Time for Tambo to make some moves

With just over six weeks until rookie camp, realistically what moves can we expect Steve Tambellini to make before then?

Let’s start with the easy ones.

He will sign Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano, but for how long is the only question that remains. Both have four years left until unrestricted free agency beckons, so I wouldn’t be surprised to seem them get two year deals. Three year deals would force Tambellini to try and re-sign both of them as well as Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Pääjärvi and Ryan Whitney after the 2013 season. That won’t happen.

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Once Gagner and Cogliano are signed, that leaves Tambellini with five contracts, and possibly seven if they send Toni Rajala to Finland and Philippe Cornet to junior as a 20-year-old. I didn’t include Hall, because there is no way he goes back to junior.

Forwards: 26

Dustin Penner, Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff, Gilbert Brule, Pääjärvi, Hall, Eberle, J.F Jacques, Zack Stortini, Steve MacIntyre, Colin Fraser, Ryan Jones, Alex Giroux, Cornet, Teemu Hartikainen, Milan Kytnar, Brad Moran, Linus Omark, Ryan O’Marra, Ben Ondrus, Gregory Stewart, Chris Vande Velde, Matt Marquardt, Rajala, Gagner and Cogliano.

D-men: 15

Whitney, Tom Gilbert, Ladislav Smid, Sheldon Souray, Kurtis Foster, Jim Vandermeer, Jason Strudwick, Theo Peckham, Taylor Chorney, Jeff Petry, Shawn Belle, Jordan Bendfeld, Johan Motin, Richard Petiot, Alex Plante.

Goalies: 4

Nikolai Khabibulin, Jeff Deslauriers, Devan Dubnyk and Bryan Pitton.

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What’s next?

It is clear that Tambellini wants to have depth at every position in case of injury. Omark, Giroux and Moran will give them a potential scorer if the injury bug bites their top six/nine, although Giroux and Omark will get a long look during camp. Stewart, Ondrus and Marguardt could fill a void of size, grit and energy.

Belle, Chorney and Petry will be ready in case they need a 6th or 7th D-man.

I really think the Deslauriers $1 million contract ensures he will clear waivers at the end of camp. I don’t see a team grabbing him and paying him a cool million to be their back up. There might be a slight risk he could get grabbed on re-entry waivers, but that is unlikely unless another team runs into goaltending injuries at the exact same time. His contract looks like a reward and a “thank you” from the team, and will lessen the sting of playing in the minors.

Tambellini will sign another veteran before camp, and it shouldn’t cost him very much. Eric Belanger, John Madden and Brendan Morrison are available. The first two would fill the need for a veteran checking centre, but after speaking with Tom Renney last week, I don’t think it is a guarantee that the veteran they bring in will be a centre.

If you’re one who likes to recycle Tambellini could go after Raffi Torres, Fernando Pisani, Mike Comrie or Bill Guerin. I don’t think any of them are a fit, although if I had to pick one of the four I’d take Comrie.

Aaron Asham and Owen Nolan are the two guys I’d focus on. I still think the Oilers need some more size, grit and nastiness, and these two could play in the top nine. I don’t think Stortini is ready for consistent top-nine minutes, and I’m curious if Jacques will be healthy to start the season, so I’d like a winger who can bang, crash and contribute offensively mixed in with the skilled forwards. Currently only Brule is a banger, while Penner and Pääjärvi have size to control the puck down low.

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This is the area Tambellini needs to address.

The Oilers have lots of cap space, around $11 million, not including Gagner or Cogliano so Tambellini has the flexibility to make moves that aren’t strictly based on salary. He won’t go after a big-ticket veteran (he still has Souray he’d like to unload), and he’ll likely only see him add three (Gagner, Cogliano and ?) NHL caliber forwards before training camp.

If the Oilers surprise many and are in the playoff mix come the deadline Tambellini will have ample room to add a big contract, and I expect him to keep that door open.

He should try to sign one of these guys, and start at the top and work down:

  1. Asham
  2. Nolan
  3. Belanger
  4. Comrie

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Sadly Rishaug had on twitter that the Oilers aren’t in contact with Asham.

    Nolan seems overrated to me, but I would welcome his leadership. I’d prefer Guerin over him, but in the end I don’t think either guy helps us in the defensive foward position and I don’t think either are as nasty as they use to be. Don’t want this to be a Todd Harvey deal again.

