Preview of Coming Attractions

The World Hockey Championships end today, opening the door for free agent signings. The Edmonton Oilers are reportedly active this spring–good news for Oiler fans.

The Edmonton Oilers pro scouting group have been getting poor reviews of late, but I think it’s probably more a case of team management trying to solve problems by other means. The club used to be known for more subtle moves, like a small deal to acquire Jan Hejda (he cost a 7th rd pick) or minor signings of "unknowns" such as Toby Petersen or Patrick Thoresen. More recently, the club has spent dollars large (Nikolai Khabibulin) and small (Mike Comrie, Kurtis Foster) by casting their line in NHL free agent waters.

There’s evidence today that the Oilers have returned to their roots.

We’ve discussed Viktor Fasth previously and it looks like the club has a chance to sign him. In an article written by Dan Barnes (here) we get this quote from the author:

  •  Fasth and his wife will become parents this summer for the first time and he apparently wants some guarantees of stability in the form of a oneway contract. In the absence of such a surety, he is reportedly ready to stay with AIK Stockholm, his current Elitserien team. As per the NHL agreement with the International Ice Hockey Federation, Fasth has until June 15 to sign with an NHL team.

Seems like there’s some opportunity for the Oilers here. With Mr. Khabibulin’s future somewhat in doubt (there is that Arizona parking ticket still unresolved) and Devan Dubnyk the only other signed option, surely there’s some room for a one-way contract at the position. I’m heartened that the Oilers are interested and hopeful they sign him (or someone similar).

If the Oilers had enjoyed goaltending the calibre of Devan Dubnyk in all of their games last season, the club’s record would very likely have been much better. There was a gap in performance (.916 to .890) a year ago, tightening up that trail number is vital to any improvement.

ESPOO!

 

There are also reports that the Oilers are interested in signing Finnish defender Ville Lajunen from Espoo Blues of the SM-Liiga. He’s 23, 6.0, 185 and is considered a puck mover. The story is here. We don’t really know what he’ll look like as an NHL player, but let’s run him through Gabriel Desjardins’ NHLE to see what it says:

  • Age 20 NHLE 82gp, 8-11-19
  • Age 21 NHLE 82gp, 4-25-29
  • Age 22 NHLE 82gp, 5-13-18

He clearly had one spike season and then looks like there’s some offensive ability in every season. According to elite prospects, he’s "a right-handed defenseman with good hands and hockey sense. Plays an offense-first game and possesses a hard, yet not very accurate, point shot. Is an asset with the man advantage. Needs to improve his defensive-zone coverage and skating ability." Sounds like the modern Risto Siltanen!

The real story isn’t Fasth or Lajunen but that the Oilers are back to looking under every rock and trying to find gems. The last couple of seasons, filled with retreads and also-rans, contributed to the disastrous back-to-back seasons endured by the team and the fanbase. Finding the next Jan Hejda appears to be much wiser than offering dollars to another Kurtis Foster.

Fasth may be superior to Nikolai Khabibulin right now, Lajunen might be capable of stepping in and replacing someone on the current blue depth chart. As far as I know, the same pro scouts who found Jan Hejda walk the halls of the Oilers offices to this day. Let these men do their jobs, and leave the overpaying to New York’s Rangers.

This is a good sign.

  • @Lowetide

    Right now I have…

    Whitney-XXXXX Peckham-Gilbert XXXXXX-Petry Foster

    Bogosian would be a coup. He’d play with Whitney and the top 4 would be set. If you want to rush Petry into the top pairing, thats fine, but probably won’t get the desired result, at least not immediately, and yes the top 4, collectively, would be a little soft. Petry will likely supplant Gilbert once he’s ready to go, but I don’t think he’s ready yet.

    And yes, the Oilers could use a rugged Dman that can play in the top 4. There’s one playing Hershey that could be passable in the mean time.

