Why The Oilers Should Not Pursue Jay Bouwmeester

Jonathan Willis
May 02 2009 08:59AM

Bouwmeester

This is Jay Bouwmeester, one of thirty number one NHL defensemen. His exact value is a point of debate in Robin’s post below, but it seems fairly safe to say that he’s in the top-half of those thirty players. Some would even argue that he’s a top-five defenseman.

Regardless, I think he’s a luxury the Oilers can’t afford; a target created by a fanbase which (like all fanbases) loves the idea of bringing an elite NHL’er to Edmonton. Personally, I don’t think the Oilers should even bother pursuing him unless it’s clear that playing for the Oilers is a top priority for Bouwmeester. Now, before a lynch mob gathers up their pitchforks and assembles in the comments section, let me explain, because I think there are a number of very good reasons for this mindset.

1. Supply and Demand

How many NHL teams would like to get their hands on Bouwmeester? Let’s assume that he’s the fifteenth-best defenseman in the league, even though he’s almost certainly better than that. This means that at least fifteen teams out there would view him as an upgrade over what they already have. There’s going to be a bidding war for his services; there really aren’t a lot of high-end defensemen out there, and salary cap or no Bouwmeester’s going to be in high demand. In other words, a lot of teams are going to spend their first day of free agency focused on a target they won’t end up acquiring while other players are taken off the market. Plus, whoever does grab him will be spending a pile of money, which brings me to my second point:

2. Cap Space

The Oilers don’t have it. They were close enough to the cap all season long, and they’ve got somewhere in the neighborhood of 7-8 million to play with next year. With that money they need to re-sign Denis Grebeshkov, address their lack of a number one goaltender and bring back a bunch of restricted free agents on new contracts. It’s going to be tight enough as it is, and the long-term picture isn’t any brighter. Even assuming the Oilers were to move one of their higher salaries out of town (Visnovsky or Souray) they’ll be taking on more and at this point every dollar matters. Visnovsky and Souray are a nice bridge to my third point:

3. Need

Don’t get me wrong: Jay Bouwmeester is a fantastic addition to any hockey club. When looking at the Oilers though, the defense isn’t a weak point. The top-four of Lubomir Visnovsky, Sheldon Souray, Tom Gilbert and Denis Grebshkov is one of the best puck-moving units in the league and puck-moving defensemen of that calibre aren’t readily available. The Oilers do, however, have a host of problems; I’d contend that keeping the puck out of the net is a major issue but other wish lists have different priorities.

Obviously there’s a wide range of opinion among Oiler fans about how to fix the team. However, the one point of consensus that I’ve heard again and again is that the top-four is the strength of this team, and I don’t think there’s an argument to be made otherwise. Their numbers:

  • Sheldon Souray: 81GP – 23G – 30A – 53PTS, +1
  • Tom Gilbert: 82GP – 5G – 40A – 45PTS, +6
  • Denis Grebeshkov: 72GP – 7G – 32A – 39PTS, +12
  • Lubomir Visnovsky: 50GP – 8G – 23A – 31PTS, +6

There’s nothing wrong with that.

To Sum Up

There isn’t any question that Jay Bouwmeester could help this hockey team. The fact of the matter is that the Oilers already have a strong top-four, and spending a truck-load of dollars to bring in another high-end defenseman just doesn’t make sense when there are so many other more pressing concerns. Fans have been concocting complicated proposals involving signing Bouwmeester and then dealing a defenseman for a top-end forward; it’s much simpler to just go after the forward initially, isn’t it?

Besides, the Oilers would probably still have a good group of defensemen if they were to trade off one of the top-four and bring in a responsible depth guy to round out the group. Given that there are probably a dozen candidates on the free agent market and more available via trade, that seems to me to be the logical and cap-friendly route for the team to take.

