FREE AGENCY BEGINS

Two years ago the Oilers signed four players, Ben Eager, Cam Barker, Darcy Hordichuk and Eric Belanger and they acquired Andy Sutton on the first day of free agency. Sutton played well before being injured, Eager produced regular offensive numbers while the other three contributed very little.

When they were signed, many felt Eager and Belanger would fill a needed void, Eager as an aggressive winger and Belanger as a veteran centre who could win draws and chip in offensively, but neither ended up filling those roles.

Eager was 9th in goals for the Oilers in 2011/2012 and he produced more offence than Belanger. For a 4th line player he wasn’t that bad, but last year he struggled mightily and finished the season in the AHL.

Most free agents don’t live up to their contracts, but none of those guys, excluding Barker, were grossly overpaid in 2011.

I’m curious to see who Craig MacTavish signs this month, and if those players will have more success in Edmonton than their free agent predecessors.

OILERS NEEDS

The Oilers could upgrade at almost every position.

They don’t need more young forwards, they need some proven NHL forwards.

They could use a veteran centre who can win faceoffs and play tough minutes.

They need one or two skilled wingers with size.

They a few bottom-six forwards who can kill penalties, and know how competitive you need to play in order to win.

They need a physical D-man who skates well and can move the puck under pressure.

They need a goalie who will push Devan Dubnyk.

Clearly, MacTavish won’t be able to fill every void via free agency. If he is lucky he will be able to grab a goalie, a veteran bottom-six forward and a centreman.

He will have to try and fill the other needs via trades, and we know that isn’t as easy as it sounds.

FREE AGENTS

Which players will the Oilers pursue, and who are realistic options?

Of course the Oilers could use David Clarkson, Nathan Horton or Jarome Iginla, but Iginla wants to go to a Cup contender and Horton will sign in a non-hockey market. He prefers a quieter life. Clarkson will get close to $6 million on the open market, and that might be too rich for the Oilers.

So who does that leave?

Forwards:

Valtteri Filpulla: 29. He’s an excellent two-way player, and he’s learned what it takes to be competitive every night from Datsyuk and Zetterberg. He struggled offensively last year, but he would be a solid LW. The only issue would be price. Most UFAs get overpaid, but you want to avoid the guys who get grossly overpaid. I wouldn’t pay more than $5 mill for Filpulla.

Ryan Clowe: 30. He’d be a bit of a risk. His footspeed and health are the major concerns. He is a good combination of size and skill that the Oilers desperately lack, and if I could sign him for a shorter term, I’d consider it.

Clark MacArthur: 28. He’s scored 20 goals twice and had 62 points in 2011. He could be complimentary player on your 1st line, but would be a regular on your 2nd or 3rd line. Everyone who watches him on a regular basis say he is underrated. He would be a veteran on this team, and Keith Acton would have a good read on his personality. 

Boyd Gordon: 29. He is a checking centre, and if the Oilers move Horcoff, which they most likely will, Gordon could replace him.

Maxim Lapierre: 28. He’s a pest, and decent in draws. He took the 2nd most faceoffs in Vancouver last year and won 50.6%. He would be an upgrade on Belanger, mainly because he competes much harder.

Craig Adams: 36. If the Oilers were looking for a one-year stop gap to give Anton Lander another year in the AHL then Adams would be a good fit.

Michael Ryder: 33. Only on a short term deal, but he can score, and despite what everyone thinks the Oilers need more consistent offence. Ryder had 16 goals last year, same as Eberle and Hall. If you could sign him for two years, I’d look at it.

D-MEN:

This year’s crop of blueliners is full of wildcards. Players who are coming off a bad season (s), but who still tease you with their potential. Guys like Keith Ballard, Tom Gilbert, Mike Komisarek and Jeff Schultz. The only one of those four that I’d consider is Ballard, but it would have to be a short-term deal. He’d need to prove he could play. He never fit in Vancouver, but he’s only 30 years old and some team will take a chance on him.

If this year’s class was five years ago it would be full of D-men the Oilers need; players who can make plays under pressure. However, most of those guys are in the twilight of their careers.

