FREE AGENCY BEGINS

Jason Gregor
July 03 2013 12:31PM

Two years ago the Oilers signed four players, Ben Eager, Cam Barker, Darcy Hordichuk and Eric Belanger and they acquired Andy Sutton on the first day of free agency. Sutton played well before being injured, Eager produced regular offensive numbers while the other three contributed very little.

When they were signed, many felt Eager and Belanger would fill a needed void, Eager as an aggressive winger and Belanger as a veteran centre who could win draws and chip in offensively, but neither ended up filling those roles.

Eager was 9th in goals for the Oilers in 2011/2012 and he produced more offence than Belanger. For a 4th line player he wasn't that bad, but last year he struggled mightily and finished the season in the AHL.

Most free agents don't live up to their contracts, but none of those guys, excluding Barker, were grossly overpaid in 2011.

I'm curious to see who Craig MacTavish signs this month, and if those players will have more success in Edmonton than their free agent predecessors.

OILERS NEEDS

The Oilers could upgrade at almost every position.

They don't need more young forwards, they need some proven NHL forwards.

They could use a veteran centre who can win faceoffs and play tough minutes.

They need one or two skilled wingers with size.

They a few bottom-six forwards who can kill penalties, and know how competitive you need to play in order to win.

They need a physical D-man who skates well and can move the puck under pressure.

They need a goalie who will push Devan Dubnyk.

Clearly, MacTavish won't be able to fill every void via free agency. If he is lucky he will be able to grab a goalie, a veteran bottom-six forward and a centreman.

He will have to try and fill the other needs via trades, and we know that isn't as easy as it sounds.

FREE AGENTS

Which players will the Oilers pursue, and who are realistic options?

Of course the Oilers could use David Clarkson, Nathan Horton or Jarome Iginla, but Iginla wants to go to a Cup contender and Horton will sign in a non-hockey market. He prefers a quieter life. Clarkson will get close to $6 million on the open market, and that might be too rich for the Oilers.

So who does that leave?

Forwards:

Valtteri Filpulla: 29. He's an excellent two-way player, and he's learned what it takes to be competitive every night from Datsyuk and Zetterberg. He struggled offensively last year, but he would be a solid LW. The only issue would be price. Most UFAs get overpaid, but you want to avoid the guys who get grossly overpaid. I wouldn't pay more than $5 mill for Filpulla.

Ryan Clowe: 30. He'd be a bit of a risk. His footspeed and health are the major concerns. He is a good combination of size and skill that the Oilers desperately lack, and if I could sign him for a shorter term, I'd consider it.

Clark MacArthur: 28. He's scored 20 goals twice and had 62 points in 2011. He could be complimentary player on your 1st line, but would be a regular on your 2nd or 3rd line. Everyone who watches him on a regular basis say he is underrated. He would be a veteran on this team, and Keith Acton would have a good read on his personality. 

Boyd Gordon: 29. He is a checking centre, and if the Oilers move Horcoff, which they most likely will, Gordon could replace him.

Maxim Lapierre: 28. He's a pest, and decent in draws. He took the 2nd most faceoffs in Vancouver last year and won 50.6%. He would be an upgrade on Belanger, mainly because he competes much harder.

Craig Adams: 36. If the Oilers were looking for a one-year stop gap to give Anton Lander another year in the AHL then Adams would be a good fit.

Michael Ryder: 33. Only on a short term deal, but he can score, and despite what everyone thinks the Oilers need more consistent offence. Ryder had 16 goals last year, same as Eberle and Hall. If you could sign him for two years, I'd look at it.

D-MEN:

This year's crop of blueliners is full of wildcards. Players who are coming off a bad season (s), but who still tease you with their potential. Guys like Keith Ballard, Tom Gilbert, Mike Komisarek and Jeff Schultz. The only one of those four that I'd consider is Ballard, but it would have to be a short-term deal. He'd need to prove he could play. He never fit in Vancouver, but he's only 30 years old and some team will take a chance on him.

If this year's class was five years ago it would be full of D-men the Oilers need; players who can make plays under pressure. However, most of those guys are in the twilight of their careers.

