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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#51 thepeetso
July 03 2013, 03:40PM
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@Tayranchula

hear hear!!!!!!!!!!

i don't ever want to see Gilbert looking up at the sky in front of the net as the goalie pulls yet another one out of the back of the Oilers net ever again.

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#52 nuge2nail
July 03 2013, 03:48PM
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Oiler Domination To Follow

I remember coming on Oilersnation to read the analysis and the comments when Gilbert was traded for N Shultz.

Tons of people upset about the trade- they felt we should be adding to the defense not trading one out to bring one in. Lots of fans were upset to see him leave.

I was NOT one of those fans. Nothing more I hate than a soft defenseman and Gilbert is soft as they come.

Now I'm not so sure I feel the same way. Oilers Defense handicaps the forwards by not getting the puck up with speed. I miss his points and frankly Oiler D don't put up enough of them.

Any change is better than no change. I prefer Coburn for Paarajvi + a second, as Coburn is a much more complete player, he would be a great addition to the team.

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#53 Quicksilver ballet
July 03 2013, 03:53PM
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If the game plan is to not get taken advantage of/overpay in the coming week, Craig best concentrate on repairing those relationships with Horc and Hemmer. There's little doubt they'll be returning here again in the fall. Craig is at the end of his first difficult lesson as a GM.

At least one more year of games that don't matter appear to be on the agenda with these results. The smoke and mirror show continues, as management talks a good show and delivers, well, something that smells.

Nothing but a couple B or C level moves coming in the next week. Have to wonder how much of this wandering in the desert these all important 5 kids are going to take. Now more than ever, MacTavish needs to pull off a Seguin/Couturier or a Clarkson type deal to have those arrows trending/pointed in the right direction again for the Oilers. Tough week, it has been, mentioned Oiler fan Obi One Kenobi.

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#54 Just Another Fan
July 03 2013, 04:09PM
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It's nice to see Paul Lorieau finally mentioned on here today, even if just briefly. I had the pleasure of meeting him briefly after an Oilers game. I took a picture with him, and he had wanted to see it, so he asked if I could find him on facebook, and "tag" him in it. Eventually, I did. he wrote me a message saying how lovely it was to meet, and just struck up a conversation. I messaged him after the home opener this, and after I heard he was feeling sick. He said, more than anything, he wanted to sing at that game, but his health wouldn't allow it at the time. He said that if the Oilers were to make the playoffs this year, he would have tried to find a way to sing the anthem again, for at least one game. I wish he would have seen them make the playoffs again, but at least we'll always have the '06 cup run, right? RIP Paul

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#55 Bonvie
July 03 2013, 04:12PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Bring back G and G...two D who were here when the team was brutal. How does that make them better moving forward?

Not sure why Grebeshkov is even mentioned as a good return. He was junk in the KHL...

I really don't think the team needs a bunch more depth D as I believe we have that in the organization we just need one solid Defender to anchor the Defense corp it wasn't the third pairing and depth D that was lit up, but rather the fact that Schultz and Schultz were in the top 4. If we had a True top Defender to bring the young J Schultz along eg Brodin and Suter, our Defense would be seen entirely different.

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#56 Bonvie
July 03 2013, 04:21PM
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fig pucker wrote:

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.

Here is something for everyone to do each time the phrase "overpay" is used insert "boat anchor contract" or "albatross of a contract" and it will give you a truer picture, and will turn their post into something a little more accurate.

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#57 Rama Lama
July 03 2013, 04:39PM
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Not sure why Horton would not consider coming here .........maybe not being in the spotlight is a good thing for the nerves?

It's starting to look like the Oilers will have to take whatever is left over after the big dogs eat. I really hope that the Oilers consider giving Jagr a chance, with one arm and one leg, he is still more talented than our entire bottom six. He would make a great mentor to our youth with his strong work ethic and positive attitude. I hope that Ben Eager also gets another chance........not many guys with his skating abilities and size.

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#58 mlcselli
July 03 2013, 04:43PM
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UNRELATED to JG article. Just read on PuckDaddy that Jaret Stoll was rushed to hospital last night after suffering a seizure. He'll be released later today.

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#59 Silverback
July 03 2013, 04:56PM
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Bryzgalov would not work. His agent said "he would hate the weather". Not happy would equal disruption in dressing room.

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#60 madjam
July 03 2013, 04:57PM
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oilerjed wrote:

@madjam

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

Article #9 by icedawg mentions he heard on the FAN that Iginla has narrowed down to four -Chicago ,LA , Detroit and Vancouver he believed the 4 to be . Many Flame fans seem to think Vancouver is his best bet . Their poll shows Oilers as most probable , however . Would be nice, especially seeing as his cap hit could be zero if Dreger's report is accurate !

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#61 madjam
July 03 2013, 05:04PM
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Speaking of Jagr , does he drive a silver Royles Royce with license place JAGR --- ( I won't say the rest in case it might not have been him ) ? Whomever it was, they blew by me yesterday just before the Quesnell bridge area yesterday afternoon. Odd the first 4 letters were big and JAGR makes me wonder if he might be in town ?