In any case, there hasn’t been any real proof that Bouwmeester has a burning desire to come play for Edmonton any more than he wants to play anywhere else. There’s been a handful of rumours, from some comments on the ESPN Trade Deadline show to column written by Bruce “Malkin to the Kings” Garrioch. Certainly the player himself hasn’t said it, and beyond the fact that he’s from Edmonton there isn’t much linking him to the team. But even if Bouwmeester were willing to entertain offers from the Oilers, it simply doesn’t make sense for the Oilers to make him their number one target in the offseason – make no mistake, that’s what it will take for a team to land him – and miss out on opportunities that make more sense for the team.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 SkinnyD
May 02 2009, 08:18PM
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If Tambi signs J-Bo on July 1, every other GM in the league will know we're up against the cap even worse than before, and will fleece us (ala Pronger) when we're trying to re-arrange assets to make room. I have a hard time thinking he'd let that happen - he'll go after what we do need rather than going after the 'best available' - this isn't the draft. It's a big 'ol chess match...

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#52 RossCreek
May 02 2009, 08:29PM
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@ SkinnyD: There are other teams in similar situations. Not saying it would happen, but the Flyers have a need for a puckmoving D and they also have excess scoring forwards making too much coin. If they could distribute their $'s around more evenly, they probably would. A Gagne-Visnovsky deal (likely involving others) could help them achieve that. Then they could dump some smaller bits to create cap room (Randy Jones, Joff Lupul, etc.). That's just 1 example from 1 team. Even if they didn't get equal value, the Oil would still come ahead (a toonie and 2 quarters is more valuble than a loonie and 5 quarters)

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#53 Garett
May 02 2009, 09:45PM
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Take a run at a healthy Havlat for around 6mil/yr, he managed to stay healthy this year and has mad skills and has developed a nice 2 way game.

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#54 David S
May 02 2009, 09:58PM
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I think everybody here should stop thinking JBo is going to come here for anything less than a crazy overpay. It just isn't going to happen. Fer cryin'out loud, this isn't EA sports. Let me say it again for the cheap seats - JBo is NOT coming here for fair value. End of story.

Let's just assume anybody of any decent quality we acquire this summer will be an overpay. Thus, with a decent D already in place, if we're going to get fleeced I'd rather we use our money to go after a decent forward because as Vic has laid out, that's where we're hurting the most.

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#55 kingsblade
May 02 2009, 10:20PM
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David S wrote:

Let me say it again for the cheap seats - JBo is NOT coming here for fair value. End of story.

Oh, now that "David S." has spoken from his seat of authority we can all end the conversation now. You should probably call Tambellini as well to make sure he doesn't waste his time by making a phone call to see what kind of money it would take. David S. said end of story.

Look, we are having a conversation about "ifs". We are all well aware of that fact. We are equally aware of the fact that he will likely sign somewhere for too much money. Why does that mean we can't discuss the possibility of his signing, or what the team should do if it turns out to be a possibility? Are you saying you've never discussed anything hypothetical before?

My favorite part of your post was how you, at the end, express a preference to being fleeced by a forward. What is the difference? If we are overpaying we are overpaying. At least if we overpay him by 1.5 million we can still get some scoring and our D gets younger. If we overpay a forward by 1.5 all we get is the scoring and our defense is as old and brittle as ever.

If you want to act like an authority of some kind at least try not to discredit your own argument at the end of your post.

So fat the only reasonable argument I have seen against is the one which mentioned that if he gets signed then other GM's know we need to move some defense, yet even that has been addressed.

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#56 RossCreek
May 02 2009, 10:43PM
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David S wrote:

Thus, with a decent D already in place, if we’re going to get fleeced I’d rather we use our money to go after a decent forward because as Vic has laid out, that’s where we’re hurting the most.

So how is getting "fleeced" for a forward any better than getting "fleeced" for a defenseman AND THEN moving a current defenseman for a forward of equal cap value? If you pay 7 mil for a forward OR pay 7 mil for a defenseman AND THEN trade a 5.6 mil (ish) defenseman for a 5.6 mil (ish) forward - ITS THE SAME THING. And I'm not even suggesting that the forward would make that necassarily (although I've suggested about 5.25-Simon Gagne, not a big diff).

I'm not deadset on signing J-Bo at all cost, but I think if its a reasonable option, its a no-brainer.

