Setting Free the Bears

With the Oilers reaching the official halfway point of their season, it’s time to discuess a few home truths. The Oilers aren’t going to make the playoffs, the trade deadline market suggests "UFA" is much easier to move than "RFA" and big ticket items are more likely to move in the warmer months. What does this mean to the Oilers? Read on.

Since New Year’s Day we’ve seen two transactions of note:

  1. Dallas aquired forward Jamie Langenbrunner (UFA) from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for a conditional third-round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
  2. NY Rangers qcquired forward Wojtek Wolski from the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for defenseman Michal Rozsival.Wolski’s cap hit is $3.8M, Rozsival $5M. Both players were not playing to the level of their cap hit at the time of the transaction.

I think these two deals perfectly reflect the current market. Teams are willing to pick up veterans in the final year of their contracts (meaning free agency this summer) and are also willing to trade contracts that match somewhat or offer cap relief/cash relief (as the PHX/NYR deal reflects).

How does that impact the Oilers? I think the Oilers will have a hard time dealing off Penner or Hemsky at the deadline. Although teams certainly have nice things to offer, it makes little sense for them to give up roster players of value. In Los Angeles, we can see that Penner makes sense (Hemsky too) for the Kings, but part of the return might be someone like Wayne Simmonds. Why would LA do that when he’s clearly part of the current solution? They are more likely to offer someone like Ponikarovsky and a high end prospect. Does that benefit Edmonton? I’d bet they could get a better fit in the summer.

In most years, playoff teams have enough of a cushion to risk 2 points here or there as the new hires adjust. For a team like the Kings 10-11, I don’t think there’s any margin for error. Unless the Oilers are willing to do a "Smyth for 5 assets" type deal I don’t think a blockbuster gets done by Edmonton at the deadline. Which is good. Penner and Hemsky are signed through next season, and I’m hopeful Steve Tambellini can find a way to keep both of them as well as all those wonderful kids.

So, what will the Oilers do at the deadline? Offload unrestricted free agents and then take over the world! Sorry. Here are the Oilers 10-11 pending UFA’s:

  1. Ryan Jones: Winger with some size and an outside shot at 20 goals this season. Jones is 26 years old and has shown flashes of offensive ability in the past. One hopes the Oilers attempt to sign him before the deadline, but if they don’t the market should be legit for the versatile winger. Nashville traded for him once, they may do it again.
  2. Jim Vandermeer: Make no mistake, the trade deadline is a lot about adding blue. Remember the Sabres 2006 spring? When they finished just shy of playing for the Stanley because they ran out of defensemen? NHL General Managers sleep better deadline night after they add a player like Vandermeer. I know he’s expensive for what he does but this is an expiring contract. Lots of people felt Steve Staios had no value a year ago, but Steve Tambellini got a solid pick for him.
  3. Steve MacIntyre: Has almost no post-season value. These guys don’t play much when the second season begins.
  4. Jason Strudwick: Veteran nearing the end of the line. Little value, suspect no one will have interest.

Anyone else? I don’t think so. NHL teams don’t want to have any extra cap headaches than the ones they already have; having said that, here are a few players who might get moved to a team that sees them as part of the future:

  1. Ladislav Smid: I think the Oilers might have enough concern about his long term health. If someone comes calling with a legit prospect/pick Smid might be in a new town come March.
  2. Zack Stortini: The coach doesn’t see him as being terribly valuable. Another NHL coach might see a need for a physical 4liner who can actually play.
  3. Kurtis Foster: He’s signed for another year at 1.8M but a team looking for a PP solution that doesn’t break the bank might bite. A team in the southeast that "saw him good" a year ago may feel Foster can help them.
  4. Gilbert Brule: Seems to have slipped down a notch since a strong start. Brule has a few things that other coaching staffs will have noticed (he’s a hitter and he can shoot the puck) and that might be enough for them to offer a solid return.
  • VMR

    They can talk contract extension with Jones right now and it would be a good move to do so but how many guys have we seen come in and look decent for a season on the third line and then disappear next (yes I’m looking at you Brule).

    If they dont resign him before the deadline I try and trade him, we wont need him this year. If you get a 3rd rounder take it and try and sign him in the offseason when he sees what his value is on the open market (I’m guessing it wont be that high).

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Just to go a little further on the Jones for a pick idea.

    Take Jones draft class of 2004: 3rd round: theirs all of 2 players I’d take hands down over Jones.

    4th round: (where Jones was taken) theirs 1 player I’d take hands down over Jones.

    So basically we’d be cashing him in for a 1/20 chance of getting someone better.

    No more trading real NHL’ers for pics outside the first 2 rounds!!!! (unless it’s a guy that we will be losing for nothing)

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      You aren’t considering the opportunity cost of keeping Jones in the lineup. The Oilers don’t only get a draft pick they get a lineup spot next year who can be replaced by another guy like Jones. Trading him is then a two for one trade (the draft pick + the guy you picked up for free to replace him).

      The cost of these two players is Jones. But Jones isn’t worth anything to a good team. Third line players on good teams are very good hockey players. If you think Jones is good enough to play on the third line of a good team then your standards for third line players are too low.

      The Oilers shouldn’t be measuring their players by whether they are good enough for the Oilers, they should be measuring their players by whether they are good enough to play quality minutes for a good team. Jones isn’t.

      A third round pick is a great return for a player like Jones. If they continue to suck it won’t matter if they have Jones. If they start to get good, Jones is the guy they have to get rid of to get over the top.

      • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

        Have you seen how often we sign players like Jones?

        I wouldn’t count on the Oilers replacing him with anyone better then Ben Ondrus.

