Next season begins now

Jason Gregor
June 16 2014 11:45AM

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The NHL's busiest three-week stretch involving player movement is upon us.

The compliance buyout period starts today. Keep in mind teams need to put a player on waivers before they can buy him out, and only Aaron Rome (Dallas Stars) was on waivers as of 11:15 MDT, but a team could announce its intent to use one later today.

The buyouts are just the beginning.

Free agent interviews, the 2014 draft, player elected arbitration, free agency and multiple trades will all occur before July 6th.

It should be an exciting 21-day stretch.

I've touched on compliance buyouts before, but the obvious ones are Martin Havlat (the Sharks already said he isn't returning), Ville Leino, Jordan Tootoo and now Rome. Brad Richards seems like a solid candidate based on what he's getting paid now, but also due to the recapture penalties. He'd be sought after as a free agent, especially on a shorter deal with less money than his current six year, $6.66 million deal. 

This summer free agents will be able to talk to teams prior to signing with them. I know for a fact that teams and agents spoke about players prior to July 1st. I flew home from the 2012 draft and sat beside an agent who let it slip that two of his clients had already been to NHL cities and spoke with their GMs.

The new free agent interviews evens the playing field. Now every team has a chance to try and court a player before July 1st. Teams can't officially announce a signing until July 1st, but we can expect leaks of potential deals prior to July.

This year's UFA class has some decent options.

Forwards: 

Benoit Pouliot (27), Steve Downie (27), Nikolai Kulemin (27), Devin Setoguchi (27), Paul Stastny (28), Tomas Vanek (30), Ales Hemsky (30), Matt Moulson (30), Derek Roy (31), Steve Ott (31), Dustin Penner (31), Marian Gaborik (32), Mike Cammalleri (32), Dany Heatley (33), David Legwand (33), Radim Vrbata (33), Brian Gionta (35), Olli Jokinen (35), Brendan Morrow (35), Jarome Iginla (36), Saku Koivu (39) and Daniel Alfredsson (41).

The Oilers would love to get Stastny, but if he makes it to July 1st he will have many suitors. The Oilers could use a player like Pouliot, Kulemin or Ott as well.

Defence:

Matt Niskanen (27), Anton Stralman (27), Mark Fayne (27), Andrej Meszaros (28), Nikita Nikitin (28), Kyle Quincey (28), Matt Hunwick (29), Clatyon Stoner (29), Joni Pitkanen (30), Matt Greene (31), Tom Gilbert (31), Brooks Orpik (33), Ron Hainsey (33), Andrei Markov (35), Henrik Tallinder (35), Derek Morris (35), Mike Weaver (36), Willie Mitchell (37) and Stephane Robidas (37).

Niskanen is very similar to Justin Schultz and Jeff Petry, so adding him would mean they'd need to move one of those two. Stralman seems to be the new flavour of the month for many, but how good is he when he's not playing beside Mark Staal? I don't know, but I'd be leery of giving him a long term deal at big money.

The rest have different skill sets, but they all have NHL experience which is something the Oilers severely lack. MacTavish has made it clear he won't rush his young D-men, Nurse, Klefbom and Marincin, so I expect him to sign two veteran defenders. The Oilers gave up the most goals in the league last year, they don't need to get younger on the blueline. If only one of those three starts the season in Edmonton, that is a good thing.

Goalies:

Jonas Hiller (32), Ryan Miller (33), Ilya Bryzgalov (33), Tomas Vokoun (37), Evgeni Nabakov (38), Tim Thomas (40) and Martin Brodeur (42).

After Hiller and Miller age is the biggest concern amongst the free agent goalie. Alex Stalock from the San Jose Sharks might be the best bet for NHL teams to take a gamble on. He is only 26.

DRAFT AND TRADES

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The draft usually provides a lot of excitement. Teams and fans are hopeful that their first round pick will become a franchise player, while other teams are willing to move high picks for proven players.

