UFA Options: Edmonton Oilers

Jonathan Willis
June 04 2009 11:59AM

Roloson

UFA Options is a continuing series that gives a brief run-down of the unrestricted free agent market this summer, team-by-team. Our next team for consideration is the Edmonton Oilers.

It could be called stability. With only four unrestricted free agents to make decisions on, Steve Tambellini has a relatively easy summer on that front; aside from goaltender Dwayne Roloson, the only players in need of contracts were either rentals (Ales Kotalik), spare parts (Jason Strudwick) or guys he didn’t want in the first place (Dany Sabourin).

It could also be called inflexibility. Between now and the Pending Demise of All Franchises Near The Salary Cap™(2010-11), only two other players in addition to those who qualify this summer will reach unrestricted free agency. That’s bad for a few reasons: the Oilers don’t have much cap space, there are some very expensive restricted free agents whose contracts are coming up in the next two years (Gagner, Cogliano and Grebeshkov, among others. But the biggest reason for concern is that the Oilers finished well back of the playoffs with a team that was scraping against the salary cap ceiling. It would be one thing if this rather expensive roster had gotten results, but unfortunately Kevin Lowe’s spending spree over the past few years hasn’t led to proportionate on-ice results.

Ales Kotalik

Kotalik’s a fantastic player in a very specific role. He racks up powerplay points at a very good, if not elite, pace; he has a heavy one-timer that makes him ideal for duty on the point. He’s also one of the very best shootout talents in the entire league, and has been since the inception of the tie-breaking event.

He isn’t a complete player though; he has size that he rarely uses, he isn’t a consistent (and here I mean “consistent” in its true sense) producer, he doesn’t bring much away from the puck and to quote McKeen’s he “tends to get lazy and suffers lapses in focus and intensity”. I’m very much a fan of bringing him back in a specific role if one of the current powerplay defenseman (Souray, Visnovsky, Gilbert, Grebeshkov) is sent away and some of the logjam up front is cleared out. He isn’t a first-line player, and his role at even-strength should be limited to some degree, although he may be a fit on a more sheltered scoring line.

Jason Strudwick

Jason Strudwick has been much applauded in certain places for his character in the dressing room, toughness, and versatility. I liked him at LW in a crash and bang role, but he wasn’t a capable fill-in on defense. Allowing for empty-net goals and on-ice save percentage, we see that he was near the bottom of the team in plus/minus and that’s despite playing the worst possible opposition and getting more shifts in the offensive zone than in the defensive zone.

He’ll get another job in the NHL and since he’s cheap and brings intangibles, and he’s probably a fine option for an end of the roster reserve spot since he can play either forward or defense. If not for J-F Jacques, he might even be worth bringing back as an Oiler.

Dwayne Roloson

Roloson had a great bounce-back season, stealing the starter’s job from Mathieu Garon and single-handedly keeping the Oilers in the game on many nights. Portions of the fanbase have inexplicably soured on him, but he performed beyond expectations this past season.

He’s getting older and his side to side movement isn’t what it used to be, leaving the Oilers with a difficult decision. Roloson apparently wants a multi-year contract, but the Oilers would prefer to only re-sign him to one season as he isn’t a long-term solution. At this point he’s a good 1A option for most any team.

Dany Sabourin

Sabourin, who was unable to hold on to the Penguins starting job when Marc-Andre Fleury went down a year ago (Ty Conklin jumped past him on the depth chart) proved unable to even hold down the backup job this year. Pittsburgh sent a 4th round draft pick and some AHL depth (Ryan Stone) to Edmonton to make upgrade to Mathieu Garon (although in a brief showing Garon didn’t inspire confidence either).

Upon arriving in Edmonton Sabourin was sent to the minors and assigned to the AHL where he was just OK. If he’s lucky he’ll land a backup job somewhere; if not, he’ll end up as some team’s reserve goaltender.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, 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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#1 dyckster
June 04 2009, 12:14PM
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Good call on Kotalik, I say keep him only if there's a chance we lose Souray, those two would be reasonably equitible. I.E. Souray is a PP specialist, his defensive game however.... The only other thing you lose with Sheldon is his ability to be a massive on ice a-hole (I mean that in a good way). Kotalik however can't replace the other three as overall they have a lot more to add to our D. We've seen the best of Rollie I fear, time for him to move on. PLEASE don't succumb to the pressure and sign him to more than a year if at all.

