Denis Grebeshkov and the Defense

Jonathan Willis
May 28 2009 10:21AM

Grebeshkov celebrates

The Edmonton Journal is reporting today that Denis Grebeshkov is likely to return to the Oilers and is close to signing a three-year deal worth a shade over 3-million dollars a season.

This is excellent news, as the 25-year old emerged as a legitimate top-four defenseman last season, recording 39 points and leading the Oilers with a +12 rating. The dollars are around what I expected to see; a little higher than I’d hoped but reasonable, and the term is encouraging as well. There’s some worry here about sustainability, since Grebeshkov is being paid based on one excellent campaign (he improved his two-way play to end 2007-08 but it’s his offense that’s bringing in the money) and he wasn’t exactly called upon as the team’s premiere shut-down defenseman.

Grebeshkov also benefitted from an above-average on-ice shooting percentage (20% better than team average at even-strength). I don’t think that will continue, so his offense may dip a bit next season, but he should still be good for 30 or so points, and may maintain his current offensive pace if he gets more powerplay time.

Also in today’s Edmonton Journal, John MacKinnon suggests some changes to the Oilers’ blueline:

On the back end, Denis Grebeshkov, Tom Gilbert, Lubomir Visnovsky, and young Taylor Chorney are similar players. A careful cull is required here, too. So is acquring a genuine, banging, stay-at-home defenceman or two, preferably, to help out Ladislav Smid and one of, but not both, Steve Staios and Jason Strudwick.

I notice that Sheldon Souray, who just had (rather improbably) the finest season of his career at the age of 32, was not mentioned on that list. Souray was the subject of trade rumours at points after the season (pointed out by OilersNation’s own Robin Brownlee, if I’m not mistaken) and while he denied them, he has voiced public displeasure at various points druing the season. The San Jose Sharks, who supposedly pursued him as a free agent two summers ago, would be one team that might be a good fit for the hard-nosed defenseman.

Despite his (rather dominant) season and the new coaching tandem, I don’t think Souray should be perceived as untouchable. He’s a big-money, long-term contract on an Oilers team filled with them, and on top of that there should be some real questions about whether a repeat performance of this past year will happen.

Both Steve Staios and Jason Strudwick had somewhat disappointing seasons; they were sheltered on the third pairing and given a ton of offensive zone draws, but still were outscored and outshot at an alarming rate. Neither is a strength right now, and Staios in particular is a concern because of the length and and cap hit of his contract. Strudwick was repeatedly praised for his work ethic, physical game, and character but on a good team probably isn’t higher than #7 on the depth chart.

Tom Gilbert’s name is frequently mentioned in trade rumours, and he’s a player that gets criticized for playing a soft game. It’s worth noting that while he isn’t a big hitter, especially for his size, he did block 136 shots this season, good for second on the team and roughly twice as many as Sheldon Souray, who played similar ice-time; and this despite the fact that Souray waso n the ice for more shots against. I think it would be wrong to ignore that when discussing Gilbert’s willingness to pay a physical price.

As a G.M., I’d probably look at moving one of Gilbert or Souray for help up front, and I’d try to move Staios. I wouldn’t be against retaining Strudwick if he comes cheap (in the #7 role). Visnovsky, is in my opinion the best defenseman on the team, and Denis Grebeshkov brings good value for his contract (assuming those numbers are correct), so they’d both stay, as would young Ladislav Smid. That ideally leaves two spots, which I would try to fill via trade or free agency with a physical second-paring defenseman and a reliable third-pairing type (perhaps Daniel Tjarnqvist or Matt Walker, although there are plenty of options out there). That should save some much needed cap space while allowing prospects like Theo Peckham and Taylor Chorney to learn the game more fully in the AHL – there’s no need to rush these guys into the lineup; the odds are good that they’ll play when injuries strike anyway. Chorney in particular is not ready for the NHL game.

That’s my personal feeling, based on a few premises that I think are reasonable:

  • Veteran players are more dependable than prospects
  • Prospects with significant time invested in them (Smid) should not be lightly discarded
  • Players having career-best seasons in their mid-thirties should be regarded with some caution
  • Cap space should be saved wherever possible

Thoughts?

