Marking Time

Jonathan Willis
March 12 2014 10:21AM

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Mark Arcobello is set to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, and if I were him I’d look hard at moving on to another NHL organization. If I were the general manager of the Edmonton Oilers, on the other hand, I’d put some effort into keeping him, but it isn’t clear that will happen here.

As It Stands

26-Arcobello-6

It’s probable that Arcobello has played his last game in an Oilers’ jersey this season and, given his contract status, possibly ever.

For one, the Oklahoma City Barons need him. OKC is (somehow) in the thick of a run for a post-season berth (the team won again last night, giving them six wins and a shootout loss in their last seven). Arcobello has been dynamite for the team, scoring two points per game, and there’s no question that he’s the top pure offensive player in Oklahoma City. That works against him getting a call-up.

Further working against Arcobello is that the organization has a desire to give Anton Lander a chance in offensive minutes. Lander’s been excellent all season for Oklahoma City but especially of late (he has 20 points in his last 15 games). He’s younger than Arcobello, bigger than Arcobello, and more of an unknown at the NHL level than Arcobello. If a centre goes down and a spot opens up on the big team, Lander’s the guy who will be given a shot.

Finally, the coach has shown his view of the player. Arcobello’s versatility – he wins draws, he hits, he kills penalties, he plays both centre and right wing – put him in the mix for a depth job in the NHL, along with a bunch of other players. Dallas Eakins has chosen to employ people like Jesse Joensuu and Ryan Jones in the available jobs at right wing, opting for size over skill.

Arcobello’s Choice

26-Arcobello-5

This summer, Arcobello has the option to try and hang around with the Oilers (they’d almost certainly keep him on a two-way deal) or try his luck elsewhere. Elsewhere’s probably the right move (especially if current coach Todd Nelson gets picked for a major league job in another city, an entirely plausible eventuality).

Arcobello earned a job on this year’s Oilers team on merit. He got a chance thanks to injury, has outplayed Sam Gagner all season and showed so much in other roles that there isn’t much doubt he’s one of the top-12 players on the team. He doesn’t have a job because it’s hard for a team to bump a sixth overall pick in favour of an undrafted 25-year-old, and because the team would rather have a 6’4” behemoth like Joensuu than a 5’9” guy who can do a little bit of everything. Both reasons are understandable for a team perspective, but it does indicate the difficulty of Arcobello’s position.

The story might be different elsewhere. A team with size up front might be more willing to look at Arcobello – Los Angeles, for example. A team with serious cap concerns might even be open to bringing on a cheap forward and giving him a shot in the top-six. Given the choice between trying to win a job (again) on a team that has made it clear it doesn’t see him as a fit and trying elsewhere, elsewhere seems the logical choice.

MacTavish’s Choice

Craig MacTavish8

The Oilers are in a difficult position this summer, and there are a lot of moving parts. Gagner seems likely to move on over the offseason, and his replacement seems uncertain. Is it crazy to bring up both Lander and Arcobello and hope that one of them can fill the role? It’s not something a contending team would do, or even a team certain of its playoff hopes, but with help needed in so many places it’s at least plausible.

More likely, though, the Oilers make a move to add some size up the middle – a team like Columbus seems a logical trading partner in that regard – and that opening vanishes.

For the Oilers, Arcobello is a nice option because he does a lot of different things. If the club employs 14 forwards next year, having Arcobello as one of the spares would be a good fit because he can plug in anywhere in the lineup and at some point an extra centre is going to be needed or the top-six is going to need help.

There’s downside, too, however. Clearly, the Oilers want more size in the top-six, and just as clearly they aren’t interested in small players in the bottom-six. Arcobello’s a better centre than Ryan Smyth, but the coaching staff opted to move Smyth to the pivot position on line four and send Arcobello back to the minors rather than leave both in their natural positions.

That’s why Arcobello’s probably just marking time in Oklahoma. His best shot at an NHL employment likely lies in another city. The Oilers kept putting him in a position to fail and he kept not failing, but eventually it became clear that it didn’t matter: the team wasn’t going to look past the combination of size, pedigree and immediate need.