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#57 David S
May 02 2009, 11:08PM
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kingsblade wrote:

We are all well aware of that fact. We are equally aware of the fact that he will likely sign somewhere for too much money.

Your words, not mine. A "hypothetical" involves speculation about something that MIGHT be possible. What I'm saying is that JBo won't be coming here for anything close to "fair value", something you yourself agree with. Thus the hypothesis doesn't hold and the conversation becomes like a bunch of drunk guys repeating the same thing over and over. "Brodziak and Staios for Malkin. Beer me."

RossCreek - I see where you're coming from. But I still don't think JBo will ever be a reasonable option. There's just way too much hungry money out there this summer. Besides, Souray would make a f*ck of a C, something we sorely need. Not sure, but doesn't Souray have a NTC?

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#58 RossCreek
May 02 2009, 11:30PM
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David S wrote:

Besides, Souray would make a f*ck of a C, something we sorely need. Not sure, but doesn’t Souray have a NTC?

The 5.6 reference was to Visnovsky, not Souray (5.4).

Having said that, here's an off-the-wall thought: What if instead of all the Gilbert (and to a lesser extent - Grebeshkov) talk, the Oil instead chose to keep those 2 for age reasons and instead move BOTH Souray & Visnovsky. Obviously this would only be if Bou signed here AND if you could replace the toughness void that moving Souray (and Staios)would create. One could be moved for a top 6 forward, while the other could be moved for some much needed prospects to restock the shelves. Essentially, it would be like the old song - Money For Nothing - the Oil wouldn't take that big of a hit on the backend (if at all), plus they would add a scoring forward & prospect(s), all the while keeping the young core of the team intact (something I'd argue, although not that strongly, they may have messed up in moving guys like Stoll, Torres & Greene, regardless of whom was received in return).

In any case, I'm NOT saying that I'd go this route for certain, but maybe its a bit of a different approach to think of. Heck, why not think of every different possibility no matter how "ridiculous" they may seem at first. Exhaust all avenues in your brain before coming to a conclusive decision. This scenario would likely have even more question marks than the previous, but its something to at least think about, no? I myself may decide this approach would be stupid down the road, but right now I'm not sure I'd dismiss much - there's lots of time before the decisions turn to actions.

And to those who didn't like the approach of moving 2 of the top 4 D-men before, obviously I don't expect you to change your views now (although the logic seems flawed if you're willing to move Gilbert as things currently stand, but not willing to move 2 of the top 4 if a guy like Bouwmeester were added - if you're willing to move 1 of the top 4 now, why wouldn't you be willing to move 2 of the top 4 if you add a #1?)

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#59 Jonathan Willis
May 03 2009, 12:25AM
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kingsblade wrote:

Are you claiming that they now cannot negotiate with multiple players at the same time? He would be a pretty poor GM if he only talked to one player at a time.

So you fax a 1yr, 6MM contract offer over to MArian Gaborik, and a 5 year, 32.5 MM contract offer to Bouwmeester. Both accept. You can't possibly fit both in without massive rearrangements, and everyone knows you're up the creek without a paddle so they lean on you hard (like Anaheim found out when the tried to move first MacDonald and then again when they tried to move Schneider).

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#60 RossCreek
May 03 2009, 12:46AM
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@ Jonathan Willis: So your saying you'd rather make the commitment to an oft-injured player on a 1 year deal than to a homegrown stud on the backend that vitually plays half the game and could anchor the blueline in eTown for the next 10 years??

Your logic makes SOME sense but your example is piess poor.

As soon as an offer was accepted by 1 player, the offer could be pulled from the other player. Chances they agree at the exact same moment - slim (unless they have the same agent, I suppose). The deal would still have to be signed & verified, so its not exactly like they'd get "stuck up the creek without a paddle". I'm sure a team can back out of a deal if a player can (Nylander), although that may not look all that good.

