The Blue

Lowetide
July 08 2010 07:43AM

A glance at the current Oilers depth chart tells us a lot about the future. Up front, this team is loaded with tremendous potential. The list of young forwards (Gagner, Cogliano, Brule with the big league team; Hall, MPS, Eberle, Omark, Hartikainen, Lander, Vande Velde) is long, deep and varied; I dare say the only time this team has enjoyed such a large list of potential quality forwards was 79-81 (although the mid-90's had a large and impressive group). 

The goaltending has two young NHLers (JDD, DD) trying to establish themselves along with two prospects bubbling under (Olivier Roy might be very good; Tyler Bunz is the new hire).

The problem area is the Blue. Only Ladislav Smid (24) is young and established, and there is no "complete" talent among the prospects. This was brought into view on the Oilers one-hour pre-draft show (which I enjoyed, as a draft junkie) Oil Change. At one point Stu (Magnificent Bastard) MacGregor asks the room "do we have an Erik Gudbranson?" and the answer from the scouts is in the negative.

I think the Oilers have to be very aggressive in the next 12 months. They might end up using the 2011 lottery pick on a stud D prospect, they may end up dealing one of the high end veteran wingers (Hemsky & Penner) and they may try to sign some European and college free agents. Here is a quick list of the current AHL "bubbling under" group, the kids most likely to play this season if one of the current 6 (Whitney-Gilbert; Smid-Foster; Vandeermeer-Strudwick) suffers an injury.

  1. D Theo Peckham: Sometimes in life opportunity knocks and man I hope this kid answers the door. When healthy and fit, he's a strong, tough defender with a mean streak and a willingness to drop the gloves. Tom Renney has mentioned him as a player he's excited about seeing at training camp in the fall. Injury and conditioning issues have been a problem, but the Oilers badly need developing defenseman and he is the best of the group.
  2. D Alex Plante: Made big strides this season and is certainly part of the future. His pro debut was the most impressive in the entire system. Injuries and callups forced Plante up the depth chart and he played well, so well in fact the club rewarded him with a call to the show (4gp, +1) last season. He's in a position now to play well in Okla City and be one of the first callups when injuries occur. Alex Plante is not an NHL defenseman yet, but the light has turned on and he's trending well. Also important to consider: anecdotal evidence that Plante was playing against some of the tougher opposition in the AHL (as a rookie) last season. It's a strong tell.
  3. D Jeff Petry: His NHLE (82gp, 4-22-26) makes him (once again) the strongest offensive defenseman in the system and his wider range of skills gives us some hope for a more complete defender than someone like Chorney (Petry is 4 inches and 20 pounds bigger than Chorney). Impressed with skating and wingspan at this week's Oilers camp, he is the one player on this list with a wide range of skills.
  4. D Taylor Chorney: A fine skater who has some holes defensively. I think there is probably concern in the Oilers organization about this player. He was drafted right after the lockout, when NHL teams believed puck movers would rule the earth. He is not strong enough to win puck battles and is miles from being able to anchor a big league pairing. Of all the top level draft picks on defense, this player will probably benefit the most from the added AHL veteran group (Petiot, Taylor, etc) in Okla City.
  5. D Johan Motin: Motin made his pro debut and performed well. His numbers (he's not an offensive defender) are rock solid in the AHL (55gp, 1-5-6 -5 on a terrible team) and he would rank higher if there was any evidence he played against tough competition in the minors. I think he is the type of player who will improve over the next couple of seasons as he adjusts to the length of the season and the physical wear and tear. He is exactly the player-type this organization needs at this time, but something tells me he's a fair distance from Plante in terms of NHL readiness. It'll take some time.

History tells us that at least a couple of these players will not develop as hoped, due to injury and ineffectiveness. The top pro prospects at the AHL level 10 years ago were Chris Hajt and Alex Henry; neither developed as a big league regular (although the list above is far superior). 

Defensemen take a long time to develop. They tend to be effective deeper into their 30's (once they establish themselves), so Oiler fans can take heart in the fact that Tom Gilbert and Ryan Whitney are signed long term. We should expect a high draft pick to be spent on a defenseman next summer and an aggressive attempt by the procurement department to uncover gems through free agency.

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Lowetide has been one of the Oilogosphere's shining lights for over a century. You can check him out here at OilersNation and at lowetide.ca. He is also the host of Lowdown with Lowetide weekday mornings 10-noon on TSN 1260.
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#1 book¡e
July 08 2010, 07:47AM
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Nice photo LT

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#2 Woogie
July 08 2010, 07:58AM
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MY EYES!!!!

