Free Agent Possibilities: Third Line Wing

Jonathan Willis
July 18 2013 09:42AM

It’s been nearly a week now since unrestricted free agency opened, and the best players on the market have already signed contracts with their new teams. For a team in need of depth NHL’ers, however, there remain options.

Yesterday, we looked at what the Oilers could do if they wanted to address their fourth line centre position; today we look at potential third line wingers.

As it currently stands, some combination of Ales Hemsky, Ryan Jones, Ryan Smyth and Jesse Joensuu are likely to fill the two positions on either side of Boyd Gordon. The organization seemingly has an interest in trading Hemsky, and the other three are all arguably better fitted to the fourth than the third line. Are there free agents available who could help bolster the position?

The Remnant

The list above is not exhaustive, but includes every winger to record at least 10 points last season as well as a few others who I identified in my preliminary sweep as being conceivably of interest.

My View

With each player, I ask myself three questions. First, is there a good probability of him out-performing Ryan Jones in 2013-14? Second, is he a good fit for a Boyd Gordon-centered line; in other words, can he handle a primarily defensive role? Finally, is it plausible that he would accept a contract that would be a good fit for the Oilers?

Personal viewpoints will doubtless differ, but here’s how that list breaks down for me:

“No” to question one: Colby Armstrong, Daniel Cleary, Radek Dvorak, Nathan Gerbe, Milan Hejduk, Chuck Kobasew, Guillaume Latendresse, Antti Miettinen, Andreas Nodl.

”No” to question two: Brad Boyes, Damien Brunner, Simon Gagne, Peter Mueller, Mason Raymond

”No” to question three: Jaromir Jagr, Brenden Morrow, Teemu Selanne

That leaves three names worth investigating. Nik Antropov adds size and versatility to the lineup; he can fill in anywhere in the top nine and can also play centre if necessary; he killed penalties sporadically last year but has been a regular on that unit in the past. Alexei Ponikarovsky is coming off a hard year offensively and hasn’t been a regular penalty killer; still he has a strong track record 5-on-5 and would add size to the lineup. Vaclav Prospal can score quite a bit; he’s on this list because he’s also played tough minutes in the very recent past. He’s a better fit for top-six minutes than on a checking line, and he hasn’t seen much time on the penalty kill in recent years.

Despite the number of names, there aren’t a lot of players who strike me as strong fits for the Oilers’ third line. Nik Antropov might be the best fit of the bunch but would need to come at a sizable discount from the $4.75 million he earned last season; but then it’s not likely an NHL team would give that to him.

Recently around the Nation Network

At NHL Numbers, Rob Pettapiece asks whether a goalie can control his rebounds and comes to a pretty interesting conclusion:

Aside from [Pekka] Rinne, who could very well be an outlier here (and we have reason to believe he could be legitimately great at this), there isn't that much a goalie can do in a given year to suggest he has the ability to save more than a few goals. This may be an artifact of the data quality we have to work with. Or it could simply be too difficult for most NHL goalies to control what happens to a very-high-speed projectile after it hits them in the chest.

Click the link to read more, or alternately, feel free check out some of my other pieces here:

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
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 They're $hittie
July 18 2013, 09:52AM
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Get rid of Hemsky, Smyth, Jones, Eager,

Add Ponikorvoski, Antropov, Clifford, Latendresse.

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#2 Dulock
July 18 2013, 10:06AM
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I agree on Antropov. He can play all three forward positions and would be an ideal fill in if an injury happened on a scoring line.

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#3 BurkeTheTurd
July 18 2013, 10:16AM
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Brunner.... he may not be the typical third line player, but we are one injury away from a huge hole on the top 6 without anyone to fill it...Unless of course Hemsky stays.

Guessing biggest issue for all NHL teams is Brunner is looking for massive pay raise.

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#4 The Soup Fascist
July 18 2013, 10:21AM
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JW,

You don't think Hejduk would be a better offensive weapon than Jones?