Good players sometimes get lost in bad teams, and Arcobello shows all the signs. He may or may not turn out, but he will be a nice cheap bet for some smart team out there.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 ThatGuy109
March 12 2014, 10:28AM
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My hope is that they've already spoken to Arco and let him know that he's in the plans for next year and is in OKC to help with the playoff push now that the season is lost.

Ideally Jones isn't re-signed and you can slot Arco on Gordon's wing and bump him into the top 6 when the inevitable injuries occur.

As much as I like Jones, I'd rather spend his 1.5 mil on a one way for Arco.

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#2 Bucknuck
March 12 2014, 11:25AM
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When was the last time an Oiler prospect scored two points a game in the AHL?

RNH and Hall and Eberle didn't last year.

Belov, Jones, and Grebs are worth a 1 million one way flyer but Arco isn't? MacT give your head a shake.

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#3 RexHolez
March 12 2014, 10:43AM
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Why keep arcobello when you can overpay gagner?? Haha and the jokes keep coming from this organization.

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#4 Kr55
March 12 2014, 10:45AM
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He would be nuts to stay with the Oilers. Eakins sat him for Will Acton, an AHL 3rd/4th liner. That should tell Arco all he needs to know about how he will be treated in our organization.

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#5 Dan
March 12 2014, 10:51AM
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Arcobello wants to play in the NHL. Since the oilers arnt an NHL team he won't sign here.

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#6 Dave
March 12 2014, 10:48AM
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Run Arco!!! Run fast and run far!!

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#7 kdunbar
March 12 2014, 10:29AM
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I would love to see the oil offer a 600K ONE way contract to mark.

He could fill in on the right if Yak or Ebs are traded.

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#8 By corner, do you mean circle?
March 12 2014, 01:07PM
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This story is kind of a downer. The idea that Arco AND Nelson might move on due to a lack of opportunity is frustrating. Merit seems to be another meaningless word for this organization, much like accountability.

At the same time though Mac T does seem to have some kind of vision for the team he wants to build, which is something I guess. Hemsky hurt. Past that I'm prepared to watch any and all of these players leave in the hopes that Mac T's vision is a winning one. If Arco isn't in the plan there's nothing you can do but wish him all the luck in the world wherever he ends up. He deserves an honest shot somewhere.

I hate hating this team as much as I do so here's hoping Mac T knows what he's doing and Arco won't just be another bullet point in a long list of organizational failures!

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#9 2015Playoffs?Nope!
March 12 2014, 10:29AM
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Hes better than Gagner, defensively, offensively, really in all ways. Id like him to stay but no reason for him to. Hes proven he is NHL calibre and we still send him to OKC cause of ???? Not like we have center depth and Gagner is a terrible option on any line.

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#10 DisappointedFan
March 12 2014, 11:02AM
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So long young Arcobello, may you out-produce Gagner where ever you go and continue to show us what we are missing.

This whole situation smells like what happened with Marty St.Louis at the beginning of his career. Calgary didn't want a small forward with lots of talent, drive, and quality play...so Tampa picked him up and I don't think they have been disappoint with what they got from him since.

I don't think he'll turn into the point producer that St Louis is ...but you never really know with some guys.

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#11 vetinari
March 12 2014, 10:34AM
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Arco's had a bit of a raw deal this year and deserves a longer look with the big club.

I would rather the Oil sent down someone like Joensuu and brought up Arco but Arco's problem has nothing to do with what he brings to the table-- it has everything to do with the fact that the organization has committed to the smaller first round picks in our current lineup and can't add another guy under 6' to the mix.

Frankly, if Smyth retires next year, he'd be great taking over at his centre spot and getting time on the PK.

Arco would also be a fantastic complimentary player on a bigger team's roster (LA? Chicago? St. Louis?).

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#12 northof51
March 12 2014, 11:04AM
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The way Arcobello has been mishandled is probably my biggest problem with management this year.

...And I thought the saying is that good players get lost in good teams? Only in Edmonton do good players get lost in a bad organization.

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#13 Cogs
March 12 2014, 01:16PM
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Does anyone remember Cogliano? JW? We don't need him, he's small and fast.

Well, the Ducks, a legit team, decided they did, and look at the good player he has become.

This will happen with Arco too I presuppose. Who needs value contracts?