Adrian Aucoin (40), Roman Hamrlik (39), Marek Zidlicky (36), Wade Redden (36), Tom Poti (36), Joe Corvo (36), Tomas Kaberle (35) and Toni Lydman (35). It is possible the Oilers sign an aging veteran to a one-year deal, but I suspect they will look for guys a bit younger who could help them for at least a few seasons.

The Oilers want a veteran who will speak up and who knows what it takes to win. Andrew Ference fits both categories. He isn't a top-four D-man, but he might be a great guy to play along side Oscar Klefbom.

GOALIES:

I've said for weeks Anton Khudobin would be a good fit. He won't re-sign in Boston because he knows he has no chance of starting behind Tuuka Rask. He's 27, and he could challenge and support Devan Dubnyk. Khudobin won't cost very much, but there is a bit of a risk since he's only played 21 NHL games. The Oilers might want a more established goalie.

Some other veteran options are Ray Emery (I'm guessing he might return to Philly), Jason LaBarbera, Dan Ellis or Mathieu Garon. LaBarbera will be at the top of their list.

Or maybe the Oilers could take a chance on Ilya Bryzgalov. He'd be a fan favourite strictly for his quotes, but eventually his play would need to match his off-ice one liners.

PARTING SHOTS

  • This year's free agent class isn't great, but that won't stop teams from grossly overpaying some players. Don't be fooled into thinking a reduced salary cap will change that, because most teams believe it will jump right back up to $70 million in 2014/2015.
     
  • The Wild will buy out Tom Gilbert. I know many of the advanced stats guys loved him, but I don't see any reason the Oilers bring him back. They didn't trade him because he couldn't skate or move the puck, they moved him because they felt he wasn't competitive enough. I doubt their evaluation of him has changed.
     
  • Theo Peckham joins me on the show today at 2:25 to discuss his time with the Oilers and his future. 
     
  • My condolences to the Lorieau family. Paul was a very polite and generous man, not to mention an incredible anthem singer. He will be missed.

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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What happened with Peckham? One minute a few Edmonton media are saying we will qualify him, the n Tim Pannacio is hinting that if a deal does go down for Coburn look at Peckham being apart of it. Then I read this morning he isn't qualified.

Seems to me it would've been worth the QO, even if it meant him ended up in OKC.

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#2 Reg Dunlop
July 03 2013, 12:44PM
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It's shopping time and the oil are paying with pesos while the desirable sun-belt markets and contending teams are throwing around gold. I hope we don't spread our legs for any of these high profilers, there has to be some undervalued, happy-to-come-here, hungry types available. MacT, this is your mission should you choose to accept it.

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#3 HugThePost
July 03 2013, 12:48PM
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Something terribly wrong must have happened between Peckham and management. Just seems really weird that they not only were disappointed about one thing or another, they buried him to the point that he had no value whatsoever for a trade. The optics of it are that the team spent a lot of time and energy developing him and then they are just tossing him aside.

I wish him well and hopefully he gets his career back on track because a couple of years ago, he seemed on the verge of being an NHL regular.

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#4 oilerjed
July 03 2013, 12:52PM
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So who is hiding out in the airport bathrooms looking for scoops. JW or JG? Maybe Struds since he is the new guy here.

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#5 Jason
July 03 2013, 12:58PM
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Targets for me:

Anton Khudobin (G), Benoit Pouliot (LW), Boyd Gordon (C), Tom Gilbert (D), Paul Ranger (D) and Ryan Hamilton (LW) (OKC Depth Signing).

Also kick tires on Jarome Iginla (RW), Matt Hendricks (C), Matt Cullen (C), Matt Cooke (RW), Ryan Jones (LW), Ryane Clowe (LW), and Mason Raymond (LW), but they wouldn't be my primary targets.

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#6 nuge2nail
July 03 2013, 01:04PM
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Oiler Domination To Follow

Clarkson 5 years 25 million Horton 6 years 36 million

Once both decline for bigger, stupider offers- sign Horcoff and Hemsky, seems like at this stage of their career they would be solid third liners... Oh wait nvm....

If the Flyers sign Ference, I could see a packaged trade involving Paarjavi for Coburn. Our D would be: Coburn J Shultz Petry Smid N Shultz Belov Klefbom.