To be clear, I don't think the Oilers should remotely consider signing Hejduk. I guess the question is more what your expectations are for Jones if he is a full-time 3rd liner playing with Gordon and Hemsky (or his replacement)?

Is 30 - 35 points a reasonable expectation?

BTW, I did not realize Ponikarovsky was anywhere near as big as listed. The guy is huge.

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#5 Tikkanese
July 18 2013, 10:35AM
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The answer is Ryan Smyth. He will have a bounce back year. No more Belanger Triangle to ruin him. No more playing out of position at center. No more failed Hartikainen experiment in front of the net on the PP. He is also to proud, to much of a warrior and has to much heart not to bounce back. True Oiler fans believe in you Smytty.

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#6 mr. common sense
July 18 2013, 10:37AM
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All those players are worse than terrible. Cant we find some Belov's in Europe or the khl to play fwd?

this proves that the trade route is the only way to go. we should be peddling prospects and gagner to land what we need. people get too emotional about this...

Gagner + 1st rd 2014 for?

2014 1st rd for?

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#7 Tikkanese
July 18 2013, 10:43AM
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No to the Leaf rejects.

No to Brunner. I like him a lot but he is purely a top 6 type of player. Plus he wants $4 million per year, and is reportedly close to getting that from NJ.

No to any of those guys with size, that don't play with size. I'd much rather have a little guy with heart and drive like a Brendan Gallagher or Andrew Shaw over some 6'3"+ soft player.

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#8 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
July 18 2013, 10:45AM
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Like Brad Boyes, can play the middle or the wing. He's had good success on the offensive side of things, and at probably a little under Jones type money, i'd bring him here in a heartbeat if he was excited about a two yr opportunity here. Wouldn't take long till Boyes perhaps even pushes Gordon down to the 4th line. The thought of moving Boyes to the right side along with Gordon in the middle and Clifford on the left side does have some serious curb appeal though, to me anyways.

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#9 Tikkanese
July 18 2013, 10:49AM
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@mr. common sense

So trade Gagner + a 1st for a 3rd liner? No need to mention that Nuge is out to start the year and that would leave Gordon and Lander as our #1 and #2 centers. Great plan!

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#10 They're $hittie
July 18 2013, 10:54AM
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They are only leafs rejects as overpaid second liners. If they can be signed at 1M and play on third or fourth lines they add size as well as players who can play NHL hockey.

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#12 toprightcorner
July 18 2013, 11:05AM
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JW, Thank you for your breakdown of all the available options and then quickly crossing them off the list because they are either not an improvement over what we have or can't really fill the need that we are missing.

I am tired of guys just skimming through the UFA list and suggesting every name they recognize as someone MacT should add to improve our bottom 6. Hopefully this will finally make people realize that the players we need are't just sitting at hope waiting for a phone call. Don't even get me started on everyone who thinks we can just get our hands on any RFA out there as well.

Of those three you listed I may consider Antropov as he can kill penalties and has size but doesn't use it as well as he should. I would not say he is a backup faceoff guy with a career well under 50%. I don't see him as a definite upgrade over what we have. I would rather go with someone like Jones, who we know and has solid potential to improve over last year then add someone we don't know and "think" may be a marginal improvement.

One last point, why are both Antropov and Ponikarovsky both still not resigned by the Jets? Its not like they are a deep team or anything. If they don't think they could be 3rd line players on their team, why should we think they would vastly improve our third line?

Hopefully this stops the lists of 30 people that think would make our bottom 6 better!

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#13 madjam
July 18 2013, 11:06AM
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mr. common sense wrote:

All those players are worse than terrible. Cant we find some Belov's in Europe or the khl to play fwd?

this proves that the trade route is the only way to go. we should be peddling prospects and gagner to land what we need. people get too emotional about this...

Gagner + 1st rd 2014 for?

2014 1st rd for?

