The Cheap Seats: you get what you pay for

Mercy, with the Edmonton Oilers firmly established as contenders in the 2010 Lottery Pick race, general manager Steve Tambellini is getting all kinds of free advice these days.

"Tank it," say some pundits, seemingly oblivious to the fact, as Jason Gregor has already pointed out, the Oilers are already well on their way to doing that and will likely succeed without trading anybody.

"Trade Shawn Horcoff,"  offer those in the No Clue Club, a segment of fans who believe Tambellini can simply wag his GM’s wand and make his peers as gullible as Mike Milbury was when he was making genius moves on behalf of the New York Islanders like trading Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha.

"Just do something. Anything," say others, frustrated beyond words the team they picked to win the Northwest Division is destined to miss the playoffs for the fourth straight year, tying a franchise record for futility.

And, finally, there’s the Make A Big Splash Brigade, those who scrawl quantity-for-quality trades on the back of their lithium prescription slips — why not trade Robert Nilsson, Steve Staios, Shawn Horcoff and Joey Moss for Ilya Kovalchuk? Why not, indeed.

Everybody has it figured out.


After the Oilers filed out of Millennium Place Monday with, not surprisingly, Ethan Moreau, Sheldon Souray and Dustin Penner leading the way before Tambellini spent 10 minutes or so looking like a deer in the headlights in front of assembled reporters, I took the time to have a coffee and scrawl down some ideas.

They’re not necessarily big-bang ideas or revelations that nobody else has thought of. They aren’t based fully in any of the existing camps, especially those looking for a full-scale tear-down of the roster and do-over with an eye to landing Taylor Hall — or whatever Swiss centre the Oilers have exclusive scouting intel on. They won’t rid the Oilers of spare parts and land a top-six forward in return.

They are, however, do-able between now and the trade deadline, and could address some deficiencies on the ice and in the dressing room based on what I know, or think I know, about this edition of the Oilers.

As important, the moves I’m thinking of won’t gut the team long-term to address the short-term and vice-versa. They won’t bust the cap and they won’t have Oilers fans paying NHL dollars for an AHL product for the next 55 games this season on the way to 29th place.


Here, in no particular order, is what I came up with.

— Trade Moreau and Staios. I know, hello Captain Obvious. As I wrote last week, I believe the Oilers are in need of changes to their veteran core. Staios and Moreau are the most easily moved pieces of that core.

Tambellini can’t move Horcoff’s contract. He likely can’t, and probably shouldn’t, move Souray or Lubomir Visnovsky. That leaves the captain, who doesn’t have enough game left to say, "Follow me, boys," with much credibility. Staios, who can’t hide with all the minutes he’s playing here. Give Souray the "C" and Ryan Stone Moreau’s spot.

— When Denis Grebeshkov gets healthy, assuming nobody else slips in the shower and fractures a leg, decide between him and Tom Gilbert and move one of them. Nothing new to this train of thought, either.

Gilbert’s hideous start has hurt his value compared to last season, when some people thought him a rising star after a 45-point campaign, but he’s got some cachet with teams needing a puck-mover. Grebeshkov might be tougher to move coming off knee surgery.

Pick one and move the other for a proven forward in the same price range. Preferably a centre who can win face-offs. With either one, it’s probably best to wait until closer to the deadline.

— Tambellini has put himself in a bind by giving Nikolai Khabibulin that four-year deal. It looks even worse today because Khabibulin’s cranky back has kept him out for six games.

That said, he’s going to be the guy for the next two seasons, at least, and that means Jeff Deslauriers or Devan Dubnyk probably has to go because both will need waivers to be sent to the minors next season.

I’m not of the mind Dubnyk has done enough, yet, to be a sure pick-up by on waivers by another team, but why gamble on losing one of them for nothing?

— Trade Patrick O’Sullivan. As is the case with Gilbert, this is a move best made later, but it’s one Tambellini should let other GMs know he is willing to make.

I’m of the mind Gilbert Brule or Ryan Potulny can bring all the offence, and more grit, than O’Sullivan does. Does O’Sullivan get Tambellini a shut-down defenceman who could play in Staios spot? I think so.

As always, let me know what you think.

— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.

  • I've been saying similar things as you for a bit too in your suggestions. Although I am a bit surprised that Moreau and Staios have enough value for a trade. I'm also one of the only wingnuts on the planet that likes Staios though, so I'm not completely sold on moving him yet…. however if we're going after a shutdown D-man in one of the other deals, then I'm definitely all for it.

