The Edmonton Oilers and the Salary Cap

Jonathan Willis
June 30 2009 01:29PM

lowe

If the Oilers make a big roster move in the coming days or weeks, it will involve a trade. The simple fact of the matter is that the Oilers don’t have the cap space to acquire a marquee player without sending at least one big ticket out.

Thanks to the decision to employ the 5% inflator built into the CBA, the salary cap will not drop next year, but rather rise to 56.8 million. That represents a 100,000$ increase from this season. Next season, the outlook is bleaker; the cap figure is as of yet unknown but it is certain to decline, perhaps steeply.

For the Edmonton Oilers, this represents two problems. The first is that with multiple restricted free agents (Denis Grebeshkov, Ladislav Smid, Liam Reddox, Gilbert Brule) left to sign, no starting goaltender, and a desire to add a top line player, Steve Tambellini has only 10-million dollars or so to work with (source: nhlscap.com). This is, however, a small problem compared to what Tambellini will need to deal with next summer.

With the cap in decline, Tambellini will see several players reach restricted free agency – with the critical two being Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano. Should those two players progress over the next year, they will certainly command large raises and both could be targets for an offer sheet. Only Fernando Pisani’s 2.5 million dollar contract comes off the books in that time. In other words, if Tambellini spends to the cap this summer, he is going to have no room to sign Ganger and Cogliano.

What is the solution? Despite suggestions from fans, I can’t see Daryl Katz spending millions to send a player like Dustin Penner to the minors. Ditto for Shawn Horcoff, the sole veteran centre on the team and a vital player, regardless of whether he’s worth his 5.5MM annual cap hit or not. Fernando Pisani isn’t the problem either; his contract comes off the books after this season, at which point he can be re-signed for less money or allowed to depart. Let’s take a look at the Oilers roster, ranked by position and annual cap hit, and see if there isn’t a solution to the problem. I’ve bolded players of interest.

Forwards

  • Shawn Horcoff – 5.5MM – A vital player for this team; moving him creates more problems than it solves.
  • Dustin Penner – 4.25 MM - He won’t be waived, but if the Oilers can trade him and bring in a different LW I think they will.
  • Ales Hemsky – 4.1MM – A bargain at this salary.
  • Patrick O’Sullivan – 2.925 MM - O’Sullivan may be dealt, but he really isn’t overpaid relative to his production.
  • Fernando Pisani – 2.5MM – Since Pisani’s contract comes off the books next season, moving him doesn’t help the long-term picture.
  • Ethan Moreau – 2.0MM – I’m generally critical of Moreau, but he brings necessary ingredients to this team and isn’t overpaid by much.
  • Robert Nilsson – 2.0MM - The Oilers gambled on Nilsson’s potential, and haven’t done well to this point. He would be a bargain if he could get back to scoring, but they may not be able to wait that long.
  • Sam Ganger – 1.625MM – A key player for this franchise for at least the next five years.
  • Andrew Cogliano – 1.133MM – The Oilers seem committed to keeping him; has goal-scoring potential.
  • Marc Pouliot – 825K – Cheap and versatile.
  • Zack Stortini – 700K – Not a problem salary-wise.
  • J-F Jacques – 525K – Ideally priced; jury is still out on his NHL effectiveness.

Defensemen

  • Lubomir Visnovsky – 5.6MM - High-priced defenseman is worth the money, possesses a NMC.
  • Sheldon Souray – 5.4MM - High-priced defenseman is worth the money, possesses a NMC.
  • Tom Gilbert – 4.0MM - Reasonably priced for his offensive contributions, Gilbert may still be moved because the Oilers probably need to take money off the back end.
  • Steve Staios – 2.7MM - Overpaid relative to his actual contribution, Staios is an obvious candidate to be moved – if anyone will take him.
  • Theo Peckham – 600K - Affordable, but as with Jacques the jury is still out on how effective he can be.

Goaltenders

  • Jeff Deslauriers – 625K – For all that the Oilers talk about their belief in JDD, I sometimes wonder if they aren’t just thankful to have a cheap backup option.

Armchair GM: My Solution

Assuming that a big package for Heatley is out (ideally consisting of Penner plus either O’Sullivan or Gilbert), there are a few other things worth considering:

Get a cheap goaltender. Tambellini and Co. seem committed to getting someone in the 3MM range to tandem with Deslauriers. I’m a little leery of some of the options (please not Clemmensen) but this is one of the few areas where money can be saved – either with Roloson or someone like Craig Anderson coming in on a cheap contract.

Move Souray to California. Rumours persist that Sheldon Souray would like to be closer to his children. His market value has never been higher, and if that is indeed his desire than a team like Los Angeles would seem to be an ideal fit. If the Oilers could bring back a player like Frolov, so much the better.