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#2 Peter Pan
June 04 2009, 12:17PM
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I wouldn't resign any one of these guys. Tambo should forget about the present and start looking towards the future. Get Gagner, Grebber and Cogs to extentions and look to clear some spots. The Oil can't continue to run in circles. Its time to move forward and resigning these UFA losers is not the way to go.

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#3 JRocks247
June 04 2009, 12:24PM
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I think a more pressing issue is our restricted free agents. Souray should NOT go anywhere, please 'o' please keep him. Kotalik...meh. Struds....meh. Rollie, one year @ 2-3mill and one @ 1-2 would be okay by me. Still like the idea of prying Josh Harding out of Minny. Would be a risk, but I'll be Jiggy could be had for close to nothing.

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#4 RossCreek
June 04 2009, 12:25PM
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IMO, if I were the Oil, I would look to move out some of the vets in an effort to continue to change the culture. Guys like Moreau, Pisani and Staios could be moved for draft picks. I would look to bring in a new veteran core that is younger. Players of interest to me - Pahlsson, Malhotra, Betts, Fiddler, Moen, Samuelsson, Reinprecht, Reasoner and Colby Armstrong (RFA). Thoughts on getting Jason Chimera back for the 3rd line LW?

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#5 RossCreek
June 04 2009, 12:29PM
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Chimera-Malhotra-Armstrong nice 3rd line

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#6 DK0
June 04 2009, 12:29PM
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@ dyckster: Yeah, as much as I love Souray, and as much as I will miss his insanely strong pimp (read crosscheck) hand, maybe we fire him off for a nice 1st/2nd liner and keep Kotalik for the PP/ soft minutes. Then let Peckham step up and replace the grit that we lost with Souray. Judging solely on the raging boner i got when he beat the crap out of lemieux and then laughed in his face afterwards: I think Peckham could be a real good guy at clearing the net and getting under some skin.

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#7 dyckster
June 04 2009, 12:36PM
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@ RossCreek:

Re: Reasoner

I kinda like Marty, but ya think he's got a slight case of the Granato's when it comes to the Oil? Pride has to kick in eventually....doesn't it?

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#8 Souby
June 04 2009, 12:38PM
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I say keep Kotalik, provided that the price tag is not too high. He can play the point on the PP and if he parks himself in the slot regularly, the shot could hurt some people. Rool the dice and take your chances.

I think the d-man to go would be Gilbert. He is a young guy with offensive/puck moving ability that will garner interest from other teams. Packaged with the right forward, prospect(s) and/or picks, we could land a 1st line LW to play with Hemsky. Maybe we can pry Gagne out of Philly? Who knows.

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#9 RossCreek
June 04 2009, 12:41PM
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I've been throwing Gagne's name out for a while. Would you bite if Philly asked for Visnovsky thinking they could shave off some salary elsewhere?

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#10 Fiveandagame
June 04 2009, 12:44PM
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@ dyckster: How on earth can you knock Souray's defensive game last season?

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#11 RossCreek
June 04 2009, 12:45PM
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Colorado to name Joe Sacco new head coach. This smells off cheaping out for a couple more years til St. Patrick decides its time.

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#12 Souby
June 04 2009, 12:50PM
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@ RossCreek: I'd change Gilbert to Visnovsky, but if we are going big, why not sweeten our end and try and land both Gagne and Hartnell? It would never happen, but man would that be awesome if it did! "Dare to dream Arnold....Dare to dream"

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#13 dyckster
June 04 2009, 01:03PM
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@ Fiveandagame:

Have you ever really watched the guy play D? My 4 year old could beat him one on one. IMO he was out of position way to often in our zone. AND he's not far removed from..ahem -26 was it? On team that was +2 overall I might add. Ya he was +1 this year, but that was the worst of the top 4.

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#14 dyckster
June 04 2009, 01:08PM
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Sorry, the team (06/07 Habs) was actually -29 overall. +2 was the at home only. I still think his (Souray's) abilities without the puck are suspect at best.

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#15 Ogden Brother
June 04 2009, 01:10PM
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As someone mentioned, the real question is 12 months from now (or maybe sooner?) what are Gagner/Cogs worth? Recently Gregor questioned if Toews was a 4 million player yet, if that's the case I'd think we could extend Gagner/Cogs for (roughly) 5 million combined.... maybe 10/11 isn't so scary after all?

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#16 Ogden Brother
June 04 2009, 01:10PM
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dyckster wrote:

Sorry, the team (06/07 Habs) was actually -29 overall. +2 was the at home only. I still think his (Souray’s) abilities without the puck are suspect at best.

Ya he's not in the line-up for his defense. Take away his slapper and he's an AHL'er.

