Since April, many of the pressing issues involving the Oilers have been put to bed. Are the answers close to what we expected?
Do the Oilers address defense, center or grit with the top pick?
- Answer April 2: I think they’ll take Adam Larsson.
- Answer April 30: 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.
- Final answer: Nugent-Hopkins. He’s also becoming an odds-on favorite to make the big club out of camp. RNH got some good news with the Cogliano signing and the next step will be a strong showing in training camp and pre-season. One quick note: the evolution of Nugent-Hopkins from top 5 overall prospect to the overwhelming choice as #1 overall pick (from almost every quarter) was fascinating.
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 30: No change.
- Final answer: What an absolutely bitter pill. I mean really. The Edmonton Oilers are in a worse position today than they were last fall! Khabibulin is a year older and miles from his last effective season, Gerber is long gone and Yann Danis is the only incoming help. A tremendous amount of pressure is on young Devan Dubnyk, a completely unnecessary risk. Oilers fans know stubborn–remember Ron Low insisting that Miro Satan play on the checking line–but this position (goal) needs to be addressed before fall. As of right now, if an NHL goalie goes down Danis gets recalled and Olivier Roy is the lone goaltender in OKC. Wow.
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 April 30: 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).
- Final answer: Wow. Steve Tambellini improved the roster in a big way at center (adding actual NHL player Eric Belanger), improved the 4th line by adding Ben Eager and subtracting JF Jacques, Zack Stortini and others. He also added a risky top 4D option in Cam Barker and enforcers in Andy Sutton and Darcy Hordichuk. But wait there’s more! Ryan Smyth, heart and soul copper and blue, returns to the Oilers to serve as useful player and mentor to the future. Steve Tambellini’s finest move, adding 94.
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 April 30: 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.
- Final Answer: They are at 49 currently, with a couple of kids yet to sign (Martindale, Davidson). They could send down someone like Marincin and RNH to junior, so it is a moving target. Also, they do have the option of cutting loose Johan Motin or Phil Cornet, who are in the bubble spots from what I can tell. The issue of 50 contracts seems to have been navigated successfully this summer. Need a goalie, though.
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 April 30: 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.
- Final Answer: GM Tambellini ended up adding a couple of NHL parts, Cam Barker and Andy Sutton. The club also sent away Kurtis Foster and did not bring back Jim Vandermeer. The top 6D is probably Whitney-Barker, Smid-Gilbert, Peckham-Sutton and Chorney at this time. I would bet huge money that Jeff Petry not only crushes Chorney in camp but that he supplants Barker as a top 4D during the season. It isn’t right–Petry should be brought along slowly–but there is no real evidence I can see that Barker is a top 4D option at even strength. No NHL team he’s played for felt that way, suspect coach Renney will reach that conclusion during 11-12.
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 April 30: 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.
- Final answer: I think the top 9 point made April 2 still applies. The top 3C’s out of camp should be Gagner, RNH and Horcoff and the top 6 wingers will be Hall-Eberle, Smyth-Hemsky and Paajarvi-Omark. The other fully qualified option is Eric Belanger, with Ben Eager a possible plug and play in the top 9 on nghts when the coach wants to infuse some physicality. Teemu Hartikainen remains a player of interest.
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 April 30: No change.
- Final answer: Found a better mousetrap in Darcy Hordichuk. I like that signing a lot. Not as much a deterrent as MacIntyre, but a better actual player.
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 April 30: 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.
- Final answer: RNH. I don’t think there’s a chance in hell they send him out if he has a solid pre-season.
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 April 30: I believe RNH will go number one, and with that would suggest a defenseman is likely the target with the LAK pick.
- Final answer: Went as we expected at the end of April, RNH followed by the game breaker Klefbom. I think it’s important for us to remember that the first pick on day 2 was David Musil, who was a first round pick on many lists. Strong top of the draft again for MBS.
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 April 30: Same. The actual names could be different–Scott Cullen has some interesting names in this article–but the general idea is the same.
- Final answer: Tambellini did very well. A better "Gordon" in Eric Belanger, plus he plucked upgrades in Ben Eager (Jacques role) and Darcy Hordichuk (MacIntyre) role for two 4line slots the coach valued. Cam Barker is a signing with some risk, but there’s obvious potential for success in the addition.
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 April 30: No change.
- Final answer: Oilers tried to trade Brule but it didn’t take. They were successful in dealing Kurtis Foster and Andrew Cogliano in deals designed to improve up the middle.