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:
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Steve MacIntyre: Has almost no post-season value. These guys don’t play much when the second season begins.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.