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#14 RexHolez
March 12 2014, 10:46AM
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When's SensNation gonna be up and running? Best thing the oilers have done is trade hemsky to Ottawa and give me a new team to watch. It's sure nice watching an actual NHL team again. Thanks Mac! Hope you enjoy your 3rd round pick haha

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#15 Twosk
March 12 2014, 10:29AM
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Agreed, good luck Arco!

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#16 Fish
March 12 2014, 01:14PM
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Successful organizations find a place for people like Arco. One thing that all good teams need is a man playing deep in the roster who is a jack of all trades, and has the ABILITY TO PLAY HIGHER in the line up when injury strikes the top 6. That is what they have here, and he's proved it. Not only did he put up points, he won draws and wasn't bleeding scoring chances as a rookie. Letting him walk is a terrible idea. He plays bigger than he is and can play C/RW on pretty much any line, while getting special teams duty on top of a regular shift. I also love the fact that he lead the team in hits while he was regular. LEAD the TEAM in HITS at 5'9. If i'm the coach he's on my roster just so I can point that out to everyone in the room and asking them to look in the mirror, step up and ask if he can do it, why can't you. To me a 4th line of Smyth, Lander, and Arcobello would be worth a look. Could they out play our current 4th line? Absolutely. Are they cheap? Yes. Can Gazdic be our 13F? Yes he can. And I do like Gazdic, yes, but he will never be a part of a line that produces as well as those three would.

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#17 Dan
March 12 2014, 11:22AM
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Craig1981 wrote:

I think thats hard to say. If the Oil kept him up here people would say, they should of sent him down to develop. If the sent him down earlier people would of said they never game him a chance to get through his slump ever player goes through. And now it is either we should of kept him so he was a RFA or we should of sent him down earlier. Complicated deal

It's not complicated at all. When he was up he played better than his competition on the team. Most notably gagner. I thought in the NHL you play the best players, but apparently not on this team

Run Arco! You'll have a way better career on literally any other NHL team

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#18 Al Low
March 12 2014, 11:30AM
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Here's another guy completely mishandled by the Oil and likely to be lost in the shuffle. Not a sure thing but he's likely to make 6 Rings and the braintrust look silly for letting him move on. I get the idea of wanting Lander in that spot but is he ready? As well, he would not be a downgrade as Gagner's replacement for next year if Sam's dealt. It's not like the Oil are making the playoffs next year. He could be used in that spot until Edmonton's finally ready to make the jump. Man, am I the only one who wishes Gagner would have been dealt after his 8 point game against Chicago?

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#19 2015Playoffs?Nope!
March 12 2014, 11:48AM
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Sometimes a players size doesnt matter. Look at Marchand in Boston. Gritty, physical, pesty player. Arco is a physical player that will do what it takes to stay in the NHL. He seems to be driven and if we develop him to play a pesty role, then its one more role that we have solidified. Just cause the rest of the Top 6 on the Oilers are weak pussies, doesnt mean a player of similar size is just as soft. We need more Arco and less Yak/Hall/RNH/Eberle/Gags that wont finish a check, wont get under the skin of oponents, at lately, wont score either!

Letting him go would be a mistake. Cogliano worked out on a different team. We ruin players. And under Katz, i dont see that ever changing.

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#20 Juice
March 12 2014, 12:02PM
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I dont get how you cant keep this guy. He was one of the ONLY oilers that brought it every game. The compete level of this guy over a player like Eberle or Ganger was ten times on a slow game for Arco. The kid hits, competes, goes to the grimey areas and showed a few points and PK time. This is the guy you want on a team and them putting him on the back burner is a joke. He may not be 6'4 but id rather have a 5'9 guy play like hes 6' than a 6'4 guy play like hes 5'5 and not give a 2 S**Ts.

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#21 Craig1981
March 12 2014, 10:45AM
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Is he an UFA or a RFA? I see him listed everywhere as an RFA, but I know sometimes depending on games played that can change. It seems like a no brainer for me after looking at what they did with Eager, Jones, Grebs. He is smaller, but plays well and untill there is an option to replace him signed (a center that can play from the 4th to the 1rst line, kills penalties, can add offense on the wiings, etc) Keep him. I know everyone always says we have small guys already, but we need at least one guy that can come up and fill those wholes when their are injuries. No Hemsky anymore!

