June 30 2011 05:48PM
‘Twas the day before free agency, and for the Oilers it was a busy one. First came news that the team had inked pending restricted free agent Ladislav Smid to a two-year contract. This was followed by the announcement that Sheldon Souray had been placed on unconditional waivers for the purposes of buying out his contract. Then we learned that Colin Fraser, freshly traded to Los Angeles in the Smyth deal, is seriously injured and will require surgery – leaving Kings’ G.M. Dean Lombardi miffed and a question mark on what happens next.
Steve Tambellini is slated to address these issues at a press conference any minute now.
I will of course be updating this post once Tambellini has made some comments, but there is no reason not to make some preliminary comments.
On the Smid deal, I’m not wild about the money – two years at $2.25 million per. According to Nhlnumbers.com, that makes him the 89th-highest paid defender under contract for next season, on par with Andrew Ference, Hal Gill and Joe Corvo. Given that he was a restricted free agent coming off a deal with a cap hit of $1.3 million, I would argue that the Oilers overpaid by a bit here for a guy who, at this moment in time, is a third pairing defenseman. Elsewhere, David Staples voices injury concerns, while Copper & Blue has a similar take to myself – he’s a good defenseman signed for a deal that was a little rich.
The Souray buyout has been coming for a long time, and is no surprise. The Oilers will have a $2.4 million cap hit next season, and $1.5 million in 2012-13.
On the Colin Fraser situation, I’d like to reserve comment until I hear the Oilers’ perspective. My initial thoughts were a) the Kings didn’t do their due diligence here and b) if the Oilers were aware of the injury, it’s an awfully low move. My suspicion is the Oilers were unaware of the severity of Fraser’s injury, but that there’s no sense in needlessly aggravating Lombardi when it probably won’t cost very much to make the Smyth deal right.
Neither Team 1260 or 630 CHED is carrying the press conference live, and it isn't available on the Oilers' site at this point in time, but the Oilers' official Twitter feed is passing along select comments.
First off, Tambellini is mad that medical information is coming out. I can see where he's coming from on Brule, but given that Fraser is now Kings' property, this strikes me as less than especially relevant in the latter case.
Additionally, Tambellini is standing by the assessment of his medical people, who cleared Fraser to start training on Wednesday. I'm not sure if that's an indictment of the medical people, but at least Tambellini isn't running out "caveat emptor" as a defense.
Awesome - Dan Tencer is just repeating the Tweets on 630 CHED without identifying where they're coming from. Word for word quotations, no less.
Tambellini wants to sign "a player or two" that adds "poise, experience and grit," but it sounds like he'll be shopping in the bargain bin rather than making a splash on Day One. He also suggested he might add a defenseman if there's a fit that wants to play in Edmonton.
The Souray buyout was "last resort," so no surprises there.
Tambellini's quote on Smid talks about his impact in the dressing room and how much he wants to be in Edmonton, but talks about how playing in the top-four is a "goal." It's good that Tambellini recognizes him as a third-pairing guy, but I'd like it better if he had managed to get the cap hit down one or two hundred grand.
Tambellini doesn't need to argue caveat emptor; Dan Tencer is doing it for him, complaining that the Kings aren't taking ownership of the Fraser injury, and calling the TSN reporters L.A.'s 'official media crew.' There's a definite point here, but if the Oilers assured Los Angeles that Fraser was ready when in fact he was not, I don't know that the blame is entirely on the Kings.
And it continues. Tencer describes the trade as the Kings "being taken out behind the wood shed," blames some of the anger on how awful Dustin Penner was, and suggests that the Kings had no idea that Colin Fraser suffered an injury this season. Maybe it's just me, but knowing a player was hurt is completely different from knowing a player was hurt and now has to undergo major surgery. To me, the crux of the matter is what exactly the Oilers guaranteed Los Angeles - if they said Fraser was ready to start training, then I think they have to wear some of this. If not, this is on L.A.
If you want to beat Dan Tencer to the audio of the press conference, it can be found here.
Just listening to Tambellini now; he sounds like this is simply a difference between the Oilers' assessment and the Kings' assessment. Ryan Rishaug (I think) asks a sharp question, requesting that Tambellini clarify, and again it sounds like the Oilers feel Fraser could play without the surgery, while L.A. views the surgery as essential.
Asked if the Oilers might offer Los Angeles additional compensation, Tambellini is clear: "Absolutely not."
Further on Souray, Tambellini says, "For whatever reason, it didn't work out..."
Tambellini, asked whether Lombardi's comments might hurt Edmonton's reputation (which, in the words of the reporter asking, "has already taken a few knocks"): "Absolutely not. We're consistent, we're open, and this organization has very high standards."
Tambellini acknowledges the need for a guy who can take defensive zone draws, but sounds pessimistic about the Oilers' chances of landing such a player via free agency, suggesting that a move might come via trade later.
The Oilers see Smid as a player who could emerge as a first-rate shutdown guy; Tambellini twice keyed in on the quality of the opposition Smid might play against going forward.
That's what I got out of the media availability session, and I find that my thoughts haven't changed much from prior to it. The Fraser situation seems a little fishy, and given the problems Edmonton has had with injuries (along with Souray's rather emphatic comments on that point) I'm not entirely comfortable with the fact that the Oilers cleared him while the Kings feel he needs surgery. The Souray buyout was expected and understandable, and while I'm still not overjoyed with the dollar figure Smid signed for it is nice to hear that the Oilers view him as a shutdown guy going forward. What did everyone else think?
A couple of final notes: First off, Dan Tencer feels the quotes above unfairly portray his point of view, and that later in his show he presented the other side of the story. I switched to the Tambellini press conference rather than continuing to listen to Tencer's show, so that's certainly possible and I would advise readers to remember that the Tencer points above are an incomplete listing of his thoughts on the subject - they were the initial reaction, nothing more.
Secondly, I don't want people to read into my comments that I'm condemning Steve Tambellini - I'm not. I don't have enough information to know whether the Kings or Oilers doctors are correct, or if that is an area where competent professionals might disagree. I do, however, view finding the answer as being quite important - either so the Oilers can address a problem on their staff, or so the team can move on with confidence in the judgement of their medical professionals.