The Ottawa Senators don't have a 1st round pick, but Jason Spezza is on the market. The Anaheim Ducks need a 2nd line centre, they own the Senators pick (10th) overall and they have nine NHL D-men on their roster. Luca Sbisa, Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen are all young. The Ducks could offer a package that stats with one of them and the 10th overall pick for Spezza or Ryan Kesler.

I don't see the Canucks trading Kesler within their division, but stranger things have happened.

The Oilers could use an upgrade at centre, but Kesler and Spezza likely don't have Edmonton on their list of teams they'd go to. When you've been the worst team in the NHL for eight seasons it is more difficult to attract players.

QUICK HITS

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  • Colorado elected for club salary arbitration for Ryan O'Reilly, while Winnipeg did the same with Michael Frolik. The teams can still negotiate with their players before their arbitration date. If not, then they go to arbitration and the player can decide on a one or two year term.

  • The Oilers have three RFAs. Justin Schultz, Jeff Petry and Luke Gazdic. Gazdic will be an easy signing, while Petry and Schultz don't have much leverage. I think you will see both defenders get two-year deals.

  • If Boston wants to resign Jarome Iginla they need to move a D-man. Johnny Boychuk has one year left at $3.36 million. The risk in moving him is that Miller, Bartowski and Krug are all similar style of players, and none of them can replace Boychuk. Zdeno Chara is 37 and you wonder how many more years he has left as an elite defender. Boychuk is a solid second pairing D-man and if the Bruins are looking at moving him the Oilers should be very interested. They need big, right hand shot who plays physical, can move the puck and kill penalties.

  • The Oilers shouldn't go into the season expecting any of Klefbom, Nurse or Marincin to make the team. They need to stop hoping for best case scenario on kids and instead have eight solid D-men and if one of the young guys is ready to be an every day D-man, great, and if not, then they will have some proven, quality NHL veterans who can play. MacTavish should sign or trade for at least two or even three proven NHL defenders this summer. Marincin looked good last year and so did Klefbom, but don't assume they will automatically improve next year. Very few player's developmental curve is constantly trending upwards.

  • I don't see the Oilers trading down, and I think the asking price will be too high to move up. I spoke to a WHL player, who is very good himself, on the weekend and he said Leon Draisaitl and Sam Reinhart were the best players in the league. He said they both have great skill, but feels Draisaitl will be better in the future because of his vision and how strong he is. It is always interesting to hear from a player who plays against the kids. Usually they have a very good read on how good players are.

  • Just a hunch, but I expect the Penguins to be very active in free agency and trades over the next three weeks.

  • As hard as it will be to sell it to the fans, I think this is the summer Craig MacTavish needs to be patient. This team is still eight players away from being really competitive. One trade won't solve all the problems, so he needs to be patient and calculating, rather than try to hit a grand slam. It sucks for the Nation, but I don't see the Oilers making the playoff in the ultra-tough Pacific division next year.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

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    One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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    #51 LOIL99
    June 16 2014, 04:43PM
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    Draft Draisaitl - Cheers

    Draft Bennett - Trash

    I asked this question on ON about a month ago and it was a dead heat. I am curious if peoples opinions have evolved.

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    #52 Privateeye
    June 16 2014, 04:45PM
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    LOIL99 wrote:

    I am a season ticket holder and I would tend to disagree with your source. I went to the seat upgrade last week and there were no more available seats than there has been in previous years. In fact I would argue the opposite, that LESS people are giving up their seats because the new arena is only 2 years away now.

    Just my observations.

    Even if your friend is right and many fans did give up their seats, Katz wont feel a thing because there are 2000+ people on the waiting list eager to get their hands on season seats.

    Yes, I would agree. The problem is, once you give up your season tickets, good luck getting them back. It doesn't seem right, but there are lots of people still itching for season tix.

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    #53 Wax Man Riley
    June 16 2014, 04:52PM
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    Will wrote:

    Huh, so Markov wants 6 mill for 3 years. I think the Oilers could probably cough that up. Draft Ekblad, send one of Klefbomb or Marincin back to the AHL.