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#62 DSF
July 03 2013, 05:04PM
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@oilerjed

Darren Dreger ‏@DarrenDreger 4h

Alfie scenario:

CBA allows for teams to spend over the cap on 35+ players using the bonus cushion. However, the overage is deducted next yr.

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#63 thepeetso
July 03 2013, 05:05PM
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Silverback wrote:

Bryzgalov would not work. His agent said "he would hate the weather". Not happy would equal disruption in dressing room.

I hate the weather. Who doesn't?

This is such a non-issue.

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#64 geno
July 03 2013, 06:03PM
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If you know how bad EDM's D depth is, you'd want Gilbert as he's a top 4 D man and EDM has about 2 or 3 of em. If you don't think EDM needs Gilbert, get your head out of your.. butt.

Trade targets I'd hope for: Peverley, Kulemin, Coburn, N Thompson

FAs I'd go after: Khudobin, Emery, Thomas, Ference, Clowe at a reasonable cap n short term, gordon, lapierre

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#65 geno
July 03 2013, 06:03PM
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If you know how bad EDM's D depth is, you'd want Gilbert as he's a top 4 D man and EDM has about 2 or 3 of em. If you don't think EDM needs Gilbert, get your head out of your.. butt.

Trade targets I'd hope for: Peverley, Kulemin, Coburn, N Thompson

FAs I'd go after: Khudobin, Emery, Thomas, Ference, Clowe at a reasonable cap n short term, gordon, lapierre

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#66 oilerjed
July 03 2013, 06:27PM
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@madjam

Thats funny, if he has narrowed it down to those four teams(his choice not the teams remember) its funny that poll would figure he is going to Edmonton. Im just saying that there didn't seem to be a very warm reception to this idea in Vancouver. And the only way to carry over the cap space is if you are over the limit, at least that is how I read it.

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#67 Oilcan
July 03 2013, 06:30PM
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It's just on bonuses for 35+ contracts. If their salary is 3 million and bonuses are 1 million the team can have the cap hit be 3 million a d carry over 1 million (if they earn it). I think it's how it is at least.

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#68 Zamboni Driver
July 03 2013, 10:00PM
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I will never understand the obsession so many people have with bringing back retreads.

Ostensibly they move people because they think they are crappy - in Gilbert's case because he doesn't compete....ever.

So bring him back to the team who got rid of him because he didn't compete is going to make him compete harder? Especially if he gets paid millions of dollars to do it (sure, he'll get less than the joke of a contract he had, but it's still MILLIONS).

Btw...how's that Ryan Smyth homecoming working out for ya?

Makes zero sense.

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#69 Racki
July 03 2013, 10:25PM
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To sign Valteri Filppula and put him on the wing would almost be an injustice. We've got such sh-- center depth, he could easily be ahead of anyone we'll have available at C. Not only is he a solid 2-way guy, but he's also quite good on the dot.

He'd easily be my 2nd center.

Gagner-Filppula-Yakupov would work for me.

I like Ryder as a short term solution for wing, but my only issue there is he's a right winger.. so that would likely drop him down to line 3, unless we want to go the slow,patient route with Yakupov and drop him a line.

Clowe, I'm a firm believer he's got some gas left in the tank still. I'd bring him in for line 3 LW duty, and try and trade for Talbot.

A 3rd line of Clowe-Talbot-Paajarvi might be interesting.

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#70 2004Z06
July 04 2013, 08:47AM
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Saw a recent piece on Manny Malhothra wanting to return. He is apparently cleared and ready to rejoin the NHL. I would give him a 1 year deal. If anything, he can still win draws and he has something to prove.

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#71 Quicksilver ballet
July 04 2013, 08:58AM
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@Racki

I agree with you on Filppula. Gagner on the other hand, playing wing makes me cringe some. Ever so easily pushed/knocked off the puck when it matters, often has his head down. Can't see that working out any better for him than it has at center.

On the other hand, if he does have his head down while battling up against the boards, he could draw numerous boarding majors, which wouldn't be a bad thing.

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#72 oilerjed
July 04 2013, 11:05AM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

I agree with you on Filppula. Gagner on the other hand, playing wing makes me cringe some. Ever so easily pushed/knocked off the puck when it matters, often has his head down. Can't see that working out any better for him than it has at center.

On the other hand, if he does have his head down while battling up against the boards, he could draw numerous boarding majors, which wouldn't be a bad thing.

It amazes me how someone with their head down so often could have so many assists.

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#73 oilerjed
July 04 2013, 11:08AM
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Grabovski was just bought out. Any one interested? Doesnt seem like an upgrade for 2c except FO%.

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#74 Quicksilver ballet
July 04 2013, 02:50PM
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@oilerjed

He isn't a first tier guy, so the Oil should have a shot. Plan B or C guys are the Oilers only option.

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