With the wrong-way Oilers securing 15th in the NW and the trade deadline just weeks away, we begin our annual parsing of the roster to find out who among the miserable will be sent away.
Yes, again. The Oilers have several expiring contracts and a few with an extra year tacked on the back, and that means there’s ‘savings down every aisle" for teams with hopes for the second season. Here’s a quick look at what might be available:
- Ales Hemsky (UFA 2014): One year left at $5M, that won’t be an issue. The Oilers were not getting strong offers for him a year ago (the rumored return was a 2nd and a 4th from Nashville) but if they’re in the shopping mood this time I expect they’ll get a 1st rd pick and a prospect back. If he’s in play, Hemsky will bring a big return, and the Oilers can move Yakupov onto the 2line. I don’t think it’s a good idea, Yakupov and Eberle are unready to be stand alone’s on the right side and Jones can’t deliver like Hemsky.
- Ladislav Smid (UFA): Smid makes $2.25M per season and is in his walk year. Smid is on the tough minutes pairing with Jeff Petry. However, Edmonton hasn’t signed him yet (I haven’t heard anything about contract talks) and that might mean there’s a gap between agent and team in terms of zero’s on the contract. Smid is going to get paid, the Oilers have to figure out if they want to be the team to pay him. The crickets in contract talks suggest to me he is in play, and that means he’ll move–Smid has extreme value as a rental. My guess is the trade talk starts at a 2nd round pick and goes up from there. Remember, the 2013 edition is considered to be a strong draft year.
- Ryan Whitney (UFA): He’s been inconsistent all year but has shown flashes on this road trip and a team that "saw him good" might be willing to take a chance. Defensemen always have increased value at the deadline, Whitney is a veteran and a team with depth who could play him on the 3rd pairing plus PP might want him for that role. My guess is they surprise everyone and get a 3rd rd pick for the veteran.
- Mark Fistric (UFA): I think the Oilers sign him in the next few weeks, it is clear they like Fistric plenty. However, if a team came calling and management were of a mind to trade him I doubt the club would get less than the pick they gave up for him (3rd rd pick). Don’t think it happens, though.
- Ryan Jones (UFA): He’s coming off an eye injury, but his wheels are fine. An NHL team might want to increase their offense in the bottom 6F and have a guy who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, either. The Oilers may also be looking to extend him, but if they get a 4th rd pick in return that’s excellent value for a waiver pickup.
- Ben Eager (UFA 2014): One year left at $1.1M and the concussion issues are a concern. Eager is a veteran and does fill a need, so I expect there’s interest if he’s healthy. A coach might worry about his tendency to take penalties outside what we’d call "good" ones, but his performances in Chicago and San Jose have given him a good post-season reputation. I bet they get a 4th rd pick for him.
- Eric Belanger (UFA 2014): Makes $1.75M and might fill a need for a 4line C, faceoff guy and penalty killer. Belanger certainly played better this season, and did his best to fill in for Horcoff but that’s a lot of lifting with not a lot of help. I think a team might see him as a solid fit for their playoff run. A 5th rd pick should be enough to get him.
- Nikolai Khabibulin (UFA): He’s played well when healthy, but the problem is (as always) staying in the lineup. I can’t imagine how many games he’d have to play in order for another team to feel safely covered in dealing for him as the backup/insurance. If someone deals for him, a 7th round pick gets it done.
WILL THEY GET ACTUAL PLAYERS BACK?
Draft picks are the deadline currency, there might be a useful AHL player available or a fringe guy. However, as it was when the team dealt Dustin Penner to Los Angeles, the pick (Klefbom) will have more value than the player (Teubert) acquired in return. Teams loading up don’t want to deal anything that might help them–remember the Oilers sent Reasoner away in 2006 and then Pouliot got mono, forcing them to sign Rem Murray.
Hard to get players in return when you’re offloading at the deadline.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
The good news is that the Oilers top 6 forwards, Petry-J Schultz and Dubnyk form an outstanding cluster to build on. The bad news is that the players who Edmonton is trying to unload include a long list of failed airlifts–and that’s been a problem for a long time.
My hope is they keep Hemsky, sign Smid and deal any of Whitney, Jones, Belanger, Eager and Khabibulin.
Is there a market for these men? History suggests the answer is yes.