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#17 Jonathan Willis
June 04 2009, 01:22PM
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RossCreek wrote:

Colorado to name Joe Sacco new head coach. This smells off cheaping out for a couple more years til St. Patrick decides its time.

This is basically the same as if Edmonton had decided that Buchberger/Truitt could be a good NHL head coaching duo for 2008-09.

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#18 blu
June 04 2009, 01:22PM
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Talk D all you want, Souray has more ice presence than anyone else on our team right now. Opposition either gives him a wide berth or takes kamikaze runs at him. Either way, that creates opportunities away from the puck. That plus his shot, and we'd be stupid to move him.

If the NHL kept stats for "injuries caused by shots" Souray would reign supreme.

I'm still chuckling about Manny "Mile-Away" Malhotra. It's really funny to me that he ends up being the Rodney Rogers of the NHL.

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#19 Chaz
June 04 2009, 01:24PM
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People who are intent on getting rid of our MVP (Rollie) just because he wants two years baffles me. Even if he wants 1-2 Mill a year, I'm sure we could deal a contract like that if need be after next year. Not bringing him back could be a huge mistake IMO.

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#20 Jonathan Willis
June 04 2009, 01:24PM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

Take away his slapper and he’s an AHL’er.

Well, not quite. He's a great PK option, IMO, and very good in front of the net. He's not terribly mobile and he doesn't have much of a passing game, but he's plenty mean, can kill people, and knows where to be in his own end. The problem, IMO, is two-fold - his passing game doesn't allow quick transition and if he gets caught he stays caught because of his skating. Positionally I think he's pretty good.

He's also (surprisingly) not much of a shot-blocker. I wonder if his injury history plays into that?

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#21 dyckster
June 04 2009, 01:32PM
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@ Chaz:

Problem is (IMO) he turns 40 this year, can his body take another year (or two) of 65+ games? Problem #2, based on the way he played last year I don't think 1-2 million is gonna get his name on the dotted line. Somebody will offer him more dough....guaranteed.

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#22 Ogden Brother
June 04 2009, 01:36PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Ogden Brother wrote: Take away his slapper and he’s an AHL’er. Well, not quite. He’s a great PK option, IMO, and very good in front of the net. He’s not terribly mobile and he doesn’t have much of a passing game, but he’s plenty mean, can kill people, and knows where to be in his own end. The problem, IMO, is two-fold - his passing game doesn’t allow quick transition and if he gets caught he stays caught because of his skating. Positionally I think he’s pretty good. He’s also (surprisingly) not much of a shot-blocker. I wonder if his injury history plays into that?

Ya, I probably exagerated. But he's still likley no better then a bottom pairing Dman without his shot.

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#23 Chaz
June 04 2009, 01:41PM
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@ dyckster: Good point on the salary thing. The age worry doesn't concern me as much as guys with the compete level of Rollie just seem to stay elite longer. I guess I just hate the idea of letting him go without a good replacement in place. If the playoffs teaches us anything every year, it's that without a great goalie, teams go no where, no matter how skilled their skaters are.

Tambo's impressed me so far, so I have faith he'll make a good decision in this regards. I really miss the days when goal tending was not a major concern for this team.

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#24 Ogden Brother
June 04 2009, 01:47PM
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Chaz wrote:

@ dyckster: Good point on the salary thing. The age worry doesn’t concern me as much as guys with the compete level of Rollie just seem to stay elite longer. I guess I just hate the idea of letting him go without a good replacement in place. If the playoffs teaches us anything every year, it’s that without a great goalie, teams go no where, no matter how skilled their skaters are. Tambo’s impressed me so far, so I have faith he’ll make a good decision in this regards. I really miss the days when goal tending was not a major concern for this team.

?? Great goalies like Luongo/Brodeur/Lundquivst/Thomas were all bounced early.

I don't think many consider MAF great, and Osgood is always considerd the big question mark. Ward has had rough regular seasons and Bullin was brutal last year and not that great in the PO.

Why is everyone so impressed with Tambilini "so far" he didn't address any needs during the season... and well hasn't really done anything yet?

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#25 Cam
June 04 2009, 01:50PM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

Ya he’s not in the line-up for his defense. Take away his slapper and he’s an AHL’er.

Are you serious? He played for over twenty minutes a night and was a workhorse. He clears the net, he checks, he is calm with the puck. Without a slapper he's still better than Staios, so how can you be serious.

To be +1 playing against the opposition he was playing against ona team that did as poorly as the Oilers last season is no small feat. AHL player, my a$$.

