Value Added

Former Oiler Jason Smith taking care of business

This is Jason Smith. He’s a good example of the time if takes for NHL defensemen to develop. New Jersey dealt him for immediate help one trade deadline, old-timey-coach didn’t like the cut of his jib in Toronto and sent him away one other time.

When Jason Smith arrived in Edmonton he was battle-hardened, had leadership qualities, had learned to deal with injury, had a boatload of defensive talent and was willing to do damn near anything to establish himself in Edmonton. It takes time to learn NHL defense. A lot of good ones slip away to other teams in their mid-20’s.

Steve Tambellini and the Edmonton Oilers are having a nice summer. The entry draft went very well, with Stu (Magnificent Bastard) MacGregor delivering a strong draft list that includes potential Calder candidate Taylor Hall.

The club placed three veterans on waivers (Moreau, Nilsson, O’Sullivan) for the purpose of buying out their contracts only to see the Hockey Gods bless them twice (Moreau claimed by the Jackets and a solid return in exchange for O’Sullivan).

The club entered free agency with a reasonable shopping list and some walking around money.

In the early hours of free agency we heard the Oilers were "in the mix" for Derek Boogaard and Manny Malhotra. These players address specific needs but the eventual pricetag was way too high, indicating Steve Tambellini backed off when the bidding got crazy.

His signing of defenseman Kurtis Foster–at a price of 1.8M times 2 years–has an excellent chance of being a value contract. He’s big, has good footspeed and can play the position. He also possesses one outstanding skill–a monster shot from the point. The Oilers are likely to send Sheldon Souray away in trade sometime this summer, so the cannon from the point from Foster means one more need is covered with this free agent signing.

Foster has a nice range of skills, has proven he can help a powerplay and be successful against softer NHL opposition; if there’s another gear there this could be a very good acquisition. We should also remember that long list of defensemen who developed late (Jason Smith, Steve Staios, others) and were available to the Oilers at less than 100 cents on the dollar. Foster could find a home in Edmonton, it’s happened before. 

No matter the outcome, it’s a solid bet.

The items remaining on the Oilers shopping list–a veteran center who can win faceoffs; an enforcer who can protect the small and inexperienced forwards; possibly a veteran 2-way winger to mentor the kids ala Fernando Pisani–are all out there and available. Some of the candidates the team might be looking at include Chris Higgins,  Eric Belanger and Zenon Konopka.

Steve Tambellini has money in his pocket for free agents, he has the lessons learned from the Phoenix Coyotes and their late summer value contracts a year ago, and he has veteran defenseman Sheldon Souray.

This is turning into a very nice summer.

UPDATE: Oilers have signed Jason Strudwick along with AHL veteran defender Richard Petiot this morning. Also, Ryan Rishaug is reporting that Sheldon Souray has been placed on waivers.

  • Strange forces are at play – I’ve been reading Lowetide for about 2yrs but could never log in. Your first day here and I finally get to thank you for all of your insight and entertainment – that and the Oil actually seem to be making prudent moves and those other guys down the road have me scratching my head.

  • This is fantastic, another excellent writer for ON. I’ve been reading your blog for a long time now but like most others rarely have I ever joined in the conversation.

    How did Foster’s 42 points breakdown? Does he have a heavy shot from the point that the Oilers can utilize with the inevitable loss of Souray?

    Being that he is 6’5 220lbs, is he fairly physical? I noticed that he doesn’t take too many penalties which means he knows the line, but if he could find the right edge we could have ourselves a great 3-4 guy.

    As for the Centre, I can’t see Tambellini spending over 1.5m/season on the 3rd/4th line man which essentially takes Higgins out of the running. I would love to see Konopka here but we may have that guy already since Fraser signed yesterday.

    It should be a grittier team next year that plays with a lot more heart.

  • cambosmash

    @Robin Brownlee
    @Ogden Brother Jr. – Team Lynda Steele

    There’s been so many curveballs lately that I guess I’m starting to get a bit paranoid, I suppose. Thanks for clearing that up.

