I think it is fair to say that the majority of Oilers fans have been thrilled with the team’s performance at the draft table. Taylor Hall might be the headliner, but the ensemble of young players the Oilers have collected the last few years stacks up well against most anyone in the league.
Away from the draft table, the results have been less impressive. A glance at the Oilers roster reveals an assortment of players acquired by other means, and for the most part it is not a list that inspires one with confidence.
I have limited the list of players under consideration to those who have spent some time in the NHL.
The Unrestricted Free Agents
|Player||2010-11 Cap Hit|
Four players on this list, and none of them really matter. The two best are Jim Vandermeer – a seventh defenseman paid to be much more than that last year – and Martin Gerber, a competent backup who handled the third-stringer role with aplomb. Beyond that, Jason Strudwick should not have been retained last season, while Steve MacIntyre is a superb heavyweight without any other NHL-level qualities.
The Expensive Guys
|Player||2011-12 Cap Hit|
As one would expect from a group of highly-salaried players, there is some talent here, but none of these guys represents a slam dunk in terms of value.
I approve completely of the Ryan Smyth reacquisition. His cap hit is a little on the high side for what he’s likely to bring to the table next year, but given where the Oilers are and the fact that he will undoubtedly be looking for less money in the summer, this isn’t a big deal.
Tom Gilbert and Ryan Whitney are both valuable defensemen, though not without flaws. Many have questioned whether Gilbert provides value for the money (I tend to think that he’s slightly overpaid, but not by an outrageous margin), while Whitney had a great year but his injury woes remain a concern.
Sheldon Souray spent last season in the minors. If on-ice play were the only factor that really mattered, than Nikolai Khabibulin would have, too. Both contracts are disastrous at this point.
The Less Expensive Guys
|Player||2011-12 Cap Hit|
The Oilers tried to trade Brule to the Los Angeles Kings so that the latter team could buy him out. Kurtis Foster struggled to stay in the line-up. The Ryan Jones contract is popular at the moment, but he’s a fourth line player getting paid $1.5 million. I’m more than a little surprised that Ryan O’Marra got a qualifying offer while Kevin Montgomery did not.
On the plus side, Ladislav Smid is a capable NHL defenseman who does not seem to be on the verge of being overpaid.
At some point, the Edmonton Oilers will try to start winning games again. Possibly even as early as this season. When that happens, there will be holes that the draft has not, and cannot (with any urgency) fill. Those holes will need to be filled via free agency or trade.
That means the Oilers need to improve in this department.