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#61 blackmud
May 03 2009, 01:31AM
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I would pretty much trade anyone but Hemsky, Gagner and Cogliano for Bouwmeester, but that being said a worthwile top 3 forward should be the first priority. I still hope for Kovalchuk

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#62 Homie
May 03 2009, 02:50AM
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David S wrote:

Thus the hypothesis doesn’t hold and the conversation becomes like a bunch of drunk guys repeating the same thing over and over. “Brodziak and Staios for Malkin. Beer me.”

HA! I love it when guys think that we can trade our garbage for gold. Why discuss it if will NEVER happen? On a totally unrelated note, I've got to go pick Halle Berry. We're going to meet Evangeline Lilly for shooters.

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#63 RossCreek
May 03 2009, 09:16AM
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blackmud wrote:

I would pretty much trade anyone but Hemsky, Gagner and Cogliano for Bouwmeester, but that being said a worthwile top 3 forward should be the first priority. I still hope for Kovalchuk

You don't have to trade anyone for Bouwmeester. He's a 25 year old Unrestricted Free Agent (unprecedented, as he's the 1st 25 year old in this position, if I'm not mistaken).

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#64 RossCreek
May 03 2009, 09:25AM
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RossCreek wrote:

You don’t have to trade anyone for Bouwmeester. He’s a 25 year old Unrestricted Free Agent (unprecedented, as he’s the 1st 25 year old in this position, if I’m not mistaken).

Technically speaking, Scott Hartnell would've been in this position a couple years back, but he didn't make it to July 1st to hit the open market, as he was traded to Philli and signed in late June.

I cannot think of anyone else to hit UFA at 25 (but that doesn't mean there wasn't).

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#65 RossCreek
May 03 2009, 10:08AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

There’s two legitimate number one d guys on the market (JBo and Zubov)

Here's the top UFA D-men available this summer IMO: Jay Bouwmeester Mike Komisarek Mattias Ohlund Francois Beachemin Derek Morris

Here's some that aren't likely to move, or if they do, likely have a specific destination or 2 in mind (OLDER GUYS): Scott Niedermeyer (possible he's open to anything, but I'd bet on Ducks, Devils or Canucks) Mathieu Schnieder (veteran nearing end, not sure where he'll end up-Philli?) Sergei Zubov (injury-plagued season, superstar likely nearing the end; can't see him leaving Dallas if he is to play next season) Rob Blake (also nearing end, can't see him leaving California)

Bouwmeester is easily without a doubt the best defenceman available, and even if his intentions were good (he'd like to come home for reasonable $'s), he's likely to get a few offers that "blow him away". If he takes 6-7 from the Oil, no hesitation on my part to sign him. If he's looking for 7-8, you'd probably have to pass.

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#66 kingsblade
May 03 2009, 01:06PM
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David S wrote:

A “hypothetical” involves speculation about something that MIGHT be possible. What I’m saying is that JBo won’t be coming here for anything close to “fair value”, something you yourself agree with. Thus the hypothesis doesn’t hold...

This is gold. Are you really trying to tell me what hypothetical means? Are you really pretending that you are the authority on what might happen? One of my favorite things about sports is looking at possible transaction scenarios and discussing how they could play out. I agreed that he likely will sign for too much, not that he will certainly sign for too much, and So what if it's not that likely to happen. It's a reasonable point of discussion here for everyone but you.

Besides my other point still stands - wouldn't you rather get fleeced for a franchise defenseman than a transient mercenary scorer.

...and if you are really trying to argue against this because Souray would make a great captain (although you had a much classier way of putting it) the I submit that the last thing this team needs is to make a captain out of the guy who wouldn't talk to the media at the end of the season. I also thing you are severely overvaluing the captaincy.

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#67 kingsblade
May 03 2009, 01:14PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

kingsblade wrote: Are you claiming that they now cannot negotiate with multiple players at the same time? He would be a pretty poor GM if he only talked to one player at a time. So you fax a 1yr, 6MM contract offer over to MArian Gaborik, and a 5 year, 32.5 MM contract offer to Bouwmeester. Both accept. You can’t possibly fit both in without massive rearrangements, and everyone knows you’re up the creek without a paddle so they lean on you hard (like Anaheim found out when the tried to move first MacDonald and then again when they tried to move Schneider).