  • cambosmash

    A happy , healthy and productive player like Souray is just what we need to round out our defensive core . I for one, prefer all measures to keep him here and on roster during our rebuild . Sitting him out seems out of the question now that he is wavering on staying here . Who else in marketplace can replace him at equal or more talent and value value – no one i forsee thats available now .

    Pencil Souray back in and our defensive core looks pretty good . Peckhams defensive liabilities beyond toughness are still not at NHL acceptable level sorry to say – strictly a call up at this stage . Chorney is far better , but size and toughness not his fortay . Plante should emerge over those two in the near future , perhaps even this year .

    I’d like to see Tams address the smallish forward dilemma we still have at forward position with trades etc . , far more than trying to move Souray at this time !! There’s always time to move Souray at next years trade deadline if he still prefers to be traded , but now is not good timing . I prefer to see how things pan out with him in lineup , and some of our diminutive players weeded out for upgrades in size and toughness .

    • Happy? He really sounded happy last year.

      Sure Souray is a decent defenseman. When you change the culture and attitude in the room, you need to rid the discontent out of the room. Even if you do not receive full value for that asset. Souray’s sense of entitlement does not fit here anymore and he needs to go.

      Why risk Souray souring one of the ‘kids’ or recreating the old boys club. If you are going to rebuild, rebuild. Souray has no place on a rebuilding team.

      • Don’t be laying all the inner problems on the players . Management was equally , if not more so , than the players for that eventual toxic blowup . Both need to make up in that regard ! Even if Souray was to be let go, we still have managerial team running the show that created it and let it fester . It’s a lot deeper than just entitlement . With Souray gone it still does not adequately address or make the problem go away , in other words .

        • Ok Ill give you that. However, getting rid of one of the biggest pieces causing the problems is definitely a start on the road to change.

          On another note is it true Souray is on waivers? Hoping someone just takes him – I dont see a buyout as an option – or if it was it would be a dam expensive buyout.

        • cambosmash

          Sending Souray out doesn’t solve the problem of a lack of communication in the organization. It does rid the team of a very vocal and negative dressing room presence.

          The problem will not go away, but one of the symptoms will. Completely hypothetically, if I had something like oral herpes (hypothetically) and couldn’t get rid of it (hypothetically), I’d want remove the blisters from the limelight (hypothetically).

  • Great to have you here LT! I’ve been a long-time reader of yours despite not joining in on the conversation.

    As for Peckham, it’s a shame he can’t be sent down for developments sake. Do you think he’s ready for a 6 spot? If not, does being 7 help him in the long run? I suppose he’d always be one injury away from drawing in.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I visited five times this morning before I remembered to come here.

    Sort of like getting off a bus in a daze at the stop near your old house, only to remember too late that you don’t live there anymore.

    For those of you who never drifted over to Mr. Mitchell’s old black-and-blue home on blogger, I offer the following snapshot of his topic list as explanation why some of us spent a few minutes of each morning there:

    expos (3)
    grace kelley (4)
    gretzky (2)
    pouliot (35)
    weir (1)

    The last one is most definitely a miscount. Stan, er, Mr. Weir damn near won us the whole thing back in 06.

    Thanks LT. As you said, this too will be fine. But a few of us are still going to miss the way things used to be.

    All the best,

    Mark MacKinnon

  • Jeff

    if they go hard for Konopka the better have a fourth line LWer who can skate or Stortini is getting dropped. thats just too slow/retarded for an energy line at the NHL level. thats AHL/bush speed.

    Higgins has some nice speed but Cogliano and Souray are probably going to get traded… so for what type of player. is Higgins really worth investing in if established players come back for those two in return. Cogliano may not get moved but it just seems practical instead of stunting him further because he will not get top 6 minutes anymore ahead of Hall, Eberle and MPS, or even possibly Omark eventually…

    time for Tambo to trade Souray and/or Cogs for a SICK swiss-army-knife type third liner or a solid D-man.

