A FRENZIED FRIDAY

Robin Brownlee
July 05 2013 12:07AM

The moaning and whining in some corners about big talk and no action from Edmonton Oilers GM Craig MacTavish was only hours old Thursday when MacT pulled off a STFU move by unloading captain Shawn Horcoff and his bloated contract to the Dallas Stars.

With the new buzz suddenly all about MacTavish being a man of action, the table is set for what fans anticipate will be a frenzied Friday, starting at 10 a.m., for MacTavish and the Oilers. My guess is that expectation will be met.

It had better be, because while some fans are celebrating MacTavish's ability to jettison Horcoff's contact, the bottom line is the Oilers have a gaping hole in the middle with No. 10 on his way to Big D and Eric Belanger being paid to pack his bags and get to stepping elsewhere.

Those moves leave Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner as the top two centres with the cupboard essentially bare when it comes to NHL experience behind them. Anton Lander will no doubt get a crack at pivot on the fourth line, but, at the very least, MacTavish needs a third-line centre.

That need, of course, is in addition to addressing the need for grit up front, a bonafide defenseman or two and help in goal. Here's what I think and here's what I know about some of the names rumored to be of interest to the Oilers.

MAN IN THE MIDDLE

The name I keep coming back to when I connect the dots as to who makes sense as a target for MacTavish is Zack Smith of the Ottawa Senators, who has been mentioned as a trade target, perhaps in a deal involving Ales Hemsky.

Smith, 25, is far from the biggest or flashiest name who might be available, but he's a player with 200 NHL games on his resume who could fit nicely in a third-line role with the Oilers.

While Smith produces very little in the way of points, he's a decent face-off man, going 51.8 per cent on the dot this season, has size at six-foot-two and 210 pounds and has some grit in his game.

New coach Dallas Eakins has the book on Smith as he was behind the bench with the Toronto Marlies when Smith was toiling with the Binghamton Senators. My best guess is Smith is at or near the top of MacTavish's list as a candidate for his third-line centre. Striking that deal is another matter.

ADDITIONS UP FRONT

Lots of buzz about UFA David Clarkson making a visit to Edmonton and there should be. With suitors lining up, an in-demand player like Clarkson doesn't have the luxury of taking the time to visit cities he has no interest in just for the sake of appearance. That he visited tells me something.

I've said it before and I'll say it again – I like Clarkson a lot. I think he brings the leadership and edge the Oilers sorely lack on this roster. He's tough to play against and, the way I see it, he's exactly what the Oilers need. Statistics don't tell the story with Clarkson. Given the make-up of this roster, he's a fit.

Price point is obviously a consideration and we're hearing is something at or north of $6 million a season for Clarkson. That's a big overpay, but if that's what the nutty NHL market will bear, that's the price. I don't like it, but if MacT is serious about bold moves, he'll have to break out a big stack, especially with the Toronto Maple Leafs making a big pitch.

Clarke MacArthur of the Maple Leafs has also been mentioned. I'm not overwhelmed by the native of Lloydminster, but he's a two-time 20-goal scorer with 403 NHL games on his resume and Edmonton associate coach Keith Acton knows him from his days in Hogtown.

On the face of it, I'd say there's a better chance MacArthur ends up here than Clarkson, but the wildcard is I'm told the Pittsburgh Penguins want him and that he could sign there as early as Friday.

THE NAME GAME

I don't for a second think MacTavish's pursuit of Braydon Coburn of the Philadelphia Flyers is over and I expect he and Paul Holmgren will, or already have, re-visit this . . . I see Boyd Gordon, as Bob Stauffer of 630 CHED suggested, as an option for the 3C centre spot . . . difficult to ignore Ray Emery as a candidate to push Devan Dubnyk in goal, especially with word from TSN'S Darren Dreger the Oilers are in the hunt . . . Jason LaBarbera, as others have pointed out, seems a reasonable option if Emery says "no thanks."

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
Avatar
#51 Quicksilver ballet
July 05 2013, 08:40AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

C'mon Craig. This is the most leverage you'll ever have against a guy like Holmgren. Don't just knock on his door, kick that door off it's hinges. Allow yourself to do Homey this solid by ridding him of Meszaros (only 1 yr left), Coburn (3yrs) and Couturier. Give Paul, Petry and the first next summer if need be.

Avatar
#52 BingBong
July 05 2013, 08:45AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Most people here seem against signing Clarkson to a $5M per year deal. Now I realize that it's an overpay, but really how else are we gonig to get a top 6 legit power forward? If he's anything like Geurin I'd be willing to overpay for him. Someone like that could open up the ice for Hall, Ebs, etc. I think it'd be worth the money/term.

Avatar
#53 WhattaMike
July 05 2013, 08:49AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

In this time and age....free agency means player changes (minor and major) and bloated contracts (some warranted others not)... Leading into this is that Clarkson likely was made a huge 4 to 5 yr offer last night by MacT. IMO, it is likely to be a type $22 (4 yrs) to $27.5 million dollar deal which then is about $5.5 mil per yr.