    Markov Ekblad

    Marincin Petry

    Ferrence Schultz

    Next year buy out or trade Ferrence and promote Klefbomb.

    Then in two years trade anyone of Marincin, Markov, or Klefbomb and bring up Nurse. Boom, you now have a properly developed D core, which could by that time be both the biggest and deepest in the league.

    There's no way I put a rookie D on the first pairing ahead of our more experienced rookie D.

    I've read a scouting report (here on ON) that says Ekblad is good and projects to be a good 2nd pairing guy.

    I've read other reports that he is the real deal, but I don't think he will be an absolute game changer as an 18 year old rookie.

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    #54 Wax Man Riley
    June 16 2014, 04:54PM
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    LOIL99 wrote:

    Draft Draisaitl - Cheers

    Draft Bennett - Trash

    I asked this question on ON about a month ago and it was a dead heat. I am curious if peoples opinions have evolved.

    I like Gregor's question to the CHL player.

    The best 2 players in the draft. Draft the bigger dude, please.

    Oil have drafted BPA the last 9 years they have drafted #1, it's ok to draft for a bit of need all else being equal.

    Now if both Ekblad and Draisaitl are available at #3, there is a decision to be made.

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    #55 Mo Playoffs Mo Problems
    June 16 2014, 05:00PM
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    @Will

    Markov isn't signing here.

    He's 35. Why would he play for a bottom feeding team until he's 38?

    Someone closer to contending will offer comparable dollars and term and he'll go there. If I was his agent, I'd be calling MacT trying to use him to ratchet up the bidding price on Markov's services though...

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    #56 LOIL99
    June 16 2014, 05:00PM
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    Privateeye wrote:

    Yes, I would agree. The problem is, once you give up your season tickets, good luck getting them back. It doesn't seem right, but there are lots of people still itching for season tix.

    That's my point. You WONT get them back if you give them up unless you join the 2000+ person waiting list at a cost of $50 per year. And in 5 years when you finally DO get seats again, you are stuck with the worst seats in the house until you become senior enough to get into the seat upgrade on Day 1.

    Last year I went to 15 games and sold the rest. I made enough money that I went to the 10 games for free and broke even for the season. The demand is still there even with how bad this team is currently.

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    #57 Lochenzo
    June 16 2014, 05:28PM
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    @Mo Playoffs Mo Problems

    I think his price and term gives the Oilers a chance at signing Markov. If Markov sticks to his guns, Montreal will have a tough time absorbing Markov's contract and also upping PK Subban this year.

    The contenders don't have a lot of room under the cap. There's a few that need to shed salary to keep their own guys.

    So that dollar figure and the term for a 35+ guy with an extensive injury history, may take several teams out of the running.

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    #60 Mo Playoffs Mo Problems
    June 16 2014, 06:02PM
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    @Lochenzo

    I guess stranger things have happened than a 35 year old free agent taking the best $ and going to the highest bidder even though they're the 27th best team in the league.

    I see it as a Clarkson type situation where Edmonton may make a comparable (or better) offer, but the player will elect to sign somewhere else. Clarkson did it to play closer to home, I imagine Markov will do it to play with a team that has a slightly better chance of winning before he retires (basically every other team in the league except FLA and BUF). He strikes me as the type of guy who'd prefer to play somewhere like Columbus where he wouldn't have to deal with media scrutiny on a daily basis.

    I don't think Oiler fans can pin their hopes on getting a guy like Markov, although he'd be a great player to have around to help Marincin/K-Bomb/Nurse develop.

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    #61 Craig1981
    June 16 2014, 06:03PM
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    Lochenzo wrote:

    I think his price and term gives the Oilers a chance at signing Markov. If Markov sticks to his guns, Montreal will have a tough time absorbing Markov's contract and also upping PK Subban this year.

    The contenders don't have a lot of room under the cap. There's a few that need to shed salary to keep their own guys.

    So that dollar figure and the term for a 35+ guy with an extensive injury history, may take several teams out of the running.

