Edmonton Oilers GM Steve Tambellini has taken care of several significant housekeeping items already this off-season, but what he does between now and the start of training camp, starting with free agency July 1, will be what defines his body of work this summer.

Get contract extension. Check.

Express greater expectations. Check.

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Draft Nail Yakupov. Check.

Promote Ralph Krueger to head coach. Check.

None of the above is inconsequential, of course, because getting the right guy with the first overall pick based on the recommendation Stu MacGregor and his scouting staff and entrusting Krueger with the keys to the franchise for the next three seasons as Tom Renney’s replacement will go a long way in shaping how this team looks and performs from here on out.

That said, expressing greater expectations after six straight years out of the playoffs and finishes of 30th, 30th and 29th in the past three, is a pretty standard script. Taking Yakupov? Would have been a bigger story if Tambellini passed on the consensus BPA and taken Ryan Murray. A no-brainer, really, much like taking Taylor Hall or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was. Hiring Krueger? A curveball, to be sure, given how NOBODY mentioned him as a serious candidate for the job immediately after Tom Renney was allowed to walk.

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Now, the checklist gets more challenging.


  • The big prize now is pending unrestricted free agent defenseman Justin Schultz, and Tambellini can get a huge head start on filling the holes on Edmonton’s blue line if he can land the former Wisconsin Badger. The Oilers are in the mix and will make a pitch to Schultz as early as today. How has Tambellini orchestrated the the sales job Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavish intend to make to Newport Sports?
  • Even if Tambellini gets Schultz, and every indication out there is the Oilers have a realistic chance of being in the short-list mix, there remains work to do on the back end. The Oilers, by the estimation of a lot of people, need to add a minimum of two defenseman who are capable of taking on top-four minutes next season. If Schultz is one, fine, great. Tambellini needs to find another.
  • Tambellini can’t afford a swing and a miss like he had last summer with Cam Barker, who won’t even be qualified. No longshots, even on one-year deals like Barker got (and that was an over pay). As 630 CHED’s Bob Stauffer mentioned at the Entry Draft, there might be room to pry somebody out of Columbus after Scott Howson took Murray. Perhaps Marc Methot.
  • There might be a deal to me made with Brian Burke in Toronto as well, particularly if the Maple Leafs land Schultz. Of course, if that’s the case, Tambellini has two spots to fill, not just one. Again, Tambellini needs two guys capable of top-four duty, not more third-pairing guys. He will likely have to spend some money and move some assets. So be it.
  • While there’s a reasonable chance Eric Belanger will bounce back to his previous levels of offensive production, I can’t imagine fans would be upset if Tambellini managed to move him along. I can’t imagine Belanger would be unhappy, either, based on what I’ve heard.
  • Sorting out the forwards and moving one of two of them to address the back end, Schultz or no Schultz, is a must. Making room for some size (that can play) up front, be it from within or via free agency or trade, is another. Like I said, now the checklist gets more complicated.

Now’s the time. Show us something, Steve.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • I understand the frustration expressed when Tambellini just refuses to show us anything. I would imagine that he is an absolute nightmare for the media since he won’t even answer the simplest question (ie when Gregor asked him how many coaches he’s interviewed. He said “a few”. When asked how many more are being interviewed, and when asked if he’d decided on a head coach I think he may have just repeated himself again and said “a few”.

    As a die hard fan it is extremely frustrating to follow a team that refuses to release any information. Ever since Tambellini took the helm everyone has resorted to speculation instead of legit stories with legit leads. I follow most of the media here in Edmonton for my info since they have the closest ties to the team and the best inside sources, but for the past 3 years it has just been pure speculation because no reliable info is ever released. Stauf has been pretty good at telegraphing info simply by making it sound like he is predicting something without even saying he has a source, although we all know he is very close to the team. Even he sounds frustrated by the silence of our organization. The fans have a right to know more about the team they are supporting. Yeah the product is on the ice, but for many of us, half the fun is what happens off the ice. With this team, that aspect of enjoyment and investigation is clearly being hampered.

    Despite all this, I hold “winning” as a higher priority than making sure the fans are informed. When it comes to keeping your cards close, Tambi is a master. Recently Jordan Staal rejected a 60 million dollar contract offer from Pittsburgh. That information seemed to have been leaked almost instantly. As a result, the asking price for Staal was reduced, and if that information had been kept behind closed lips, maybe Pitt could have demanded more. Look at the Rick Nash fiasco, Howsen is never going to get fair value because everyone knows Rick wants out. If I have to sacrifice knowing the exact number of coaches that our team has interviewed in exchange for an edge on other NHL teams I’ll do it every day of the week.

    Now you may look at this team and say 30th, 30th, and 29th place finishes are not exactly supporting my statement regarding having an edge, but you cannot argue that giving away information can hurt your organization. Despite some terrible seasons, it in now way justifies telling everyone what is going on behind closed doors.

