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.
Avatar
#51 michael
August 11 2013, 07:38PM
Trash it!
2
trashes
+1
2
props
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.

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.

Avatar
#52 Romulus' Apotheosis
August 11 2013, 08:24PM
Trash it!
1
trashes
+1
2
props
DSF wrote:

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.

Depending on how many of these folks stay and for how long, I think there might be a good chance that they break MacKinnon in at wing higher up the depth chart before giving him the conch.

Avatar
#53 uks ya
August 11 2013, 09:01PM
Trash it!
6
trashes
+1
2
props
Uks Ya! _- wrote:

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...

Marincin, and draft pick would just be incentives :)

Avatar
#54 uks ya
August 11 2013, 10:05PM
Trash it!
1
trashes
+1
2
props
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.

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!!!

Avatar
#55 uks ya
August 11 2013, 10:20PM
Trash it!
2
trashes
+1
2
props
Lowetide wrote:

Book it! :-) I'm so glad Kent Wilson lives in Calgary, where there are no machete's.

NOT McCarron...cant be giving away our power forwards...Omark, Nick Schultz and 2nd rounder for Backlund

Avatar
#56 Hammers
August 11 2013, 11:42PM
Trash it!
4
trashes
+1
2
props

I guess you just like saying goodby to the Swedes but then again you love the Finns .As we are set up right now adding any of the Picks you listed stiil won't get us to the playoffs ( maybe Boyle). I'm a bit surprised you haven't gone for your 3 for 1 again as I think we need to be more aggressive and go a little higher in the food chain .

Avatar
#57 uks ya
August 11 2013, 09:10PM
Trash it!
9
trashes
+1
1
props
DSF wrote:

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.

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

Avatar
#58 Gaz
August 11 2013, 10:35PM
Trash it!
1
trashes
+1
1
props

@uks ya

I'm of the opinion that you have one rookie/developing player in regular rotation in the C position, and hold another rookie as the 5th C.

RNH is brilliant, but sorry folks, he's a developing C in my books. Under that assumption, the Oilers need another veteran C.

Avatar
#59 madjam
August 12 2013, 06:59AM
Trash it!
26
trashes
+1
1
props

Lack of playing time has affected our youths progress each year by never reaching the playoffs . 7 months on and 5 months off - nice paying job .

Avatar
#60 madjam
August 12 2013, 06:59AM
Trash it!
31
trashes
+1
1
props

Lack of playing time has affected our youths progress each year by never reaching the playoffs . 7 months on and 5 months off - nice paying job .

Avatar
#61 madjam
August 12 2013, 07:08AM
Trash it!
27
trashes
+1
1
props

Sorry for the triple post , have no idea how that happened ?

Avatar
#62 madjam
August 13 2013, 06:36AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
1
props
2004Z06 wrote:

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!

Ye of such little Gagner faith as second center may be pleasantly surprised as he has huge breakout year with Perron and the likes of Yakupov . The next M. St.Louis in the makings perhaps emerging ?

Avatar
#63 Oilcity
August 13 2013, 11:57AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
1
props

I've brought up the idea of Brian boyle for a long time now.. Massive 4th line centre with great pk and face-off stats. He brings size and is just what the oilers need. They need to do this. If thinking either a pick or prospect. Not hemsky because rangers are high on cap hit As it is

Avatar
#64 mike
August 11 2013, 08:17PM
Trash it!
23
trashes
+1
0
props
DSF wrote:

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.

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.

Avatar
#65 madjam
August 12 2013, 07:06AM
Trash it!
37
trashes
+1
0
props

Lack of playing time has affected our youths progress each year by never reaching the playoffs . 7 months on and 5 months off - nice paying job and endorsements to boot . So who now becomes captain and union rep ?

We may not be filling holes with upgrades , but most others doing the same in this cap era - picking your poisons . Major adjustments seem slow in coming no matter what team you speak of . After most options foe MacT. have run dry , maybe we'll revert back to default position and add someone like Smithson back into lineup ?

Avatar
#66 CaptainLander
August 12 2013, 08:45AM
Trash it!
1
trashes
+1
0
props

I think Steckel could end up an Oiler, but I still think Mac T will attempt to acquire a 3/4 center via Hemmer trade. Steckel is a filler not a 3-5 year solution. I agree that a solid 24-26 year old center with a good contract is what the Oil need. Finding one that a team is willing to trade is another story.

I found exactly zero. Likely best best is to find the fringe NHLer that has a break out year. No problem.

Avatar
#67 The_CWD_GarbageMan
August 13 2013, 08:12AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

The biggest factor this year, just like the last few years is our compete level. Every time we are supposed to make the jump to the next stage in the club's development there seems to be one or two teams that we should be better than on paper that overtake us. And it's because of work ethic.

Mac T has made a few decent moves to get us some "character" guys who's track record shows that they can compete, but (Sorry for the baseball reference) as the Jays have shown, you can have a great roster, but if the chemistry and the competitive nature is not consistent, those great names aren't going to take you anywhere.

If Eakins can get these guys to compete on a nightly basis and the players (namely our burgeoning core) buy in, then this could make for an interesting year. If not we are going to be having the same discussion about what guys we need who could turn the tide for us next year.

Comments are closed for this article.