    Conroy is another I’d target.

    Edit: Halpern is another who’s faceoffs and PK would be a decent addition.

    • Jason Gregor

      A few weeks ago Rishaug had they were talking. Things change from week to week. As the season gets closer, players will get anxious and will take something instead of nothing.

      As for Tillman. Optically it would be horrible to have him as a GM of a team, especially a community owned team. He won’t be here as GM. You might get away with him being a quiet consultant, but that’s about it.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Also, totally off topic but I was a bit late on posting in your last thread about the Eskimos.

    Any thought of Tillman? Is he even an option or did he get black balled?

      • ubermiguel

        True enough. The uncertainty of Khabibulin and Souray may be giving Tambo pause.

        I wouldn’t be suprised or disappointed if he’s done making additions to the big club.

        • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

          The only thing I really want is something that we’ve been trying to get for the past few years. Granted Fraser and Jones may fill that void, I’d still like someone that will fill the need of a bottom six player with defensive skill and some grit.

    • Jason Gregor

      Why? Because there is such a big market for him? There isn’t a big market, and you won’t get any player of substance for him. You might get a salary dump at best, you won’t get a player of equal value to Souray. So why does his movement have anything to do with adding a cheap depth forward; It doesn’t.

      • ubermiguel

        Because the salary dump we get back might be that depth forward we need, albeit an expensive one.

        I have no doubt Tambo would be ok getting less value back to clear out the locker room poison.

        It might be a moot argument anyways. You’re right, there’s not a big market, so I’m starting to think Souray’s coming to camp.

  • Cowbell_Feva


    I agree that the top of the list should start with Asham. He doesn’t contribute too regularly point-wise, at best a 30P/15G season can be expected, but he brings the team in a direction that it needs to go. Too often Pat Quinn eluded to the Oilers being ‘easy’ to play against, and although Old Elbow had to go, he was right about the Oil being soft. Asham brings grit, fists, and a little accountability, without the glass house injury prone status of a Moreau. I bet a deal would probably be in 4.1 range over two seasons, which is a lot to swallow for the guy. But he can tutor Stortini and Chris Double V, spot Penner from time to time on the top line (much better than Jaques could), kill penalities, round out the fourth line and take care of the kids when big Mac is eating dogs in the pressbox. The price might be high, but enticing a guy to sign a short term deal on the 30th place team takes a little extra incentive.

    Has anyone in the Oilers camp hinted that Asham may be a possibility?

  • Crackenbury

    I think it’s looking more and more likely that Souray is going to have to swallow his ego and apologize publicly to managment and his teammates if he plans on starting in the NHL this year. He is far too injury prone for any team to take a chance on. His best bet to get out of town is to play well for the Oilers and stay healthy for the first half of the season so they can dump him after Christmas. Any signs of further attitude from him and its straight to the minors. Hopefully he refuses to report.

  • Ender

    @ Jason Gregor

    Only my gut speaking, but I can’t help think that Tambi’s next signing is more likely to be a D-man or a goalie rather than a forward. While there is a possibility that the team decides Khabi is a permanent part of the picture and that they’ll lean on DD/JDD once again to fill in the gaps where Khabi is ‘unavailable’ (I view that as a poor idea, but I don’t discount it happening), I really don’t see there is any way Souray plays on this team. The D-corps sans Souray looks decidedly shakey; the Oilers can kid themselves that they can survive the year with their current crop of forwards, but I don’t think they can look the other way on what they have in the cupboard for the blueline.

    • Jason Gregor

      Signing another D-man just means more one-way contracts in the minors, and I doubt Katz is willing to pay a lot of guys big dough to play in the minors. He already bought out one player, and will be paying a goalie big coin in the minors. He is rich, but won’t just throw money away.

      There isn’t a great list of available D-men. Willie Mitchell coming off an injury, same with Kim Johnsson. Mike Mottau, Paul Mara, Freddy Meyer? Do any of them make the Oilers that much better?

      I don’t see them adding another established goalie either. That makes no sense, and you are telling both kids you aren’t ready. Tambellini has stated on numerous occasions, along with Renney, they are in rebuild mode and a young goalie fits that, even if it means some growing pains.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      I saw him a bunch in Van. last year – he’s not going to help. Too slow and often hurt – usually from blocking a point shot b/c he lost a faceoff. No one here was sad to see his contract was up.