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#22 Oiler Al
March 12 2014, 11:29AM
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northof51 wrote:

The way Arcobello has been mishandled is probably my biggest problem with management this year.

...And I thought the saying is that good players get lost in good teams? Only in Edmonton do good players get lost in a bad organization.

Speaking of .. being lost.... , there is no one more lost than Gagner and Yak.

In all honesty, I think Arco is sort of a smaller and less experienced Boyd Gordon. I can see him playing that kind of role on a third line. He is not quite up to par to be a second line center, and I would want a bigger guy for 4 th line duties, even though little Arco will dare go where Gagner and Eberle fear to tread.

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#23 2015Playoffs?Nope!
March 12 2014, 10:58AM
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Dan wrote:

Arcobello wants to play in the NHL. Since the oilers arnt an NHL team he won't sign here.

Ahahaha! Well played, sir.... well played, indeed.

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#24 Quicksilver ballet
March 12 2014, 11:03AM
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Dave wrote:

Run Arco!!! Run fast and run far!!

Lol.

Don't look back. Get as far from here as possible!

On competitive teams, management does all it can to help their team on the ice. Here in Edmonton, decisions are made to reinforce the poor decision made by this management group. Archobello proved he was better than Acton and Gagner during this year alone. How can this NOT be intentional tanking? Look how long they hung onto Devan Dubnyk. Sticking with Gagner and Eakins for another year should cost MacTavish his job.

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#25 Will
March 12 2014, 11:34AM
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He got more points, won more face offs, played like it mattered, hit more, never backed down, he literally could not have done anything more and got the boot. I do hope he finds a team with the right dynamic to fit in on a skill line. The problem being nearly every team in the league has a better one two punch.

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#26 Total Points
March 12 2014, 02:00PM
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I got sick reading this article.

Arco should have played in Gagner's spot all season and now he will be lost and Gagner will stay because he is MacT' s pet. or MacT will finally swallow his pride and trade Gagner for nothing or buy him out and we wont have Arco.

These guys don't know what they are doing. Sick sick situation

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#27 Bucknuck
March 12 2014, 12:02PM
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DisappointedFan wrote:

He had to have played in 49 games this year to be considered an RFA, but since he didn't he becomes a UFA.

Is this true? All that had to happen was for him to play 8 more games and then they wouldn't have to let him go for nothing? OK, now I'm really pissed off.

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#28 Mike Krushelnyski
March 12 2014, 01:47PM
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I don't see why we can't move Gagner out for a 2C with size, bump Gordon down to 4C and let Arco and Lander battle it out for the 3C spot.

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#29 loweblows
March 12 2014, 12:19PM
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Eakins wouldn't see talent if it smacked him upside the head. From Acton to Joensuu his ability to ice an AHL lineup is on course. To all the Eakins lovers how did the powerplay look last night?

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#30 Oiler63
March 12 2014, 01:48PM
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Led all rookies in assists when he played; win draws; kill penalties; plays bigger than his size and always finish checks... what more could this kid have done?

Playing time should be determined by performance, not cap hit. Thought that's in NHL Managing 101...

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#31 A-Mc
March 12 2014, 11:01AM
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The team is hurting for size right now, so it's tough on Arco. If MacT can bring in a few bigger bodies, perhaps that offsets the scale enough to allow arco to make the team.

The kid is fantastic and if he were even 6' Tall, he'd be a sure thing on this team each night.

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#33 Curtis
March 12 2014, 12:11PM
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I think Mark brings something that the oilers need, compete. He works hard no matter what line or position you put him in. It is just nice to see a guy succeed because he out works the opposition. Hope the Oilers sign him but seems like he has gotten a raw deal and understand if he goes.

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#34 Kr55
March 12 2014, 12:12PM
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Bucknuck wrote:

Is this true? All that had to happen was for him to play 8 more games and then they wouldn't have to let him go for nothing? OK, now I'm really pissed off.

Indeed (although it's more than 8 games he has to play to be RFA), it was completely in the Oilers control for him to be RFA after this season. The time we spent sitting him for Will Acton and sending him to the AHL has added up enough that he can't be RFA now no matter what we do. Mismanagement at its finest. My money is on the Oilers not even knowing the Group 6 UFA rules, as they have looked like fools in the past, like with AHL call-up rules a couple years ago.