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#7 Rick
July 03 2013, 01:05PM
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Free agency aside, what can be expected in terms of the Oilers clearing roster spaces?

Unless I missed it they never waived anyone for buyout, Horcoff is a complete wildcard in terms of moving with speculation starting to trend towards him staying and all of sudden the whole Hemsky getting traded thing has gone completely quiet.

The only real definitive hole is at goaltender right now.

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#8 Bonvie
July 03 2013, 01:06PM
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I think Jeff Schultz would be a possible option on D. Maybe Gordon would be a good pick up as well all dependent on the price. I don't see the free agent frenzy as a time that we are likely to improve our team drastically, hopefully they don't get caught up in the frenzy and pick up an anchor of a contract.

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#9 WhattaMike
July 03 2013, 01:06PM
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Nice read and info Jason Gregor...

Based on what ya wrote, IMO - myself???...

Before trying for an huge overpayment type player, I would go hard now for both Gordon and Lapierre first with centres needed...

Then ya gotta go with Khudobin or Emery for the 1st other goalie to be Oiler acquired..

Then I would take a timeout for Stalberg for LW possibilities...

Next, I would be talking to any of the defencemen such as Alzner , Grebeshkov, Gilbert, Ballard, and Jeff Schultz, then Kris Russell.

Thats my list for starters... then make some smart good type trades...

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#10 WhattaMike
July 03 2013, 01:08PM
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I wanted to write that Alzner would be a very smart and ideal type trade situation for the Oilers but I hit the wrong key...

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#11 BurkeTheTurd
July 03 2013, 01:09PM
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Jason, what do you think of Kris Russell as a fit? I understand he is smaller and bit sheltered behind a great D in St Louis. However he still 26 with great skating ability, think the Oilers would make a pitch at him.

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#12 Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!
July 03 2013, 01:27PM
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Brutal, brutal year to do a major overhaul. I want nothing to do with most UFAs.

I hope MacT is judged on quality, not quantity, of players he brings in this summer, despite of what he said at season's end.

Pick a guy (or two) that aligns with the direction this team is trying to go in and overpay if you have to. Don't do what Tambellini did two years ago and bring in a bunch of garbage.

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#13 trentonl
July 03 2013, 01:28PM
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I hope you are wrong about Gilbert. Back when MacT coached him in 07/08 and 08/09 he was only behind Souray, Visnovsky and Pitkanen in playing time. Bring back Gilbert and Grebeshkov for that matter.

Smid-Petry Grebeshkov-Gilbert Schultz-Schultz Belov-Potter

That is a way better depth chart than where the Oilers are now and all it costs is money and roster spots. More flexibility to upgrade.

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#14 WhattaMike
July 03 2013, 01:31PM
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I also wish to state my condolences to the Lorieau family and to the Oilers for losing a great HOF singer and family man...Paul...RIP...

I absolutely remember the 2006 Anaheim series as a special memory with of how he got the Oilers crowd to sing both the American anthem so respectfully (as opposed to the Ducks fans)and then lead off with an outstanding "O Canada" with the fans again...

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#15 Lochenzo
July 03 2013, 01:34PM
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Sad to hear about Paul Lorieau. He was a fixture in my life. The 2006 playoffs was definitely my fave memory of him.

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#16 WhattaMike
July 03 2013, 01:38PM
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@trentonl...

I would love to see one of Grebeshkov or Gilbert come back to the Oilers as well... but I actually believe that Klefbom is gonna be ready to go come starting first regular season game of the year..

Gilbert/Grebs...J. Schultz, Petry...Klefbom, Belov...Smid,... with hopefully Paul Ranger or Jeff Schultz or Ballard, etc, added on.

There are some other guys to look at, IMO too, like Colaicova, Hendricks, Coburn (trade), Jonathon Blum, Kris Russell....

This would allow the Oilers to trade off Potter, N. Schultz or even maybe they trade Smid too

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#17 Oiler Al
July 03 2013, 01:46PM
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Like Clowe, Filippula on your list, both are in the 3.5 - 4.0 million range previous salaries.

Also like Ryder, except he dosen't bring it every game.

