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.

  • 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…

  • 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.

  • Eddie Edmonton

    Burke will get Schultz. Burke knows it, Schultz knows it, they’re just putting up a front for the rest of the league so they don’t get in trouble since everyone and their grandmother knew he’d be going there for about a year.

    Oilers need to trade Gagner, next years first and a prospect for an impact centre or a d-man.

    Sign a impact free agent and let Smyth walk.
    Smyth’s time has passed. Oilers recent past is full of losses it doesn’t make sense to hang on to another one. Smyth has nothing to offer the Oilers anymore. Smyth is a hasbeen just like Oilers times at the bottom of the standings.

  • Bucknuck

    I feel pretty optimistic about next year, but if they start the season with Khabibulin in the lineup, then I have little faith. I figure Tambellini is a dud, but i base that primarily on his unwillingness to move and replace Khabibulin. Is he dumb? blind? can’t read stats? can’t read?

    IF he manages to sort out the MOST important position on the team, then maybe… just maybe there is a chance that he is half-ways competent. If not… then this team won’t be able to get to the top of the pile while he is running it.

    Am i putting too much emphasis on the khabibulin thing? I just don’t see how anyone who is TRYING to win wouldn’t upgrade that position.

    • Yup. I do believe you’re absolutely correct sir!

      Sadly, B’wana Steve might try and use the Russian wiggle – It’s important to provide the Yak with a team mate who is a fellow countryman, to speak with and to show him the ropes Russian style.

  • DoubleJ

    Well summed up Robin. So far so good, but the next five days will determine whether the team can realistically hope to make a playoff run and its in ST’s hands. They could use more size and toughness at forward and a legitimate second goalie but the key is defence. I’m sure they will employ the full court press on Schultz and really, nobody knows specifically what he is looking for. Canada? USA? Playing with old pals? Who knows? As you say Tamby has to sign a pair of top 4 guys, with Schultz hopefully one. In a week we will know what we have and what we can really expect this season. This is the week that was. Step up, or ….

  • @Robin Brownlee –

    1. Who do you think would be the forward who gets dealt?

    2. Do you really see Methot as a suitable top 4 D option? I don’t know if I would call that a real successful addition.

  • Let’s hope Krueger can use his motivation skills to convince KLowe to move MacT to the GM seat. Just do it now. You know its coming. After all these years with Tambillini as GM, we still don’t know if he is able to execute and bring in the required pieces.