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#3 BUCK75
July 08 2010, 08:05AM
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Did Martin Marincin skate at the conditioning camp? If so, what is his story. They seem pretty high on him, I guess he will come here a couple times during the Dub season.

I wouldn't mind using our pick next summer to get our stud dman, but we also have some assets at forward that we might be able to get a dman from another organization that has soured. Colten Teubert or even Carl Alzner are examples.

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#4 the tikk
July 08 2010, 08:06AM
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Yeah, but a stud D prospect selected in the 2011 draft likely isn't playing impact minutes in the majors until 2015. Heck, Hall could be UFA shortly thereafter.

If we're overloaded with quality F, flip something for a quality, mid-twenties D. If Brewer and two maybes can get you CFP, I'd rather balance out the depth chart through trade and continue drafting BPA - particularly in the 1st round.

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@the tikk

That's why I think you make a trade now or next year for a prospect with 2-3 years of development under his belt.

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#6 Chaz
July 08 2010, 08:11AM
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What does "NHLE" mean? It's in the blurb about Jeff Petry? Anyone?....

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LT

You have anything on this Moran character we signed?

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#8 BUCK75
July 08 2010, 08:17AM
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@the tikk

I suppose it depends. The last couple of drafts the lottery pick dmen stepped right in & contributed pretty huge. Look at Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian, Victor Hedman.

Even some guys out of the top 10 picks have stepped in & made big contributions like Tyler Myers or Erik Karlsson in Ottawa.

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#9 freeze
July 08 2010, 08:18AM
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@Chaz

NHL Equivalency. Take junior or Euro stats and translate them into NHL numbers. (That is a rough answer. LT or JW could probably be more accurate or descriptive. I believe it is a Gabe Desjardins stat.)

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#10 Woodguy
July 08 2010, 08:18AM
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I agree with tikk, that when this team is ready to challenge for a playoff spot (as early as 11/12?), you sell from your position of strength to shore up the defence.

Since Dmen take so long to become NHL ready (one wag says they develop by sundial), it makes the most sense to use your highest draft picks for offensive forwards.

Offensive forwards become NHL ready quicker, and are always in high demand. They are also the most expensive item to procure when not drafted, whether its through trade or FA signing.

Therefore it makes sense to try to load up on the expensive commodity when they are the cheapest (draft) and sell later to get what you need (NHL ready Dmen)

However, if you have a chance to draft a "Franchise Dman" (Pronger, Neidermayer, Doughty, possibly Larsson etc), you do it with a high pick as "Franchise Dmen" are more rare than scoring forwards, and are as impossible to acquire outside the draft as high scoring Centers.

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#11 Oilspill
July 08 2010, 08:20AM
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Don't forget Foster. He's just over a year older than Gilbert and Whitney, and has lost a year due to the gruesome femur injury. I think he'll be a keeper as well for the next 5 or so years. As mentioned, Plante seems to be coming along well and Petry is a couple years removed. We don't have the gamebreaker, but I wouldn't call our group exactly weak either. In saying that, the top end D are few and far between. Much like a first line center, you're most likely going to have to draft one as teams aren't really willing to give them up in a trade.

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I wonder if there is anyone out in Europe that the Oilers can sign to help their depth on d? Why not go the Burke route and instead of signing NCAA players, go after a bunch of Euros? Maybe you get lucky like they did with Bozak?

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#13 Racki
July 08 2010, 08:32AM
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First off.. how dare you... it takes brass balls to post that pic ;)

Secondly, I've been one crying for an all around defenseman for quite some time (basically since Pronger left). At the very least, I'd like to see a shutdown d-man here, but I could definitely handle seeing an all around d-man of the Doughty, Pietrangelo, etc. mold.

I can't see the Oilers having a catastrophic meltdown this season again, but perhaps it would be wise to stock up on a couple more first rounders well ahead of schedule and hope that by sheer luck we land a pick that falls within the top 3. The next, next-Lidstrom awaits in that draft (Adam Larsson).

But I definitely would be fine to see Hemsky and our pick moved and perhaps a bit more sweetening to land an already drafted d-prospect. That route will definitely be difficult though.

Anyways, I've seen Jeff Petry play a little bit this year (thank you Big10 channel) and he looked pretty solid at both ends. Only thing that was a concern was that in college hockey there didn't seem to be any fear of roaming freely in your defensive zone. His positional play was a bit worrisome, but it worked at that level. Hopefully he can make the adjustment to the NHL though where you'd eventually get burned if you attempted such stunts. One thing I did love about him though is that he was nearly consistently leading the rush (and I mean lead - Paul Coffey-style, although I wouldn't dare compare him to Coffey). He's also a big kid who likes to be physical around the net.

