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.

THE WAY I SEE IT

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.

ARMCHAIR GM

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.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    Brownlee,

    Do you, or anyone else here, know for sure if horcoff has a NMC in his deal?

    some sites are showing it as a NTC for the first couple years, others have a NMC.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Based on age and the cost of their ticket I think it's only logical to put either Souray or Vishnovsky on the market. Given the ultimate choice I would say Souray if you could get a younger physical shutdown guy as part of the return in order to balance out the blueline and fit the age of the team a little better moving forward.

    This team is in the lottery derby with or without those guys in the line up so I am not sure what the purpose of hanging on to both of them serves and by the time this ship gets righted, they will be mere shadows of what they currently are.

    It's not a move that has to be done immediately but you never know when the opportunity to make the move will come around so at the minimum I would think Tambellini puts the word of their availability out sooner rather than later.

    There are pretty much two realities that the Oilers are facing right now. Missing the playoffs and facing a cap crunch next summer. Moving one of those guys does nothing for the former but could go a long way to fixing the later. 1 out of 2 ain't bad.

    I agree with the O'Sullivan move as well.

  • my list of movable guys:
    Gilbert
    Moreau
    Nilsson
    O'Sullivan
    Staios

    Lets not jump to trading souray or the vision, but gilbert, grebby and staois could all go. chorney looks good, peckham will be good and we've got some other talent on the way with svensson. souray and visnovsky can teach those guys.

    mike peca. the oil should convince him to come back for the rest of this seasom to teach guys a few things about faceoffs.

    id consider a trade with the kings to bring back stoll and get frolov. possibly involving cogliano, gilbert and moreau?

    O'Sullivan to chicago for bfygulin, or to florida or phoenix for a gritty goal scorer.

    other than that try to dump as much salary as possible. maybe let horcs shoulder rest and put him on longterm IR. Pisani should consider retiring.
    Is it possible to bring eberle up this late in the season? im not too sure on the rules involving the NHL and WHL?

    but the again, thats just my thoughts.

    • Hemmercules

      1. Peca would never come here, even if it was to work in the organization. He likes the east and wouldn't want to do the travel if he played here.

      2. LA is trying to rebuild correctly. Why would they dump their good players for the Oilers cast offs??

      3. Byfuglien is a hard working, somewhat tough player with decent hands and can score a few goals. Sully is a soft, floating type player that constantly misses the net and isn't tough or gritty in the slightest. Somehow I don't see Bowman making that trade as nice as it might be for the Oilers. Phoenix or Florida may have a player worth trading but I'm not sure.

      4. Eberle is probably the last thing the Oil need at the moment unless Cogs, Gagner, Comrie and Nilsson are all done for the season.

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        On Peca, if he really wants to play in the NHL again his options are starting to get pretty slim. Not saying he signs here, but the odds are probably a lot higher then they were in the off-season.

          • Hemmercules

            I know he isn't retired, pretty much though. If he really wanted to play that bad I'm sure he could have found a team to pay him minimum. At this point I would be suprised if he ever returned. At 36 I think his best years have long gone and he surely knows it. I think he was pretty banged up too with random injuries, thats the last type of player the oilers need.

    • Interesting you'd mention Frolov. The Oilers inquired about him in the past. I'm not crazy about him, but I haven't seen him a lot.

      Byfuglien? I like him a lot. I lean toward big, strong forwards, especially with all the smallish forwards on the roster now.

      And, while I didn't mention guys who I'd like to see come back in trades, I'm still convinced the Oilers need a David Steckel or a Paul Gaustad in return for some of the players I'd make available.

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        Byfuglien scares me. I know he plays a bigger game and hits an all, but at the sametime he hasn't proven anything offensively. He isn't even a 40 point player and at 3mil that is a pretty penny to pay for a hitter.

        Don't get me wrong I love his style of play when he brings it, but he seems like another Penner who needs a fire lit under his bum.

        • Like Penner, Byfuglien needs to trim down a bit. Forget his listed weight, he plays at 250 pounds. He can still be a bruiser at 235 and he'll pick up a step.

          And you're right about his contract, it's right on the cusp of being too pricey. I'm looking for the bang he brings and 20 goals for that kind of dollar.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            What really got me is how he use to be 280lbs, that really took me back.