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#101 Mikey
May 28 2009, 01:38PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: Ok then agree to disagree on what we think a gritty player should be. I'm sick of talking about Pisani.

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#102 scorcoff hemmercules
May 28 2009, 01:38PM
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@ Mikey:

Sarcasm doen't always jump out to the reader like it does to the writer, smart guy. I thought the sarcastic part was about how your opinion doesn't matter, my bad.

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#103 Mikey
May 28 2009, 01:40PM
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@ scorcoff hemmercules: Ok. Next time I'll use ~

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#104 JRocks247
May 28 2009, 01:43PM
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~No one has answered my hoagie question?~

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#105 Milli
May 28 2009, 01:44PM
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I would hate to lose Souray, but if the deal was right and he was willing to go, I don't know how Tambo could say no. My opinion, the D is our only real streght when trying to find a deal.

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#106 Ogden Brother
May 28 2009, 01:46PM
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Traktor wrote:

“The roles could easily be reversed this time next summer with Horc putting up 22/70 and Souray putting up 11/31 and a -27″ Last year Horcoff had more PP time than Crosby, Getzlaf, Spezza ect.. Quinn is a smart man though so I’d expect Horc’s PP will be minimized. Souray might end up playing like the bloggers (unsuccessfully) predicted but I really don’t see how Horcoff will be put in the position to put up those kind of numbers if Edmonton management is serious about winning.

Because if Horc isn't on at least one of the PP's we'll never have the puck anyways.

As much as anyone wants to discredit Horc, the man still has had seasons as the 15th and 22nd highest PPG for a center in the league.

Theirs no reason to believ he doesn't have another 1-2 seasons as a .9+ PPG player

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#107 Mikey
May 28 2009, 01:46PM
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Milli wrote:

I would hate to lose Souray, but if the deal was right and he was willing to go, I don’t know how Tambo could say no. My opinion, the D is our only real streght when trying to find a deal.

Our team will get much softer though if his toughness and... ahem... grit isn't replaced.

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#108 Oilersordeath
May 28 2009, 01:57PM
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@ scorcoff hemmercules: scorcoff hemmercules wrote:

@ Mikey: Have you really never played hockey?? If thats the case that speaks volumes. @ Jonathan Willis: You come accross like you think Souray can’t possibly repeat his play next season, at least to me. Why is that?? Is there a book I havent read that states a 32 year old can’t improve their game?? Was Souray having major wrist problems this year?? I know he wore that brace but he didn’t miss hardly any games. Injury is always a concern with him though, I have to agree there, but with both shoulders repaired now I can’t see why he won’t be the same or better next year.

I completely agree with scorcoff hemmercules, assuming Souray has a relativly injury free season how can you guys think he cant have a repeat or even a better season? The numbers he put up this season offensivly and even deffensivly on a horrible team!! Now you have two solid coaches, some structure, better powerplay, better team defence, hopefully more grit(please god!). I dont see how someone with his skills will not repeat with all that added.

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#109 Ogden Brother
May 28 2009, 02:00PM
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Oilersordeath wrote:

@ scorcoff hemmercules: scorcoff hemmercules wrote: @ Mikey: Have you really never played hockey?? If thats the case that speaks volumes. @ Jonathan Willis: You come accross like you think Souray can’t possibly repeat his play next season, at least to me. Why is that?? Is there a book I havent read that states a 32 year old can’t improve their game?? Was Souray having major wrist problems this year?? I know he wore that brace but he didn’t miss hardly any games. Injury is always a concern with him though, I have to agree there, but with both shoulders repaired now I can’t see why he won’t be the same or better next year. I completely agree with scorcoff hemmercules, assuming Souray has a relativly injury free season how can you guys think he cant have a repeat or even a better season? The numbers he put up this season offensivly and even deffensivly on a horrible team!! Now you have two solid coaches, some structure, better powerplay, better team defence, hopefully more grit(please god!). I dont see how someone with his skills will not repeat with all that added.

Well for one, the only thing on your list that has actually been added so far is the two solid coaches.

I have a feel we'll be sitting here next year with everyone mad about the team "underachieving" again this coming year.

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#110 scorcoff hemmercules
May 28 2009, 02:04PM
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Ogden wrote: "I have a feel we’ll be sitting here next year with everyone mad about the team “underachieving” again this coming year."