So as it stands, right now he's our most complete D prospect, IMHO. But I definitely would love to see a home-run D prospect in our system too.

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#14 I'm a Scientist!
July 08 2010, 08:38AM
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This might be a dumb question, but are there any other teams that are overloaded with D prospects and don't have a lot of forward prospects? Vancouver has a ton of defense signed right now...what does this AHL system hold? Didn't i read somewhere that they were looking for a dynamic winger? Could a match be made anywhere? Perhaps that is just too easy.

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#15 Oilman
July 08 2010, 08:38AM
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I think it'd be fun to caption the Pronger photo. Something like:

"Lauren? Where are you going? Are you coming back? Who's going to cook supper? Honey????"

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#16 tkfisher
July 08 2010, 08:48AM
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A few words about our next D target. Paul Postma!!! http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/pdisplay.php?pid=82963 his family is from here and i work with his aunty. She talks about him all the time and from what i've seen this kids is going to be a very good one. Plus he and Plante played Jr. together. Get it done Oilers!!!

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#17 BUCK75
July 08 2010, 08:52AM
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@I'm a Scientist!

Van has no D in system. Their stud Dman died in a motorcycle accident. I like Carl Alzner, a top 5 pick & passed by John Carlsson in Washington.

LA has got a couple of young Canadian Dmen, Thomas Hickey & Colten Teubert. With Scuderri locked up for a while, Johnson & Doughty it might be tough for both of them to crack the team. Hickey is more of a playmaker like Doughty while Teubert would be like a Matt Greene. We need another Matt Greene type, especilly if Peckham doesn't become that guy.

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@BUCK75

I think Peckham can become Matt Greene. It's just a matter of when. Smid is there too, and I wonder if Vandermeer can fill that void for now?

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#19 I'm a Scientist!
July 08 2010, 09:06AM
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@BUCK75

Hmmm, good to know. Thank you for letting me know!

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#20 Yakman
July 08 2010, 09:09AM
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I believe Steve Yzerman is on record saying that Tampa Bay has too many D-Men...

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#21 Matt Henderson
July 08 2010, 09:11AM
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I really liked Plante when he played here. He stuck to a simple game that translated well to the NHL. I hope he continues to trend up.

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#22 Ashley
July 08 2010, 09:14AM
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It's easy to blue-sky when talking about our promising young forwards as we oiler fans are prone to do. So good post to highlight the chasm in talent on our blue. As it stands, we will start the season with 3 real NHL defenseman (4 if you include the dutchman), none of whom would be considered in the top pairing on any other NHL team. The prospects look promising, but they are just that...prospects. Half of those listed will probably become NHL players (I'm going with the three P's Plante, Peckham, Petry) as long as they can stay healthy. Hopefully one will surprise as a top-pairing defenseman, but I doubt it. They are tracking as average, bottom 4 defenseman, and those are our BEST prospects.

This must be forefront on management's radar. Lowe has always put high value on quality blue, so I doubt he needs to be told how weak his blue is. God help our goaltenders next year, it's going to be ugly. 40 shots against per game with 12-15 high quality scoring chances (breakaways, 2on1's, point blank shots from the slot uncontested and the like).....is that too much?

LT, the contrast from the photo to your post is striking. Thinking about what depressing shape the blue is in makes me appreciate an elite defenseman like Pronger. His tenure was short, but he was a helluva an Oiler for that year.

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@Yakman

Kinda happens when your team signs 3 33 year olds in the last 2 free agencies.

Ty Wishart seems intriguing.

He has the size, mobility and the hockey sense to be a dominant defenseman, and is regularly matched against some of the opponents’ top players. In addition to his strength as a defenseman, he has a powerful shot and strong offensive capability.

Lashoff is another, but he has to be getting close to making the NHL or he will be a bust. Another choice would be Vladimir Mihalik who is Chara like in size and is either bust or going to be a helluva player.

http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/pdisplay.php?pid=87911

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#24 Mike Krushelnyski
July 08 2010, 09:25AM
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@BUCK75

I really like the look of Teubert, I think he's bigger and more skilled than Matt Greene, and seems to have developed a mean streak from a very young age. The problem I've heard with him is his attitude, that he's an overly cocky guy and bad for the locker room. Still, I wouldn't mind taking a chance on him. Sometimes a change of scenery can help clear up those sort of problems.

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#25 yegCopywriter
July 08 2010, 09:37AM
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Matt Henderson wrote:

I really liked Plante when he played here. He stuck to a simple game that translated well to the NHL. I hope he continues to trend up.