  • Jodes

    So we’re left with Souray as the last remaining, “I don’t want to be here” folks, but what about Smid? Is he still with the program here or is he next to be packaged up and shipped out?

    And don’t forget Cogliano, who really doesn’t have a spot now in the lineup that fits his skillset…

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      Laddy is happy here.
      There were some rumblings three seasons ago he wasn’t, but that came during a time when he was buried on the depth chart and being used as a forward by MacTavish. His discontent, essentially, came down to anxiety he wouldn’t get a chance to be more than a third-pairing defenceman here.
      I talked to him at a golf tournament this summer and he’s eager to get going. He should be 100 per cent recovered from his neck surgery by the start of training camp.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      Wasn’t Smid’s biggest issue with him not get NHL playing time? The guy is living here during the summer now, so I have to think he is happy.

  • Good to see you on ON Lowetide!

    I really like Tambi’s moves. Fraser, Foster, and Vandermeer should be solid acquisitions, and the good thing is that they all seem very positive about playing here.

    I am disappointed that we didn’t get Scott, but I hope we go hard for Knopka.

    As for Souray, I expect that we will trade him, but if we can’t, I don’t want him back polluting the atmosphere in the room. A new leadership group will emerge and evolve, and it would be best done without him. I hope Kevin was serious about letting him sit if we can’t move him.

    I have no problem with this team being well below the cap, and I am willing to be patient with the young guys, as long as I see hard work and a competitive attitude.

    Oh, and I really love Calgary’s moves … they are now really on the down escalator. We’ll wave to them as we pass them going the other way.

    Have a good one.

    • “As for Souray, I expect that we will trade him, but if we can’t, I don’t want him back polluting the atmosphere in the room. A new leadership group will emerge and evolve, and it would be best done without him. I hope Kevin was serious about letting him sit if we can’t move him.”

      We had to have learned our lesson with Chris Pronger situation. We do not have to move Souray. He voiced his opinion on the management and the direction at a pre-Tambo 3.0 time. I think there were many people that were also in the same frame of reference across the oiligosphere at that time. He has never been known to be a negative influence in the dressing room. We should play him.

      His value is at an all time low. Trading him right now would be a total knee-jerk reaction. I am starting to expect more from ST.

  • Psyche

    Yesterday was long and exciting with free agency and a classic CFL game to kick-off the season. Today starts with LT with ON! What else can a sports fan request.

    The Oilers are becoming more balanced with each move. It appears the time assessing is paying off. If Tambo can find a rugged, stay-at-home, #4-5 type d-man that would be nice. That 3rd line centre spot is vacant and needs an experienced player with some grit and PK ability. Onward and upward.

  • Ogden: The problem with adding another defender is that you might end up risking waivers on Peckham. He’s the one young blueliner who can’t be sent out without risking waivers. The depth chart right now looks like this:

    Vandermeer-(Souray trade)

    If the Oilers deal Souray for a forward, then adding a defenseman is a solid option. But if they bring back another defenseman, the Oilers may lose Peckham. I don’t think he’d clear waivers, PLUS he’s exactly the player-type EDM needs.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      So Peckham does have to clear waivers? There was some confusion on that.

      I think Mike Gillis made and excellent point yesterday when he said that last year they thought they had enough d-men going into the year and then they ended up being a few short.

      I guess it comes down to what Tambo has up his sleeve with Souray.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Never meet you before, but enjoy your articles. Welcome.

    One poster mentioned Mike Weaver to help out backend out on another thread. He is a small guy, but played top PK minutes on the best PK. Would he be a fit?

  • Oilchange64

    RT: Thanks.

    Matt.N: It’ll be fine.

    Andrew: Tambellini said he couldn’t say there was progress re:Souray but did indicate his name was brought up in conversation.

    As for Belanger, he would be a nice contract for a lot of teams. If a contending team wants him, chances are the Oilers won’t win that contest.