Four weeks ago, I asked 11-12 questions about 11-12. One month later, we have a lot of answers.
Taken over a long spring and summer, the transactions of an NHL team can seem plodding. However, one month into the process it’s clear the Oilers are in fact addressing the main issue of a building team: procurement. Here are the 11-12 questions and the changes we’ve seen in the past month:
- Do the Oilers address defense, center or grit with the top pick? Answer April 2: I think they’ll take Adam Larsson. Answer today: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Why the change? Nugent-Hopkins was on fire against the Edmonton Oil Kings throughout the week and the fallout has most observers and draft experts feeling the Nuge is the number one prospect. We also have to give Bob McKenzie’s "List" a lot of credit; after all, it is clearly the most influential list among those universally available. It came out April 12th, heavily influencing the internet.
- Do the Oilers stay with the NK-DD tandem in 11-12 or go shopping? Answer April 2: Although Khabibulin has two more years on his contract and hiding him in the minors offers no relief, it’s likely the Oilers will add some insurance at the position. It may come in the form of another Martin Gerber or the Oilers might end up being (Viktor) Fasth enough to sign a veteran Euro free agent. Answer today: No change.
- Will the Oilers make a big move this summer, either in trade or via free agent signing? Answer April 2: I think the Oilers will make a few major signings this summer, but it won’t be "big name" variety additions. They will sign Anton Lander and a few of the CHL kids, and I suspect a young man like Adam Larsson has an outstanding shot at an NHL job if he shows well at this fall’s training camp. Viktor Fasth might not look like a huge item the day he’s signed, but could go a long way to settling things in the cage. Should the Oilers begin next season with Dubnyk and Fasth as a tandem and Khabibublin deep in the heart of Oklahoma that should be considered a major move. Answer today: Steve Tambellini has since told the media that the club would like to improve at center and defense, but "one thing I want to be clear about is this organization is not ready to be looking for the free agent that is a US$10-million player. We’re going to stick with the plan of developing from within, drafting, making people better who are here with the organization. Will we be looking for people to complement through free agency or player movement, such as a trade? Yes. Would we like to increase our ability to win a faceoff? Yes. Do we need some help on defence, do we need some help in some of our forward positions? Yes, we do." The issue of goaltending has not been addressed, which qualifies it as the elephant in the room (summer 2011 edition).
- Are the Oilers putting themselves in danger re:50 man list will all of these college signings? Answer April 2: Edmonton has been active this spring, signing Tanner House, Taylor Fedun, Hunter Tremblay, Olivier Roy and Mark Arcobello. However, they have plenty of room for the Lander’s and Hamiltons, as Capgeek tells us there are 27 (actually 29 with Tremblay and Arceobello added) along with 12 restricted free agents. Even if the Oilers sign all 12 rfa’s–and they won’t–that would leave 9 spots open on the 50 mission cap. Answer today: Oilers have gone ahead and signed Hamilton, Lander, Pitlick, Marincin. They have pretty much covered the draft eligible signings, but will need to add several free agents (specifically goaltenders) throughout the summer. The Oilers have 34 players under contract for 11-12, along with 12 RFA’s and 13 UFA’s. We know many of the UFA’s won’t be returning, but it is also possible the club could walk away from some rfa’s (they did a year ago with Pouliot and Potulny among others). I don’t see the 50 man list as being in dangerous territory.
- What are they going to do about the powder blue-line? Answer April 2: The Oilers have Tom Gilbert, Ryan Whitney, Jeff Petry and Kurtis Foster under NHL contracts for next season. RFA’s include Ladislav Smid, Theo Peckham and Taylor Chorney. Minor leaguers in the mix include Alex Plante, Colten Teubert, Taylor Fedun and Johan Motin. I think the Oilers will look at bringing Jim Vandermeer back for another year and assume Foster will be much better next season. A top 4 of Whitney-Petry, Smid-Gilbert seems likely from here, with Foster, Peckham and Vandermeer rounding out the NHL roster. This leaves Taylor Chorney in something of a no-man’s land and I believe he may be dealt over the summer. Answer today: Nothing has changed. The Marincin signing may not impact the AHL roster, as there’s a real chance he’s back in the WHL next fall.
