UFA WISHLIST: BIDDING FOR GRIT

It goes without saying new GM Craig MacTavish has his work cut out this off-season in terms of changing up the roster if the Edmonton Oilers are going to be markedly better next season. That much we do know.

How he’ll go about it, the means to that end, we don’t yet know, but it’s safe to assume MacTavish will not only have to make some trades, bold and otherwise, in the kinds of scenarios Jason Gregor put forward today, he’ll have to do an infinitely better job in the free agent market than Steve Tambellini did if he’s going to add a useful veteran presence and more grit.

For me – speaking strictly about forwards in this installment – three names stand out, be it because of their age, price point or the ability to fill a need up front for the Oilers. It’s Captain Obvious stuff, of course, because there’s no doubt the vast majority of NHL general managers will also have these names circled when these players hit the UFA market.

Even allowing for that, I can’t think of one reason why MacTavish shouldn’t be pitching like crazy to land one of these guys – all of whom would bring a competitive edginess, experience and, perhaps most important, the ability to play in the top nine — when UFA season opens.

BRYAN BICKELL

At six-foot-four, 233 pounds and just 27 years old, Bickell will have a line-up of teams looking to hand over a stack of money if he doesn’t re-sign with the Chicago Blackhawks.

The beauty of putting a call into Bickell and his agent is that, in relative terms, it won’t take a huge stack of dough to get him, and that’s why the hulking right winger might be the first name on my list from this trio.

Bickell, who scored 9-14-23 with the Blackhawks this season and had a career-best 17-20-37 in 2010-11, has to be one of the better bargains in the NHL with a salary of just $600,000 this season. Yes, he’ll command a big raise, but he won’t break the bank.

Bickell’s been good enough since finding his way to the Windy City from the OHL to average 12:39 in ice time per game through six seasons on a loaded Chicago team. On Edmonton’s roster as it stands now, he’d be a top-nine lock. Simply put, Bickell looks like an effective role player on the ascent, rather than a well-worn grinder winding down his career.

DAVID CLARKSON

I like Clarkson a lot, and for reasons that don’t jump out you just by looking at his numbers. At six-foot-one and 200 pounds, the 29-year-old New Jersey right winger isn’t an imposing physical specimen. All he does is compete – on virtually every shift.

If you believe the Oilers have to get tougher to play against and need to up their nasty quotient several notches – who doesn’t? – and that they must do so with players who can actually play top-nine minutes, Clarkson is your guy.

Like Bickell, Clarkson isn’t likely ever to be an offensive dynamo. He’s certainly not without skill, having scored 15-9-24 this season and 30-16-46 in 2011-12, but his value if you actually watch him play is that "compete level" that seems lacking in Edmonton’s line-up.

Clarkson, coming off a deal that pays him $3 million this season, will command a reasonable chunk of change as a UFA. He averaged 17:36 in ice time this season and more than 16 minutes a night two seasons ago. He can play, he can score some and he’s tough as nails.

NATHAN HORTON

I’ve liked Horton since the Florida Panthers drafted him third overall in 2003 and nothing has changed, although I do have some concerns about his health (he played just 46 games in 2011-12) and his price tag as a UFA – he’s coming off a contract paying him $5.5 million.

Allowing for those caveats, the six-foot-two, 229-pound Boston right winger has played more minutes on average per game, 17:22, than either Bickell or Clarkson through nine seasons with the Panthers and Bruins.

Horton, still only 27, has scored 20-or-more goals in six of his previous eight seasons and tallied 13-9-22 in 43 games this season. His high-water mark in terms of points was 20-37-57 in 2009-10. Horton’s got more pedigree and skill than Bickell and Clarkson but he’s just as nasty.

STREAKCRED

Sign up for StreakCred – the new playoff pool game from the Nation Network. For only $20 you can win solid prizes and a portion of the proceeds go to supporting the MS Bike Tour and the Edmonton Down Syndrome Society. Sign up here.

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

  • yawto

    I would rather see a nice addition via free agency rather than dealing away a fist round pick and former fist round pick to make the additions. However, both scenarios could happen.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I’d be absolutely giddy with any of those players. A Jordan Staal-like trade for a top 3 D man, a backup goalie like Khudobin/Svedberg, and someone like Bickell on the 3rd line will go a heeeelll of a long way.