    I think as fans, we need to just forget about how long it takes for public announcements and perceived timelines on decisions. If we want to make judgements, then we should do so on the decisions, not how long it takes to announce them. Barker was a mistake, that’s fair to say after last season. Although I supported the signing at the time, it’s clear that it was a mistake and is a perfect example of something we, as fans, can critique Tambi for. He’s also done some great things too. R. Jones was a great signing, the Penner trade was great, the smytty trade was great, the Gilbert trade was great, selecting nuge, hall, and yakupov may have appeared easy, but those are decisions that need to be made and he made the right decisions when other GM’s may have taken a Hedman or Erik Johnson type player.

    Despite my frustration at not being in the know, I am happy we have the GM with the tightest lips in the league. It gives us an advantage that many teams like the leafs simply do not have. Imagine having the attention seeking Burke, and having everyone in the hockey world know your every thought.

    Fans should just take a breath and base their criticisms on things that are more concrete than how much info is released to the public.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    He also has to keep an eye on the 2nd contracts coming up while adding 2 top 4 defence… Don’t want to follow the Chicago model completely…

  • Can someone explain why Justin Schultz would not sign in Anaheim? Should we or anyone else go and chase a kid who will not sign a contract with the club who drafted him?

    Something sounds very fishy about this kid to me. Everyone is speaking so highly of him but no one knows why he has not signed yet. Is it personal? Entitlement? Lack of character? Lack of respect?

    What is wrong with playing in Anaheim?

  • aeiouY

    Wow, Wideman’s rights went for a 2013 first round pick and a defense? That is a crazy overpay just for his rights. I think the money he’s getting is worth it. His stats speak for themselves though. He is a top end D, I hope there’ other free agents out there we can land to a similar deal (without giving up our first overall just for rights).

    Also, what the hell is Calgary doing giving away a first round pick? Don’t they need to restock their prospects?

  • vetinari

    What we need from Tambi for the summer to be at least a moderate success:

    * two top 4 defencemen who can each play 16-20 minutes per night without being defensive liabilities, who can kill penalties, and who can hold the blueline while the kids’ freewheel.

    * a goalie to replace Khabibulin. Dubnyk can be your 1A but Khabibulin should have a restraining order against him requiring him to keep at least 40 yards away from the Oiler’s net at all times.

    * a 2nd/3rd line centre who can push or challenge Gagner and Horcoff for ice time.

    What I think that we will actually get from Tambi:

    * a 5/6 defenceman through trade.

    * a Khabibulin fan club bobblehead with a handwritten sticker on it that says “four more years” in Russian (suspiciously in Khabibulin’s handwriting).

    * a depth winger who used to do enforcer duties for another team but due to a concussion/knee injury/whatever is looking for a “clean start” in Edmonton and thinks that we are “on the verge of big things”. We will likely be calling for this player to be traded by no later than December 1st because they are either too slow, too expensive or too docile to play NHL hockey

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    The Oilers should just send the fab five to TO to meet Shultz, Nuge, Hall, Eberle, Yak, and MPS or Petry to convice him to Edmonton. Don`t send Dithers

  • oilredemption

    go for doan, shultz, mueller and gragnani. Trade belanger. Then if smyth doesnt want the contract on the table let him walk. Possible line combos..

    Hall RNH Eberle

    Yakupov Mueller Hemsky

    Jones/smyth Gagner Doan

    Jones/Eager Horcoff Eager/Petrell

    Whitney J.Shultz

    Smid Petry

    Shultz Gragnani

  • Bucknuck

    Amen to this. We have yet to establish what Steve Tambellini’s abilities are in terms of procuring talent by way of trades. Is he savvy? I’m not sure? Can he swing with the big boys? Who really knows? This question has yet to be answered because of one main reason… It simply has not been clearly the mandate of the powers that be above him. Its hard to say how much freedom he has been given to really pull it all out and make a major trade to improve this teams D.. specifically. I’d suggest that his new contract indicates that he was not given a total green light. But surely to god the time is nigh? From now until the trade deadline we are taking the wraps off this supposed hotshot GM. “Do Something” pretty much sums it up. It’s enough already!?

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    Is there any chance the Oilers land Suter? If by some miracle that happens, all of a sudden this club might not be far from the playoffs, with 1 or 2 more additions.

  • I don’t like Methot, because he appears to be exactly what the Oilers don’t need–another bottom pairing guy.

    If I were the Oilers, I would try to grab Schultz, then scour free agency for another top four guy, ignoring the temptation to deplete forward depth unless there is a home run, young, blooming top pairing defenceman available. I am comfortable with their forward composition as is, bit it is delicately balanced. Do you really want to deal your own veteran scorer in Hemsky? Or deal Gagner now (I think he is very close to finding another gear offensively). Can you really get full value for Paajarvi? Does dealing one of the super kids appeal to anyone?

      • I think the time to make significant moves is later, simply because the guy who I think you could move and get full value for is Eberle. I don’t think you get Doughty or Pietrangelo or someone of that ilk, which is what I think you need in return.