I would add Vic Stallberg to the list, and also Matt Cullen, although 36 yrs old still plays a solid game and is good F/O guy. Could be a stop gap type of player.

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#19 Walter Sobchak
July 03 2013, 01:54PM
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If the move Gagner over to the wing, where do they put Yakupov?

I say if your going to upgrade the centre position, the just trade Gagner already!

Use him to get important pieces, like. a LW or a deal involving a number one defensmen.

Forget UFA season, get it by trades.

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#21 Lochenzo
July 03 2013, 01:55PM
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Tom Gilbert might be an interesting acquisition. I think he struggles when you ask him to do more. Think of this. If I were to put together 6 defencemen, with a defence by committee frame of refence, I'm looking for 6 guys that can play roughly 20 reliable minutes per game. The group as a whole should offer a range of basic skills. Good defensive acumen, clear the front of the net and move the puck and limit turnovers. Nothing spectacular, but you can survive on meat and potatos. I think Tom Gilbert fits this mould and would complement Nick Schultz to make a pairing that covers the range of skills I would look for. If you ask Tom Gilbert to score 40 points or be extremely physical, then yeah, I could see him struggling. Ask him to keep it simple within this framework of a collective, he'll be more than fine. If Braydon Coburn is added, he would be a nice pairing with Justin Schultz.

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#23 tayjornug
July 03 2013, 01:59PM
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Bob Mckenzie reports oilers have an agreement in place to sign Ex-Flame winger Oleg Saprykin details to follow

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#24 Rick
July 03 2013, 02:05PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Just because you haven't heard anything doesn't mean talks aren't happening. Odds are very slim that Horcoff returns, and expect once teams strike out in Clarkson, Iginla and Horton that interest in Hemsky rises.

Fair enough but that is why we come to read the insiders.

Consider the last post an ask as opposed to any kind of statement.

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#25 Metal&Oil
July 03 2013, 02:13PM
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Why do I never see Matt Cooke's name on UFA lists of players the Oilers should pursue? IMO this is exactly the type of player the Oil need for the bottom 6(+ he could move up to the 2nd line if needed).

Also can we stop with this Jeff Schultz talk. Some People get so caught up in his last name but the bottom line is that Jeff just does not bring enough to the table anymore. I'd rather have the underrated Potter in the lineup then him.

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#26 Smokey
July 03 2013, 02:14PM
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Signing Tommy Gilbert at 2x2.25 would be fine with me. Jason the comment you made on that management thinks he doesn't compete enough seems weird. I thought he was traded supposely because his skills were redundant with emergence of Petry and some rumblings he needed a change of scenery and wanted out.

The one thing Tom can do is move the puck. He has the subtle ability to ward off defenders behind the net, avoid checks, and go up the middle occasionally. All last season we clammoured for a guy who had enough skill to not bang a puck around the boards. The soft as butter notion haunts him,, however he has kinda been more like chunky peanut butter. He's shown some abrasiveness. He's never going to be Chris Pronger trunculant, but maybe with a good d partner he return and be a quality 4th defender. Requires no assets.

I'm not wishing for anything huge for FA, most often whale blubber becomes an overpriced can of whale blubber. Gilbert, Lapierre, Gordon, Emery/Bryz/Kubodin/etc for free agency would be a successful day. I know there is no way we will get Horton, but lets make whoever gets him have to pay for him. Offer him 5x5.25. I would also like Peverly in a trade.

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#27 Oilers#1Fool
July 03 2013, 02:15PM
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WhattaMike wrote:

Nice read and info Jason Gregor...

Based on what ya wrote, IMO - myself???...

Before trying for an huge overpayment type player, I would go hard now for both Gordon and Lapierre first with centres needed...

Then ya gotta go with Khudobin or Emery for the 1st other goalie to be Oiler acquired..

Then I would take a timeout for Stalberg for LW possibilities...

Next, I would be talking to any of the defencemen such as Alzner , Grebeshkov, Gilbert, Ballard, and Jeff Schultz, then Kris Russell.

Thats my list for starters... then make some smart good type trades...

Gross so glad your not running the show lol Ballard, Lapierre, but as far as the rest i think Your way off. We are suppose to upgrading. I don't see that with what you've listed.