    Here’s to praying Lowe and MacT put on their big boy pants this summer

    • That would go a long way but its still not enough. I say we need at minimum two top 4 dmen kinda guys who can basically split the 1/2 3/4 duties with Smid/Petry, OR a #1 guy that you can stick Schultz beside leaving smid and petry as your steady second pairing.

      Then we need to revamp our forwards outside the top.. 5? Players like Gagner, MPS, could factor in if they arent traded but besides that who would we keep in our bottom 6? Horcoff? Brown? anyone else?

      I see our forwards going into next year as:
      Hall, Eberle, RNH, Yak, only 1 of MPS, Gagner, Hemsky then Horcoff and Brown. Thats it. Maybe they resign Jones but i doubt it. Maybe Hartikienen or Lander finally graduate but im not counting on it. Basically that means we need 4-5 more forwards.

      After that then the backup goalie thing can be worked out.

      • Metal&Oil

        The Blues have trouble scoring goals (3rd worst GPG in playoffs) & they a lot of Studs on there blueline. 2 of the will be commanding hefty raises this off season. Maybe there is a match there.

        • bwar

          EDM may be able to pry out Shattenkirk but as much as I love shattenkirk, and I LOVE shattenkirk, he’s the same player as J Schultz. A non-physical offensive right handed D man.

          I’d go after someone like M. Staal, Alzner, or Hjalmarsson.

  • wiseguy

    Mike Gillis also promised today to make “bold” moves! Bold moves are now officially fashionable. Everybody wants to make one. That usually means we’re all going to be so let down when nothing happens. Kinda reminds you if last falls’ promise of a “Wow” move. How’d that work out?

  • djc

    Thank you DSF for not posting 50 anti-oiler/Schultz/Dubnyk/Gagner/puppy comments before I had a chance to read this article and comments section. It made my visit to Oilersnation tonight so much more enjoyable. I guess you must be busy watching the Wild dominate the Hawks.

  • Forwards peak between 26-28 so the research says. Not a good idea to acquire services at that age. 28-32 is a great time to trade better players under contract to maximize return value based on rep.

    28-32 YO contracts cost a lot and are typically rewarded with declining play. Not the rule, but it’s the norm. Do it either before or after.

  • I think the Oilers will definitely go after one of those UFA’s you’ve mentioned Robin if they’re still available! Any one of them could play in the top 6!

    I also see the Oilers trying to make some moves for the 3rd & 4th lines on big physical players that are on the cusp of making NHL lineups but haven’t for one reason or another. Players like Caron in Boston or Cormier in Winnipeg!

    Everybody has their ideas about who will be moved & I believe Gagner, Hemsky, Nick Shultz & the Oilers 1st round pick will be put out there to fill other holes, what they bring is anybody’s guess! This is where we’ll see the ‘bold’ moves because it will involve moving significant salary both ways!

  • Eddie Edmonton

    1)4 years at 3 million for Bickell
    2)1 year 7 million for Horton, then resign if he stays healthy for less money per year. Similar to Semin’s situation. Give him that first deal with a lot of money and when our cap space isn’t an issue.

    Clarkson will want a long term deal I would think. Now that he is 29, don’t know if I want to be throwing 4 or 5 mill at the guy for the next six years. I would want him for a 3 or 4 years though.

    Each of those players have what we need, but do have some risk associated.

    Trade gagner and the two seconds for a bigger more defensively responsible centre at the 2 spot.

    I’d also look at what it would take to get Shawn Mattias. Perfect third line centre here.

    Trade hemsky for a pick to clear space or include him in a deal with some of paajarvi, musil, rajala, etc for an adequate top 4 dman or perhaps Shawn Mattias as mentioned above.

    If Monahan, Lindholm, and Barkov are gone at 7 then I trade the pick for help on the blueline. Someone around the age of 22-25. Would Tyler Myers be a good target? He could really use a change of scenery.

  • Muji

    @wiseguy

    Kinda wish everyone would stop bringing up the ‘wow’ move and move on from it, mostly because everyone who mentions it omits the one very important deal that Stauffer mentioned at the time – this ‘wow’ move was conditional that the lockout would have ended before December. It did not. Therefore no ‘wow’ move. I’m not the biggest Stauffer fan (I’m not at all, really, too much of a paid cheerleader in my mind) but c’mon, he was quite clear on that condition at the time and everyone seems quite clear on forgetting that in their haste to crap on him.