Man I was going to say that but I didn't dare say it this early, shame on you, lol.

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#111 Cam
May 28 2009, 02:07PM
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Traktor wrote:

Souray might end up playing like the bloggers (unsuccessfully) predicted but I really don’t see how Horcoff will be put in the position to put up those kind of numbers if Edmonton management is serious about winning.

It all depends which Horcoff comes out to play. 05/06 (0.92 PPG) or 07/08 (0.94 PPG) Horcoff is a good first line option. Unfortunately the 06/07 (0.64 PPG) and 08/09 (0.66 PPG) versions are a huge overpay.

Who knows which one will tie up his skates next year.

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#112 JRocks247
May 28 2009, 02:08PM
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I'll be here wondering how some one in Ogden can afford a computer let alone use it... ;)

Personally, I think Souray's numbers offensively might dip a little (not alot), but his overall worth to us will remain and that isn't entirely something we can tie values to. He should play a little less minutes next year though, it looked like he tired a bit late in the season.

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#113 The Menace
May 28 2009, 02:09PM
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with respect to Souray's production for next year - hopefully he won't be getting the puck every play on every power play next year. I'm guessing our coaching tandem will have at least one other power-play trick to teach these guys in the off season. It might hurt Souray's numbers, but would help our special teams overall.

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#114 Mikey
May 28 2009, 02:12PM
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@ The Menace: I'm excited to see a different looking power play this year. No more of this Hemsky to Souray/Horcoff over and over business.

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#115 bdubya
May 28 2009, 02:15PM
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Matt Cooke hits lots and gets in people's face. He is the definition of grit......right?????

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#116 The Menace
May 28 2009, 02:17PM
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@ Mikey: could you imagine if they put someone in the high slot? no one would expect that.

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#117 Oilersordeath
May 28 2009, 02:18PM
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@ Ogden Brother: I was being optimistic, yes shame on you! If they come out of the gate next season as bad as they did this year i'm switching sports. I dont know I just have this feeling that Tambo and co. will make it happen.

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#118 Bob Cob
May 28 2009, 02:18PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Tavares is no Daigle. Tavares will be a very good to great player in the league. He has more heart and dedication than Daigle ever had. Not even close to being a bust as bad as Daigle.

Valid point Gregor and thanks for the input, I guess I'm still not sold on Tavares being a once in a lifetime player like everyone else and I dont know that I would be willing to trade two proven commodities in Cogs and Gilbert and nummerous prospects for a chance to draft.

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#119 Cam
May 28 2009, 02:19PM
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@ JRocks247:

Do you remember last summer where almost everyone on this site was saying they should trade Souray because he is a bum. Interesting how a year changes everythng.

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#120 Mikey
May 28 2009, 02:19PM
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@ The Menace: ~Nope. That doesn't work.~

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#121 Librarian Mike
May 28 2009, 02:20PM
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Hey, with all the talk about the new staff in Oilerland, I can't believe that we've all forgotten about their new stickboy:

Mr. Liam Reddox

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#122 Ogden Brother
May 28 2009, 02:24PM
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JRocks247 wrote:

I’ll be here wondering how some one in Ogden can afford a computer let alone use it… Personally, I think Souray’s numbers offensively might dip a little (not alot), but his overall worth to us will remain and that isn’t entirely something we can tie values to. He should play a little less minutes next year though, it looked like he tired a bit late in the season.

Ogden Utah is a wealthy little town.

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#123 scorcoff hemmercules
May 28 2009, 02:24PM
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@ Librarian Mike:

I'll be happy if I never see that guy again. Quinn would eat that guy alive anyway.

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#124 Mikey
May 28 2009, 02:25PM
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@ Librarian Mike: Joey is going to take Liam under his wing.

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#125 JRocks247
May 28 2009, 02:28PM
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@ Ogden Brother:

LOL...fair enough

I was assuming Calgary's subdivision by the same name. If you've seen it, you'd get the joke.

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#126 scorcoff hemmercules
May 28 2009, 02:30PM
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I haven't heard the name Gilbert Brule in a while, what's his story, keep him or ditch him? Does he have a shot at cracking the lineup any time soon??

