July 02 2010 06:56AM
This is Jason Smith. He's a good example of the time if takes for NHL defensemen to develop. New Jersey dealt him for immediate help one trade deadline, old-timey-coach didn't like the cut of his jib in Toronto and sent him away one other time.
When Jason Smith arrived in Edmonton he was battle-hardened, had leadership qualities, had learned to deal with injury, had a boatload of defensive talent and was willing to do damn near anything to establish himself in Edmonton. It takes time to learn NHL defense. A lot of good ones slip away to other teams in their mid-20's.
Steve Tambellini and the Edmonton Oilers are having a nice summer. The entry draft went very well, with Stu (Magnificent Bastard) MacGregor delivering a strong draft list that includes potential Calder candidate Taylor Hall.
The club placed three veterans on waivers (Moreau, Nilsson, O'Sullivan) for the purpose of buying out their contracts only to see the Hockey Gods bless them twice (Moreau claimed by the Jackets and a solid return in exchange for O'Sullivan).
The club entered free agency with a reasonable shopping list and some walking around money.
In the early hours of free agency we heard the Oilers were "in the mix" for Derek Boogaard and Manny Malhotra. These players address specific needs but the eventual pricetag was way too high, indicating Steve Tambellini backed off when the bidding got crazy.
His signing of defenseman Kurtis Foster--at a price of 1.8M times 2 years--has an excellent chance of being a value contract. He's big, has good footspeed and can play the position. He also possesses one outstanding skill--a monster shot from the point. The Oilers are likely to send Sheldon Souray away in trade sometime this summer, so the cannon from the point from Foster means one more need is covered with this free agent signing.
Foster has a nice range of skills, has proven he can help a powerplay and be successful against softer NHL opposition; if there's another gear there this could be a very good acquisition. We should also remember that long list of defensemen who developed late (Jason Smith, Steve Staios, others) and were available to the Oilers at less than 100 cents on the dollar. Foster could find a home in Edmonton, it's happened before.
No matter the outcome, it's a solid bet.
The items remaining on the Oilers shopping list--a veteran center who can win faceoffs; an enforcer who can protect the small and inexperienced forwards; possibly a veteran 2-way winger to mentor the kids ala Fernando Pisani--are all out there and available. Some of the candidates the team might be looking at include Chris Higgins, Eric Belanger and Zenon Konopka.
Steve Tambellini has money in his pocket for free agents, he has the lessons learned from the Phoenix Coyotes and their late summer value contracts a year ago, and he has veteran defenseman Sheldon Souray.
This is turning into a very nice summer.
UPDATE: Oilers have signed Jason Strudwick along with AHL veteran defender Richard Petiot this morning. Also, Ryan Rishaug is reporting that Sheldon Souray has been placed on waivers.