Now we are talking bold moves . How about putting Hemsky in with the group and go after a Toews , Tavares , Weber type acquisition ? However , our bottom six is the topic and it could also stand some upgrading . I'm not sure what the bottom six even is beyond Smyth ,Gordon , Jones , and maybe Brown . Maybe our own prospects are better than what's left on UFA list ? Anyone aware of any of their agents trying to get an offer from us ? MacT. has probably contacted any he might consider . Doubt were the first choice destination for any one of them . Many on Willis's list could prove to be an upgrade , but at what price . I like Morrow and his intangibles , Raymond , bargain players like Armstrong and even Kobasew .

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#14 Ca$h-Money!
July 18 2013, 11:08AM
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I'd give consideration to Dvorak if it's a purely shut down type line... not a lot of wingers are better defensively, and he can still chip in 10 to 15 goals a season playing tough minutes.

Should be cheap, and willing to take a 1 year deal.

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#15 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
July 18 2013, 11:11AM
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@madjam

Now now there straw man, put down that water pistol and back away from the table.

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#16 Toe-Dragger
July 18 2013, 11:22AM
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I will concede that he has 2 bad years in his immediate rear-view mirror, but I think there's a reasonable chance Anti Miettinen could outperform Ryan Jones on the 3rd line. And he can still handle 4th line duty as a responsible defensive minded player with a little goal-scoring ability. Growing up in Dallas and Minnesota means he knows how to play in his own end, and he's put up a bunch of seasons of 15-20 goals. Also, you should be able to get him for almost nothing afer last year.

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#17 Wax Man Riley
July 18 2013, 11:27AM
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madjam wrote:

Now we are talking bold moves . How about putting Hemsky in with the group and go after a Toews , Tavares , Weber type acquisition ? However , our bottom six is the topic and it could also stand some upgrading . I'm not sure what the bottom six even is beyond Smyth ,Gordon , Jones , and maybe Brown . Maybe our own prospects are better than what's left on UFA list ? Anyone aware of any of their agents trying to get an offer from us ? MacT. has probably contacted any he might consider . Doubt were the first choice destination for any one of them . Many on Willis's list could prove to be an upgrade , but at what price . I like Morrow and his intangibles , Raymond , bargain players like Armstrong and even Kobasew .

And maybe if we throw in Omark to sweeten the pot, we can get Crosby!

Now that is bold!

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#18 Ducey
July 18 2013, 11:38AM
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Hemsky is not going to be traded. He is worth more to the Oilers than what he would bring back. Few teams are in a position to take on a $5 million player with injury and other issues.

He is good depth for the top 6 and I can see games where he moves up and down the lineup depending upon the score, who is hot, line matchups, etc.

Joensuu, Hemsky, Smyth, Jones, Brown, Eager, R. Hamilton and even Rajala are likely enough in terms of wingers.

The big hole is at C. If Nuge isn't ready, they will have Gagner, Gordon, Lander and ? Arcobello? Miller?

Bring in a C! They need someone who can help win a faceoff. If need be he can play wing.

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#19 speeds
July 18 2013, 11:41AM
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Prospal could be a great addition - there are seemingly ties there with Howson as well through Columbus.

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#20 madjam
July 18 2013, 11:43AM
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Wax Man Riley wrote:

And maybe if we throw in Omark to sweeten the pot, we can get Crosby!

Now that is bold!

First off Crosby is the one big name i'd probably not want to risk going after with his injury record . Doubt Pitt. would even consider moving him at that price anyways .

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#21 mr. common sense
July 18 2013, 11:44AM
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Tikkanese wrote:

So trade Gagner + a 1st for a 3rd liner? No need to mention that Nuge is out to start the year and that would leave Gordon and Lander as our #1 and #2 centers. Great plan!

time for glasses eh?

"to land what we need"

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#22 madjam
July 18 2013, 11:47AM
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Next up, is Connor McJesus. wrote:

Now now there straw man, put down that water pistol and back away from the table.

Strap yourself to your chair big guy , as I like B.Boyes as well ,missed him in my haste . Afterall , I think there's two vacancies to be filled .

