Have The Edmonton Oilers Done Enough?

The Oilers have had a good start to the summer of 2012. Signing unrestricted free agent defenseman Justin Schultz is a move that should payoff in both the near- and long-term, and thanks to the NHL’s entry-level system it didn’t cost the team significant dollars. Bringing back forward Ryan Smyth was also a strong move by the club, particularly given the modest $2.25 million cap hit.

Is it enough?

Home Improvement

Realistically, the only significant personnel additions so far thus summer are a pair of rookies – Schultz and first overall draft pick Nail Yakupov. Both players should play in the majors, and both should be impact rookies, but there’s a limit to what can be expected of them. I tend to agree with Lowetide that Taylor Hall’s rookie season is a good benchmark for Yakupov, while the best comparison for Schultz is likely Jake Gardiner’s rookie season in Toronto (30 points, 20+ minutes per game). Schultz has posted better offensive numbers than Gardiner all down the line and is a year older, so he may well surpass Gardiner’s offense as a rookie but it’s a good starting point.

Internal growth is going to continue to be banked on for the major improvements. I could list the young players but there’s really no need – we all know who they are and in a few cases (specifically Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Petry) there’s the potential for massive strides. As it stands, veterans such as Ales Hemsky, Ryan Whitney and Eric Belanger will also be counted on to return to form.

Trade Winds?

Listening to the various media people around the league (including Bob Stauffer, who is easily one of the most credible sources of inside information on the Oilers), one gets the sense that the market was paralyzed as the biggest players waited for a decision from Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. That may or may not be the case, but there’s been a slow bleed of free agents since July 1 and it now seems that if the Oilers are going to make a major addition it’s more likely to be via trade than it is the unrestricted market.

Certainly that’s what general manager Steve Tambellini hinted at in his July 1 press conference, recognizing that the Oilers have a surplus of bodies and that it gives them options on the trade market.

The question is what a trade would look like.

Ales Hemsky’s name is the one that seems to continue to draw attention. TSN’s Ryan Rishaug stated his belief that Hemsky was “heavily in play on the trade front” a few days ago, while the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson relayed Tambellini’s denials of Hemsky discussions but noted that the Oilers depth chart at right wing seems fairly full.

Leaving out the potential for a deal involving one of the Oilers’ big-four (in order of seniority: Eberle, Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Yakupov), there really aren’t a lot of pieces to move in a swap for defense. Sam Gagner could go, but he would leave a hole at centre. It also seems a little early to give up on Magnus Paajarvi.

Still, generally a team needs to give up something to get something. Of the forwards, Gagner’s probably the guy with the most cachet given his age, RFA status and NHL experience.

If Nothing Else Happens…

… then this will still have been a good summer for Oilers fans. The arrival of Schultz was a major coup, and rivals almost any move the Oilers could have made in free agency – they weren’t getting Schultz or Garrison, and Matt Carle’scontract ($33 million over six years) was an interesting thing to see.

On the other hand, a solid trade or two to clear out some deadwood and solidify the back end would go a long way toward helping the Oilers post more respectable totals next season. It’s to be hoped that the team still has an arrow or two left in the quiver.

This week by Jonathan Willis

  • after 281 man games lost to injury in 2011 and
    246 man games lost to injury in 2012 I think maybe instead of hoping that injuries won’t happen the smarter thing may be to acquire a couple of NHL players for when it happens.

    But that’s just me.

  • Kodiak

    Jonathan, what do you think is going to happen at center? There’s has been talk of moving Hall to center and if that happens, wouldn’t you presume Gagner’s days here would be numbered? Buffalo is looking for a center so would you consider a Gagner + Musil+ for Luke Adam and Andrej Sekera?

    RNH-Yak-Eberle

    Hall-Harski-Hemsky

    Horcoff-Smytty-Paajarvi

    Belanger-Eager-Jones

    Smid-Petry

    Sekera-Schultz

    Whitney-Schultz

    My real concern would be whether Harski has the footspeed and offense to play with Hall & Hemsky.

  • Cheap Shot Charlie

    We’re more than a couple pieces away from being a strong playoff team. This coming year will be another year of watching rookies stumble and grow.
    The side of Weber’s game that we need to most is not the offense. It’s the defensive reliability. Since getting him is out of the question ST should focus a defensive defenseman.
    Size up front would be nice too. Moving Hall to Center makes sense. He might actually sustain fewer injuries because he’ll have to pivot east-west as well as north-south. It will slow his game down from break neck speed to sprain neck speed. I’m not sure moving him will work but it’s well worth trying. We are still, at best, a 10th place team that needs time and experience before it become a 5th place team.
    It’ll be another year of pain but we’re on the right track. Fill holes cheaply and wait for the right piece, not just the best available piece.

  • Cheap Shot Charlie

    Webber will want a Suter sytpe contract, and will probably get it.. I dont think its in the best interest of the Oilers setting the stage for up and coming contracts for its star players.
    Besides I dont think Oilers are on his map.