You can't be serious. It is pretty common practice to write conditions into contract offers. First, you don't need to be sending signed contracts without some sort of verbal confirmation. Second, even if you did send them signed you just make them conditional on other contract offers not being accepted first. It's a very basic contract term. Like when you offer to buy a house but make it conditional on obtaining the financing first.

I think that a guy as good with numbers as you would consider this possibility, so I have to think you were willfully ignoring it when you made this argument.

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#68 Chris
May 03 2009, 01:45PM
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I'm completely on side with Willis. I read through the posts quick so maybe I'm not the first person to mention this: Why is everyone so eager to turnover the defence? They are a pretty good group as is. Why move TWO of your top four? Isn't there some value in continuity?

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#69 kingsblade
May 03 2009, 01:57PM
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@ Chris: Please read the thread. I think pretty much every argument for both sides has been played out already.

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#70 RossCreek
May 03 2009, 02:09PM
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Chris wrote:

Why is everyone so eager to turnover the defence?

I don't think its that everyone is so eager. I think its looking at things with an open mind - If you cannot add the top 6 forward through free agency, (and even if you can), a better option might be to trade for him. If so, a defenceman may be the trade bait, especially if you can add a top 10 D via free agency (someone that would be a definate upgrade on what they currently have, both in the now and future).

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#71 Jonathan Willis
May 03 2009, 03:21PM
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@ kingsblade:

No, you missed my point a bit I think. You manage to get Bouwmeester inked. The teams already over the salary cap to make this move if you've re-signed any RFAs - suddenly that top-six forward who is willing to sign with you either isn't able to (only allowed to exceed the cap by 10%) or he puts you in the situation I just outlined - with a massive payroll and the need to dump money, and everybody knowing it.

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#72 Chris
May 03 2009, 03:58PM
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@ kingsblade:

I did read the thread, though quickly...

Almost everything pitched by everybody involved signing J-Bo and using one of the other top four to aquire atop six forward... Willis is right. The Oilers don't have room under the cap to accomplish this. The only way to get J-Bo inked under the cap would involve a) Trading one of the current top four for a Forward. b) And then trading another top four guy for a cheaper D-man to play top four minutes. I think this would not only be difficult for Tambellini to do; it would be counterproductive as well. I don't see how J-bo + some other cheaper D-guy + Grebs + one of Gilbert/Souray/Visnovsky is a massive upgrade. I also don't think it is wise to turn over two of your top four. I just don't like the thought of Grebs having to play top four minutes with a player who costs 2Mil or so.

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#73 RossCreek
May 03 2009, 04:17PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: So even if you don't get fair market value by trading a d-man, would it not be better to land Bouwmeester+ rather than remain status quo? I mean assuming you couldn't land 1 of the top UFA forwards. Bouwmeester is clearly better than what the Oil currently have. Now. And in the future.

If you have the option of keeping Visnovsky OR signing Bou and trading Visnovsky for 2/3's value (if it came down to it!), its a no-brainer. Heck, if you signed Bou and traded Vis for zero return (which is less than they'd receive obviously), you'd be better off making the moves. Not only is Bouwmeester better than what the Oil currently have, but he IS a top 10 (or better) now, and he will be a top 10 (better) for the next decade. This whole argument is based on getting him at 7 ish or less and him wanting to be here (and although I've argued so much in favor of signing him, I have SOME doubts as to whether or not he'd thrive in this environment-how long til fans booed this "overpayed jerk" for not putting up 80 points?).

His size, skill, age & ability to play tough minutes (half the game) makes him worth more than anything else the Oil have. If his attitude and willingness to come home match the rest of the package, he's worth it. There is more than the common statistics to his game. If his shy demeanor makes him hesitant to play at home (and management would know this), then maybe you pass. Otherwise, it'd be a great move.

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#74 kingsblade
May 03 2009, 07:00PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ kingsblade: No, you missed my point a bit I think. You manage to get Bouwmeester inked. The teams already over the salary cap to make this move if you’ve re-signed any RFAs - suddenly that top-six forward who is willing to sign with you either isn’t able to (only allowed to exceed the cap by 10%) or he puts you in the situation I just outlined - with a massive payroll and the need to dump money, and everybody knowing it.