I saw Plante live, sitting behind the net for the Philly game in February. He was impressive. Good positionally, physical, rode his man out to the boards, etc.

I was worried the first couple years after he got drafted, but I'm no longer worried. He'll be good.

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#26 Dee Dee
July 08 2010, 09:41AM
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Meh, who needs a great defense.

The Oilers will start winning games 6-5 every night like the boys on the bus did :-)

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#27 Mike Krushelnyski
July 08 2010, 09:43AM
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Dee Dee wrote:

Meh, who needs a great defense.

The Oilers will start winning games 6-5 every night like the boys on the bus did :-)

We're short a Paul Coffey for that...

edit: This gave me a horrible flashback to the misguided optimism heading into the 06-07 season: "Hemsky, Horcoff, Penner, Sykora and Lupul! We're going to win every game 6-5!!" Oh god... if we'd only known.

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#28 9 Inches Uncut
July 08 2010, 10:00AM
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Plante made me a believer in him last year.

As for next year's draft. I believe the Oilers want a crusty defenseman. They wanted a Gudbranson type guy and went hard after Florida's pick in the hopes of getting Macilrath.

I don't think the Oilers will be a lottery team next year, but likely top 10. There would be a local boy that is currently playing in Saskatoon by the name of Duncan Siemens who fits the bill of being big and pretty crusty, but he is also a smooth skater and wants to prove he can put up the points.

He's projected to go around the area the Oilers would be picking and he's the sort of kid that let's us have it both ways regarding defenseman.

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#29 linnaeus
July 08 2010, 10:06AM
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How about we go for Brett Carson from the Carolina Hurricaine who we can sign in free agency. He is a big kid from the west. He played for the Calgary Hitmen and was a dominant junior. he then served an apprenticeship in the AHL. Last year he moved up to a regular job (due to injury) in NHL. He has already proved he can handle 3/4 minutes in the NHL on a bad team and thrive. At 25 his peak years as a D will be about the time the cluster hits its prime.

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#30 madjam
July 08 2010, 10:27AM
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Looking like the veterans on next years squad up front are going to be Penner, Horcoff , Hemsky and Stortini. Gagner and Gogs with maybe Brule will be our next generation forwards . Svensson , Hall, OMark , Eberle i pencil in for this years squad . Fraser gets in as a trade .

Only question is who "rides the pine " with those top twelve likely ? Is it worth keeping Comrie and taking up another spot for someone who might also develop like Hartekeinen ? Maybe a young tough guy that we might still trade for like a Simmonds , etc ?

Captaincy will remain open until Renney forsees whom will emerge as leader of the young "dirty dozen " .

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#31 The Real Scuba Steve
July 08 2010, 10:27AM
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I have to say I did not expect to see Pronger in an oil jersey in Oilnation.

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#32 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
July 08 2010, 10:39AM
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Been saying it for a while, shift some of our riches up front for their equivalent on the back end.

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#33 jake
July 08 2010, 10:52AM
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Plante - anyone notice on his call-up he wasn't scrambling around much like were are used to seeing from the D recent years? An anomaly for sure.

Gilbert - Many comments since last March about how he and Whitney are top pairing. Then Gilbert should be able to play top line with with just about any partner, right? I am just not sold. Maybe he goes another gear this year. Hoping he gets that yellow stripe of his back.

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#34 I'm a Scientist!
July 08 2010, 10:54AM
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@9 Inches Uncut

Preeeeety awkward name choice for a site that is probably 95% male. Then again, i am rocking a unicorn...

*goes about his business*

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#35 MrCondor
July 08 2010, 11:06AM
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Don't forget free agency. If we are truly contenders in 3 years as everyone predicts, you can get quality people at only a slight markup

*crosses fingers for Webber*

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#36 madjam
July 08 2010, 11:18AM
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OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F wrote:

Been saying it for a while, shift some of our riches up front for their equivalent on the back end.

Was originally hoping for same thing . With such a young core ,and many still soft and diminutive , i feel Oilers went out for more muscle than skill on back end to protect them !All part of the rebuilding phase for next two seasons i suppose . How will it pan out is the question .

Looking more like Oilers finishing position next year will lie upon how well the rookies do , moreso than the veterans and second generation ones do - surrounded by a tough but defensively challenged back end and goaltending .

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#37 Senator Theo
July 08 2010, 11:45AM
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Say what you like about Pronger, but that is one bad ass MF'n pic.

We're always wanting to trade Cogs - maybe we could be shopping him for a defense prospect?

EDIT: It can't be said often enough: Chris Pronger has terrible hair.

