A WORK IN PROGRESS

Lowetide
August 11 2013 02:59PM

For most of the summer, Oiler fans have been watching Craig MacTavish "build up the middle." A club with so much talent on the wing, and in clear need of an upgrade at G, D and C, would seem to have an obvious 'To Do' list--and for the most part new GM Craig MacTavish has followed the script.

However, the center position remains about the same; with Boyd Gordon replacing Shawn Horcoff, the Edmonton Oilers remain a team without true NHL quality and depth at the position. If the Nuge can't play right away, the club will have to move Taylor Hall over from the wing, weakening an impressive left flank.

We've talked and talked about free agent solutions, but that arena of summer appears to be closed for the Oilers. How then will Craig MacTavish improve center ice? Perhaps we can learn something from his recent past.

PROBLEM SOLVING

So far during his time as GM, Craig MacTavish has procured talent in the following ways:

  • Signed NHL free agents (Ference, Gordon, LaBarbera, Joensuu)
  • Signed his own free agents (Jones)
  • Signed minor league free agents (Ryan Hamilton, Richard Bachman, Will Acton)
  • Signed college free agents (C Andrew Miller)
  • Signed free agents from pro league outside the NHL (Anton Belov, Denis Grebseshkov from the KHL)
  • Traded a veteran (Horcoff) for a fringe NHLer (Larsen) and a pick much later this century
  • Traded a young, less established NHLer (Paajarvi) for a young, more established NHLer (Perron)

If we're guessing about how MacT will address center--and I'm pretty sure he's going to at some point, it may be in-season--and we believe he's done in free agency, it means a trade of some sort.

Question: what if MacT uses the Perron-Paajarvi deal as a template? What if he dealt Anton Lander and a high end prospect (Marincin?) or dealt Lander with next year's 1st round selection? I think the idea of acquiring a solid NHL center becomes much easier using the trade made with St. Louis as a guide.

CENTER AVAILABLE?

The first thing we need to do is identify some teams that are unlikely to contend for the playoffs in 2013-14 or have tremendous depth at the center position. Even at this early stage, it's very unlikely the Calgary Flames, Florida Panthers, New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres will be playoff contenders. Looking at their rosters, we  can come up with an interesting list of potential C's for the Oilers based on a 'Lander and a pick/prospect' return. Other names below may be part of a crowded group, with a player like Lander being a better fit (Lander can be sent to the AHL without waivers).

  1. Mikael Backlund, Calgary: There are some serious problems in suggesting Backlund, not the least of which is that a Flames-Oilers pick happens once a lifetime and Steve Staios is the trivia answer for the 2000's. The other problem is that Backlund is a wildly underrated hockey player (Kent Wilson has documented this brilliantly at Flames Nation). However, I think there's some evidence the Flames don't know what they're doing and I'm pretty certain MacT would appreciate the skills a Backlund offers. The price might be dear, but the player is an outstanding fit for the Oilers.
  2. Shawn Matthias, Florida: I actually like a free agent Panther better (Peter Mueller) but Matthias has some things that make him attractive too. The Panthers have Marcel Goc as well, but I think he's a little long in the tooth to be a legit Oiler target. Matthias has size and good 2-way skills, he is usually solid in the faceoff circle but was poor this season.
  3. John Mitchell, Colorado: The Avs have a stunning depth chart at center, with Mitchell possibly being the odd man out. He blossomed late, and isn't a speed demon, but would be a very nice addition to the current depth chart.
  4. Brian Boyle, Rangers: Big man is being pushed out by insane depth in Manhattan, and could be available sometime this season (when all are signed and straightened away in NYC).

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

I don't really believe Craig MacTavish would do so much heavy work on defense and so little at center--both badly needing improved quality and depth and he's addressed one and not the other.

My feeling is that it's not for a lack of trying and we may see something break before October. Something similar to the Paajarvi and a 2nd deal for Perron, possibly involving one of the many prospect defenders.

We wait.

(Lander photo by Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved).

C2a6955161684b5e3189319acfa5ebe4
Lowetide has been one of the Oilogosphere's shining lights for over a century. You can check him out here at OilersNation and at lowetide.ca. He is also the host of Lowdown with Lowetide weekday mornings 10-noon on Team 1260.
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#1 OTown
August 11 2013, 04:35PM
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I think Brian Boyle would be the perfect fit as the Oilers 4th line center. He brings size and toughness. He's good at face offs and if need be he could move up to play the third line at either center or wing once injuries start happening. He brings to table everything the Oilers lacking.

