July 16 2014 12:31PM
There's been much written and discussed in recent weeks about GM Craig MacTavish's failure to address his lack of depth at centre with the Edmonton Oilers. That's unlikely to change until he adds a proven pivot because it's an obvious deficiency.
As I've written recently, while a news release declaring the Oilers have signed so-and-so to a bargain contract would do much to ease the angst of the fan base, my sense is it's unlikely – and unnecessary – MacTavish get something done this minute, if not sooner.
Like you, I don't think it's a good idea the Oilers go into the season force-feeding Leon Draisaitl into the second-line centre spot behind Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and leaving the rest to Boyd Gordon, Mark Arcobello and Anton Lander. Puts too much pressure on RNH and the kid. This, we know.
Despite consternation among the faithful with the UFA market almost picked clean after Nashville's cheap-o signings of Mike Ribeiro and Derek Roy – I'm reminded of the old poster featuring the vultures, "Patience my ass, I'm going to kill something" -- MacTavish has options. There's the UFA bargain bin, the possibility of making a trade and the waiver wire.
UFA BARGAIN BIN
There's not much left in the UFA bargain bin, but there are names out there – none of which haven't been mentioned before. I mentioned Daniel Winnik weeks ago as a low-buck possibility. Bruce McCurdy brought him up today in a bargain bin piece over at The Cult of Hockey.
Winnik, 29, is more a winger than a centre, but he takes face-offs (his career percentage is a decidedly mediocre 41 percent). He's got good size. He provides very little offence. He can play some tough minutes. He can PK.
If you're looking for a true second or third-line centre, Winnik isn't your guy. Obviously, he's well down everybody's wish-list because he's still sitting there. If you're looking for insurance, as in a veteran who can move around and spell off Draisaitl and Arcobello when need be, he remains a cheap option worth a look, at least in my books.
If I'm MacTavish, it only makes sense to seek out trade partners between now and the start of training camp who either have a glut of centres or who are up against the $69 million salary cap.
Teams over, at or near the cap as of now include Philadelphia, Chicago, Tampa Bay and Boston. The Flyers are over $72 M in terms of cap payroll and have used both their compliance buy-outs. While some fixate on Sean Couturier, it won't happen. He's a bargain at $1.175 million for the next two years. Brayden Schenn as a 2-3 guy, anybody?
In terms of teams with pivots to spare, Nashville comes to mind after their signings of Ribeiro and Roy. Jason Gregor brought this up again yesterday and specifically mentioned Colin Wilson as a possible target.
Wilson is no home run, to be sure, but has some nice attributes – he's only 24, has good size and is a 30-35-point guy -- and might be pried away from a Music City group that includes Ribeiro, Roy, Paul Gaustad, Matt Cullen and Mike Fisher, who is coming off knee surgery, to take a utility role.
THE WAIVER WIRE
Waiting for castaways via the waiver wire isn't the preferred way to fill the hole the Oilers have in the middle, but there's the occasional find to be had once teams, especially those at the cap, start trying to thin their payrolls.
If the Oilers, who'd have third pick on the waiver wire, can find a useful player, like they did when they plucked Ryan Jones from Nashville, to fill the void, that might work. Again, that's not a big-bang answer or a sexy acquisition, but it's an option MacTavish can and will consider.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.