It says here: Brownlee’s off-season predictions

(With the pressure of the stretch drive past him, Lowe turns his attention to the off-season.) If you haven’t lapsed into a coma reading playoff predictions and watching that wretched Maggie the Monkey make fools of hockey insiders on TSN, let’s get down to prognostication that matters in this non-playoff corner of the NHL. Specifically, what we can expect with the Edmonton Oilers between now and when "wait until next year" begins with the opening of training camp in September. After season-ending sessions with coach Craig MacTavish and GM Kevin Lowe, and bolstered by a big dish of inside poop from sources reliable and dubious, here’s what I know, what I think and a combination of both. So, feel free to print these off and stick them to the fridge door beside the grocery list for future reference. Or not.

Take it to the bank

  • Joni Pitkanen is the Oiler most likely to be traded. In fact, I’d be stunned if Pitkanen is around when training camp begins. First, if agent Larry Kelly is looking for a deal that pays $4.5 million a season, as I’m led to believe, he’s overvaluing his client by about $1 million. Pitkanen, despite having the pain threshold of a four-year-old, has cachet around the NHL and could be the centrepiece of a deal that would land the Oilers either a top-six forward or a top-10 pick in the Entry Draft.
  • Lowe isn’t going to trade Jarret Stoll after a miserable season because he simply won’t get anything resembling value in return. Don’t be the least bit surprised, though, if the Oilers take Stoll to arbitration.
  • While Lowe insisted today he isn’t concerned about offer sheets on his restricted free agents this summer after getting Brian Burke’s undies in a bunch by poaching Dustin Penner, he’ll move quickly on signings. Don’t be surprised if Lowe gets Tom Gilbert, Denis Grebeshkov and Robert Nilsson signed to new contracts before July 1.
  • Marty Reasoner is allowed to walk as an unrestricted free agent, leaving Shawn Horcoff, Andrew Cogliano, Stoll and Kyle Brodziak in the middle for 2008–09. It’s Brodziak—who’ll earn just $500,000 next season—who makes Reasoner expendable.
  • Marc Pouliot gets a new two-year deal, and it’s a one-way contract.
  • Rob Schremp gets traded at the Entry Draft.
  • Lowe and Burke will not go for beers or take a long, quiet walk together at the Entry Draft.

It could happen

  • Even though Kelly Buchberger has a year remaining on his contract as the head coach in Springfield of the AHL, he gets promoted to MacTavish’s staff as an assistant.
  • After leaving the coaching staff to take a place in the TV booth as Jim Hughson’s sidekick this season, Craig Simpson returns to the Oilers in a front office position. Think assistant GM.
  • Jay Bouwmeester of Florida and Shea Weber of Nashville are prime candidates for offer sheets.

Worth repeating

"I’ve heard through the grapevine two things. One, being they’re going to give us everything we need to be successful. And that life is short, so let’s get after it." —Lowe, when asked about the transition in ownership from the EIG to Rexall billionaire Daryl Katz next season.

One last thing

Anaheim over Montreal in the Stanley Cup. —Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 5pm on Total Sports with Bob Stauffer on Team 1260.

  • fyvmvv

    Who are you going to sit or demote to make room for Reasoner? Personally I think he'd make a great pothole filler on 118th Ave. If it's a bargain you want I know a couple of guys the Oil could get a real deal on if a bargain is all you want.

  • Tommy

    It all comes down to how much some of the lesser role players will accept. If Reasoner would sign a cheapy deal then I'd rather have him around mid-season when a couple guys are out with injuries. Clear out some of the contracts from the AHL side. Marty is making $950 this year, knock it down to $600 is he a better deal than Jacques this year was at $650? Hells yeah. There is a role for Reasoner on next year's team.

    I agree with dorito to the extent that if you pay $4M+ for Pitkanen then he should make a long term commitment. Look at some of the other D-men who are getting ~$4M – Foote, Aucoin, Brewer, Zubov, Morris, Sarich is getting $3.6… Joni has wayyy more upside. So long term deal at ~$4Mish? Yeah.

    Just generally, I'd rather see Lowe do a deal than make another free agent signing, I think he has a better record in deals.

    Trade Torres and keep Stoll, Stoll can't get much worse and I have a feeling he'll bounce back. Keep Roloson too – he showed he can play 30 games a year.