    Get a solid stay at home type [SMid] to fill in while we await for guys like Fedun, Klefbom, etc to come up.

    Need a tough big center to replace Belanger, and need more depth in goal.

    I dont expect much, not when Tambelini resigns guys like Hordichuk. Both he, and Eager are side show on this team.

  • Cheap Shot Charlie

    I do not believe Hemsky will fetch much interest at $5M /season . Gagner might fetch more interest as his contract is lower for now . With steady progression this upcoming season we should see a lot of players putting us on their priority lists. Might the cost at this stage be to high and disruptive to make to many upgrades ? Defence may prove better than most anticipated . An elite defenceman would be nice , however . Nash in Pitt. pretty scary thought .

  • Copperblueandwhite

    Have The Edmonton Oilers Done Enough? NO

    Need 2 NHL D men..Colaiacovo, Taormina, Rozsival..as a pair would help…and someone who can win the draw…it is hard to drive possession when you can’t get the puck….waiting may be the best strategy…that’s how Washington got Vokoun for a song last year….Getzlaf would be a welcome addtion if the price were right…coming off a bad season may lower his demand…as always Jon, good article.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    David Poile best ask Shea Weber for a list of 6 teams he’d be prepared to go to now.

    Must really suck to be a hockey fan in Nashville right now. Must be a little like Edmonton 10-15 yrs ago with no relief in sight. There just isn’t enough revenue sharing to support a market with challenges like they’re facing now.

  • Clyde Frog

    If I was Poile I would give my team the best chance it has to win, #1 priority.

    That means holding on to Weber and letting my team outperform everyone’s expectations; if I rack up another winning season, then I try my darndest to resign Weber from a position of team strength and a chance at winning. If that’s impossible I trade his rights during the offseason, which should be worth a fair bit for a player of his calibre

    If I fall out of playoffs, I hold off until the trade deadline; where I can have a reasonable expectation of severe overpayment as what contending team would not sell the farm to add a rock solid 25+ minutes to their backend going in to their playoff run. Sure I may have to take a chunk of picks and A level prospects, but after losing Weber AND Suter I know I will have to retool for a season or two.

    The one thing I am not doing? Trading him now, the return won’t be as great AND I will seriously hurt my teams chances of winning.

  • Brownlee loves the word meow

    The free agent defenceman market is now at a point where I now put Ryan Whitney on the trade market and see what is offered. What? Yes now would be the time when teams have need and caproom and fresh 2012 picks yet unsigned. Whitney is a FA at the end of this season. Who here wnats to sign him for 5 million dollars with his feet the biggest unknown. What would Detroit be willing to pay? Or Philly? Or Columbus?

    Columbus has Ryan Murray and the Oilers have Hemsky and Whitney to offer along with picks of prospects. They are not going to go with an 18 year old dman in Columbus. The fans want a winner this year.

    Put Ryan Jones in a package and see what gives.Peckham is a useful 6-7 dman that Philly could use or Ottawa. Potter may fill someones bottom pairing nicely.Like the Rangers who will likely lose delzotto in a trade with Columbus.

    Simply put the dominos are falling and Tambo should be able to move some of his pieces to aquire other assets.

    • Brownlee loves the word meow

      UHHH combined with Whitney’s no trade clause.. We dont have Defense to begin with.. so trading away one of our top defenceman doesn’t make sense.

      What I am taking from the Ryan Murray for Hemmer and Whitney comment that you are a bit high. Good on you.

      What are you wanting them to package? bubble players? and your expecting what in return? magic unicorns?

    • Brownlee loves the word meow

      I dont know why it included the quote from my last post?? Please disregard that.

      Nashville has 17 players signed and only at 40 mill. If they trade Weber they will need cap coming back their way. They will also need a defenseman that can play as they have already lost Suter. I dont know why Weber would want to stay in Nashville now… and considering he only signed his last contract for a year.. He is as good as gone. I wouldn’t be surprised if he asks for a trade.

  • Brownlee loves the word meow

    If Edmonton is a team Weber would like to be traded to, and would sign a long term deal with then…

    Hemsky, Marancin, Nick Schultz, 1st

    Prongers return was:

    Lupul, smid, 1st, 2nd, conditional pick

  • Brownlee loves the word meow

    Can we drop the talk about trading Hemsky this summer? Doesn’t anybody near know ANYTHING about business? You don’t trade a valuable property when its market value is at an all-time low. Hemsky won’t become marketable until he shows he is over his injuries and can play at a high level for an extended period of time. There is no point in giving him away.

    There is no guarantee he will bounce back, although I think it is quite possible, but nothing will really be lost by waiting. If he has a good year the team will be much stronger and it will make him a much more desirable asset in a trade. Hopefully MP or TH can step into his spot, or maybe they can get a big second line forward in the deal, which might have to include additional assets.