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#2 Rocket
August 12 2013, 04:39AM
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*Rolls eyes*

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#3 Cutterov
August 11 2013, 04:56PM
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None of the players listed here would warrant a top pick... They would be nice additions however, a mid level prospect and mid pick should do the trick

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#4 MessyEH!
August 11 2013, 05:51PM
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I would prefer it if MacT was reviewing potential waiver wire pick ups to strengthen the C depth. Leave Lander in the AHL. Give Acrobello a cup of coffee for the 1st couple weeks. We are talking about a 4th line center. 10 face offs a game 6 minutes a night. Why the hell would we sell our future to fill this position. D has been our biggest problem for years. MacT has made some good moves, that may work out for the teams D. But they may not.

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#5 Rama Lama
August 11 2013, 06:44PM
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No trading any first round draft choices........ever! Team that employ this myopic style of thinking are delusional and most often fail.

Mac T stated in earlier interviews, that Miller was going to surprise a lot of people........I suspect he thinks that this player can be the stop-gap for the Nuge, and all that would be required is to bring up Arcebello for the experiment.

God knows he has earned an opportunity to play a few games up in the bigs!

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#6 Crash
August 11 2013, 11:12PM
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I am wishing for a Hemsky for David Legwand trade. Both players each have a year left on their contracts and $500,000 difference. Nashville gets an offensive threat (lowest scoring team in 2013) and Oilers get a rugged centre who could play second line, third line, or fourth line minutes.

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#9 Citizen David
August 11 2013, 07:02PM
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If we trade Calgary a first rounder... I don't even want to think about it. And no giving them Marincin either!

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#10 Dan the Man
August 11 2013, 07:13PM
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I'm still trying to figure out why the Oilers haven't signed David Steckel? A big (6' 5", 217 lbs) left handed centre (58% career)who can kill penalties and could be had for about 1 M or so. Seems like a good fit to me but then again no one else has signed him yet either so maybe there is something about him that I don't know.

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#12 Racki
August 11 2013, 08:30PM
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mike wrote:

The Oilers would be giving up more than Hemsky to get a guy like Stastny. Goodbye to that first round pick. And perhaps kiss Marincin goodbye also.Still a trade I like.Even at that cost.

I don't agree at all. I think Stastny's stock has severely dropped, especially after the big pay day. I'm not sure the Avs would give him up for Hemsky or not, as I'm not sure how well that addresses their needs, but there is no way I'd be giving them Hemsky + 1st + prospect. Huge contract right now.. could become a UFA.. who wants to throw away 2 assets + a vet for that?

That said, I would do Hemsky for Stastny swap if Avs would, as that would help the Oil right now.

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#13 michael
August 11 2013, 05:12PM
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There is no solution short term to our center situation other than moving Hall to center. Which for me is real dumb move. It'll take Hall 40 games before he even adjusts to center. MacT would have to offer a sweet deal to get a center at this point of the summer. Its a matter of how many assets do you want to expend to fix a short term need.If you spend 3 assets to get a top 6 center what in the world will happen when RNH gets back. You then move a Gagner or ? down to 3rd line? That makes no sense.

I believe MacT give Eakins the nod to us one of Lander,Acton or Arcobello and see what happens. Got to know what you got in the bank before you can cash it.

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#14 DSF
August 11 2013, 08:04PM
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Oiler Al wrote:

Not sure how much pus MacT has made in trying to deal Hemsky.... it would appear that teams dont want this over rated prema-donna.

How about Hemsky for Stasney, and Colorado take back $1.6 of Stasnyès salary and it s an even swap, and cover the balance of their contracts.

Would serve both teams well for this season.

This idea of chasing 4 th line centers is dumb., with Nuge out, you need to cover the top lines,and this would give the team depth at center for the rest of the season.... I am not a fan of moving Hall to center on the interm basis... unless he goes there full time... then expect some lag time.

One of the best trade proposals I've seen in along while.

Colorado is loaded at C, so much so that they will likely move Ryan O'Reilly to RW.