  • theoil

    //We traded our captain to get him//

    I think the Flyers would be very surprised to hear they traded Pitkanen to get one year of Jason Smith so that doesn't really capture the essence of the transaction in my mind.

  • chad

    you can say what you want about pitkanen but this team is a completely different animal without him on the blue line. $4M per season seems resonable for a guy who can pretty much outskate any player in the nhl with his hands tied behind his back and somehow eating a sandwich. the guy only gets noticed when he screws up but he does so many things effortlessly that he rarely gets noticed when he does it right.

  • Wanye Gretz

    "We traded our captain to get him, so it’d be nice to have him make a lengthy commitment to the City of Champions."

    Good call doritogrande, this has made me think – and this rarely occurs.


  • doritogrande

    Joni Pitkanen played more than half the season with half a groin? Anyone here try that? Because I have, and it's hell. We certainly have yet to see the best of Pitkanen, and I'm waiting patiently for the chance to see him again next year. His icetime will be very hard to replace if he's gone, as his emergence as a workhorse allowed Staios to play less minutes thereby allowing him to perform better, and by Pitkanen doing the heavy lifting allowed the other young 4 defenders a bit of a breather.

    His fluid-like skating motion is like watching Scott Neidermayer lug the puck up the ice, and I'll be damned if I would give up that without at least investing some time and energy into negotiating. If he want's 4.5M, okay, let him have it. But he's got to take a 5 year contract to get that kind of money. We traded our captain to get him, so it'd be nice to have him make a lengthy commitment to the City of Champions.

    Remember these words; if Joni Pitkanen leaves town this summer, the Oilers are a lesser hockey club next season.

    Regarding the rest, if we take Stoll to arbitration, is there a chance he can be awarded less than his qualifying offer? Sign Gilbert and Nilsson as soon as both are done serving their country this spring, but deal Grebeshkov in the Montreal pump-'n-dump strategy. Keep Reasoner as veteran insurance, because someone's going to get injured. Like the Pouliot signing. Keep Schremp for another year in the AHL and have him lead the team (and possibly league) in scoring.

  • fyvmvv

    Mr Brownye,
    If Pitkanen is a free agent, he doesn't even think about Edmonton as a choice. This will be the teams only shot at him. If he is uncoachable, if he wants 4 mil plus and can't get realistic in his asking price then all bets are off. Get what you can. By the way who in the league would give him that kind of money? I may be overreacting to say the least but I like others get revved up when we see this Reasoner discussion gather speed and the seemingly high priority on keeping him. Reasoner is rather symbolic of the 'go for the underdog mentality' that exists in the Oiler organization. Oops!I may have just quoted a Stauffer-ism. Alot of people who follow the team closely see a rather casual and cavalier attitude about letting talent slip through the Oilers fingers. Letting Lupul & Sykora go with their 35 or so goals still chaps my tookus while our playoff chances get kicked out of town with them. "I am really excited about next year." saith KLowe is cold comfort indeet.

  • namflashback

    I like Pitkanen's skill set alot — but agree that within this lineup there is some crossover in skill — a whole lot of puck movement, but not much puck stoppage.

    Substitute Pitkanen with a veteran LD such as Kubina or somebody from that NYR group would make some pretty strong pairings.
    I'd run an alignment like:
    Kubina-Staios: shutdown – 1st ESTOI, 2nd PKTOI, Kubina gets PP#1
    Grebeshkov-Gilbert: dynamic movement – 2nd ESTOI, 2nd PPTOI, 3rd PKTOI
    Souray-Greene: size – 3rd ESTOI, 1st PKTOI

    Damn — that Hejda dude would have been alot less expensive and be able to do that job.

  • RobinB

    I'm happy to see these predictions are generating some comment. That's the point.

    That's also the case over at HF, where there's a thread about my suggestion Pitkanen will be traded.
    Unfortunately, not enough people get it that this is more about my opinions and perceptions than it is something that's been whispered in my ear by Kevin Lowe or anybody in Oilers management.
    A poster at HF, under the name misfit, does get it and raises his response to what I've written beyond "Brownlee is an idiot," which is refreshing.

    I'm not going to soften up any "hard news" or "scoop" item I'm sure about by mentioning sources "reliable and dubious" and qualifying it with "here's what I know, what I think and a combination of both."