            I guess it really comes down to what it cost to get him. Chicago might be willing to give him away cheap just because of their cap situation.

            I still think sending Cogliano there for one of their players works for both sides. They get a cheaper young player with potential, and we get rid of a smaller player and replace him with some sort of size.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I agree just about 100%, the only thing that I am concerned about is whether or not Stone is a replacement for Moreau. He has looked good so far, but he hasn't played enough to have a proper opinion on. Although if you did move Moreau and say Stone doesn't fit, you still have a lot of time to make a move for next season.

    Dreger is reporting CBJ is looking for a d-man again. Wonder if they have interest in Gilbert.

    • Hemmercules

      Sadly I can't see anyone looking for a guy like Moreau at what he gets paid. Almost every team in the NHL has a plugger or prospect that does the exact same thing at a fraction of the price. Like Brownlee said, we could easily replace Moreau with Stone(AHLer), whats stopping other teams from doing the same??

      Staios still has a few miles on him and I could see a team take him but like Moreau most teams could probably find someone just as reliable for way less money. Lowe hurt this team for years, and years to come most likely. And the fact that Tambo is already signing horrible contracts tells me he isn't any better than Lowe as a GM.

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        I'm not exactly a huge Moreau or Staios fan, but Moreau isn't exactly overpaid by that much. I think a young team (atlanta) that is in a playoff fight could take on Moreau or Staios for that matter. Both guys bring grit and some sort of leadership. Question is what do we expect in return?

  • BarryS

    All this talk about a shut down Dman. Seems to me Smid is developing into that sort of guy, not there yet but his + 7 is heading in the right direction. I think the term is another shut down Dman.

    If all these guys we needed grew on trees like apples, all we would need is a ladder. As it is, experience surrounded by talent has to be traded for and that market is hard to come by.

    Bye the Bye, So far this year Kessel is + 3, a long way from the + 23 he was last year. This only shows, most players are only as good as the players they play with,

    Hint: expecting one good player to turn the team around single handedly is not likely to happen.

    • So how many games has Kessel played? How is he supposed to be a +25 yet? C'mon. Seems to me a lot of people like to laugh at Kessel & the Leafs. By no means am I a Leaf fan, but I don't think its a guarantee this deal is as bad as most around here think. Obviously if the Bruins end up with a top 3-5 pick, it doesn't look good, but there's lots of season left. Kessel was 6th overall. He is a high 1st round pick that IS already playing in the league and capable of 35+ goals. If the Bruins get the 6th pick (or lower) this year and something lower next year, is it really that bad of a deal?

        • BarryS

          My only point was Boston did not make the move on their own but were forced into it by Kessel. This was in responce to a post about how great Boston's management was. That Burke chose to play the fool and offer two firsts and a second, is good luck, not good management. Good management comes in converting the drafts into useful players.

      • BarryS

        A bit of insomnia never hurt anybody. Nash is the only top scorer who is a minus. If he was in Edmonton, we would be running him out of town.

        Plus minus is no more subjective than anything else in the NHL. Who got the goal, Gagner or the other guy. Seen many posts say Gagner, the NHL says the other guy. And any number of tipped goals are handed out on guess rather than knowledge, given camera angles or lack thereof.

  • BarryS

    I agree those moves are do able, Robin, but only if the other GM's get off they butts and make trades. At the moment, baring further wacks up the side of more goal tenders heads by their own defensemen, or more foolish hits causing concussions, I don't see much possibility for trades.

    As well, how is Rick Nash at 28 points and – 8 even in consideration for the Olympic team?

    And Penner at 30 points and + 11 not?

    Seems to me, based on today, Nash is totally overpaid. I know, scoring sells tickets, but +/- wins games.

    • Exactly. I keep reading things like "Columbus is only doing well because of Nash" but Penner is playing better than Nash this season and we are still worse than they are.

      Nash is a very good player but he cannot carry a team.

    • Homie

      Why is Rick Nash in contention? He has played well at the international level and has consistently produced on sub-par offensive teams. I mean, the guy won the Rocket Richard trophy at 19 with Todd Marchant as his centreman. EDIT – Yeas, he's minus but so is virtually everyone else on the CBJ.

      Yes, Penner is having a great year, but it is coming off two mediocre, at best, seasons. If Penner would had say 25G 40A or thereabouts last year, he might be in contention.