    • Jason Gregor

      and @ BBOIL

      I don’t mind Johnson, and he did block shots for Van. He blocked 85 in 58 games which was 3rd most amongst NHL forwards. He is decent in the draw at 52.7%. My only concern is why his own team hasn’t resigned him.

      If he was that valuable wouldn’t they want to keep him for a cheap salary. He is 34 and the Oilers might look at him after they’ve exhausted other avenues.

      • BBOil

        RE: why is current team hasn’t resigned him.

        Could ask the same question about all the FAs left out there. Think the Nucks are at or over the cap, so if they do sign any FAs even on the cheap, it would likely have to wait until the shed some money. Plus, based on last year, and what’s happened so far this year it looks like most of these cheap, vet FAs are going to be getting their contracts toward the end of the off-season once teams have a better idea of how their team looks going into camp.

        Plus, as odd as it may sound, I don’t think the fact that he may have injury concerns is a big deal. We have depth, and young guys that will be eager to fill any gaps, so I look at him as a mentor that can hold the fort down, but will likely miss some games opening up a spot for others.

  • Arby

    I wouldn’t mind them trying Raffi as Brule’s 3L if it was a 1 year experiment. I hear he’s mellowed a little since he left us… well he went to the church and got neutered anyway.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Thanks for the pleasant read Jason.

    It’s difficult to even forecast what a team like this may look like come the regular season, all we know for sure is the bleeding has stopped and we’re on the road to recovery.

    • Jason Gregor

      Cornet has a two-way deal but is still eligible to play in junior. If he goes to junior his contract doesn’t start this year, and wouldn’t count as one of the 50 contracts.

      No different than if Hall goes back to junior, his contract wouldn’t start and wouldn’t count as one of the 50.

  • misfit

    Asham? Don’t we already have a Stortini?

    …and a Jacques
    …and a MacIntyre
    …and a Jones

    Their top priority should be to sign another 4th line grinder who can’t do the one thing we need more than anything else (kill penalties)?

  • I can’t think of a better mentor for our kiddie corps than Mike Comrie. AND he can score too.

    Then of course, the fact that we might get to see an “enhanced” Hilary Duff in Edmonton once in a while would be icing on the cake.

  • Jason Gregor

    If Oilers were going to add anyone else of significance , it should have been done long before now when the marketplace was first open and not basically bare as it is now ! No? Tams and company have been to busy taking care of other things and finding another excuse why they failed to add to team again i’m afraid . To late now to make any significant change with whats still out there . Get used to it , thats the way management seems to like to operate around here .

    While they bask in the security of a mountain of excuses as to our failures , the fans bask in the artificial hope we’ll actually see a vast improvement from last 3 seasons nightmares .

    Despite managements many failures to improve our squad over last 3 seasons , their still is hope the rookies and fringe new faces can turn our playoff hopes around . We are not waiting for more excuses here , we want playoff hockey back here as our minimum expectation . The rest of you that are okay with being losers for more years to come must be Flame or Canuck fans (tongue n cheek ).

    • Enigma

      You just don’t get it do you? It’s true that almost all the big name free agents are signed already, but their are plenty left that could fill the needs we have, like as mentioned earlier Madden, Belanger, ect.

      Also, the whole reason for this rebuild, which will likely have the team perform poorly for the next season or 2, is to have a cup contending team in the end, where we are at now going for the playoffs would just result in fighting for 8th every year, and not getting anywear

      • ubermiguel

        “Also, the whole reason for this rebuild, which will likely have the team perform poorly for the next season or 2, is to have a cup contending team in the end, where we are at now going for the playoffs would just result in fighting for 8th every year, and not getting anywear.”

        You said it. As odd as it sounds, I would hate to see Tambo add players that might improve the team but would take away from the real goal: rookie development.

        My biggest concern is the defence. A bad D core could really hurt DD/JDD’s confidence.

    • Cowbell_Feva

      Pump the brakes! When saying “management” you are putting Tambi and KLowe in the same boat. Big Difference. KLowe created this whole friggin’ mess. Tambi has done nothing but GOOD since he’s took over (ie/ getting rid of dead weight in Staios,Moreau,Pisani and got tougher on the back end with Vandemeer,Foster and Whitney)

      This is a re-build and going out and overpaying for a UFA on July 1st isn’t what re-building is about. See New York Rangers for how to pay for UFA’s and not win.