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#23 Tikkanese
July 18 2013, 11:51AM
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mr. common sense wrote:

time for glasses eh?

"to land what we need"

Who needs the glasses? The thread is titled "Free Agent Possibilities: Third Line Wing". So when you don't bother to mention what you think we need, then we have to go by the thread title.

Not to mention trading Gagner "to land what we need" still leaves Gordon and Lander as our #1 and #2 centers to start the year, then our #2 #3 the rest of the year when Nuge is back... Great plan! Not to mention Mac-T has said more than once how much he loves Gagner, so in other words he isn't getting traded any time soon. Get over it.

Or are you saying that Gagner will land us another 2C, a 1A D-man, a 2LW, a 3LW and a 4C?

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#24 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
July 18 2013, 11:54AM
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If only Hemsky had worked on/was versatile enough to move into the middle. Things may have been ending differently for him here in Edmonton. During his more than a decade here, you'd think a player could develop a secondary ability to help his team when needed. Sometimes the teams needs, outweigh the players wants.

That half hour after practice each day Ales, was paved with opportunity.

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#25 SrCain
July 18 2013, 11:55AM
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madjam wrote:

First off Crosby is the one big name i'd probably not want to risk going after with his injury record . Doubt Pitt. would even consider moving him at that price anyways .

Wax man was obviously being sarcastic. Second if Crosby is so injury prone why wouldn't pitt trade him? Oh yeah cause he's the best player on the planet and puts up more points injured than 99% of the players in the league. My god there's some stupid oiler fans out there.

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#26 Clyde Frog
July 18 2013, 11:56AM
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madjam wrote:

First off Crosby is the one big name i'd probably not want to risk going after with his injury record . Doubt Pitt. would even consider moving him at that price anyways .

I like your logic...

Definitely rattles a chain...

I was all for using Hemsky and Omark to trade for Crosby, but you changed my view with your amazing hockey sense.

Crosby's 56 pt's in 36 games is way too much of a risk, your right!

I thank my lucky stars professional bloggers such as yourself take the time to "troll"** people.

**By troll I mean educate of course.

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#27 Stack Pad Save
July 18 2013, 11:58AM
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What do you think about Mason Raymond for the 3rd line Willis?

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#28 mr common sense
July 18 2013, 11:59AM
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Tikkanese wrote:

Who needs the glasses? The thread is titled "Free Agent Possibilities: Third Line Wing". So when you don't bother to mention what you think we need, then we have to go by the thread title.

Not to mention trading Gagner "to land what we need" still leaves Gordon and Lander as our #1 and #2 centers to start the year, then our #2 #3 the rest of the year when Nuge is back... Great plan! Not to mention Mac-T has said more than once how much he loves Gagner, so in other words he isn't getting traded any time soon. Get over it.

Or are you saying that Gagner will land us another 2C, a 1A D-man, a 2LW, a 3LW and a 4C?

reading comprehension problems as well ic.

Were you to have read properly, you'd see i addressed the thread topic in my first sentence, gave a suggestion for what we consequently should do, then.....started a new paragraph to illustrate an entirely new idea.

start eating goji berries...good for concentration

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#29 Mike Krushelnyski
July 18 2013, 12:10PM
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Jonathan, what are your thoughts on Peter Mueller? His injury history and bad year might make him cheap, and even though he's not ideally suited for a checking role, I think his size, age and pedigree might make him a risk well worth taking.

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#30 They're $hittie
July 18 2013, 12:26PM
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How much more value would hemsky have if we signed him to an average salary of 5M but the first year was 7 and the second year was 3M. Now cap floor teams get the benefit of a 5M cap hit and only have to pay 3.

(Called the Islanders Cap Clause)

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#31 Romulus' Apotheosis
July 18 2013, 12:29PM
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"It’s been nearly a week now since unrestricted free agency opened...

Yesterday, we looked at what the Oilers could do if they wanted to address their fourth line centre position..."