- What do the top 2 lines look like in the fall? Answer April 2: I believe the Oilers will operate (as they have in the recent past) as if they can ice "three scoring lines" and the 9 names in play will be Horcoff, Gagner and Cogliano at center; Hall, MPS and Jones on LW and Hemsky, Eberle and Omark on RW. The wild card is that kid Hartikainen, who could be an ideal item in the ongoing effort to marry size, grit and brains to a skill line. His emergence late may impact the Ryan Jones contract. Answer today: A slight update in that Ryan Jones remains unsigned. The club could have made a deal and are waiting until the end of the playoffs to announce it, but the crickets could also be the sound of the Oilers organization standing firm. Part of that backbone might be the Finn.
- Will they spend a roster spot on Steve MacIntyre again this fall? Answer April 2: Yes. The Oilers have invested money and minutes in developing a nuclear deterrent. Why stop now? He’ll play 40 games a year under Renney. Answer today: No change.
- Which of the kids outside the pro portion of the organization has the best chance of making the big team in 11-12? Answer April 2: Anton Lander. The Oilers have Horcoff, Gagner, Cogliano and Colin Fraser as NHL contracts and minor leaguers Ryan O’Marra and Chris Vande Velde at the top of the depth chart. Lander’s SEL experience should put him in the mix for that 4th spot, forcing Fraser to 13F (ahead of MacIntyre) or to OKC with Khabibulin. Answer today: I think Lander is an even stronger option for the Oilers now that he’s signed. Plenty of time to get ready for training camp and perhaps the organization’s moves this summer will be impacted from knowing he’s in the group. Entirely good news, this Lander signing.
- How will the Oilers handle round one of this year’s draft? Answer April 2: They’ll pluck Larsson number one overall and make a trade up to around 15 in order to acquire C Mark McNeill from the PA Raiders. Answer today: I believe RNH will go number one, and with that would suggest a defenseman is likely the target with the LAK pick.
- Is there an alternate universe on the draft? Answer April 2: Yes. They draft Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and then trade up to get Duncan Siemens at around 15. Answer today: the alternate universe has flipped to the real world and vice versa. It could flip again, and we should also make note that the Oilers could have had one of these kids at number one all along.
- Will they sign any free agents? Answer April 2: I think they’ll make a push for guys like Viktor Fasth in Europe and Boyd Gordon (57.9 faceoff %) this summer, but heaven knows if they’ll be able to sign any NHL free agents. A year ago they signed Kurtis Foster and Gordon would fit into the "day 3" group of free agents so there’s always a chance. Answer today: Same. The actual names could be different–Scott Cullen has some interesting names in this article–but the general idea is the same.
- Which NHL Oilers will be dealt this summer? Answer April 2: There’ s a difference between the men who are available and those who will be dealt. Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky might have been in play, but injuries might hold up deals in this regard. NOTE: I’m not suggesting the Oilers should trade either player, but in Hemsky’s case he’s outside the heart of the cluster age-wise and Gagner’s being sent away might be possible should they choose RNH. Men like Kurtis Foster, Gilbert Brule and Taylor Chorney could be in play. Answer today: No change.
It’s been a month, but the Oilers have made inroads on several of these questions and have articulated they are aware (and will attempt to address) specific needs on the big league roster. I can’t quite put all of the pieces together, but would like to make a connection between Taylor Hall’s exit interview and some rumblings about making moves to improve the NHL team this summer.
Nation Radio hits the airwaves again today, Noon to 2pm on Team 1260 (live from the Pint downtown). Scheduled to appear are Scott Cullen from tsn, who will discuss the article linked to above, the Oilers this summer and his use of advanced stats; Todd Nelson to do a wrap on the OKC Barons season and talk about next year; Ian Walker from the Vancouver Sun to talk about the Canucks, the playoffs and a few other items (he’s an interesting guy). We’re also hoping to talk about the draft with Dean Millard from the Pipeline Show and very much look forward to hearing from you at firstname.lastname@example.org and promise to answer as many quesitons as possible with our guests.