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#26 Ogden Brother
June 04 2009, 01:54PM
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Cam wrote:

Ogden Brother wrote: Ya he’s not in the line-up for his defense. Take away his slapper and he’s an AHL’er. Are you serious? He played for over twenty minutes a night and was a workhorse. He clears the net, he checks, he is calm with the puck. Without a slapper he’s still better than Staios, so how can you be serious. To be +1 playing against the opposition he was playing against ona team that did as poorly as the Oilers last season is no small feat. AHL player, my a$$.

Ya I bumped it up to 3rd pairing Dman... and ya I'm serious.

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#27 dyckster
June 04 2009, 01:59PM
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Cam wrote:

AHL player, my a$$.

Ummmmmmm, he already admitted he exaggerated a little. Still, I'm not sold on the virtues of SS, other than his shot and his mean streak....nuff said about him (by me anyway).

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#28 Chaz
June 04 2009, 02:08PM
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@ Ogden Brother: If you've watched the playoffs this year, I assume you would agree that the two goalies who have played the best are in the finals right now. Just like Fuhr in his prime, it's all about making big saves at the right time, not about leading the save percentage race during the regular season. IMO it's goalies with the highest level of competitiveness who do this most often (IE: Rollie).

As far as Tambo is concerned, I'm happy with the coaching change, and I liked the deadline deals. Having O'Sullivan who is signed as opposed to losing Cole for nothing was a great move IMO. I also like the fact that he recognizes our weaknesses (IE: Too many similar smallish players) even though in doing so he throws K Lowe under the bus.

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#29 Ogden Brother
June 04 2009, 02:56PM
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Chaz wrote:

@ Ogden Brother: If you’ve watched the playoffs this year, I assume you would agree that the two goalies who have played the best are in the finals right now. Just like Fuhr in his prime, it’s all about making big saves at the right time, not about leading the save percentage race during the regular season. IMO it’s goalies with the highest level of competitiveness who do this most often (IE: Rollie). As far as Tambo is concerned, I’m happy with the coaching change, and I liked the deadline deals. Having O’Sullivan who is signed as opposed to losing Cole for nothing was a great move IMO. I also like the fact that he recognizes our weaknesses (IE: Too many similar smallish players) even though in doing so he throws K Lowe under the bus.

Those are two average goalies that are playing great. A big difference.

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#30 Wanye Gretz
June 04 2009, 03:24PM
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"Pending Demise of All Franchises Near The Salary Cap™(2010-11)"

On behalf of the pantheon of lawyers retained by the OilersNation I approve of this trademark.

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#31 Ogden Brother
June 04 2009, 04:07PM
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"Between now and the Pending Demise of All Franchises Near The Salary Cap™(2010-11)"

Do you really think the NHL will force a large % of the few teams in the league propping up NHL's balance sheet to burry contracts in the A/buyouts?

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#32 roger nadeau
June 04 2009, 04:57PM
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i have always wanted to rool the dice.

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#33 RossCreek
June 04 2009, 07:32PM
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Rool one up

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#34 ScubaSteve
June 04 2009, 09:28PM
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All this talk about Roli being our MVP so we need to bring him back. Seems to me we were flying the same flag last year about Garon, and look how that turned out. Roli is done, over the hill. He works hard, yes, but this year only, last year when Garon took his job, Roli was lazy, uninterested, and had no compete. Which Roli comes back for 09/10?

If we're going to have an average Goalie, why not a young average goalie that could mature into a stud?

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#35 Oilersordeath
June 05 2009, 09:52AM
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Lets not forget what Souray did to that sh-t talker in Minnesota for you Souray doggers. He's one of the better fighters(IMO) in the league when he's forced to fight. He's knocked some fuc__rs out!!

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#36 risto
June 05 2009, 02:11PM
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I disagree about Roloson. He stole a game against SJ in the spring, and did not look the same the rest of the way. So many soft goals in the 1st period. His attitude is defeatist, such that if we are winning and the opposition scores, Roli inevitably spears the guy screening him, slams his stick in frustration, or gives off such odious body language that the other team smells blood, cues the comeback. He also had MacT's ear, and played when he wanted to - not when he needed to.

Our so-called leadership just didn't last year, and Roli is near the top of that pile of veterans who shouldn't be back. They simply brought no passion (remember the kid line-fuelled winning streak sans Horcoff in spring 08)and they all looked like pampered 30-somethings enjoying the free ride the media gave them while MacT, Penner, Nilsson etc... played the soap opera game.

This shouldn't be the WHA with Jacques Plante in the pipes, and that team was middling below average too.

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