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#127 The Menace
May 28 2009, 02:32PM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

JRocks247 wrote: I’ll be here wondering how some one in Ogden can afford a computer let alone use it… Personally, I think Souray’s numbers offensively might dip a little (not alot), but his overall worth to us will remain and that isn’t entirely something we can tie values to. He should play a little less minutes next year though, it looked like he tired a bit late in the season. Ogden Utah is a wealthy little town.

How about Ogdenville? It's a shame what happened to the monorail there though.

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#128 scorcoff hemmercules
May 28 2009, 02:32PM
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same with Smid. With his past trade request rumors are we keeping him?? If Grebs get 3 mil what does Smid get??

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#129 Cam
May 28 2009, 02:38PM
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Cam wrote:

@ JRocks247: Do you remember last summer where almost everyone on this site was saying they should trade Souray because he is a bum. Interesting how a year changes everythng.

Also remember how Nilsson was the second coming of Ales Hemsky and was "the second most talented person on the team".

interesting how a year changes everything.

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#130 Oilersordeath
May 28 2009, 02:41PM
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@ scorcoff hemmercules: I think this years traing camp will make or break him

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#131 Traktor
May 28 2009, 02:42PM
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"Because if Horc isn’t on at least one of the PP’s we’ll never have the puck anyways"

Horc is our best C at taking draws but he has the worst GFONPP60 out of any center - there's no evidence that Horc's PP prowess is necessary to run a successful PP. The stats actually tell us the opposite.

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#132 Traktor
May 28 2009, 02:45PM
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* there’s no evidence that Horc’s *FACEOFF* prowess is necessary to run a successful PP. The stats actually tell us the opposite.

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#133 Sourcrouse
May 28 2009, 03:16PM
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bdubya wrote:

Matt Cooke hits lots and gets in people’s face. He is the definition of grit……right?????

That's how I define grit. Not some retard running around trying to take people's head's off. Look at the two teams in the final...they don't have a ton of "toughness", their skill players are just willing to pay the price at both ends of the rink.

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#134 Mikey
May 28 2009, 03:30PM
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@ Sourcrouse: Just wondering what your take on Kronwall is? Is he willing to pay the price at both ends of the rink or is he the "retard"?

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#135 risto
May 28 2009, 03:30PM
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I wonder what this message board would've said after the Miracle of Manchester:

Trade Fuhr Gretz is soft etc........

Souray had a mostly outstanding season (faded defensively @ the end) and we should TRADE him and Cogliano, who I see as a future team captain,

CRAZY TALK.

Despite MacT and staff's awful coaching (Penner treatment, 3 goalies = Play Roli until death, Selanne stick measurement, PK failure) we were in 6th place Mid - March.

Priorities:Get better goaltending, and fix PK (for a start, someone to win a #*!@ faceoff)

Then cut/trade Moreau and Staios for picks or puckbags, let the young kids blossom. Good coaching gets us back in the playoffs.

We all love Strudwick, I would love to see him back as he was BY FAR the most effective scrapper down the stretch - but he was a live grenade with the puck in his own end.

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#136 Jason Gregor
May 28 2009, 03:47PM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

One point on 10/11: Almost every team with the means to spend is in a similar situation as the Oil, the ones that aren’t in that situation (TO/Mon/Van) have little to no key players signed for 10/11 (or next year for that matter)…. so as the teams with the space for next year fill out their roster, they will join (or close to) the Oil/Flames/Flyers etc on the list of teams that have most of their wadd shot while still having 6+ spots to fill. In otherwords, almost everyone will be in the same boat. Now, factoring that in. I would not be the least bit suprised to see the cap roof drop very little (or at all) for the 10/11… after all, most of the teams in trouble are the ones that actually provide the revenue for the league + a drastically reduced cap (roof) helps no one and hurts many (teams/players/league)

The difference is that the CAP will go down. If you don't see that, I can't make it more clear for you. The NHL can't escape the economical downfall, while the rest of North America is affected by. Explain how you think they can.

You will see teams paying less for marginal guys, and only the elite will get top end dollars. I don't see every team putting themselves in the same situation as the Oilers.

But the Oilers are in more of a pickle than other teams, because they don't any ELITE players signed.