    I've also been hoping the Oil move one of Gilbert or Grebeshkov as well. If not for the sake of never seeing those two on the ice together, it would free up a spot for Chorney or possibly another defensive d-man. I'd love another Smid…. oh to have Hejda back.

  • The Fish

    "Gilbert's track record until this season has been fine and he had 45 points last season."

    Direct quote from you.

    "There's a GM who'd think he was getting him at a discount right now."

    Direct Quote from you. (How can a 4million dollar player playing like he is, be a discount?)

    "How many D-men in the NHL had 45 points last season?"

    Direct Quote from you. (again with the 45pts)

    You keep on quoting "45pts last season" and then saying: "I'm the last person impressed by numbers alone".

    Walking Contradiction.

    • Heavy G

      Oooooooooo. Direct quote. So what?

      Because you missed it, the reference to the discount isn't about what a team would pay Gilbert, it's about what they'd have to give up to get him in terms of players.

      No contradiction whatsoever, but that's not really the issue here, is it? You've been by here before taking potshots and looking for an issue. You still don't have one.

      Do it again and you're gonzo. Got it? Good.

      • Willy and Ross: They are half-quotes taken out of context, as you noted, and anybody who has been paying attention knows how I feel about Gilbert, but don't sweat it.

        Fish is one of those dicks who comes here to try to get in my kitchen. Cover one bogus argument, he'll throw out another. He's not looking for dialogue, he's wishing I would care what he thinks. I don't.

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    I must be the only guy on the planet who thinks Horcoff is actually tradeable. Pretty sure during the early summer Everyone would have considered Gomez and his 7.3 M cap hit untradeable especially after 2 disappointing seasons in NY. Sather must have worked some real magic because he ended up getting a pretty decent return and more or less ended up trading Gomez for Gaborik (If you think about it creatively of course). Unless Horcoff has or is going to have chronic shoulder problems, I think someone could end up picking him up because he could be a pretty valuable player to the right team. I would consider him to be more of a bargain than Gomez for their respective cap hits but then again I'm a Horcoff fan.

    This was my first post on here but I've been reading blogs for a while and I gotta say Robin I'm a huge fan. You and Lowetide are easily my favorite bloggers out there. Keep up the good work man.

    • Picking a horrible contract in Gomez is using the exception rather than the rule in making the argument Horcoff is tradeable.

      Anything is possible, but with a dropping cap and Horcoff's struggles early this season, I can't see anybody taking his dollars.

      I appreciate the complement. Lowetide is a must-read for me on a daily basis.

  • Heavy G

    As usually very good and valid points, Robin.
    Sorry for being of topic but I'm curious about what happens once a player who is still under a contract retires? Does his sallary still count against the cap?

    • If the player's contract took affect at 35 years of age or over (ex. Khabibulin's… another good example is Chris Pronger for Philly who signed a 7 year extension at 34 but the contract takes effect at 35… the Flyers are going to be hating that one), then yes it does. If they are younger, than no it doesn't count towards cap.

  • Heavy G

    hey robin i was thinking gilbert for ruutu out of carolina….about the same cap hit and gives us a jerk with talent..with corvo out i would be putting in a call to mr. rutherford we have a history of trading with them

    • The Oilers wanted Ruutu from Carolina when they came calling for Cole at the last deadline. Rutherford wouldn't give him up.

      I like Ruutu's edge. Oilers might have to sweeten the pot on that one, though. It would be Gilbert-plus.

  • Always been a fan of Tuomu Ruutu… thus, I hope he doesn't come here 😉 Would be a good pickup IMO though.

    ROBIN, did the Oil not also have interest in him when he was with the Hawks too? Fits the bill of moves this team seems to make – pick up players they've coveted for years.

    Would Jason Chimera not be a good pick up as well – hometown (with a new coach), character veteran, 2-way/physical. Seems to me, he could replace Pisani AND Moreau in one fell swoop. Word is, he was available earlier.

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    So what do you think Horcoff would have to do to be at least tradeable? He's already an excellent defensive center who's good for 50 points a season, 55%ish at the faceoff and is a very solid role model for younger players amongst other things. Does he need to put up 70 points to earn his money or become tradeable?

    IMO he's not far off from earning his money, people have to forget what Katz is paying him this season and look at the cap hit.

  • I kind of have to wonder how tradeable Horcoff would be right now (nevermind for the usual reasons that people give) given that he has trouble taking draws now, until he gets surgery.

    A team would have to be looking fairly far ahead to want to pick him up, I would think.