Duchene

MacKinnon

O'Reilly

Statsny

Mitchell

Acquiring Hemsky for Statsny would allow the Avalanche to keep O'Reilly at centre although I doubt they would be willing to pick up the salary difference.

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#15 DSF
August 11 2013, 09:11PM
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michael wrote:

PS has an expiring contract that is something to keep in mind. His dads blarp last year also to keep in mind.

Would a trade for Nick Shultz and a prospect be more likely? Considering Colorado defence. They could use a veteran. And an expiring contract in NS. I would think PS would certainly look good lined up with Hemsky and Jones . Means you move Gordon down but we all coud lie with that. Why not create a 3rd scoring line and add center depth at the same time. We got so many dmen right now that NS would not be missed.He is a 4-5 guy. Got plenty of those.

Lowetide I see that Ryan Whitney remains unsigned. Seems that what we saw this past 2 years from Whitney others also saw. I see Europe in his future. Real soon.

The Avs aren't going to trade Statsny for a bottom pairing D.

They could easily pick one up for cheap on the FA agent market instead.

Tom Gilbert is still unsigned as are more than few others.

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#16 DSF
August 11 2013, 07:48PM
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michael wrote:

Steckel and Grabbo both still available for what ever reason. Acton and Hamilton both signed to 2 way contracts early on this off season. Hmmmmm. Read anything into this. Perhaps Eakins has an opinion or 2 that may count for/against the aforementioned Steckel and Grabbo. I would bet that neither gets here anytime soon.

It's much more likely that both Grabovski and Steckel are looking at different options.

Grabovksi is rumoured to favour Calgary as a destination where he would be a #2C and I would imagine Steckel and the Ducks are awaiting a Selanne decision.

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#17 DSF
August 11 2013, 08:25PM
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mike wrote:

The Oilers would be giving up more than Hemsky to get a guy like Stastny. Goodbye to that first round pick. And perhaps kiss Marincin goodbye also.Still a trade I like.Even at that cost.

I don't know.

It's an expiring contract for an expiring contract.

The trade would address team needs for both sides.

I think Statsny will be a walkaway at the end of his contract so acquiring Hemsky, with the possibility of re-signing him, might have appeal.

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#18 Romulus' Apotheosis
August 11 2013, 10:43PM
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DSF wrote:

He's already waited months.

If he doesn't address the C depth issue before the season starts, is he any different than Tambellini?

Jim Nill identified lack of centre depth on the Stars as a major problem and solved it in ONE DAY.

Most hockey observers differentiate between time during season and time in the off-season. I wonder why?

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#19 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
August 12 2013, 12:33AM
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This year is toast already. So many holes still remain and no cap space to address them. Overpays rampant throughout this lineup is to blame. Bringing in AHL'ers, and passing them off as NHL'ers, is the only cards MacTavish has left to play. 5 yrs of this and the Oilers are still starting the season with AHL'ers in the starting lineup, what a disgrace.

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#20 Aitch
August 12 2013, 10:16AM
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Lowetide, I'm usually with ya, but once I read package Lander and a 1st to fix the Centre issue, I tuned out. There's no way we should be dumping a future first rounder (not to mention other aspects) for a 4th line Centre. Way to expensive.

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#21 Racki
August 11 2013, 03:23PM
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Like you said, it isn't for a lack of trying that the Oilers are still weak up the middle. I think while Nuge is in sick bay, they'll have Hall at center. I too am not overly ecstatic about this, as he's spoken several times about how much more he prefers the left wing.

While it may be best for the team that we have to have Hall at center for a bit, I think we know that in the long run, it's best for the team to find a much better, more comfortable centreman and put Hall back to his preferred position.

I don't really think Arcobello is going to get much opportunity at the NHL level this year (or ever, likely), so I don't really consider him to be that viable of an option. The Oilers really need to move some assets for a more reliable C.

But then once everyone is healthy.. what do you do? What do you do with Gagner in particular.. you know we won't want him on 3rd line C? Or were you thinking that the Oilers acquire a good 3rd line C, OK 2nd liner type guy? I guess by the list of names above, that's what you're thinking. It will definitely be a lot more easier to acquire, but I wish the Oilers could get a more solid #2 option.

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#22 DSF
August 11 2013, 09:46PM
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Gaz wrote:

Agree. The recent commentary, from the source's mouth, about Hall potentially starting the season in the C-spot is really, really troubling.