    • Lowetide

      Well if Bogosian isn’t available (and one doubts he is, despite the reports around the deadline) then a similar player type is probably the target. It could also be an older, more defensive player like Barrett Jackman, but the incoming player is going to add an element of toughness and be able to play top 4 minutes imo.

  • Making defence better makes sense ,but how to do that with upgrades is the question . We appear to have little expertise when it comes to evaluating the talent we already have , and even less success in procurring better talent in any market . Gilbert is one of only a few on backend that appear somewhat reliable and at least healthy through most of year . Going to other markets outside normal ones for most, shows how bad and narrow our marketplace has become to procur any talents . Desperate to say the least . Doubtfull much good will become of it .

  • I believe the Oilers will require a centerman much more physical than Hopkins can provide for Hall and Eberle. Hopkins might be better off with Pajaarvi to be honest . The high risk factor with Hopkins on the Oilers is more than i like to see . If we were already a big physical club it wouldn’t be so risky .

    • Yes, no kidding ! so having said that the OIL will likely add another smurf to the line up of marshmellows and wonder why they continue to finish last. I’ll say it again ST and KL have to go. This talk about Jagr too is making me sick to the stomach.
      This is quite a gong show let me tell you ! Drafting Hokins is fine but they better be moving other smaller bodies. This team has a top nine that should be name after the scotties soft tissues. Well ,ST is still assessing.
      Oh and NHL please keep the dessert dogs in Phoenix- I’ll need a team to cheer for when I get down there for the winters.

  • LT:
    What do you think the Oil would be fetching in return for Gibby or in other words what would be fair value? Does his contract work for or against us in a trade? 4mil until 2014 I think?

    • I would think it would be against us. He’s coming off a down year. Debatable #2…probably a #3-4 Dman now. He needs to find the 40 point range again to give himself some value.

      I would see him now going in a salary for salary type deal. Lemme put it this way…I don’t think he’s going to be the focal point in a deal involving Bogosian.

    • Lowetide

      I think they’ll deal Gilbert and Smid in an effort to acquire a more complete talent. Someone you can plug into the top 4D without worrying.

      A young veteran with a nice range of skills. A guy who can help some offensively but isn’t a PP expert. Remember Jaroslav Spacek when he came into his own in the NHL? Solid defensive player who can move the puck efficiently and help on the PP as needed.

      I think the Oilers need to add another Ryan Whitney.

      • Clyde Frog

        What about Gilbert to NYI for Wishart? A little young (about 20 games NHL expereince) but the right profile otherwise and the Isles struggle to meet the cap and need to show Tavares they are trying to win….

      • Adding another Ryan Whitney isn’t all that easy. Tom Gilbert right now is a poor man’s Ryan Whitney coming off of a down year. Room for improvement is there, but I understand why people are frusterated with Gilbert.

        I guess its the evil you know against the evil you don’t know. This is Steve Tambellini we are talking about…I expect him to do very little as usual, so him giving the defense a whole new face lift by only keeping 4 of 7 Dmen (Whitney, Peckham, Petry and Foster) seems like quite the departure for ST.

        I somewhat agree with what you are saying, I would like improvements on the D, but for some reason if they dump Gilbert, it will be for less return.

        • Lowetide

          I’ve been looking at the D as it currently exists and think the Oilers will add some grit to the top 4D. If they’ve decided Petry is going to be in the top 4 AND they need more grit, then Gilbert has to go. Smid’s been around that 4-5 number for awhile now and I don’t know that he’ll ever be a guy you can count on.

          So, if we can agree that Whitney-Petry is probably one pairing, who do we put on the 2nd pairing?

          You’ve got Gilbert, Smid, Peckham and Foster as the NHL candidates and a few guys bubbling under.

          I honestly believe we’ll see them become somewhat similar to the 2001-02 Oilers. That team did have Niinimaa and Poti, but it also had tougher players like Jason Smith, Steve Staios and Eric Brewer who could all play some top 4 minutes.