    I can say with certainty Montreal will find a way to sign Markov......off the top of my head I would say 18M for 3 years.

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    #62 Oasis
    June 16 2014, 06:10PM
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    LOIL99 wrote:

    I am a season ticket holder and I would tend to disagree with your source. I went to the seat upgrade last week and there were no more available seats than there has been in previous years. In fact I would argue the opposite, that LESS people are giving up their seats because the new arena is only 2 years away now.

    Just my observations.

    Even if your friend is right and many fans did give up their seats, Katz wont feel a thing because there are 2000+ people on the waiting list eager to get their hands on season seats.

    Just curious what your time slot was this year at the upgrade. Mine was 7 pm and I can tell you that there were way more tickets then previous years. Even before I got into the arena I talked to other fans from earlier time slots and they all said the same.

    My personal opinion is that quite a few seats were given up. Maybe a few hundred, I dunno? There was some pretty big blocks of tickets available. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't wide open but there was a noticeable difference then in previous years.

    I also asked if I could go from 4 tickets to five and was told not unless I was on the Registry list. Apparently there are 2,000+ people on the waiting list. Once people see that new arena going up in the fall that number will only grow. Somehow I don't think Katz is too worried.

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    #63 Dog Train
    June 16 2014, 06:44PM
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    Mactavish has his work cut out for him this off-season. We do have cap space but our trade 'assets' are mostly coming off of down seasons and don't have much value while free agents in their prime likely won't want to waste away in our winter wonderland. On top of that, we lack draft picks of value beyond our third overall. Our lack of organizational depth really handcuffs our ability to move out the few quality NHL players that we have.

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    #64 Spydyr
    June 16 2014, 06:51PM
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    Just don't trade younger players for older players to get better fast.Unless it is a top pairing defencman under 27.

    The fans have suffered far to long to piss away the future for a quick fix.

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    #65 james_dean
    June 16 2014, 06:55PM
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    ubermiguel wrote:

    Pressed the Cheers button multiple times hoping to give multiple cheers for this comment.

    Heatley's like a beautiful girl you asked out years ago and she emphatically said "no" and embarassed you publically. Now you're a little wiser, she's a little older, maybe put on a couple of pounds and she's in your league. Still, have some pride and move on.

    You are a smart man. Thanks for those words

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    #66 Spydyr
    June 16 2014, 06:59PM
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    Heatley is beyond washed up has been for two years.He has lost more than a step maybe two.Anyone looking at Heatley for help will be disappointed.

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    #67 Harry
    June 16 2014, 07:25PM
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    Patient? Really? Are you kidding me. Mac needs 2-3 defenceman a complete 3rd line and diversity in the top 6.

    This patient thing is getting out of hand. Make something happen already. The above to do list shows just how much needs to be done. Sure he might not get it all done in the next 3 weeks but SOMETHING substantial must be done asap.

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    #68 Spydyr
    June 16 2014, 07:29PM
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    Harry wrote:

    Patient? Really? Are you kidding me. Mac needs 2-3 defenceman a complete 3rd line and diversity in the top 6.

    This patient thing is getting out of hand. Make something happen already. The above to do list shows just how much needs to be done. Sure he might not get it all done in the next 3 weeks but SOMETHING substantial must be done asap.

    So you are saying trade a 20-23 year old with 7 years here for a 34-36 year old with 2 years here just to get better quicker?

    That is not thinking.

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    #69 M22
    June 16 2014, 08:27PM
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    Lochenzo wrote:

    I think his price and term gives the Oilers a chance at signing Markov. If Markov sticks to his guns, Montreal will have a tough time absorbing Markov's contract and also upping PK Subban this year.

    The contenders don't have a lot of room under the cap. There's a few that need to shed salary to keep their own guys.

    So that dollar figure and the term for a 35+ guy with an extensive injury history, may take several teams out of the running.

    Shouldn't the reasons that may take several teams out of the running, also be the very reasons the Oilers should not be in the running at all?