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#137 misfit
May 28 2009, 03:56PM
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Wow, busy day at the Nation. 3 pages of responses already, and I'm only now reading this.

I've got to say that I agree with most of what you're saying, JW. While Gilbert does bring a lot of things that we get from Visnovsky and Grebeshkov (to put Chorney in that conversation at this point is silly IMO), he's one of the last guys on the back end that I would trade. For one, he's the only RH defenseman we have other than Staios, and RH defenseman in general are harder to find. Plus, all he's done since making the NHL two years ago was get results against the best the NHL has to offer, and he's a young guy who's still just scratching the surface of what he can do. All of those things make him a heck of an asset, and I'm not sure it's an asset we're better off using in a trade.

Because of our depth on the left side of the defense, I'd be far more willing to move one of Souray, Grebeshkov, or Smid than either Gilbert or Visnovsky. If we move both Gilbert and Staios that leaves us horribly unbalanced with Visnovsky and a bunch of nothing on the right, and 7 guys who all shoot left.

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#138 RossCreek
May 28 2009, 04:10PM
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Haven't heard anyone mention this, but if the Oil are looking for a big defensive top 4 d man, and if they are to move one of their current top 4, and with the vancouver connection, WHAT ABOUT MATTIAS OHLUND?

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#139 Librarian Mike
May 28 2009, 04:16PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

But the Oilers are in more of a pickle than other teams, because they don’t any ELITE players signed.

Too true. The thing about a team like Carolina is that even if they suck for a couple of years, they can snap right back because they have a world class goalie, a top end faceoff guy, and a natural born killer of a scorer. With all due respect to our guys, all we have is a very good passer, a very good offensive defenceman, and a bunch of pretty good grinders.

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#140 RossCreek
May 28 2009, 04:18PM
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Again with the Vancouver connection (i know, its getting played out), but if your talking about Nathan Horton in Florida, how about bringing Bryan Allen's name into the conversation. Solid #4 defenseman with the required physicality, i've brought his name up on here a few times with virtually no response. Thoughts?

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#141 RossCreek
May 28 2009, 04:28PM
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I'm hearing Morely Scott on CHED right now (sorry Gregor, in Calgary and your not coming in otherwise I'd be listening to you). When did this happen? Did I miss something? I don't regularily listen to CHED so maybe this is old news (or did he even leave ever, WTF?)

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#142 Ogden Brother
May 28 2009, 04:35PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Ogden Brother wrote: One point on 10/11: Almost every team with the means to spend is in a similar situation as the Oil, the ones that aren’t in that situation (TO/Mon/Van) have little to no key players signed for 10/11 (or next year for that matter)…. so as the teams with the space for next year fill out their roster, they will join (or close to) the Oil/Flames/Flyers etc on the list of teams that have most of their wadd shot while still having 6+ spots to fill. In otherwords, almost everyone will be in the same boat. Now, factoring that in. I would not be the least bit suprised to see the cap roof drop very little (or at all) for the 10/11… after all, most of the teams in trouble are the ones that actually provide the revenue for the league + a drastically reduced cap (roof) helps no one and hurts many (teams/players/league) The difference is that the CAP will go down. If you don’t see that, I can’t make it more clear for you. The NHL can’t escape the economical downfall, while the rest of North America is affected by. Explain how you think they can. You will see teams paying less for marginal guys, and only the elite will get top end dollars. I don’t see every team putting themselves in the same situation as the Oilers. But the Oilers are in more of a pickle than other teams, because they don’t any ELITE players signed.

Ya I realize the economy is in the shitter (though dispite the typical news cast, it is quickly turning around) and that the cap is linked to league wide revenues. That said, what is stopping them from "changing the rules" in order to keep the cap ceiling from falling (at least as much as anticipated).

Also, they could simply fudge the numbers to artificially keep it up, I certainly wouldn't put it past the NHL (you know, their constant claims that Pheonix specifically... as well as league wide was running very smoothly)

Who benifits from a dropping cap? Players? Nope. Teams? Nope? It's a lose lose situation... which logically should lead you to believe that they will at least explore options to artificially hold the ceiling up.

