need him back for this year.

Unless we can move some of the 16-14-Schremp surplus for Kubina.

Or maybe we can just move Kubina for Pitkanen straight up.

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#46 RobinB
April 12 2008, 10:29PM
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Dom: Kubina for Pittis straight up? If you want to rid yourself of a talented but somewhat injury-prone player like Pitkanen, why would you trade him for a guy with the same shortcomings? Kubina isn't any more durable than Pitkanen, maybe less so. On top of that, Kubina has been a notlorious no-show in the post-season. No thanks.

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#47 RobinB
April 12 2008, 10:30PM
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That's Kubina for "Pitkanen" straight up . . . duh!

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#48 Hemsky is a gangsta
April 15 2008, 08:23PM
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Brownlee...the same Kubina who played on the top pair of the 2004 Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning? How many post seasons has he even played in outside that one?

And he's not durable? Last year was the only time in his career he missed 20 games. He's played 70+ for six of the last seven years.

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#49 RobinB
April 18 2008, 10:27PM
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Hemsky: The same Kubina who played on the top pair of the 2004 Stanley Cup champion Lightning and had a whopping four assists in 22 post-season games?

The same Kubina who has **cked the dog to the tune of 1-5-6 and a minus-10 in 38 playoff games?

The same Kubina who has missed an average of nine games a season since 1998-99 and has played 70-or-fewer games in four of those seasons? Playing 70-plus, or missing up to as many as 12 games a season, is NOT durable. That Kubina?

I don't mind a challenge on an opinion, but don't even bother if you're going to bring me weak stuff like that.

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