    Dollar$. Term. 35+. Extensive injury history.

    What about this is attractive? Please explain, if I am missing something.

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    #70 madjam
    June 16 2014, 08:39PM
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    So many choices . I'll take one nobody else has picked as yet . R.Vrbada -50 points plus .

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    #71 SLURVE
    June 16 2014, 09:11PM
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    Since this is a well known fact, we should sign players who are good leaders with lots of experience that can help our young team move forward. With experience comes older and seasoned players such as Robidas and Alfredsson. Again, will they come to a team such as the Oilers...probably not but money always talks even for one year of mentoring.

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    #72 Hoss83
    June 16 2014, 09:13PM
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    Danger Pay wrote:

    I wonder how many times Loser by Beck was requested? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7PlMqsc5Cc

    Did you request a song?

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    #73 Danger Pay
    June 16 2014, 10:38PM
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    Hoss83 wrote:

    Did you request a song?

    No, I stopped going to games after the 2012 season. I even turn down free tickets B/C I simply cannot watch a full 60 minute Oiler game on TV, let alone completely waste my night at Rexall with the same insane in-game entertainment, again and again and again and again and again and again (I'm sorry how many years has the same DJ been employed?) and again and again and again and again. You can even hear the same ole songs as the commercial break ends, just before the puck drop. If I COULD request a song to be played at Rexall it would have to be

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7dJYHOddi0

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    #74 nuge2nail
    June 16 2014, 10:53PM
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    Oiler Domination To Follow

    Forward Targets: Grabovski, Pouliot, Kulemin, Moulsen, Downie, Ott

    Defence Targets: Fayne, Meszaros, Nikitin

    Adding 3-4 of these guys would go a long way in making this team competitive.

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    #75 Rdubb
    June 17 2014, 03:37AM
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    I see nothing wrong with MM making this Oiler team out of training camp as I personally thought that he was easily on Edmonton's top 4 men, so if he doesn't make this team, then MacT has either traded for, signed, or a combo did a combo of both to get 4 d-men, and I do not see that happening. One d on your list that I'd like to see come to Edmonton is Green, as he is a solid stay at home defenseman who could bring and show our young d-corpse how to play hard every night and what it takes to make it to the next level... Peck

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    #76 Zarny
    June 17 2014, 09:59AM
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    Gotta love the silly season. Targets go off the board, some GM signs Dennis Wideman to 5 yr @ $5.25M and we all get a laugh. That is what MacT needs to avoid.

    I wouldn't preach patience per say. The Oilers need to get better and the next 3 weeks is the primary opportunity until the trade deadline in March.

    There are certainly UFA's (Stastny, Fayne, Ott, Pouliot, Boyle etc) that could help the Oilers but it's a weak crop with lots of competition. Dallas, Columbus and half the league will be targeting the same players. MacT needs to be realistic, creative and focused.

    There is likely more opportunity via trades. The Oilers aren't going to land Kesler, Spezza or Thornton etc. Braydon Coburn, Johnny Oduya, Johnny Boychuk, Tyler Myers, Zack Bogosian are all rumored to be available.

    Colorado has elected to go to arbitration with Ryan O'Reilly. If Stastny re-signs there could be a trade opportunity but again lots of competition (Calgary).

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    #77 Hoss83
    June 17 2014, 06:00PM
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    Danger Pay wrote:

    No, I stopped going to games after the 2012 season. I even turn down free tickets B/C I simply cannot watch a full 60 minute Oiler game on TV, let alone completely waste my night at Rexall with the same insane in-game entertainment, again and again and again and again and again and again (I'm sorry how many years has the same DJ been employed?) and again and again and again and again. You can even hear the same ole songs as the commercial break ends, just before the puck drop. If I COULD request a song to be played at Rexall it would have to be

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7dJYHOddi0

    i will request every game next year till I hear and post when I do. I usually go to about 10 games.

    If I could pick one song to get off the list it would be cotton eye joe. Man that thing has been played to death.

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