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#143 Ogden Brother
May 28 2009, 04:37PM
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@ Gregor

Ya I realize the economy is tough right now (though dispite the typical news cast, it is quickly turning around) and that the cap is linked to league wide revenues. That said, what is stopping them from “changing the rules” in order to keep the cap ceiling from falling (at least as much as anticipated).

Also, they could simply fudge the numbers to artificially keep it up, I certainly wouldn’t put it past the NHL (you know, their constant claims that Pheonix specifically… as well as league wide was running very smoothly)

Who benifits from a dropping cap? Players? Nope. Teams? Nope? It’s a lose lose situation… which logically should lead you to believe that they will at least explore options to artificially hold the ceiling up.

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#144 Chris
May 28 2009, 04:38PM
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@ Jason Gregor:

Didn't someone on your show yesterday say that Komisarek was looking for around 6 million a season?

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#145 Ogden Brother
May 28 2009, 04:42PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Ogden Brother wrote: One point on 10/11: Almost every team with the means to spend is in a similar situation as the Oil, the ones that aren’t in that situation (TO/Mon/Van) have little to no key players signed for 10/11 (or next year for that matter)…. so as the teams with the space for next year fill out their roster, they will join (or close to) the Oil/Flames/Flyers etc on the list of teams that have most of their wadd shot while still having 6+ spots to fill. In otherwords, almost everyone will be in the same boat. Now, factoring that in. I would not be the least bit suprised to see the cap roof drop very little (or at all) for the 10/11… after all, most of the teams in trouble are the ones that actually provide the revenue for the league + a drastically reduced cap (roof) helps no one and hurts many (teams/players/league) The difference is that the CAP will go down. If you don’t see that, I can’t make it more clear for you. The NHL can’t escape the economical downfall, while the rest of North America is affected by. Explain how you think they can. You will see teams paying less for marginal guys, and only the elite will get top end dollars. I don’t see every team putting themselves in the same situation as the Oilers. But the Oilers are in more of a pickle than other teams, because they don’t any ELITE players signed.

Also, it's not as simple as simply saying they are worse off because they don't have any elite players. Elite players on their own win you squat, you need depth to complement those elite players. To truely make a call one way or another, you'd have to do an in depth analysis of what each team has under contract, most teams with 1-2 elite players signed that are in our cap range for 10/11 have literally 8+ postions to fill with what could be as little as 6 - 12 million dollars. A couple of elite players aren't going to do you any good if you've got two full lines of guys making a million or less.

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#146 RossCreek
May 28 2009, 04:44PM
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@ Chris I never heard Jason's show but I wouldn't doubt it. He gets 5-5.5 easy.

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#147 The Pestival
May 28 2009, 05:14PM
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This is my favorite site but this thread is making me angry. Thank god most of you are not involved in any sort of decision making to do with the Oilers.

Souray has the best year of his career and somehow the prevailing logic is that we should get rid of him for a younger, "better" (read: more potential) player? That's awesome, I can't wait till Hemsky finally has his career year so everyone on here can spout off about how we should quickly trade him while he's hot for a younger, cheaper guy with more upside. Souray is one of the few hard@ss players we have and you guys want to get rid of him and replace him with a guy like Komisarek who is tough but can't score? dear god I can't for the end of summer when we finally have our roster and all these insane trade proposals come to an end...temporarily.

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#148 The Menace
May 28 2009, 05:21PM
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@ The Pestival: I don't think that very many people are sauggesting Komisarek are they? I don't think that he really addresses any issues, and may be too expensive. I like both of them, but the financial reality might be that we have to move one of Souray or Vish.

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#149 RossCreek
May 28 2009, 05:29PM
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@ The Menace I don't expect Komisarek to sign here, but to say he wouldn't address any issues is absurd. He's the big, physical shutdown defenseman that the Oilers are looking for. He's likely gonna be a tad too expensive for the Oil.

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#150 Chris
May 28 2009, 05:31PM
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@ Ogden Brother:

It is true that many teams are up against the cap: but most teams are getting more value for those dollars. Your assertion that elite player on thier own "win you squat" is just a glib way of detracting from the Oiler salary cap woes... Facts are: a) The Oilers don't have any elite players. b) The Oilers haven't won squat. AND c) Oilers management lacks the cap room to change either a or b.

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