Tampa turned Conacher into Ben Bishop. Arco was looking like, at the very least, a great asset that could be moved until we started treating him like garbage unjustly because of his size.

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#35 Spoils
March 12 2014, 01:28PM
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"If the club employs 14 forwards next year, having Arcobello as one of the spares would be a good fit because he can plug in anywhere in the lineup and at some point an extra centre is going to be needed or the top-six is going to need help."

This is pretty compelling to me. Injuries are inevitable in the NHL, let alone our smaller, younger guys...

plus he is smart, which is a pretty great intangible.

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#36 Craig1981
March 12 2014, 12:28PM
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Dan wrote:

It's not complicated at all. When he was up he played better than his competition on the team. Most notably gagner. I thought in the NHL you play the best players, but apparently not on this team

Run Arco! You'll have a way better career on literally any other NHL team

You do realize Gagner started the season injured and since Jan is at 18 points in 24 games. Even when Arco was running hot at the start of the season he had 12 points in 22 games. I know its more than points, but it is not as cut and dry as that. And remember Gagner is a year younger. If the Oilers really undervalue Arco as much as you think why did no team try and trade for him?

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#37 Cody anderson
March 12 2014, 11:30AM
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I get that they are trying to change the makeup of them team and trading one small player for another even smaller players does not have the optics they are looking for.

I would sign him right now for up to 1 million a year on a 1-3 year deal. I prefer him to Gags and his price tag is much lower.

I would still prefer to have a bigger tougher version of him, but if we can't check every box this off season he is certainly more than capable of playing anywhere in the lineup. A utility player that can fill in on your top 6 and make it where you don't really miss the player would be awful useful to have.

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#38 Ed in Edmotnon
March 12 2014, 12:44PM
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Craig1981 wrote:

You do realize Gagner started the season injured and since Jan is at 18 points in 24 games. Even when Arco was running hot at the start of the season he had 12 points in 22 games. I know its more than points, but it is not as cut and dry as that. And remember Gagner is a year younger. If the Oilers really undervalue Arco as much as you think why did no team try and trade for him?

How do you know someone didn't try for him?

I actually find this entire thread a bit of a waste. It is based a forgone conclusion that either the Oil won't offer Arco a contract before he becomes a FA or that he is upset and won't deal with the Oil no matter what the offer.

Is there any evidence to substantiate either? Has Arco said he's had enough and leaving, have the Oil said they consider Arco nothing more than AHL material?

This entire discussion should be in a gossip column or the supermarket news.

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#39 Tikkanese
March 12 2014, 02:03PM
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I like Arcobello but he is just more of the same.

Playing him now just makes the lineup even smaller. Trading Gagner or Ebs or Yak and replacing them with Arcobello makes us even smaller still. Arco is not the big two-way 2C everyone says we need. He isn't a 4C for that matter either. Arco doesn't really address any of the Oilers' needs except arguably 'compete level'. We already have lots of cap room so that argument is almost moot as well.

Oilers need to get bigger, meaner and buy into whatever system is put forth. Not smaller, slower and slightly less offense just because he is cheaper. It's a lateral move, won't really fix anything.

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#41 David S
March 12 2014, 03:56PM
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Tikkanese wrote:

He's at least as good as this year's version of Gagner, but a pale comparison to the real Gagner. The real Gagner granted is not a defensive guru but no one questioned his compete and definately not his offensive production. Gagner will probably be traded, but expecting Arco or Lander to be a competent 2C at this stage is foolish.

^ THIS.

Such a simple truth. I'm stunned as to why so many guys don't get this.

People look at Arco compared to a player operating at no more than 60% and make grand proclamations without considering how good Gagner was becoming last year. This year's Arco gets walked by last year's Gagner where it counts - goals and points. Not to mention I haven't seen Arco get into a scrap with a guy who can light him up like Gagner does a couple times a year (when healthy). Buddy is freaking fearless.

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#42 DisappointedFan
March 12 2014, 11:54AM
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me wrote:

According to capgeek Arobello is a RFA.

He had to have played in 49 games this year to be considered an RFA, but since he didn't he becomes a UFA.