Competition is fine, but AHL players competing against other AHL players for NHL jobs is a huge misstep, in my opinion.

They need two more centres with an NHL tenure established.

Yep.

If Hopkins isn't 100 percent to start the season, not bringing in competent help when it is available is unforgivable.

With the Oilers October schedule, they could easily be out of the playoffs by the start of November.

The new Pacific Division is TOUGH.

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#23 Oil Can
August 11 2013, 07:37PM
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Mac T. is not going to trade a very good prospect and possible roster player in Lander and a top prospect or high draft pick for any of those players. That would truly be stupid and he is definitely not stupid. You seem to want to move either Gordon or Gagner to the fourth line then, after they signed them to those big contracts. Try to come up with something worth reading, because as summer rolls on, these blogs are getting ridiculous.

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#26 RexLibris
August 11 2013, 10:02PM
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Personally, I like the Backlund idea best. If he were our 2C we'd be off and running partially because of the wingers he would play with.

The best part of that idea is that MacTavish would be dealing with Feaster. They could just unload one or two college players and find "the best _____ not in the NHL" and the deal would be done.

So, what are we saying? Simpson, McCarron and Linus Omark for Backlund and a 5th rounder (because Feaster loves to deal those away)?

;-)

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#27 Uks Ya
August 11 2013, 05:31PM
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trade lander and prospect or draft pick for Brodziak back~!!!

&& why am I the only one who wants Zenon Kenopka?? he fights, hits &&& WINS FACE-OFFS!!!

Kenopka or Boyle are badly needed!!! geeezz

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#28 Romulus' Apotheosis
August 11 2013, 08:31PM
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Lowetide wrote:

Well, if you're team building and attempting to hurry up the process then trading looks like the only option left this summer.

I understand there are free agents still out there but as DSF pointed out above chances are these players either have other options they prefer or the Oilers aren't interested for cap reasons (or don't like the specific player for their specific situation).

I think the trade route makes real sense if they can get someone who can slide up and down the depth chart and also play in several situations.

That kid in Calgary would be a very nice fit.

Oh. I like the players you picked out just fine. I just don't like the cost.

One thing you didn't explore that seems possible based on your list of MacT moves is finding a C from another pro-league.

The Count-Kola idea was very interesting. Damn his two year contract!

The Belov model: find another Count-Kola type... maybe we should be mining other leagues for FA and players with opt-out clauses. Get Musil and the Finn scout to hustle.

The Grebs model: bring Thoresen back?

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#29 Gaz
August 11 2013, 09:40PM
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@DSF

Agree. The recent commentary, from the source's mouth, about Hall potentially starting the season in the C-spot is really, really troubling.

Competition is fine, but AHL players competing against other AHL players for NHL jobs is a huge misstep, in my opinion.

They need two more centres with an NHL tenure established.

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#30 Uks YA
August 11 2013, 05:29PM
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OTown wrote:

I think Brian Boyle would be the perfect fit as the Oilers 4th line center. He brings size and toughness. He's good at face offs and if need be he could move up to play the third line at either center or wing once injuries start happening. He brings to table everything the Oilers lacking.

I agree...your 2 trashes can suck it!

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#31 Oiler Al
August 11 2013, 06:56PM
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Not sure how much pus MacT has made in trying to deal Hemsky.... it would appear that teams dont want this over rated prema-donna.

How about Hemsky for Stasney, and Colorado take back $1.6 of Stasnyès salary and it s an even swap, and cover the balance of their contracts.

Would serve both teams well for this season.

This idea of chasing 4 th line centers is dumb., with Nuge out, you need to cover the top lines,and this would give the team depth at center for the rest of the season.... I am not a fan of moving Hall to center on the interm basis... unless he goes there full time... then expect some lag time.

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#32 Uks Ya! _-
August 11 2013, 08:59PM
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remember the canucks were too scared too send us Schneider...well gentlemen this is a business lets make the troubled devils look a gift golden horse n the eye ;)

to oilers ** Schneider 4mill and Volchenkov 4.2 mill (8.2 mill going to Edmonton which means NJ picks up 4mill cap space)

to devils ** Dubnyk 3.5mill, Hemsky 5mill, old Schultz 3.5 mill, Marincin, 2nd round draft pick (That's 12 mill going to New Jersey who has 7million in cap space available)

**IF TRADE HAPPEND** NJ would STILL have 3 mill cap**

now here's why its possible...