      I'm surprised you aren't hyping Rich Peverley as well.

  • Hemmercules

    Cogliano, O'sullivan Gilbert could be trade bait for Byfuglien or Sharp. Chicago is trying to dump salary so why not take advantage of it, unless Chicago decides it wants to keep this team's chemistry because it is a cup contender (I doubt it wants another puck moving defenceman but I'm just throwing it out there. Stafford or another powerfoward would do im just so sick of seeing an oiler tossed around and losing a battle. Patrick Kane seems to use his skill over his size disadvantage but I dont understand how Gagner hasnt learned it yet. I still think he has a bright future with us but well have to see how he develops. I love Cogliano's competitiveness but we need big guys who know how to finish on a consistent basis. I would definitely keep Souray and Visnovsky. If Moreau does end up out, I think Souray would be up there with Iginla or Morrow as great captains for their team. Visnovsky brings that calm in a game and his stick is like wizardy when he fishes for the puck in a battle along the boards or a partial breakaway. We have too many offensive defensman but if we keep Souray, Visnovsky and Grebeshkov we still have an explosive blueline which could carry an offensive load in some games when the forwards take a night off. The only problem I have is..we need a LEGITIMATE shut down D but I dont know of any available in the NHL. we sure screwed up with Hedja :(. What do you think?

    • Chicago's looking to dump salary. Your examples… Byfuglien-3.0, Sharp-3.9, Gilbert-4.0, O'Sullivan-2.925, Cogliano-1.133333.

      So O'Sullivan & Gilbert are out of their price range. Cogliano makes some sense, but I don't see the Hawks moving Sharp. Byfuglien and/or Versteeg, perhaps.

  • Ender

    i seriously dont care what this team does other than gutting every bad contract out of here over the next couple seasons. why? because its not going to be for at least 3-years minimum before this team can come around into its own developmentally… maybe. and thats for multiple reasons: contracting salary cap, inability to use upper tier free agency as a channel of team building (politics of the city in general), waiting on development of youth already on the team and coming in.

    by then, Hemsky and Penner will need new contracts, if theyre still here. Shawn Horcoff will sadly be here for the rest of his life. Souray should be moved to a team that could use him for a good playoff push and the Oilers receive futures in return (and a roster player). a big leadership loss but having him captain a sinking ship is a waste of his time.

    the Quinn "Father Figure" experiment is over. he might teach these kids a few things on the way out but the illusion of him doing anything is completely demystified.

    the sad thing, is the Oilers "tanking" this season probably wont even get them a chance at the top 2 picks.

    Tambo has a LOT of work to do. if hes even GM much longer.

  • Brownlee, if there was ever a man I wanted to kiss on the cheek outside of Brad Pitt, Sheldon Souray ad Jordan Eberle, it would be you.
    THANK YOU.

    I hope they don't do anything drastic, but I would love if they did any one of these moves. As much as I still have a hard on for Patty O'Sullivan, I would rather trade him and get something useful than have to tear my hair out watching him come no where near expectations.

    I'm sorry Tom Gilbert, too bad you just bought that house in Edmonton. It happens. Just ask Matt Greene.

    Brownlee for GM!

    *brought to you by Jack Daniels*

  • Did Grebeshkov have surgery? I don't remember hearing that. Wow. Do you have a timeline on his return?

    And right on the call to trade Staios and Moreau. That'd be my first move too, but are there any takers right now or is this something that can get done closer to the trade deadline?

  • All excellent ideas, which likely means the only move our management team will make during the season will be to pick up Petr Nedved on waivers again, and offer Moreau a 3 year contract extension at $3.2 million per. You know, locking up the core.

  • Ender

    Well if we are all playing armchair GM I can say I have seen this coming for a number of years. Even before the lockout I really thought the real problem with the Oilers was not exactly management. They have for years generally done a really good job of keeping this team competitive for that last play-off spot (the Nedveed year and many other like this).

    But this just masked the problems but kept the fans happy. Yes including me I have generally enjoyed the annual years end winning scramble to the post season – the Oilers almost do this every year.

    The bottom line for me is that Oilers simply have not sucked enough for a couple of years to get that high end player that simply cannot be traded for or generally picked up as a free agent. This of course is very political and costly and the EIG back then needed to try and get in the play-offs for the revenue every year. This, I speculate, is one reason for the issues we are seeing now.