    The Pitkanen item is an educated guess based on the reasons and circumstances I've already listed and on discussions I've had with people close to the team over the course of the season — nothing more, nothing less.

    One thing I'd like to clear up. I'm on the record that I wouldn't have made the Pitkanen deal. I haven't hidden that. At the same time, I said on the air in mid-season that Pitkanen had opened up my eyes in terms of his talent level and that he was much better than I thought he was. I also admitted I may have mis-read Pitkanen by interpreting comments that he was a different kind of guy and a bit of a loner to mean he might be a "problem" or "cancer" in the dressing room. In other words, I have no axe to grind with him.

    The point is this: I'm not going to fabricate trade items out of thin air just because I wasn't big on getting him in the first place. Nor would I ignore information or talk Pitkanen was a trade candidate because I liked the guy in the hope he wouldn't be traded.

    If I'm right about Pitkanen being moved, I won't be claiming I "broke the story" first. It's my opinion. Take it for what it's worth.

  • fyvmvv

    Let's see now, what has changed in the Oiler philosophy since this last newser? OKay Okay Okay…Dump Pitkanen after one year. Let's get rid of that talent as quickly as possible. It sure worked with that untalented Lupul. I wonder if Reasoner has a twin? Maybe it's not to late for Mr. & Mrs. Reasoner to have another child. You can never have enough yuks in the dressingroom. Sure we have lots of room for another on-ice pylon. Talented, speedy D-Man hmmm. No that will never do. 'Hey Joni don't let the dressing room door hit you on the ass on the way out.'Now let's see what excuse can we use to get that uselessly talented Gagner out of here?

  • Hemsky83

    A Pitkanen departure would be well-taken if it means we grab Bouwmeester via offer sheet….but we better be getting young talent/picks in exchange for Joni

  • theoil

    slats 432 – I'm not sure what Lowe will be dangling at the draft but I think he has more assets to dangle than in any previous year. I'm hoping to read all summer over at HF that Lowe overpaid for whatever move he is able to make.

  • Hemsky is a gangsta

    Man I hope you're wrong on the stuff in the second section!!

    It was reported the Oilers had interest in Pavel Kubina and obviously last year they tried to get Redden. I hope we would be looking at that type of replacement on the top pairing (not that those two players are the same) in the event of a Pitkanen trade for anything other than a comparable d-man and not moving up Grebeshkov and Smid into roles they might not be able to handle.

  • theoil

    Thanks for the reply. I agree we have three guys with a similiar skill set. I'm not sure trading the guy with the highest ceiling is the way to go but, as always, it depends on what is available coming the other way. It will be interesting to see what Lowe can do dealing from strength this summer. I'm guessing that if Pits will sign for 3 years at 4.1-4.2 Lowe will wrap him up – maybe back loaded.

  • Shawn Mullin

    It didn't even happen yet PJO.

    As for Pitkanen, I love watching him play and think his potential is endless. Trading him after his worst season (production wise) doesn't seem particularely smart.

  • RobinB

    theoil: The pain threshold mention is my own take. Pitkanen is a different cat, that's for sure.
    I think Pitkanen is gone for three reasons. First, I'm led to believe he's pricing himself too high for what he's delivered. Second, the emergence of Gilbert and Grebeshkov, plus a healthy Souray gives the Oilers enough offence from the back end without Pitkanen. Third, Pitkanen would bring a greater return in a trade than Grebeshkov or Gilbert.

  • PunjabiOil

    Even though Kelly Buchberger has a year remaining on his contract as the head coach in Springfield of the AHL, he gets promoted to MacTavish’s staff as an assistant.

    Nice to see the old boys network alive and well.

  • PunjabiOil

    Thanks for the updates Robin.

    The best comment is:

    “I’ve heard through the grapevine two things. One, being they’re going to give us everything we need to be successful. And that life is short, so let’s get after it.”
    —Lowe, when asked about the transition in ownership from the EIG to Rexall billionaire Daryl Katz next season

  • theoil

    If Pitkanen is gone as suggested the backend becomes a lot less dangerous. You seem to be implying that Pitkanen's unwillingness to play with pain has made him an undesireable in the room. Am I reading that right?