  • Jason Gregor

    I think they need to add another D contender as well, not to mention a top flight AHL goalie.

    I continue to not understand why Aaron Johnson has not been brought back. He showed he could step up and play good minutes, and as far as I’m concerned played well at both ends. He could contend for a spot at TC, and if he doesn’t make it, he’d be Top 2 in OKC. Has anyone heard any update on him?

    • Jason Gregor

      You don’t think JDD or DD will be a top-flight AHL goalie. Either one would be top five easily in the AHL, if not top two.

      Aaron Johnson is not the answer. He has bounced around five teams already. He is too weak on his skates, and gets knocked off the puck. He battles hard, but isn’t big enough to be a banger, and doesn’t have any offensive touch. I don’t see how he helps. I’d rather have Peckham develop ahead of him.

  • Dave Manson

    If we’re looking for leadership & mentorship of the kids – look to Willie Mitchell. He has been the real leader of the Canucks for the past couple of years as they’ve pinned the C on BingoBongoLuongo. Ask anyone in that room, and they’ll tell you that he’s the man.

    The risk is with his health. Will he ever be an effective physical defenceman again? He’s one more headshot away from a lifetime of applesauce fed from a spoon.
    If he plays 25 games – does insurance pick up the balance of his contract?

    • Cowbell_Feva

      Agreed 100%… I’d bring him in on a one year deal worth no more than 2mill and hope he can play. When he does he’s one of the best shutdown guys in the league. Exactly what this team needs- toughness on the back end with some veteran presence.

  • Jason Gregor

    Hey Jason,
    What ever happened to Aron Johnson (spelling?) who we got for Staios? I don’t see him ever mentioned for the big team or the farm and I don’t remember him being put on waivers or anything.
    Also thanks for the free ProVI’s from Nevada Bob’s today!

    • Jason Gregor

      Johnson is still an UFA, but I don’t see the Oilers going after him. They have nine guys with NHL experience right now. And thanks for supporting stores/advertisers that support my show.

  • Jason Gregor

    Manny got $2.5 million…He will play on their 3rd line, not 4th…Johnson will sign for something like 550,000 to 650,000. I do agree they thought Malhotra was an upgrade, but I think they overpaid for him big time.

    I’m not a fan of Johnson to come here, just to clarify…ha

  • Wouldn’t Jeff Halpern be a decent fit?

    I seem to recall Mike Russo saying something about Eric Belanger being an overly negative guy… I’m not certain exactly – perhaps he’s ‘just’ negative toward himself (a la Raffi Torres), but if he’s bringing in any negative energy, wouldn’t he be a bad “hire”?

    I may be ‘mis-remembering’… I’m sure you’d have better luck w/ Russo than I, lol. Anything there?

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    Jason, I’m glad you mentioned that JDD’s contract should/will allow him to be sent to the farm without being picked up. Great news – we obviously needed another goalie for the farm! Plus we get to keep him.

    I still see us grabbing another goalie WHEN Re-Khabibulin goes to jail/is unable to play due to back injury. I can’t wait to void his contract if it’s possible, ASAP, because in a perfect world if he isn’t going to be able to play with us then the sooner we plan on that and sign someone else, the better. Now on the upside to waiting, if we are forced to go with the 2 kids in goal again, we should have another lottery pick!

    For a veteran forward I would like the Nolan acquisition, personally. I love someone who does it all and would be a great mentor, or a Billy Guerin, perhaps. Someone tough as nails, could protect the kids, and who would teach the Oilers to never back down from a fight would be invaluable going forward. Is there a Lee Fogolin available in all the names mentioned in your article who could mentor the kids at the same time as keeping them safe, as well. He was the PERFECT veteran leader for our team back then!

  • UFA John Madden has three cup rings(just saying) but I would almost like to reward Comrie with a similar contract as last year just for showing some heart on this team(pretty much the only guy last year- when healthy).. It would be quite the sticky situation if we had to bring Souray back in the dressing room this year, I can’t believe some of the teams with lots of cap space(N.Y.I, Colorado, Atlanta) wouldn’t want to take him for a bucket of pucks?!