    As a fan I had season tickets for the Zedeno Ciger and Doug Weight and Steven Rice and Todd Elik years. These teams always over achieved and we are still, as an organization, suffering for this. But lets recall that these teams owners needed that last play-off spot and game day ticket revenue. Those teams got money from the league from season ticket sale quotas. They had to try and win at all costs right now.

    As the situation has changed I really would like to see this team suck hard for a couple or three years. I would still be a fan if the team tried hard but still lost. And in my opinion that Oilers draft record has been much better the last 6 years so I don't think we should be too worried about their selections as much as the past.

  • Brownlee: With Moreau and Staios both having another year on their contracts for more than they're worth ($2M and $2.7M respectively), do you think there are teams out there willing to absorb that salary for 2010/2011?

    • Homie

      They can be worth that money. 2.7M doesn't buy that much on the market. The thing is, they need a fresh start and so do the Oilers.

      I think many teams would see them worth the price, but they also won't be giving up much in return.

    • It's a tough sell, but do-able with teams that have cap space and/or an inexperienced line-up, especially if you aren't looking for much in return. You aren't going to dump their salaries AND get a good player for either one of them.

      If I'm Tambellini, though, I'm letting teams know they're available. This is addition by subtraction if you can get someone to bite.

  • Trade Moreau and Staios.

    Do you think that there's a market for these guys with another year left on their deal, looking as much like 4th liners/3rd pairing guys as they do? I went through last year's deadline deals and didn't see a lot of guys like this with a year remaining of good money getting moved. I think that they're stuck with them until Deadline Day 2011.

    …either Jeff Deslauriers or Devan Dubnyk probably has to go because both will need waivers to be sent to the minors next season.

    Do you see a team wanting to take one of these guys if they have to clear waivers? They basically need to be top sixty goalies in the world AND find a team that doesn't have problems of their own with goalies and waivers. I said last year that I couldn't figure out who the Oilers thought might take JDD; I don't see now who would want one of these guys if they can't be stashed on the farm. The return would probably be so minimal – like a 5th round pick or later – that I'd just as soon risk waivers.

    Trade Patrick O'Sullivan.

    I don't have a problem with this, but he looks an awful lot like a guy who hit shooting percentage heaven one year and is actually just a guy who pounds rubber towards the net and prays. I'm not opposed to losing him, because I don't think he's worth his ticket, but I don't know that he's going to bring much in return.

    As far as trading Souray or Lubo goes…I'd consider it because of their ages. I'm having a hard time seeing how this team competes for the playoffs next year, to be honest. Maybe another year of improvement from Gagner…but they're doomed to average goaltending for the next four years, I think, which is going to make it tough next year if they have Moreau and Staios sucking up money. The wins that guys like Souray and Lubo add right now will probably be more useful in 2011-12 – if one of them could be moved for a 20 year old with bright prospects, I'd think that they should take a hard look at it. I don't see that as tanking, just being realistic.

    Tambellini's got a tough job right now – this team is hamstrung by a lot of the contracts that he and Lowe signed. I don't actually think that the Horcoff deal is as bad as everyone else – he's played a lot of games with AHL guys on his wing this year – but they just need to get some more NHL calibre talent and they have no money to do it with.

  • All decent idea's Robin. I'm of the mindset of keeping O'Sullivan over Cogliano, and moving BOTH Gilbert & Grebeshkov. If you could get a top 6 power forward, a 2-way puck moving d-man & a physical shutdown d-man, all in the 27-29 range.

    You wouldn't consider moving one of Souray or Visnovsky?

    How come none of the "experts" had guys like Stone, Potulny and in some cases even Brule on the team?

    • Yes, I'd consider moving Souray or Visnovsky but I think it's unlikely Tambellini will. I'd also worry about the back end with one of them gone and Grebeshkov AND Gilbert both in the mix — we saw how that worked during Souray's concussion.

      As for Stone and Potulny, we didn't get to see much of them before this season. Potulny has some grit and nice hands, which we got a preview of at the AHL level. Stone hits everything and, as I said, could fit into Moreau's spot.

  • Librarian Mike

    or whatever Swiss centre the Oilers have exclusive scouting intel on.

    You're being harsh. Oilers scouting has a line on him that he plays like Gretzky, only without his toughness and size…