Jagr's all time favourite line mate was Hemsky at Olympics and worlds...lets not forget about Elias and Zidlicky (fellow czechz)

with Parise, clarkson and Kovalchuk gone they need serious top 6 help...I think the Czechs would have a solid season together....then we get Russian boy Volchenkov to play with grebeshkov or belov and also yakupov

Shultz would take his minutes in NJ..

Dubnyk would be there to back up and take over when Martys done...

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#33 DSF
August 11 2013, 09:22PM
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Dan the Man wrote:

The one thing I take solace in is that unlike Tambellini, MacT seems like the type of guy who will address a hole in the line up sooner rather than later. I honestly couldn't imagine MacT waiting months to add a center like Tambellini did last year when the team had several injuries down the middle.

He's already waited months.

If he doesn't address the C depth issue before the season starts, is he any different than Tambellini?

Jim Nill identified lack of centre depth on the Stars as a major problem and solved it in ONE DAY.

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#35 Jarrett
August 11 2013, 03:19PM
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I have been wanting to acquire Shawn Matthias for a few months now. He seems to be and have alot of what we need. I think he would want second line minutes though, and that would cause problems by November...

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#36 uks ya
August 11 2013, 08:21PM
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Dan the Man wrote:

I'm still trying to figure out why the Oilers haven't signed David Steckel? A big (6' 5", 217 lbs) left handed centre (58% career)who can kill penalties and could be had for about 1 M or so. Seems like a good fit to me but then again no one else has signed him yet either so maybe there is something about him that I don't know.

im guessing he has a "Belanger" type attitude

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#37 Dan the Man
August 11 2013, 09:18PM
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Lowetide wrote:

Me too. Me too. Steckel is a guy who you could even sit if Lander pushes from the AHL, or maybe move up to the 3line if Gordon goes down.

He'd be a nice add.

The one thing I take solace in is that unlike Tambellini, MacT seems like the type of guy who will address a hole in the line up sooner rather than later. I honestly couldn't imagine MacT waiting months to add a center like Tambellini did last year when the team had several injuries down the middle.

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#38 BOOM!
August 11 2013, 10:10PM
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uks ya wrote:

were only short ONE center til November someone like Stastny or Grabovski or via trade...til RNH is ready we have Gagner 1st or 2nd line, Gordon 3rd line and Lander, Arcobello, Miller can Battle hard for that 4th line spot.....I mean there comes a point and time that someone new starts off their solid NHL careers....cant always have NHL proven players or theirs no point in drafting players

ding ding ding

p.s as for grabo, gagner, stastny fighting/pouting over 2nd line icetime??

come on...get real!!

this is the NHL....its about time we have 3 NHL calibre lines....u need 3 NHL calibre lines to win or contend in this league, whoever deserves the spot can have it!!!

we add grabo and roll 3 lines...

November and so on.....

Hall-Nugent-Hopkins-Eberle*** Perron-Gagner-Yakupov*** Jones-Grabovski-Hemsky ** Smyth-Gordon- Brown**

Joensuu is Healthy scratch for now but most likely steal Jones or Smyths spot! :)

Lander also waits for 1of our fragile centermen to go down

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#39 Uks Ya
August 11 2013, 10:14PM
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BOOM! wrote:

we add grabo and roll 3 lines...

November and so on.....

Hall-Nugent-Hopkins-Eberle*** Perron-Gagner-Yakupov*** Jones-Grabovski-Hemsky ** Smyth-Gordon- Brown**

Joensuu is Healthy scratch for now but most likely steal Jones or Smyths spot! :)

Lander also waits for 1of our fragile centermen to go down

also liking the possibility Grabo out played Gagner and it looked ...

**Hall-Nuge-Ebz** **Perron-Grabovski-Yakupov** **Smyth-Gagner-Hemsky** **Jones-Gordon-Brown**

**Joensuu, Lander**

but.......im excited to see Perron play with Gagner and Yakupov..

Gagner and Perron used to battle hard , they came into the NHL same year and were kinda rivals.....sometimes your enemys turn your best friend...I think we have a strong case here

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#40 Woogie63
August 11 2013, 11:58PM
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How do we get Ryan Johansen from CBJ, he seems to have stalled in that system.