        Also, I measure Jones as a 4th liner

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Jones isn’t as good as he looks, but he’s unquestionably an NHLer. Even with his inflated trade value you’re likely to get more than a third for him, and this team needs legitimate NHLers more than we need another third. Clearly.

    However, if Tambo doesn’t think Jones wants to resign here, something we in the sphere have no way of knowing, then he would be crazy not to trade him.

  • Brownlee loves the word meow

    meow to the topic at hand, I agree with an earlier post. Dont subtract Jones, add to it. Crop Dust our Team with players like this.
    Brooks Laich and Glencross are both free agents come seasons end. If you can nab those 2 at the deadline/draft/sign them…

    Jones – Laich – Glencross

    Oh and just by coincidence their added salaries would probably equal that of Penners.

    Thats a hard working DIRTY line right there.

  • Whitney27

    It will be interesting to see what the Oilers do before or on trade deadline day.

    OF the list of players provided of who to go and who should stay in my opinon.
    Ales Hemsky-Very skilled and has been the best player on this team for years, try to lock up to another long term teal.

    Dustin Penner-Need to keep a big guy who can score Kurtis Foster-Is not doing great but the whole powerplay stinks and has been reliable in his own zone other then some games this year

    Gilbert Brule-If can get healthy is a good third line centre who isn’t afraid to muck it up and has some skill

    Ryan Jones-Would like to see him locked up for another year to see if he can keep going, he has been the most consistent and never quits working
    Steve Macentyre-Yes not a very good skater and does take penalites but does hold the other team responsible and puts fear in the other team

    Jason Strudwick-Can we please get rid of this guy my god its painful to watch him on the ice.I know he is a great team guy and he is great person but that doesn’t help on the ice.

    Ladislav Smid-Also please get rid of, has never lived up to any potential and nothing but injury prone

    Zach Stortini-This guy might have heart but just like Strudwick is painful to watch,& at the end of the day he is just a practice dummy for the real tough guys in the league when he is in the line up teams can take liberty on our stars because well they know that Stortini can’t hold them accountable other then they get to beat him up as well if they choose to fight him but whats the point because everyone has beaten him so much its gets boring for them to even bother.

    JIm Vandermeer- Im still on the fence with this guy but I have more confidence with him on the ice then I do with Strudwick or Smid.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    One more thing.

    The goal of good teams should be to have a third line that would be a solid second line on mediocre teams. Think of guys like Versteeg, Ladd, and Byfuglien.

    Instead of imagining that Ryan Jones is anything like those guys the Oilers should spend their time trying to get guys like that.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    I would trade Hemsky, Penner, Jones, or anybody as long as its for the right player(s)/pick(s). Ryan Clowe out of San Jose would be the ideal player coming back, he is what we all wish Penner is..on pace for 66 pts and 111 PIMS. Maybe a little inspiration for Penner. The Sharks need to shake something up pretty quick here as well.

  • What is all this talk about trading Ryan Jones?? Not only is he one of the few players that brings it EVERY NIGHT, there have been a few nights (last Vancouver game/debacle for example) that he was probably our best player, period. I would say someone who plays with energy and desire night in and night out and chips in 20 goals is EXACTLY what even a good team needs for their third line.

  • Ducey

    I still don’t understand the love for Jones. He has 13 points in 1/2 a season, is -5, and as I stated above can’t even hold his own with 4th line minutes. He is also shooting at 16%, which is unsustainable. He is not a scrapper, nor is he going to make many Dmen worried on the forecheck.

    Guys that give you 27 pts a year and can’t play defence are a dime a dozen in August.

    He is POS, in a bigger body.

    If you can get a third for him (Peckham was a 3rd, Omark was a 4th) you do it. You get a 5% (assuming poster above is right) chance of getting an NHL player and you can pick up Jones’ replacement off the scrap heap (where he came from!) for $500 K in August.

    If you want to actually improve the team, go out and get a guy that can chip in a few goals, bang some heads, AND actually play defence. They are still cheap.

    If you want your rookies to prosper, THEY should be playing against weaker opposition and the Vets like Jones should be playing the toughs. Right now we have Hall playing the toughs and Jones goal sucking against the weak opposition.

    Frankly, unless you have some weird man crush on his flowing locks, its not even an argument – trade him.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      15 goal pace for over 120 NHL games. The guy can score.

      And I repeat, have you seen how often we sign real bottom 6 NHL’ers?

      This sounds exactly like “trade/let walk Stoll/Reason… they’re easy to replace” ….. 3 years later we are still waiting.

      Frankly, unless you have some weird man crush on next to worthless picks, its not even an argument – re-sign him.

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        Have to agree. Unless he doesn’t want to re-sign or somehow Jacques, Fraser and Reddox start playing like sure fire NHLers there is no need to trade him.

        It’s not like we are going to get a 2nd or 3rd rounder for the guy anyway. Even if we did, how long are we going to wait until that pick actually does something.

        Jones should be able to help us out for a few more years, so I’d think his value to stay is greater than the risk of waiting on a pick.

  • Wax Man Riley

    I don’t think Penner is lazy, and I am definitely of sound mind. He is a big man with soft hands. He is a finesse player in a big, big body.

    He looks to put as much effort as Hemsky. Hemsky just looks effortless out there.

  • Are people really under the assumption that Ryan Jones is the answer on the 3rd line? Because I have never had the impression that he was a part of the long term future of the Oilers. I saw him as a transitional player, and a pending UFA on top of that.

    What kind of clown would the Oilers look like if they let perfectly moveable assets walk for nothing in the middle of a rebuild? Especially for a player that can be replaced the same way he was acquired, on the waiver wire.

    If he isnt moved by the draft then team still has a month to try and re-sign him for another season.