I can handle that with this guy although I would prefer him at about $4.5 to $4.75 mil maximum per yr. No matter (whining about salary or not)cause whther it is a big contract or not he is a helluva player to get first.

I would love to get both Boyd Gordon and Lapiere for centre duties as well...or even Zack Smith who is coming into his own at 25 yrs old (trade for him tho).

Then if either the Oilers get Emery or Khudobin too this is a big day for the Oilers with getting most to all these players I stated of..

Avatar
#54 15w40
July 05 2013, 08:49AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

No margin for error now at the centre position. There are a lot of teams looking for help up the middle. Looks like the plan at this point is to promote Lander and have Gagner as the #2 centre behind RNH - whenever he is healthy enough to play.

Seems a little strange that nothing has been announced for Gagner either. He is in a total position of strength now as the Oilers have basically jack at his position and he can sign a 1 yr deal and walk for nothing. Management kinda has their skirts hiked up over a barrel at this point - he may get traded yet.

Right now it looks like the Flyers are in need of some immediate help for cap reasons. The Canucks are not in real great shape either based on roster size and money available to sign players.

Avatar
#55 blue31
July 05 2013, 08:52AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
toprightcorner wrote:

This is what 75% of the players did not understand during negotiations. The cap would decrease which actually makes the highest talent worth more to keep them. The guys making under $1 mill a year will stay about the same. The guys making $2 - $5 million (75% of the players) will be the ones taking a haircut. Last years $3.75 guy is this years $2.5 guy. They needed to cap the top salaries, raise the minimum salary and everyone would benefit, this way the high end skill just get paid more. Like society is going, the middle class get hurt the most until there is o longer middle class.

So you are saying that - at the rate we are headed - there will be no man-boys willing to PLAY HOCKEY for two-point-five-million-dollars per season?

This is ENTERTAINMENT, dude. Nobody pays a cent to go see the "middle-class" of hockey players. None. Zip. Nada. They are replaceable. Every single one. One player in, one player out. You're still buying a ticket.

How about this idea: Give the 2 or 3 players per team who deserve it - the stars who put asses in the seats - $20m per year. Give all the replaceables $1.5. Then perhaps I could afford to take my kids to see a game or two. Where do you think all this "middle-class" money comes from???

$2.5million to be a "middle-class" player playing a game??? And you think they should be paid more??? Incredible.

Avatar
#56 Quicksilver ballet
July 05 2013, 08:53AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Should be busy right out of the gate (10 am mountain) with teams having 2 full days to get their ducks in a row.

Avatar
#57 fatso
July 05 2013, 08:54AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Not sure how things are with Ryan miller but I heard he wants to move out west to be close to his wife/girlfriend just saying.

Avatar
#58 15w40
July 05 2013, 08:56AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I think I would rather Schenn over Couturier and that provides the Flyers with more cap relief - maybe both Schenn brothers instead of Coburn.

Sounds like Emery is going to the Flyers too, so that's out for Edmonton.

St. Louis has excess goaltending - maybe the Oilers can swing a trade with them for one of their goalies and Chris Stewart. That would be a "bold" move.

Still think Boyd Gordon should be one of the main contacts as a UFA.

Avatar
#59 WhattaMike
July 05 2013, 08:57AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

One hour and five minutes to officially begin!!!!! Exciting eh??? I got my munchies, my pot of coffee and a cold case of beer and then with what is likely to be some headaches about some deals I got my meds....

looking forward to today...lol

Avatar
#60 Lochenzo
July 05 2013, 09:01AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

on the flip side, it's easier to sign a centre now the Horc is gone. Guys sometimes feel uneasy knowing that they are forcing out another guy.

Avatar
#61 WhattaMike
July 05 2013, 09:03AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Yep I heard philly is dealing closely with emery too and so it will be likely he signs back with Chi or Philly...but one never knows cause at this time...Money talks.

I like Khudobin more so than Emery myself but either will be fine if one comes to Edmonton.. To me tho Dubnyk still is #1 for one more season at least... IMO, because of the skaters getting high deals today...odds are very good that the back up will be a cheapy and probably someone like LaBarbera

Avatar
#62 TeeVee
July 05 2013, 09:04AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@WhattaMike

Beer AND coffee?

I need to try that.

Avatar
#63 WhattaMike
July 05 2013, 09:07AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@TeeVee

Lol...yep I need the coffee to stay awake and th beer to maybe drown some sorros too..lol.. I just covered all my bases...even the meds (Motrin - nothing serious by the way) for the headaches and the need to sleep thru any possible depression lol

Avatar
#64 Rama Lama
July 05 2013, 09:12AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

As much as I like Clarkson and his game..........would he not wreak havoc with our artificial salary ceiling set with Hall, Eberle, soon to be RNH and Yaks?