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#38 MrCondor
July 08 2010, 11:45AM
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Question for the smart kids:

Is there a salary cap for AHL teams? The oilers have made quite a few signings for OKC at pretty solid AHL bucks. Can you just throw money at an minor league team to make it competitive?

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@MrCondor

Pretty sure there is no cap. There is talks of guys sending players like Huet to the minors and Nylander was there last year, so I can't see there being one.

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#40 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
July 08 2010, 12:06PM
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MrCondor wrote:

Question for the smart kids:

Is there a salary cap for AHL teams? The oilers have made quite a few signings for OKC at pretty solid AHL bucks. Can you just throw money at an minor league team to make it competitive?

there is no AHL cap

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#41 Dan the Man
July 08 2010, 12:09PM
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MrCondor wrote:

Question for the smart kids:

Is there a salary cap for AHL teams? The oilers have made quite a few signings for OKC at pretty solid AHL bucks. Can you just throw money at an minor league team to make it competitive?

Found this article from Jan 2010 about the AHL Cap.

PORTLAND, Maine - As is his custom during the annual AHL All-Star Classic, league president David Andrews delivered his state-of-the-league address Tuesday.

Andrews took on several topics, among them the issue of a salary cap, which the AHL currently does not have.

http://thetimes-tribune.com/sports/penguins/ahl-president-talks-salary-cap-in-state-of-league-address-1.559140

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#42 esa tikkanen
July 08 2010, 12:10PM
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Has anyone confirmed one way or another whether or not Peckham needs to clear waivers? There is an assumption amongst many that he does, however he started playing in the AHL as a 19 year old and I believe that makes the issue more complex.

Have a decisive answer on this?

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#43 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
July 08 2010, 12:23PM
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esa tikkanen wrote:

Has anyone confirmed one way or another whether or not Peckham needs to clear waivers? There is an assumption amongst many that he does, however he started playing in the AHL as a 19 year old and I believe that makes the issue more complex.

Have a decisive answer on this?

after the sh*tshow from last summer with the brule and waivers question, i wish you luck in finding out any info that can be considered decisive...

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#44 Dan the Man
July 08 2010, 12:43PM
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esa tikkanen wrote:

Has anyone confirmed one way or another whether or not Peckham needs to clear waivers? There is an assumption amongst many that he does, however he started playing in the AHL as a 19 year old and I believe that makes the issue more complex.

Have a decisive answer on this?

We should check with Rick Olczyk, since it's his job he would definitely know for sure.....oh wait....ummm...forget it.

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#45 Woogie
July 08 2010, 12:44PM
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I'm a Scientist! wrote:

Preeeeety awkward name choice for a site that is probably 95% male. Then again, i am rocking a unicorn...

*goes about his business*

I love the unicorn

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#46 PerryK
July 08 2010, 12:51PM
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tkfisher wrote:

A few words about our next D target. Paul Postma!!! http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/pdisplay.php?pid=82963 his family is from here and i work with his aunty. She talks about him all the time and from what i've seen this kids is going to be a very good one. Plus he and Plante played Jr. together. Get it done Oilers!!!

Wow! Those are great numbers. How did he manage to fly by under the radar for so long?

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#47 bringsmythback
July 08 2010, 01:01PM
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When oilers getting jagar haha

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#48 speeds
July 08 2010, 01:03PM
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cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan wrote:

after the sh*tshow from last summer with the brule and waivers question, i wish you luck in finding out any info that can be considered decisive...

Peckham has to clear waivers.

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#49 Mike Krushelnyski
July 08 2010, 01:07PM
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bringsmythback wrote:

When oilers getting jagar haha

Is that the love child of Jaromir Jagr and Mick Jagger? When he turns 18 I suppose...

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#50 DSF
July 08 2010, 01:17PM
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Vancouver has ni D in the system?

Are you nuts?

Try this guy: “Kevin has had a great year with the Giants and improved as the season went along,” said Hay. “He was a very reliable player for us all season. He was a big factor in our success this year, and we congratulate him on his first pro contract.” This past season, Connauton set the Giants single season records for points by a defenseman with 72 and goals by a defenseman with 24, establishing those records will playing in 69 of the Giants 72 games. He also ended the season tied for the league lead in points by a defenseman and was named a WHL Western Conference First Team All-Star."

http://www.whl.ca/giants-kevin-connauton-signs-with-vancouver-canucks-p142421

Or these guys:

http://www.vancouversun.com/sports/Prospect+Chris+Tanev+height+mirrors+Canucks+sudden+blue+line+depth/3248342/story.html

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