April 16 2013 06:48PM
With a new GM on the hot seat, you know this Edmonton Oiler roster will not stay the same. Who goes? Hall? Uh, no. Ebs? Get real. The Nuge? Sure--center's a strong spot on the roster---NOT! Not Hall, not Nuge, not Ebs not Schultz not........YAK CITY?
Elliotte Friedman's 30 Thoughts are a "must read" this week for Oiler fans--there's a lot of things to think about for the fanbase in Friedman's article--and it's likely that some of the verbal laid down is actually being mulled over in Oiler offices where the big chairs sit.
- Friedman: One stat the organization is very concerned about: Their average shot differential (minus-5.8) is worst in the NHL.
We've talked about this through the winter--especially in regard to that 2nd line led by Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky. The LW's on that line have been Nail Yakupov and Magnus Paajarvi, and I think the exit ramp this summer probably involves one of those 4 names.
HANDICAPPING THE FOUR
If we're betting on which of these men are likely to be sent away, I'll suggest the chances are as follows:
- 40% Sam Gagner. Smaller skill center with tons of talent, Oilers decision to give him a one year deal last year makes him a tough signing this year (they will be buying free agent seasons).
- 25% Nail Yakupov. I don't see it, trading a #1 overall this early means you have to be absolutely certain he isn't going to turn into a franchise player. I don't think we know yet.
- 25% Ales Hemsky. A very skilled winger with excellent skill could be the cornerstone for a deal with a team willing to take on a player with an expiring contract. The value will be less due to the contract, though.
- 10% Magnus Paajarvi. He's this low because I don't think his value is enough to bring back what Edmonton needs. Besides, he could end up being that very effective forward Edmonton is looking for right now.
WHAT DOES FRIEDMAN SAY?
The headliner from Friedman is this item:
3. Yakupov: This is purely my opinion, but I think Edmonton would listen to a massive offer. It's nothing against the player, it's more about circumstance. To get quality, you have to give up quality. If MacTavish really wants to make a bold, aggressive move, this is the name on the roster that fits. But the trade would have to be spectacular.
At some level it makes sense--the Oilers were apparently a house divided when it came to choosing Yak City number one, but in another way it's pure scandal. Trading a number one overall pick means MacT is very likely trading the best player in the deal, and that is not a good way to step into a relationship with a rabid fanbase.
- Friedman on Gagner: My belief is the Oilers would like to sign Gagner, but their past reluctance to do it gives him the leverage. He's a talented centre one year away from unrestricted free agency at age 24. Here is what the Oilers could do, though. He becomes a restricted free agent this summer. Other teams can talk to him. If one can work out a new contract, is there a trade to be made? If not, Edmonton matches and controls him. Gagner's value provides incentive for a willing partner to work out something. What mix of players/picks/prospects would a team be interested in dealing for a signed Gagner?
I am very much a fan of Gagner, but not this contract situation (not signing him long term last summer, clearly a mistake) and they've boxed themselves in a little. It doesn't mean they will trade him, but it's an option that would not be in the mix had the club signed him long term and reasonable.
Friedman's points are well taken and I do understand there's a sense of urgency to get better. However, there's also a little concern about a new GM sending out first overall picks, and I think Craig MacTavish framed that issue beautifully in the PC yesterday.
There ARE alternatives. A low risk option like Viktor Stalberg might fit, or perhaps Raffi Torres (who remains an effective player) could come in and help the group. Should the Oilers choose, the might also take a run at Nathan Horton.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
I expect that old phrase "it's lonely at the top" is true, and that Craig MacTavish--despite his stated impatience--will find a lot of GMs offering 50 cents on the dollar for his gifted Jacks and Kings. A smart bet would be a secondary signing like Torres, a defenseman like Streit and a solid backup goaltender. It might not look sexy in summer, but smart, smaller additions are the route to take with this roster.
Steve Tambellini didn't get fired because of Hall, Nuge, Eberle, Yak City or Schultz the younger. He got fired because the role players were so bad they gave back all of the good things done by the kids.
Craig MacTavish found role players with top picks (Dan Cleary), guys picked at the draft after the suits went home (Pisani, Brodziak) and guys who had experienced waivers (Marty Reasoner).
I have faith he can find those players again without moving Yak City.