Clear out the deadwood. Staios and Nilsson both have some things working for them as players, and there may very well be interest from different teams in one or both. If not, Nilsson’s 2MM contract isn’t quite as much money to burn in the minors. Both could be easily replaced with bargain-bin free agents.

If all else fails. Assuming that Souray doesn’t want to be moved and Staios and Nilsson don’t attract any interest at all, there are precious few options left. One or more of Gilbert, O’Sullivan, Grebeshkov or Penner would need to be moved – and moving any of those would likely involve taking on salary in return.

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
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 Clarkenstein
June 30 2009, 04:33PM
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Jimbob wrote:

Lowe doesn’t need to be kicked around by the armchair GM’s here in Edmonton…You show me just ONE manager in the NHL who hasn’t made mistakes!!! K-LOWE worked his ass off for this organization even tho he was parachuted into the GM role with NO EXPERIENCE!! Give him a Pat on the back instead of a kick in the Ass. Nuff Said

When's the last time the Oil made the playoffs??

Nuff Said.

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#52 heavyd
June 30 2009, 04:36PM
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Just wacthing tsn and bob mackenzie just said that there is a chance that we can give up penner and a d men and a prospect for heatly, and he says that there is a lot of talk around edmonton that this trade will happen.

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#53 Bar Qu
June 30 2009, 04:38PM
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The nice thing is with the Gomez trade we don't have to debate how to fit in Heatley anymore ...

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#54 BUCK75
June 30 2009, 04:38PM
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Not many fish left out there if the Sedins have signed w the 'nucks.

You have gotta think that Ottawa is in the driver's seat if the Sedins & JBo are signed before midnight.

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#55 I'm a Scientist!
June 30 2009, 04:39PM
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heavyd wrote:

that there is a lot of talk around edmonton that this trade will happen.

Talk around Edmonton yes... there is always talk around edmonton that dreams will come true, but what is Ottawa saying? What is NYR saying? What is San Jose saying? They probably have the same rumors flying. It would be nice...buuuuut.

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#56 BUCK75
June 30 2009, 04:40PM
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heavyd wrote:

Just wacthing tsn and bob mackenzie just said that there is a chance that we can give up penner and a d men and a prospect for heatly, and he says that there is a lot of talk around edmonton that this trade will happen.

*screams like a little girl*

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#57 oilerzz
June 30 2009, 04:42PM
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always a bridesmaid it seems .. oil are in on everyone and get no one

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#58 Monday Guy
June 30 2009, 04:42PM
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"To Edm: Heatley, Smith, Kelly, Auld, Schubert, Picard To Ott: Penner, Visnovsky, Cogliano and next year's 1st and 2nd round picks" Tweet From the Towel Boy, 'bout an hour ago

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#59 I'm a Scientist!
June 30 2009, 04:46PM
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Monday Guy wrote:

“To Edm: Heatley, Smith, Kelly, Auld, Schubert, Picard To Ott: Penner, Visnovsky, Cogliano and next year’s 1st and 2nd round picks” Tweet From the Towel Boy, ’bout an hour ago

I think that would actually be a loss for us...

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#60 Bar Qu
June 30 2009, 04:46PM
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Monday Guy wrote:

“To Edm: Heatley, Smith, Kelly, Auld, Schubert, Picard To Ott: Penner, Visnovsky, Cogliano and next year’s 1st and 2nd round picks” Tweet From the Towel Boy, ’bout an hour ago

uuuuuuugggggghhhhh (if true)

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#61 Monday Guy
June 30 2009, 04:49PM
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@ I'm a Scientist!: Its A LOT to give up, but there's a ton of size and strength in there. Plus the return of a Very admired captain. We'd be much less 'easy' to play against if the dynamic worked out

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#62 mattmarcin
June 30 2009, 04:49PM
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Thats such a stupid rumour... Were taking too many contracts are you serious?

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#63 Monday Guy
June 30 2009, 04:50PM
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@ mattmarcin: dont shoot the messanger.... or the Rumor reposter, as the case may be

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#64 Bar Qu
June 30 2009, 04:51PM
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Monday Guy wrote:

@ I’m a Scientist!: Its A LOT to give up, but there’s a ton of size and strength in there. Plus the return of a Very admired captain. We’d be much less ‘easy’ to play against if the dynamic worked out

But to give Cogliano & 2 picks? Too steep by half!

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#65 Bar Qu
June 30 2009, 04:53PM
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Bar Qu wrote:

Monday Guy wrote: @ I’m a Scientist!: Its A LOT to give up, but there’s a ton of size and strength in there. Plus the return of a Very admired captain. We’d be much less ‘easy’ to play against if the dynamic worked out But to give Cogliano & 2 picks? Too steep by half!