Avatar
#65 fig pucker
July 05 2013, 09:15AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

addition by subtraction does not fill the holes in our line up, nor is it a bold move. i applaud mact for creating 5.5 million in cap space, however i'm not prepared to let him off the hook. we now need a third line centre to, what about depth at the centre positon. what happens when nuge, gags and lander get hurt? what about gritty 3 and 4th line players? what about a number 1 or 2 defence man? (don't tell me no one will part with one, gretzky got traded). what about size and grit in our top six? then there's goaltending, emery isn't coming, he wants more playing time i hear he's off to philly. no he's not off the hook there is still tones and tones of work to do.

Avatar
#66 15w40
July 05 2013, 09:17AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Sounds like Sakic and Yzerman will remain the last of the super stars to go to retirement with the team that drafted them.

Alfredsson giving the Sens the Heisman and jettisoning to the Wings is the rumor. That is really surprising.

Definately shaping up to be one of the most frenetic UFA days in recent memory. Draft was a snooze-fest, this may make up for it.

Biggest fear is that the Oilers are left with the paper bag and its contents that gets lit on fire on your front step.

Avatar
#67 WhattaMike
July 05 2013, 09:18AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@Rama Lama

I agree that the salaries should be reasonable but if say Clarkson got a high 4 to 5yr deal max with no such \NTC or NMC then the deal can be digestible..

In fact, I hope there are no such NTC or NMC deals with the Oilers this yr cause that is the biggest worst handicap to making deals/trades in the future.. Salary alone...can be then easily traded off or bought out...

Avatar
#68 Johnny
July 05 2013, 09:20AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Robin, does it not concern you that he is a RW??

Does the Eric Cole debacle not ring a bell?

Avatar
#69 LinkfromHyrule
July 05 2013, 09:25AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

can't help but feel like free agency will be a bust, either because we land nobody, or because we massively overpay and end up with horcoff 2.0.

Also, Clarkson seriously wants 6mil+? He's approached 50 points once, and not been close the rest of his career. I dunno about that...

Avatar
#70 The Other Ron Burgundy
July 05 2013, 09:30AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I am looking forward to the next 48 hours mostly so that all of the Chicken Little's around here can stop panicking about the falling sky. Worrying about holes in the lineup 1 hour before free agency begins is like worrying what presents are under the tree on Christmas morning. Plus, we got to open one early last night with MacT doing what he said he would do and sending Horcoff down the road.

Now, if we come away empty handed on some of the key guys then I will be the first to be Jackie Moon in Semi-Pro:

http://www.Reelz.com/trailer-clips/32400/semi-pro-clip-8

Everybody panic!

Avatar
#71 Serious Gord
July 05 2013, 09:33AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Suspect that the prospect of facing RNH or Gagner at centre for 35 to 40 min in a game is going to strike fear of physical pain (or losing a faceoff) in NO ONE. The oil NEED a physical, fierce 2nd line centre. Not a 3rd liner who will play less than 15 min/game.

Avatar
#72 Lochenzo
July 05 2013, 09:39AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Robin Brownlee wrote:

You know guys "sometimes feel uneasy" how?

Never once in 25 years covering this game have I heard a player declare that he hesitated to go to a team where he'd get the contract or opportunity to win he wants because he might be forcing another guy out.

You're right about that. Few would pass on a great opportunity. But hockey is a small world, much like my field. We all know each other and taking one job, you know exactly whom you're sending packing. It's not always pleasant.

Avatar
#73 oilerjed
July 05 2013, 09:40AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Sounds like Alfie is off to Detroit according to tsn and sportsnet. That may help us in getting a better return for Hemsky seeing how they have one more top 6 forward spot they need to fill. They seem ready to be poached as well.

Avatar
#74 Shifty203
July 05 2013, 10:09AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

No suprise we are out on Clarkson. Thank goodness. That contract is going to be stupid money.

Nice we landed Ferrence.

Looks like we are going to have lots of AHL players in the lineup to start the season though.

Avatar
#75 Fresh Mess
July 05 2013, 10:11AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Smart move by the Sens to let Alfie go. 3.5 million with bonuses up to 5 million? Ridiculous. Let the fools hang themselves.

Avatar
#76 Frsh Mess
July 05 2013, 10:12AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Oil land Ferrence for 4 years for over 3 million per year

Avatar
#77 bazmagoo
July 05 2013, 10:13AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Ference to the Oilers, 4 years 3.25 million per according to TSN. Great move, great money, great term. Good signing MacT.

Avatar
#78 bazmagoo
July 05 2013, 10:25AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
TeeVee wrote:

Bubye Potter.

No real need to have Coburn now, but he would be a nice upgrade.

Musil and a 2nd round pick to Philly for Coburn.

Avatar
#79 Quicksilver ballet
July 05 2013, 11:31AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

The Ference signing could make Smid or N.Schultz expendable.

Avatar
#80 Quicksilver ballet
July 05 2013, 11:31AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Screw Coburn, unless he brings Couturier with him.

Avatar
#81 TeeVee
July 05 2013, 11:40AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Rumblings of Couturier to Calgary. We'll see.

Comments are closed for this article.