Help! I've fallen into a time warp!!

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#32 Walter Sobchak
July 18 2013, 12:31PM
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Screw this heap of plugs......Trade for Clifford!!!

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#33 John
July 18 2013, 12:35PM
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madjam wrote:

First off Crosby is the one big name i'd probably not want to risk going after with his injury record . Doubt Pitt. would even consider moving him at that price anyways .

See, stuff like this isn't "yanking the chain" or promoting intelligent conversation. All these comments get you is people either being sarcastic or inferring how stupid you are to make such comments.

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#34 bulldog12
July 18 2013, 12:43PM
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Why do you guys waste your time talking about Crosby Thorton Stamkos Toews Weber etc They are not getting traded I can't believe anyone would even mention Penners name Hell would freeze over before MacT signed him He single handly got him fired resigned Its good he signed so we don't have to listen to that anymore Give up on Grabovsky to He's another small center I would give Gilbert Brule a chance at least he plays bigger than he is and should be motivated Kyle Clifford is exactly what we need size age but will have to give up a lot to get him

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#35 Ca$h-Money!
July 18 2013, 12:47PM
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bulldog12 wrote:

Why do you guys waste your time talking about Crosby Thorton Stamkos Toews Weber etc They are not getting traded I can't believe anyone would even mention Penners name Hell would freeze over before MacT signed him He single handly got him fired resigned Its good he signed so we don't have to listen to that anymore Give up on Grabovsky to He's another small center I would give Gilbert Brule a chance at least he plays bigger than he is and should be motivated Kyle Clifford is exactly what we need size age but will have to give up a lot to get him

I think we should sign period, & comma to long term deals. For whatever reason if we can't get them look into Gagner + 1st rounder for semi colon.

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#36 John
July 18 2013, 12:50PM
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bulldog12 wrote:

Why do you guys waste your time talking about Crosby Thorton Stamkos Toews Weber etc They are not getting traded I can't believe anyone would even mention Penners name Hell would freeze over before MacT signed him He single handly got him fired resigned Its good he signed so we don't have to listen to that anymore Give up on Grabovsky to He's another small center I would give Gilbert Brule a chance at least he plays bigger than he is and should be motivated Kyle Clifford is exactly what we need size age but will have to give up a lot to get him

Madjam likes to promote hockey talk so he throws out what he thinks are 'possible scenarios' so that we talk more about it.

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#37 They're $hittie
July 18 2013, 01:08PM
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@bulldog12

Oh God, cant wait until DSF comments on this one.

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#38 Rocket
July 18 2013, 01:11PM
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Next up, is Connor McJesus. wrote:

If only Hemsky had worked on/was versatile enough to move into the middle. Things may have been ending differently for him here in Edmonton. During his more than a decade here, you'd think a player could develop a secondary ability to help his team when needed. Sometimes the teams needs, outweigh the players wants.

That half hour after practice each day Ales, was paved with opportunity.

Yeah I wonder how Hemsky would have worked at centre. With his puck moving (and losing), skills? He has speed & has shown he can back check.

That would have been interesting and potentially disastrous to see.

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#39 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
July 18 2013, 01:17PM
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bulldog12 wrote:

Why do you guys waste your time talking about Crosby Thorton Stamkos Toews Weber etc They are not getting traded I can't believe anyone would even mention Penners name Hell would freeze over before MacT signed him He single handly got him fired resigned Its good he signed so we don't have to listen to that anymore Give up on Grabovsky to He's another small center I would give Gilbert Brule a chance at least he plays bigger than he is and should be motivated Kyle Clifford is exactly what we need size age but will have to give up a lot to get him

A month ago, you had the names Lecavilier and Seguin included on that list as well. They must've been soft inclusions then, eh? Puck off with your "in the know" exclusive availability list. How do you know the reason some players are/aren't available.

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#40 Tikkanese
July 18 2013, 01:21PM
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mr common sense wrote:

reading comprehension problems as well ic.