Of course I meant GIVE UP - stupid one hand typing ...

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#66 Monday Guy
June 30 2009, 04:55PM
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@ Bar Qu:

:s whats your other hand doing ?

I dont disagree, but for argument's sake, wouldnt you give up two firsts for Heatley?

Could you put a price on ditching Penner's contract ?

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#67 BUCK75
June 30 2009, 04:56PM
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@ Monday Guy:

You forgot the #rumour hashtag. Guess he needs to put tildes up on his rumours. LOL

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#68 Bar Qu
June 30 2009, 04:58PM
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@ Monday Guy: Holding a 5 month old :-)

Taking on Heatley's contract is already giving up on future possibilities, so yeah, two early picks is too much. It is like giving up on the present and the future all for a guy who could just as easily bail on you as he did his other teams. Add in the loss of Cogliano and that deal just stinks all ways from Wednesday.

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#69 Monday Guy
June 30 2009, 05:02PM
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@ Bar Qu: * that would be my embarassed look

like i said, i dont dissagree, just playing devil's advocate

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#70 heavyd
June 30 2009, 05:04PM
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mattmarcin wrote:

Thats such a stupid rumour… Were taking too many contracts are you serious?

how are we taking too many contracts. penner and vis, take of 9 million, heatly and smith are 9 million and then the rest make under 2 million each so it makes sense.

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#71 Oilersordeath
June 30 2009, 05:04PM
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How bout instead of Cogs we throw in Nilsson and Shremp( maybe even Poo to top it off?)

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#72 Monday Guy
June 30 2009, 05:08PM
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@ Oilersordeath: TSN reporting something in the works between Edm and Ott

Aparentally, they want Penner.... Who'd a thunk it ?

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#73 Chester Copperpot
June 30 2009, 05:12PM
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@ Monday Guy:

Was it Brochu who mentioned the Murray Penner link soon after the Heatley trade request? I can't remember now I surf way too many sites.

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#74 Bar Qu
June 30 2009, 05:12PM
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@ Monday Guy: Fair enough!

I like giving up Penner much better, even if it means losing a useful d-man in Smid. I still don't like Heater's salary tho.

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#75 DK0
June 30 2009, 05:14PM
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@ Bar Qu: No one likes Heatleys salary, but he's a star and its stomachable when you get rid of Penner's bloated salary.

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#76 Ogden Brother
June 30 2009, 05:15PM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

1. Will LA eventually spend to the cap? Or do they have an internal budget? So if theirs 1-2 teams with room and willingness, are we really "bad off"?

3. It may just be the perfect time for Cogs/Gagner to hit RFA status, Gregor questioned a few weeks back as to if Toews is a 4 million FA yet, if that's close to true, the Cogs/Gagner will be no more then 3 million for X amount of years, looks good to me.

4. He didn't let Smyth walk, he got assets for him ;)

5. First line scorer needs to be added (but is it really the cap that's keeping that from happening?) If we do ever get one, I'd bet it's though trade, meaning salary will be going the other way.

6. All of his "bad contracts" were signed before the financial mess started. The best guage? Stock markets work 6 months in advance (on avg, roughly). Markets were working fine when the contracts were signed.

A. How do we know? It's a gate driven league, if the underlying economy is firming up, ticket sales may not be as bad as we thought 6 months ago.

B. Sure it does. A stronger economy = a higher cap

C. I'll wait and see, no lip service was given to the 5% buffer the players just voted in.

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#77 Bar Qu
June 30 2009, 05:18PM
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Could we maybe just get Tambellini to post on here so we could all know for sure? Not too much to ask from our esteemed Wanye and Bingofuel is it? Geez ... ;)

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#78 Monday Guy
June 30 2009, 05:19PM
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@ Bar Qu: there's no question the biggest question mark is Heatley and his attitude. If things happen to go really well and the fans get on his side, might be a great match. If he comes in and struggles, the fans will be on him like (insert humerous, but somewhat distasteful comment). He'll want out and we'll be way worse off

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#79 Oilersordeath
June 30 2009, 05:25PM
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Monday Guy wrote:

@ Oilersordeath: TSN reporting something in the works between Edm and Ott Aparentally, they want Penner…. Who’d a thunk it ?

HEEEEEEEELLLLLLLL YEEEEESSSSSS!!! please do it!!

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#80 Oilersordeath
June 30 2009, 05:29PM
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Monday Guy wrote:

@ Bar Qu: there’s no question the biggest question mark is Heatley and his attitude. If things happen to go really well and the fans get on his side, might be a great match. If he comes in and struggles, the fans will be on him like (insert humerous, but somewhat distasteful comment). He’ll want out and we’ll be way worse off

Thats thinking too negative pre-maturely, How about he gets off to a great start with 10 goals in his first 10 games and fans very happy?