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#28 WhattaMike
July 03 2013, 02:15PM
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Hey JG... did not know you were not a Grebs fan or not liked him as to coming back for the Oilers this year.. Interesting.

If he did not try to come back here then would ya try to pick up Ballard or Blum? or both?

JG...What ya think of Colaicova as well?

Finally, JG... Bob Stauffer had mentioned on draft day that the Oilers were talking with a russian defenceman again...anyone ya heard of or know of???

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#29 Smokey
July 03 2013, 02:16PM
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That was suppose to whale hunting turns into whale blubber.

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#30 oilerjed
July 03 2013, 02:16PM
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@Tayjornug

I cant imagine why they would sign him, 4th line hopefully but then where do you put smytty?

@JG

I agree about Gilbert but Grebs was a solid dman when he was here. Only left because he wanted a bigger raise then the oil would give him. Pushes Potter out and move Schultz Sr down to the 3rd. Both good ideas. Oops forgot that he went to Nas. Doesnt change much IMO

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#31 Smokey
July 03 2013, 02:23PM
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tayjornug wrote:

Bob Mckenzie reports oilers have an agreement in place to sign Ex-Flame winger Oleg Saprykin details to follow

Drever tweeted five minutes ago the Canucks signed Ulanov..

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#32 madjam
July 03 2013, 02:25PM
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Until we have a decent core surrounding our youth , I doubt UFA's will choose the Oilers and jeopardize their careers . Sure Schultz did, but that was a good decision to get ice time and grow up with the club -totally different scenario from most UFA's . They will be effectively coming if our base was not so depleted and with Hemsky and Horcoff maybe gone : may be even more so . I know if I were a UFA i'd be reluctant to come here even with more salary just because of that . That depletion of core is far more responsible than city or anything else when it comes to signing UFA's

The ones mentioned by Gregor might all be good , but highly unlikely they want to risk that career move with our core base as it is now. I have a feeling UFA market will only use us as pretty much a last resort . Go to a team with already a good base they will go - I predict . We could very easily face disappointment in the UFA market .

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#33 oilerjed
July 03 2013, 02:26PM
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@smokey

Igor Ulanov? Haavent heard that name in awhile

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#34 Will
July 03 2013, 02:27PM
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Where the hell are our buyouts?

I read on Hockey Buzz Horcoff wants a buy out but the team wants to trade him to another team he does not want to be traded to. Since his limited no trade clause goes into effect, he can essentially just write down ten teams that are all at the cap and can't take him. Which means he could end up playing in the minors if they send him down ala Souray.

Yet another Oiler player either being completely greedy, or completely mis managed, or both.

Even still, there doesn't seem to be an reason for not having then bought out one of Belangier or Eager. I mean, if we were going to trade either of them I feel like the OIlers would have done it by now, even if all it was were seventh round picks coming back. What the hell Mac T. At least Tambillini delivered on his do nothing approach.

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#35 oldhippy
July 03 2013, 02:32PM
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oilerjed wrote:

@smokey

Igor Ulanov? Haavent heard that name in awhile

exactly!

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#36 Rocket
July 03 2013, 02:42PM
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Boyd Gordon would be a nice addition if Horcoff or Belanger went away. I agree with Wes that trades are where it's at. Watching Gilbert play with N. Schultze would be funny: "Wait, didn't we just get traded for each other?"

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#37 Mean machine
July 03 2013, 02:43PM
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Thoughts on mueller and pouliot? Gregor?

Hall/nuge/yakupov Pouliot/gagner/eberle Paajarvi/mueller/jones

Much more offensive fire power in the top 9. Pouliot and mueller have their baggage but I think it improves size and secondary scoring. I like Gordon, laprierre and Ryder as possibilities too.

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#38 madjam
July 03 2013, 02:55PM
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tayjornug wrote:

Bob Mckenzie reports oilers have an agreement in place to sign Ex-Flame winger Oleg Saprykin details to follow

Flame site claims they are close to signing S. Chestov , but contingent on signing his buddy O. Saprykin . Who's going to win out ?

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#39 Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!
July 03 2013, 02:56PM
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Mean machine wrote:

Thoughts on mueller and pouliot? Gregor?