Were you to have read properly, you'd see i addressed the thread topic in my first sentence, gave a suggestion for what we consequently should do, then.....started a new paragraph to illustrate an entirely new idea.

start eating goji berries...good for concentration

How do you expect anyone to "read properly" your incoherent babble when you:

- cannot spell

- cannot capitalize properly

- have entire paragraphs as one sentence

- cannot stick to the subject of the thread

- cannot punctuate

- resort to insults when you're losing

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#41 trentonl
July 18 2013, 01:22PM
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I'd argue Latendresse fits all the criteria you listed. He is younger and bigger than Jones has superior offensive numbers and hits more . They are likely a saw off in possession metrics. Latendresse would likely cost less.

The only issue with Latendresse is obviously injury history. Looking at his track record (concussions/neck) it is ugly but he was durable early in his career. His average would be about 52 games a season vs. Jones at 62 games/season (including time in the minors).

At his career average Latendresse would put up 13g, 9 a and 22 p in 52 games. Even if you assume Jones plays 82 games his averages only get him to 13g, 10 a and 23 p.

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#42 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
July 18 2013, 01:23PM
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Rocket wrote:

Yeah I wonder how Hemsky would have worked at centre. With his puck moving (and losing), skills? He has speed & has shown he can back check.

That would have been interesting and potentially disastrous to see.

Nobody turns the puck over more than the Crosby's, Stamkos and Ovechkins of the hockey world. Damn those puck transporters to hell! Good chance we'll see those 3 turnover machines in the HHOF one day.

10 yrs is along time to grow ones abilities, no?

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#43 Rocket
July 18 2013, 01:30PM
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@Next up, is Connor McJesus.

LOL totally. I'm (obviously) not a pro hockey player so I wonder how they develop their skills that may be out of their comfort zone?

Maybe Hemsky was sore from carrying the teams offence for so long he couldn't develop in other areas.

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#44 Romulus' Apotheosis
July 18 2013, 01:34PM
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Grebs is back

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#45 DSF
July 18 2013, 01:35PM
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Dan Tencer ‏@dantencer 34s

NHL web site lists defenseman Denis Grebeshkov as being back on the Oilers roster. Stauffer hinted earlier that this was possible…

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#46 OilersBrass
July 18 2013, 01:40PM
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DSF wrote:

Dan Tencer ‏@dantencer 34s

NHL web site lists defenseman Denis Grebeshkov as being back on the Oilers roster. Stauffer hinted earlier that this was possible…

Gonna be interesting to see which Dmen get traded now.

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#47 Ducey
July 18 2013, 01:43PM
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DSF wrote:

Dan Tencer ‏@dantencer 34s

NHL web site lists defenseman Denis Grebeshkov as being back on the Oilers roster. Stauffer hinted earlier that this was possible…

Its on the official website now. 1 yr deal.

Holy, they have a lot of defensemen.

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#48 trentonl
July 18 2013, 01:49PM
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Grebs back! I for one am happy

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#49 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
July 18 2013, 02:01PM
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Grebeshkov, great, yet another 4 thru 7 blueliner for the pile. Put him out back with the others. What a waste of another contract spot.

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#50 Oiler Al
July 18 2013, 02:02PM
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madjam wrote:

Now we are talking bold moves . How about putting Hemsky in with the group and go after a Toews , Tavares , Weber type acquisition ? However , our bottom six is the topic and it could also stand some upgrading . I'm not sure what the bottom six even is beyond Smyth ,Gordon , Jones , and maybe Brown . Maybe our own prospects are better than what's left on UFA list ? Anyone aware of any of their agents trying to get an offer from us ? MacT. has probably contacted any he might consider . Doubt were the first choice destination for any one of them . Many on Willis's list could prove to be an upgrade , but at what price . I like Morrow and his intangibles , Raymond , bargain players like Armstrong and even Kobasew .

Hey, Common Sense... Weber/Towes type....???

Little early in the day to be stoned?

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