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#81 Monday Guy
June 30 2009, 05:35PM
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@ Oilersordeath:

:D Deal !

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#82 Jayo1808
June 30 2009, 05:37PM
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Substitute Cogs for nilsson, pouliot, and Potulny and it sounds like a great deal.

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#83 Ogden Brother
June 30 2009, 05:48PM
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Monday Guy wrote:

@ Bar Qu: there’s no question the biggest question mark is Heatley and his attitude. If things happen to go really well and the fans get on his side, might be a great match. If he comes in and struggles, the fans will be on him like (insert humerous, but somewhat distasteful comment). He’ll want out and we’ll be way worse off

I'm not sure why people think we'd be worse off. If things sour and he wants out, we'd still have him and as asset and I'm sure we'd recoup alot of what we gave up for him.

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#84 Ogden Brother
June 30 2009, 05:48PM
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Jayo1808 wrote:

Substitute Cogs for nilsson, pouliot, and Potulny and it sounds like a great deal.

Ah yes, the old "swap one good for three not so good". A sure way to land a top 5 goal scorer.

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#85 Jayo1808
June 30 2009, 05:51PM
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@ Ogden Brother: Ogden Brother wrote:

Jayo1808 wrote: Substitute Cogs for nilsson, pouliot, and Potulny and it sounds like a great deal. Ah yes, the old “swap one good for three not so good”. A sure way to land a top 5 goal scorer.

hey, if they are willing to take penner, id try anything.

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#86 Hemmertime
June 30 2009, 05:51PM
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@ Ogden Brother: Agreed heatley is still an asset which barring serious gaborik type injuries we would be able to recoup our losses if he kills someone here, or what not.

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#87 Mikey
June 30 2009, 05:54PM
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Hemmertime wrote:

we would be able to recoup our losses if he kills someone here

Not funny.

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#88 Hemmertime
June 30 2009, 05:55PM
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Also if they will take penner off our hands, it doesnt really matter if we take on an extra few million which will be gone next season anyhow. I am not a huge fan of trading picks but imagine if we had gotten something for bonsignore's.

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#89 Hemmertime
June 30 2009, 05:56PM
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@ Mikey: wasnt meant to be.

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#90 Oilersordeath
June 30 2009, 05:56PM
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What if we throw in Stortini for Neil? Someone who can actually win a fight.

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#91 Hemmertime
June 30 2009, 05:58PM
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Oilersordeath wrote:

What if we throw in Stortini for Neil? Someone who can actually win a fight.

tsn reported he rejected OTT offer and will go to FA

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#92 The Pestival
June 30 2009, 06:22PM
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From TSN's McKenzie:

"Ottawa wants Dustin Penner as part of the package dating back to Sens' GM Bryan Murray's days in Anaheim with Penner and as much as Edmonton would like to move Penner and his $4.25 million cap hit, Heatley's $7.5 million is a tough nut to crack.

Throw in a young roster Defenceman - Ladislav Smid used to be in Anaheim, too - and a prospect or another young roster player and that's a deal that could fly."

...and I j!zz in my pants!!!!

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#93 freeze
June 30 2009, 06:33PM
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damn, to hell all: cccp://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=283345

I do not look forward to him in our division.

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#94 oilerzz
June 30 2009, 06:36PM
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i hate calgary

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#95 Sandra
June 30 2009, 06:38PM
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I think we are in trouble, this is waht the Oilers site lists these player and thier positions:

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS Name Pos Details Sebastien Bisaillon D Gilbert Brule D Devan Dubnyk RW Stephane Goulet D Denis Grebeshkov D Colin McDonald D Ryan Potulny C Liam Reddox D David Rohlfs Rob Schremp D Tyler Spurgeon Ryan Stone D Ladislav Smid Bryan Young D

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#96 oilerzz
June 30 2009, 06:41PM
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how good is the # 1 pick next year ?

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#97 Jonathan Willis
June 30 2009, 06:53PM
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@ oilerzz:

Taylor Hall is a heck of a player.

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#98 ronaldo
June 30 2009, 06:59PM
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Stupid calgary and their stupid signing actual stupid star players. They are only 300km less remote then we are. Why do they continue to land players we talk about and all oilers ever do is try. No try, do. Come on Tambo. Stupid calgary.

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#99 Harlie
June 30 2009, 08:40PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Jimbob: I don’t think anybody questions Lowe’s character or his effort during his time as General Manager. Just his ability.

nailed it.

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