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