        I think the forward group is fine, and I think the defence needs two new players. The Oilers desperately need a real NHL goaltender, even a back-up, instead of Khabibulin. Khabibulin is, by far, the single biggest reason they’ve been awful the past two years–he has gone 3-33-6 in the past two years in the post-Christmas period. Their record has been… semi-respectable with Dubnyk. I think if you take out the Khabibulin factor and replace him with a capable NHL back-up or 1B option, add two defencemen and allow the forwards another year to develop (along with bringing back Smyth), you have a team that is, at least, a playoff bubble team.

        Honestly, if they dumped their awful goaltender, they probably would have finished outside the lottery.

  • positivebrontefan

    As long as Tambo takes the stance that he will wait for offers to come in as he said he did with the first overall pick he’s not getting anywhere. Justin Schultz will not just offer himself up to come here, neither will anyone else. Get on it Steve!!!

  • GSP

    I don’t think mike commodore solves all the problems on the blue line but he’s a local guy with a nice resume that will play a ton for a million bucks. A big upgrade over barker and potter IMO

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    What the eff is Krueger doing in Edmonton?? Isn’t he supposed to be brainwashi…. er… motivating Schultz to sign with the Oilers?

    On the bright side: at least Tambellini is “muzzled”.

  • Zamboni Driver

    Try like hell to land free agents like Wideman to fill in top 4 pairings. If that doesn’t work, look at putting Gagner or our 1st overall pick for a player like Yandle (good contract for a good to great player). If Gagner has to go, having Hall and Yak on one line will still give us a legitimate second scoring line option, even if we put someone like Horcoff at the position. Him and Hall have okay chemistry anyway. Belangier could slot in at our number 3 shut down line because the guy can win face-offs. And Lander was capable at 4, especially if Shultz and Yandle are on our back end. Again, I still think a line up that looks like this is a playoff spot contending team.

    Smyth-Nuge-Ebs / Hall-Horcoff-Yak / Hartikinen or Paajarvi-Belangeir-Hemskey / Petrell-Lander-Jones

    Yandle-Shultz / Smid-Petry / Whitney-Shultz / Peckham or Sutton

    Dubnyk-Habby(seriously is there no one better than Habby?)

    The team is lacking a bit of size and grit at the forward positions, but is overloaded on skill and has the defense and goal (.920) to back up that skill (Hopefully Whitney gets healthier).

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    That’s also a team with a lot of ‘who knows’ potential. Maybe Hemsky’s trade value climbs a bit and we could trade for size at the trade deadline. Perhaps Hartikinen develops into that Lucic type that plays with size and skill (which is how it was looking last year). Maybe Paarjarvi gets his groove back. Maybe Whitney returns to form and we acquire our targets on the defense wish list. Maybe Horcoff rediscovers what it’s like to play on a skill line. Maybe Smyth doesn’t burn out because he’s not in a shut down role. Maybe Smid and Petry get even better than they were last year.

    Obviously it would be stupid to bank on any of this happening, but it’s exciting that it could happen.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    This guy has done nothing so far except finish last, last and second last. Hired his 3rd coach in 4 years – when you listen to Krueger speak you are listening to exactly the same words that Tom Renney spoke 2 years ago. ST is giving me the impression that he thinks his team is underachieving, if that is what he thinks, then he is reading his team real wrong. This team has not had the horses to finish the race and he better realize that and soon. I really think this franchise is turning into the laughing stock around the league and that is hard to do with the Leafs in the same league.

  • RexLibris

    From reports out of development camp Klefbom seems to be NHL ready so if they can get him out of that contract in sweden and Schultz signs would that fill the 2 holes Robin or do they still need to sign a vet guy? Also scouts saying Klefbom is better than Murray Sign Schultz get Klefbom here. Maybe go after 1 vet D man also

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      I’ve heard things too… I think T. Jones said something.

      I’d hold off on rushing the kid. He’s grown a lot in the last year. He looks much bigger and is apparently skating with ease and composure.

      But needing two top 4 d and adding two rookies without an NHL game between them is not a recipe for success…

      this organization has had too many kicks at the “bring em young” can… let the prospects ripen in their own damn time.

      ps. klefbom yesterday said he didn’t want to rush anything and come here feeling he was not ready… smart kid:

      pps. wideman… dodged a bullet… huge overpay. stay away from Methot. we don’t need 5-7 left D… we have those in spades.

  • Tambo sucks royally as a GM. He guy has one nothing to address the team needs as usual. He is too afraid to make a trade, completely useless in signing FA’s. Why was this guy brought back? Oh yeah to sewer this team another year.

  • DoubleJ

    I’m not too sure who Justin’s coach was in collage, but throwing a job at him might help get Justin to the oilers. Sounds crazy, but the coach has proudced some pretty amazing d the last few years. Smith in Detroit, Gardiner in TO and now Schultz.

    It might have been enough to sway Schultz.

    Gawd I hope we land him.

  • A-Mc

    My bet is that the oilers pickup someone inconsequential over the summer, and that the main strategy for Tambolini is to just sit on the prospects they have. After-all, Klefbom is only 1 year out.