  • Muji

    Gillis knows the team has to get bigger and grittier, the dump and chase of the playoffs proved that to him. He know his team is good for the regular season but not good enough for the playoffs.

    Edmonton is still building a team for the regular season. I guess they need to make the playoffs and realize they don’t have the team that can win in the playoffs.

    With Lowe as president Oilers will continue its perpetual rebuild.

    Same article next year just change a few names.

      • Muji

        I think it is too late for Gillis , he will try again but his #1 line the Sedins are getting older , they are a good #1 line in the regular season but during the playoffs they are not. Their D is getting weaker every year.

        Not easy making changes how many trade were Edmonton suppose to make during the Off season trade deadline. Not much really happens.
        Nice to hear Mac wants to make changes, other teams like to hear this maybe they can steal a player or 2. I believe they have tried to trade some players but most of the players are not worth much in the free market.

        Kevin Lowe and his 6 rings, did I mention 6 rings will fail just as he has proven for the last 8 years.

        • And Oilers fans will always be the reason players won’t sign in Edmonton. Players see how Oilers fans mistreat Lowe and treat him like garbage. They think if fans treat the team president like that, most likely they’ll be treated the same way.

    • And the Lowe bashing continues. Then fans wonder why no one wants to come to Edmonton. Fans bashing Lowe is why players won’t come to Edmonton. They see how fans treat Lowe and won’t come as they fear they’ll be treated like garbage just like Lowe is being treated.

        • Eddie Edmonton

          No, you didn’t mention it. Kevin Lowe mentioned it. Kevin Lowe has them.

          Do you know who doesn’t have 6 cups? Canucks. They never will. I doubt that they have 6 Stanley Cup rings amongst their whole staff combined.

          Don’t hate, appreciate, the 6 rings.

      • Metal&Oil

        Oh please. All 29 of the Other GM’s in the leauge take the same amount of flak that Lowe does. If he hadn’t have been such a successful player in Edmonton all those years ago then he would be receiving a ton more then he currently does and would have been out of the GM/President seat years ago.

  • Eddie Edmonton

    MacT needs to add the following;

    a left wing to play with RNH and Eberle, (a big body that can skate and take the dman in the corner)

    a centre to play with Hall and Yakupov, (Patrick Sharp?)

    a left wing to play with Lander and Hemsky, (good ol’ Canadian boy that can crash and bang/new era Ryan Smyth)

    a left wing to play with Horcoff and Brown. (someone just like Brown, that can kill penalties)

    I don’t believe they need a RW at all, unless Hemsky is included in a trade for one/or rights of. If Hemsky is traded for a RW, look for him to play with Lander and Paajarvi.

    Ryan Whitney is gone. His play was a cancer this season. Both Schultzs and Smid will be back. Petry may be back or maybe traded for an upgrade. One spot will go to Klefbom. There is a spot available to be had as a #1 Dman on the Oilers, and I believe that is what the Oilers will fill and that is what will be their big doing.

  • crobar

    cue the tambi clip from oil change……. “i’ve heard things about that guy. i don’t want him around the kids!!”
    translation…. i want guys who fall in line, roll with the punches, and keep their mouth shut.

  • Metal&Oil

    Only reason Kevin Lowe still has a job with the Oiler’s is he is Daryl’s best friend.

    You look at his record which I believe are facts he would have been gone long time ago.

    Whoops did I mention 6 rings

    • Cheap Shot Charlie

      So, you just changed you’re letters around? Cool!

      On a valid note, I wonder how many of the above mentioned guys would soften up if they came in alone. I think most players have a hard time keeping up a pace when they A) have to do it alone every night. B) don’t have their backs covered when they have 4 guys coming after them. How many tougher guys do the Oil need? 3? 5?

      And don’t say 23…that’s lame and not true.

      • PlayDirty

        I agree that having only one guy of the tougher variety is an issue. Brown looked exhausted at the end of the year. I’m sure his effectiveness would increase significantly if he also had a little back up support.

        If we had a pest out there stirring things up and getting the other team off their game and it touched off a little brewhaha like Mtl vs Ott, we would have looked worse than Montreal did.

        We still have no team toughness. Being the lone tough guy makes the hardest job in hockey even tougher.

      • YES.
        And 23 isn’t lame. A full bench that will stick up for each other would go a long ways in improving commitment/compete level.

        Of course the coach will have to be on board. Penalties may lose you some games but there should be benefits in the overall picture.