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#41 Uks Ya!
August 11 2013, 05:36PM
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why does it seem so impossible for Oilers to make trades...why couldn't we land Bolland for a 2nd rounder?

I would trade all my 2nd 3rd 4th and 5th round picks for proven NHL players for now!!!

we have tons of prospects signed to contracts, lets start trading our 2nd, 3rd & 4th picks for some HELP NOW!!!!

idk..................FML

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#42 Uks YA
August 11 2013, 08:17PM
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Lowetide wrote:

I think the Oilers were VERY close to getting Konopka as a UFA, wouldn't surprise me if he ends up here at some point in time.

if we got him we would have a solid 4th line with either Joensuu or Eager to the left of Kenopka and Brown.....they would chill out any line n the league

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#43 Romulus' Apotheosis
August 11 2013, 08:20PM
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I hate this idea.

I get the logic of it. But with FA options out there both high (Grabo) and low (Steckel) and in-between (Mueller), it sure seems like a lot to give up for what could be had for just $$$.

I wish that Finn Count-Kola was available. That would have been sweet!

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#45 michael
August 11 2013, 09:05PM
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PS has an expiring contract that is something to keep in mind. His dads blarp last year also to keep in mind.

Would a trade for Nick Shultz and a prospect be more likely? Considering Colorado defence. They could use a veteran. And an expiring contract in NS. I would think PS would certainly look good lined up with Hemsky and Jones . Means you move Gordon down but we all coud lie with that. Why not create a 3rd scoring line and add center depth at the same time. We got so many dmen right now that NS would not be missed.He is a 4-5 guy. Got plenty of those.

Lowetide I see that Ryan Whitney remains unsigned. Seems that what we saw this past 2 years from Whitney others also saw. I see Europe in his future. Real soon.

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#46 Uksin Eh!
August 11 2013, 09:37PM
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uks ya wrote:

sum ting tell me that Jagr, Elias & Zidlicky are gona get ol lou lamo...to acquire Hemsky from us....can we package hemsky with dubnyk, old Schultz , lander, marincin & 2nd round draft pick for Schneider and Volchenkov??

they have the cap space....and they NEED the help/depth

Marincin, Lander, and draft pick would be bonuses after addressing their needs...and with duby their rite back to where they were before acquiring Schneider at the draft...duby will be solid for them when martys done

volchenkov fits n well with yak, grebby and belov

hemmer fits n well with elias, zidlicky and jagz

I like it.. look at it this way, New Jersey Gets Dubnyk, Hemsky, Marincin & 2nd round pick for ONLY...Schneider aka 10th overall/Horvat

and its Nick Schultz straight across for Volchenkov in the same package obviously

that's a lot of aspects for Horvat...

we add legit number one goalie and top 4 hard hitting volchenkov who fits in well with Belov, Grebeshkov and Yakupov

p.s we also free up 4 mill in cap room

I LIKE IT!!!

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#47 fuzzy muppet
August 12 2013, 08:41AM
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Nothings happening until training camp when the waiver wire may bring some help.

Im still pretty meh on what MacT has done. Sure he brought in a lot of bodies, but are any of them actual improvements on what they had? Perron is the only guy thats an improvement over the player he is replacing.

Im hoping there's something still coming when camps open and the cap limit becomes a more pressing issue.

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#48 Lochenzo
August 12 2013, 09:20AM
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I've always liked the idea of bringing in Brian Boyle. I'm surprised that the Rangers would not be interested in replacing Gaborik's skill with somebody like Hemsky.

I think things are on hold in NY with AV settling in as the new coach. After training camp, we'll know where things fall and maybe Boyle become available if Brad Richards looks real good.

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#49 2004Z06
August 12 2013, 10:44AM
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Cracks me up that most of you still see Gagner as a legit #2C. What we need is to get a natural#2C that forces Gagner out to the wing. Stastny for Hemsky works!

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#50 dessert1111
August 11 2013, 04:10PM
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I watched Matthias last season with interested. Seems to be a good fit with the Oilers with room to grow. On a reasonable contract too. With his age and skill set though I don't think the Panthers would do Lander + a prospect for him, unless they really really liked the prospect.

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