If you have already inked Bouwmeester than you now have the assets necessary to trade for a top 6 forward. You don't need to sign one.

Needing to trade players dot not preclude getting value when the players you have to move are good puck moving defensemen. There are enough teams out there that need one of what we have that getting a top 6 guy for someone like Souray should not be a problem.

Will they get a player as good as Souray? Doubtful, but they will still be ahead of the game as far as assets are concerned while making the defense younger and will still have improved up front.

I guess a lot of this debate also comes down to team building and differing philosophies about how it should be done. I am a believer in having that franchise defenseman who defines the team. Detroit has Lidstrom. Anaheim won a cup with Neidermeyer. Dallas had Zubov. Colorado had Bourque or Blake, take your pick. Jersey had Neidermeyer. The Rangers had Leetch.

Every team with a cup inthe last 15 years, except for Carolina and Tampa, had a franchise defenseman. I believe we need one too.

The best defensemen we have currrently are going to be quite old by the time this team has a chance at competing for a cup, but Bouwmeester could be that franchise defenseman that we need. He could be that guy for 10 years, rather than the few injury riddled seasons left to Souray and Visnovsky.

Souray has a high trade value right now. It can only go down from here, so why not maximize our assets and take advantage while we can?

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#75 alphah.
May 03 2009, 09:31PM
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who cares if you move a player for under market value is you're adding an upgrade? Let and Eastern team be the benefactor of a sugary sweet deal and let us improve our team.

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#76 RossCreek
May 03 2009, 09:56PM
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kingsblade wrote:

Anaheim won a cup with Neidermeyer... Every team with a cup inthe last 15 years, except for Carolina and Tampa, had a franchise defenseman. I believe we need one too.

Tampa did have Dan Boyle. And I like how you "conveniently"(?) left out Pronger's name.

Everyone here has seen 1st hand what having a stud top notch D-man can do for an average team (Roli helped too). I don't get why you wouldn't want Bouwmeester here (unless he doesn't want to be here).

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#77 RossCreek
May 03 2009, 09:58PM
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@ kingsblade: ^^ The 2nd part above was not aimed directly at you. It was to all.

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#78 kingsblade
May 03 2009, 10:57PM
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RossCreek wrote:

Tampa did have Dan Boyle. And I like how you “conveniently”(?) left out Pronger’s name.

Yeah, I thought about including him but most people consider him a step below those other guys. As you say, including him supports the argument even more but I left him off to avoid arguments about whether he was a franchise quality defenseman. Pronger's name was left off because it was unnecessary as he was the second one on the team, and because he's an a$#hole. (and not because of the trade demand out of Edmonton but because he has always been one)

In short, it appears to be difficult to win a cup without a franchise defenseman. For those that wish to elevate Souray or Visnovsky to that level I have just one question - even if they are that good now will they still be when this team is finally ready to contend?

The team needs to be looking at what it needs long term for a cup, not just what it needs to improve a bit for the next year or two.

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#79 Chris
May 04 2009, 02:59PM
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@ kingsblade:

Wouldn't it be best to draft your franchise defenceman? Other than Peckham did the Oilers draft ANY of their D? This is really at the heart of the problem. It takes several key components to win a cup... The Oilers will always be up against the cap; and a few pieces short unless MacGregor can find "impact" players later in the draft. (Tall order I know.) I want Tambellini to sign Hossa. I want Tambellini to sign J-bo. I want Tambellini to take a run at Luongo after next year... The reality is: Tambellini is committed to $35 million in payroll with only 11 players under contract for 2010/11. Many analysts agree that the cap is most likely to reflect the current economic downturn THAT season... How good do you think the Oilers are going to be with around 70% of thier cap allotted to 11 players... most of whom will be underperforming thier contracts? It's time to look at a salary dump and proper rebuild...NOT signing expensive UFA's to long term contracts. Lowe left this team in a bit of a mess IMO.

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