  • misfit

    When Tambellini is concerned, I’ve long given up the hope that a trade is going to result in an improved Oilers squad. So a part of me hopes that he continues to pat himself on the back for the Schultz signing instead of going out and trying to make more moves.

    For once, I wouldn’t mind if Tambellini just stood pat. I’d rather go ahead with the defense as it stands than to see a trade for a guy like Hjalmarsson that costs us Gagner/Paajarvi (or potentially Gagner/Paajarvi+).

  • misfit

    It will be interesting to see how much the coaching change affects the overall compete level for the Oilers. I’m optimistic we will be able to show the coaching change as an improvement over last year.

    Oh . . and trade Omark for Pronger.

  • Eddie Edmonton

    Oilers will not trade for Weber.!..

    The will move Gagner, a pick and/or a prospect for a #2-3 defenseman that is UFA this upcoming season.
    They will see how the progression of Smid, Petry, Schultz, Tuebert and Klefbom is before they look for another Pronger type.

    Hall will be the future #2 centre for the Oilers, and RNH is #1 of course.

  • Eddie Edmonton

    I think any trade has to factor into a greater plan for next year and the year after as those are likely going to be our best shots at contending (High end prospects will have developed to a higher level, contracts ending like Habby and Whitney means better goal tending, and likely UFA signings to make a run). So if we trade Gags this year, for say Yandle, then how does our team look this year and next year?

    2013 / 2014

    Nuge-Hartikinen-Ebs

    ?-Hall-Yak

    Horcoff-Smyth-Jones

    ?-Belangier-?

    Yandle-J Schultz

    Smid-Petry

    Schultz-Klefbomb

    ?

    Dubnyk-?

    This scenario assumes Hemsky has been traded for one of / combination of a bigger second line center, grittier fourth line role players. Both Klefbomb and J Schultz have had some development. A 1B back-up goalie is found for a Dubnyk whose hitting around .918. Hall and Yak have developed immense chemistry and have begun to terrorize the league with their shots and speed. Nuge and Ebs get some much need size and physicality with a more developed Hartikinen. Our Vet line still has some life left in them but isn’t getting such hard minutes. Our forth line does what forth lines do, bang bodies, win faceoffs, and generally make life hard for the other team.

    On defense, Yandle and J Shutlz could be one of the best offensive pairings in the league while N Schultz and Klefbomb could be on of the capable shut down pairs. Smid and Petry remain very balanced. Once the question marks are filled in I think this could be a cup contending team in a year’s time, provided all I’ve said works out. The fact that there is no Gagner, Peckham, Whitney, Hemsky, Paajarvi, Potter, or Sutton demonstrates we have realistic trade value for the unfilled positions.

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination to Follow

    Why trade Gagner for a #3 Dmen and than have to trade for a #2 Center to fill the hole?

    Visnovsky was traded for a 2nd – Im sure the Oilers will make a similar move to shore up the D.

    This team is finally deep on wings, decent on Center, and deep on 5/6 dmen. We can fill in holes when injuries occur, which they will due to our small fast wreckless roster.

    Oilers dont need to subtract anything from the current roster to fill holes they simply need to ADD +++

  • nuge2drai

    If anyone thinks winning the lottery draw three times and seeing Justin Schultz sign here is enough you are sadly mistaken.

    The problem is Tamby probably sees it as a display of managerial brio. There’s the problem. That is all he has done and isn’t likely to risk screwing that up. He is likely done for the remainder of his career.

  • RJ

    I was reading the comments re: Weber,and I had to comment, despite the late date.

    It’s very difficult to overstate the value of Shea Weber, a Norris Trophy finalist every year. We only need to look back to when the Oilers had Pronger and were a Rollie injury away from a Cup win, and after he left…well we all know how that ended up. You can’t compare Staal’s trade to Weber’s situation, because they’re not the same. Weber is a top-3 player in the NHL in his position.

    You don’t think that some GM on the hotseat (like Brian Burke, perhaps?) doesn’t move heaven and earth to acquire Weber’s services? Burke won a Cup in Anaheim with Pronger on the blueline. And if they over-pay, and Weber doesn’t re-sign? Well Burke won’t be around to clean up that mess.
    All it takes is two teams to be seriously involved for the price to soar sky-high.

    And if you could guarantee that Weber would re-sign long-term in Edmonton, I’d trade Hall or Yakupov for him. You don’t think Weber on the blueline doesn’t make Dubnyk look like an all-star? A big three of Weber, Schultz and Klefbom (provided they’re as good as advertised) and you don’t think the Oilers immediately have a final-4 worthy defence for years to come? But what do I know? I’m just an idiot.

  • RJ

    @willis I dont think omark wanders back to europe quite yet. If the dont deal him they must give him a offer , let say 1 year 1.1 million if omark take the offer and going to the camp, obvious there arent any room for him, so he reports to oklahama, and any team can pick him up for free true waivers, with a cheap 1 year deal.
    If no one pick him up, he runs like crazy back to europe.