          How many tough defenders, with some size, do the Oilers have right now who can play in the top 4D?

  • Krusher

    The past 3 years we have talked almost non stop about our lack of actual NHL calibre players. Our depth in the Org has been lacking until recently, and while it is showing promise, there is a lack of “experienced” depth. Adding a few younger veterans from Europe is a great idea, especially if it allows us to wait on some prospects that could use a bit more time in the minors.

    Adding from Europe is a cheaper option, and if they are in the 22-27 yr old range, then they can blend in with the age groups within the dressing room and grow along with the rest of the core.

    Add a goalie, a dman and a forward who have more experience then the youth we have just drafted, and at least we allow our young depth to earn the right to be called up, instead of just forcing them into roles for which they may not be prepared.

  • The Oilers have some holes on D, thats for dang sure. Gotta find a way to patch those holes up and if this is the best way to do it, then so be it. Offensive first Dmen, the Oilers could use a waterbug type. With the way the team is being built, the Oilers really need puck movers on the backend, be it through passing or skating.

  • I dont know that the Oil need an Offense-first defender until they find a couple more that arent pylons in their own zone. Although if a guy like Strudwick retires then theres an open spot for a guy to play 30-35 games situationaly.

    • Lowetide

      I think we’ll see some movement on the backline this summer. Whitney and Peckham are definitely going to return, but a change of scenery for Smid and Gilbert is possible. Should the Oilers deal Gilbert, it opens up a spot similar to the one this young Finn could fill (although he wouldn’t be able to cover all of Gilbert’s minutes as a rookie).

      I think the Oilers will try to pick up a defensemen with a complete skill set and use Whitney and that player to anchor the blue on different pairings. Plus Petry will get elevated time, possibly with Whitney.

      • Krusher

        Gilbert dealt? Serious!? Christmas can come in June then. That would be a minor miracle to dump “Mr.Marshmallow” and his inflated contract. Please don’t tease me, lol.

      • I don’t think they move Gilbert yet, not until they figure out exactly what Petry is. I think Gilbert gets at least one more year. Smid, on the other hand….this team is filled with 5-6 Dmen, time to cull the herd.

      • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

        Why do you think there’s a chance of Gilbert being dealt? Smid – I somewhat understand, seeing how many romours have surrounded him in the past. But Gilbert?

        Also, in regards to signing the offensive-minded d-men: I don’t care if it’s offense or defense first for any players we sign, as long as those players are of some quality! Foster and Fraser are the exact opposite of quality.

        And Frasth – every year (it seems like) there’s a free agent goalie getting much attention overseas. None have been the real deal so far. Just sayin.

        • Lowetide

          I think Gilbert may be dealt for two reasons: first, you have to give up somethng in order to get something in return. Second, Gilbert is miscast imo on this team and has been since Quinn arrived. MacT used him in a more offensive role (imo) and outside the late run with Whitney in ’10 spring Gilbert has been playing more of the Jason Smith/Steve Staios role on this team.

          Not ideal use of his skills and certainly not a good plan if you’re looking for $4M in annual value.

  • Fasth!

    The Edmonton Oilers pro scouting group have been getting poor reviews of late

    That’s like saying a restaurant that was shut down for serving raw chicken and poisoning its customers was getting “poor reviews”

    There are also reports that the Oilers are interested in signing Finnish defender Ville Lajunen….he’s “a right-handed defenseman

    If the Oiler’s sign a RH Finn Dman, then there is hope for aquisition staff (euro aquisition at least) The Oilers need a good RH Dman, and Finns win.

    If they sign both of these guys, that would be fantastic. The UFA RH Dman group falls off quickly after Bieksa this year.

    Fasth may be superior to Nikolai Khabibulin right now

    Talk about faint praise. Richard Sevigny may be superior to NK right now.

    Sounds like the modern Risto Siltanen!

    Haha! Risto had an amazing shot. You were also amazed if he hit the net 2 of 3 times.

    I really love a good edit button.