Tambelli Signs Kurtis Foster, Makes Two Other Good Decisions

UNIONDALE, NY - FEBRUARY 13: Kurtis Foster #6 of the Tampa Bay Lightning warms up before playing against the New York Islanders on February 13, 2010 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Free agent day isn’t over yet, but the Oilers have made their first move, bringing in defenceman Kurtis Foster, and they’ve also made decisions on two other players. In all three cases, General Manager Steve Tambellini comes out looking pretty good.

First, Foster. I love this deal, and not just because Foster was talking about the Oilers’ jersey he had as a kid. Foster was a power-play force with Tampa Bay last year, and appears to be the heir apparent to Sheldon Souray in Edmonton. His shot is good though not the same calibre as Souray’s, but his price point is significantly lower at $1.8 million per season for two years.

I am somewhat concerned that Foster won’t be able to maintain his numbers – he’s shown offensive touch throughout his career but this year was a breakout campaign in that regard, and he’s not playing with the same kind of talent he got to play with for the Lightning. But even if Foster’s numbers dip, he can play; he’s big, he can skate and he’s a very good puck-mover. He’s not overly physical but at $1.8 million one can’t have everything.

In a nutshell, Steve Tambellini managed to bring in a guy to fill a specific needed role, a guy who is a bona fide NHL player, and a guy who brings the size that this team covets right now, all for a reasonable salary and not much in the way of term commitment. Very, very strong signing.

As for the other decisions, Tambellini talked to at least two players who have since signed elsewhere: Manny Malhotra and Derek Boogaard.

According to Ryan Rishaug, Manny Malhotra had no interest in being part of the rebuilding effort in Edmonton, but I’m still encouraged that Tambellini reached out to him. In previous years, the Oilers’ greatest weakness has been a tendency to hunt the big game and spend no time addressing the nagging holes at the bottom of the line-up that are easier to fill. Malhotra’s a faceoff ace who could have stabilized the third line, and he’s exactly the kind of player Edmonton should be looking at. It isn’t Tambellini’s fault he wasn’t interested in the Oilers.

As for Boogaard, I’m not a fan, but I give Tambellini credit for walking away after the Rangers ponied up a massive four-year contract worth more than $1.6 million per season. The guy hasn’t scored a goal over the last four seasons, and is coming off a year where he went minus-12 for the Wild. The money was ridiculous, and Tambellini’s decision to bow out was a good one.

We’ll see what else happens today, but so far it’s been a good day to be an Oilers’ fan.