Hall/nuge/yakupov Pouliot/gagner/eberle Paajarvi/mueller/jones

Much more offensive fire power in the top 9. Pouliot and mueller have their baggage but I think it improves size and secondary scoring. I like Gordon, laprierre and Ryder as possibilities too.

I'm not sure what Mueller's deal is asides from the concussion(s) he suffered a few years ago.

Pouliot on the other hand, has been a decent player the last three years. All three with different teams.... you have to wonder why? Compete level?

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#40 Mean Machine
July 03 2013, 03:01PM
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Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy! wrote:

I'm not sure what Mueller's deal is asides from the concussion(s) he suffered a few years ago.

Pouliot on the other hand, has been a decent player the last three years. All three with different teams.... you have to wonder why? Compete level?

That's exactly it with Pouliot. Compete. Does play with an edge sometimes though. Great size and he sometimes display why he was a top 5 pick not so long ago. A one or two year deal may be a decent choice.

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#41 Hat Pughes
July 03 2013, 03:02PM
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Tim Thomas to the Flyers!!! WTH are they going to do with their salary cap issues. If Im MacT Im freezing out Holmgren on any Coburn deal and would be apt to take on Coburn and another salary rather than give up prospects.

Speaking on potential...couple weeks ago Calgary Radio musing about their goaltending and wondering if DiPietro became free how hed look in Flaming C...maybe there is a chance for that to happen.

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#42 Norm
July 03 2013, 03:04PM
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Why give Eakins a chance to work with Peckman? If he has the ability of working with problem children what is the risk since D-men are so hard to find?

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#43 Norm
July 03 2013, 03:05PM
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Correction 'why not' give Eakins...

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#44 madjam
July 03 2013, 03:10PM
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IS THIS ANOTHER KICK IN THE FACE ? Apparantly their is a good chance Iginla will go to Canucks (a perennial contender ) and his cap hit for this season will be zero ! Dreger reports players over 35+ this season you can carry over into next season before having it part of your cap limit . WOW , that sure helps a lot of clubs sitting up against the cap . Maybe we should keep Khabby as he won't cost us any cap space now ? When did this all come to be I wonder , and how recent ? Makes the elder ones more valuable than before , obviously .

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#45 Lochenzo
July 03 2013, 03:16PM
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Eakins is a fitness buff. Peckham is a hamburger eating machine. Not a good match.

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#46 oilerjed
July 03 2013, 03:17PM
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@ Madjam

Team 1040 Vancouver this morning was talking about this and apparently Canucks want nothing to do with Iggy, looking for using their youth instead of more vets. Please excuse my ignorance but how did the 35+ salary cap thing work out?? Makes no sense to me.

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#47 madjam
July 03 2013, 03:25PM
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oilerjed wrote:

@ Madjam

Team 1040 Vancouver this morning was talking about this and apparently Canucks want nothing to do with Iggy, looking for using their youth instead of more vets. Please excuse my ignorance but how did the 35+ salary cap thing work out?? Makes no sense to me.

Go to Flames site , that's where I found out about it . If it came from Dreger as they alluded to, it probably has merit . Flames site also believes Iginla might be on Canucke radar because of it .

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#48 fig pucker
July 03 2013, 03:29PM
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we're going to have to massivly overpay to get anyone of value. 7 years out of the playoffs, a managment team long on promises short on substance, i love edmonton but let's face it, it's not new york, l.a. or florida. i belive the team is perceived around the league as an organization spining it's tires. horton would be 7 million per year before he even thinks about us. our best hope is the trade market for improvivg our team, as i'll be suprised if any worth while ufa's land here.

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#49 Tayranchula
July 03 2013, 03:32PM
Trash it!
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trashes
Cheers
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cheers

If Tom Gilbert steps foot on rexall ice next year wearing an Oilers jersey I will seriously loose my dinner and then I would have to clean it up and that wouldn't be fun. He can skate and make a pass but for god sakes he's a brutal hockey player.

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#50 oilerjed
July 03 2013, 03:38PM
Trash it!
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cheers

@madjam

Just checked the Dreger tweets, he did mention the 35+ cap thing but no mention of canucks and Iggy.

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