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#44 Dangilitis
March 12 2014, 03:06PM
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"Both reasons are understandable for a team perspective, but it does indicate the difficulty of Arcobello’s position"

I thought the team's perspective should be to win hockey games and play the best players, no?

Arcobello is not more of the same. If he was Sam Gagner, he would be defensively irresponsible and not make the most of his minutes when paired with offensive players. He would play like an undersized forward and be unable to compensate for this lack of size by using hockey IQ and being rather adept at being in the right place at the right time, as well as supporting his wingers.

Arcobello is not Sam Gagner. They are similar in size, but virtually everything else, including their path to the NHL, differs.

We are flushing a guy that the team made a smart bet on to begin with, and whom the team's farm system developed into a major leaguer who would be head and shoulders above all other AHL players in points if left to rot in a league where he no longer belongs. Oilers are now giving up on him for reasons unbeknownst to anyone who graded his NHL performance relative to other NHL regulars on the team. Makes me really angry, way more than the continued employment of goons on the 4th line. He could fill a 3rd line role and then move up the batting order in the event of injury. We just flushed Hemsky, and the only other guy I see taking that role is presumably being flushed down the drain as well.

If Lander takes over #2C, that would be great but is not a bet anyone should be making, rather, at best, we should hope for a #3/4 C to eventually take over for Boyd Gordon

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#45 me
March 12 2014, 11:44AM
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According to capgeek Arobello is a RFA.

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#46 CaptainLander
March 12 2014, 01:29PM
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Cogs wrote:

Does anyone remember Cogliano? JW? We don't need him, he's small and fast.

Well, the Ducks, a legit team, decided they did, and look at the good player he has become.

This will happen with Arco too I presuppose. Who needs value contracts?

The Ducks don't just have a bunch of small and fast players. The point is not whether Arco is good enough to be on the Oil, is he a better option the RNH, Hall, Ebs, Yak, Perron? An argument can certainly be made for Gags but the realty is they are all they same type of player and that is the problem in Edmonton. How would adding Cogs make this team better? It wouldn't, and nor does Arco. Cogs works because the Ducks do not have a ton of small players.

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#48 ubermiguel
March 12 2014, 04:56PM
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Tikkanese wrote:

He's at least as good as this year's version of Gagner, but a pale comparison to the real Gagner. The real Gagner granted is not a defensive guru but no one questioned his compete and definately not his offensive production. Gagner will probably be traded, but expecting Arco or Lander to be a competent 2C at this stage is foolish.

The real Gagner?! He's a career 0.63 ppg guy. This year he's at 0.58. That's 3 measely points in a season. This year IS the real Gagner, he is who everyone thinks he is which is a 2/3 tweener centre who is lousy at draws. Arco is very smart, is great at draws, keeps improving and has earned his way into the NHL.

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#49 ThatGuy109
March 12 2014, 10:52AM
Trash it!
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Craig1981 wrote:

Is he an UFA or a RFA? I see him listed everywhere as an RFA, but I know sometimes depending on games played that can change. It seems like a no brainer for me after looking at what they did with Eager, Jones, Grebs. He is smaller, but plays well and untill there is an option to replace him signed (a center that can play from the 4th to the 1rst line, kills penalties, can add offense on the wiings, etc) Keep him. I know everyone always says we have small guys already, but we need at least one guy that can come up and fill those wholes when their are injuries. No Hemsky anymore!

I could be wrong but I think Arco is in that case. I seem to remember hearing that if the Oilers didn't play him for X more games this year, he would reach UFA status at the end of the year instead of RFA status and I believe that ship has sailed.

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#50 loweblows
March 12 2014, 12:21PM
Trash it!
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Cheers
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Juice wrote:

I dont get how you cant keep this guy. He was one of the ONLY oilers that brought it every game. The compete level of this guy over a player like Eberle or Ganger was ten times on a slow game for Arco. The kid hits, competes, goes to the grimey areas and showed a few points and PK time. This is the guy you want on a team and them putting him on the back burner is a joke. He may not be 6'4 but id rather have a 5'9 guy play like hes 6' than a 6'4 guy play like hes 5'5 and not give a 2 S**Ts.

Oiler management like yes men. See Smid.

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