Adrian Aucoin (40), Roman Hamrlik (39), Marek Zidlicky (36), Wade Redden (36), Tom Poti (36), Joe Corvo (36), Tomas Kaberle (35) and Toni Lydman (35). It is possible the Oilers sign an aging veteran to a one-year deal, but I suspect they will look for guys a bit younger who could help them for at least a few seasons.

The Oilers want a veteran who will speak up and who knows what it takes to win. Andrew Ference fits both categories. He isn’t a top-four D-man, but he might be a great guy to play along side Oscar Klefbom.

GOALIES:

I’ve said for weeks Anton Khudobin would be a good fit. He won’t re-sign in Boston because he knows he has no chance of starting behind Tuuka Rask. He’s 27, and he could challenge and support Devan Dubnyk. Khudobin won’t cost very much, but there is a bit of a risk since he’s only played 21 NHL games. The Oilers might want a more established goalie.

Some other veteran options are Ray Emery (I’m guessing he might return to Philly), Jason LaBarbera, Dan Ellis or Mathieu Garon. LaBarbera will be at the top of their list.

Or maybe the Oilers could take a chance on Ilya Bryzgalov. He’d be a fan favourite strictly for his quotes, but eventually his play would need to match his off-ice one liners.

PARTING SHOTS

  • This year’s free agent class isn’t great, but that won’t stop teams from grossly overpaying some players. Don’t be fooled into thinking a reduced salary cap will change that, because most teams believe it will jump right back up to $70 million in 2014/2015.
     
  • The Wild will buy out Tom Gilbert. I know many of the advanced stats guys loved him, but I don’t see any reason the Oilers bring him back. They didn’t trade him because he couldn’t skate or move the puck, they moved him because they felt he wasn’t competitive enough. I doubt their evaluation of him has changed.
     
  • Theo Peckham joins me on the show today at 2:25 to discuss his time with the Oilers and his future. 
     
  • My condolences to the Lorieau family. Paul was a very polite and generous man, not to mention an incredible anthem singer. He will be missed.

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR

  • Jason Gregor

    Tim Thomas to the Flyers!!! WTH are they going to do with their salary cap issues. If Im MacT Im freezing out Holmgren on any Coburn deal and would be apt to take on Coburn and another salary rather than give up prospects.

    Speaking on potential…couple weeks ago Calgary Radio musing about their goaltending and wondering if DiPietro became free how hed look in Flaming C…maybe there is a chance for that to happen.

  • Jason Gregor

    Why give Eakins a chance to work with Peckman? If he has the ability of working with problem children what is the risk since D-men are so hard to find?

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    IS THIS ANOTHER KICK IN THE FACE ? Apparantly their is a good chance Iginla will go to Canucks (a perennial contender ) and his cap hit for this season will be zero ! Dreger reports players over 35+ this season you can carry over into next season before having it part of your cap limit . WOW , that sure helps a lot of clubs sitting up against the cap . Maybe we should keep Khabby as he won’t cost us any cap space now ? When did this all come to be I wonder , and how recent ? Makes the elder ones more valuable than before , obviously .

  • oilerjed

    @ Madjam

    Team 1040 Vancouver this morning was talking about this and apparently Canucks want nothing to do with Iggy, looking for using their youth instead of more vets.
    Please excuse my ignorance but how did the 35+ salary cap thing work out?? Makes no sense to me.

    • oilerjed

      Go to Flames site , that’s where I found out about it . If it came from Dreger as they alluded to, it probably has merit . Flames site also believes Iginla might be on Canucke radar because of it .

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    we’re going to have to massivly overpay to get anyone of value. 7 years out of the playoffs, a managment team long on promises short on substance, i love edmonton but let’s face it, it’s not new york, l.a. or florida. i belive the team is perceived around the league as an organization spining it’s tires. horton would be 7 million per year before he even thinks about us. our best hope is the trade market for improvivg our team, as i’ll be suprised if any worth while ufa’s land here.

    • Bonvie

      Here is something for everyone to do each time the phrase “overpay” is used insert “boat anchor contract” or “albatross of a contract” and it will give you a truer picture, and will turn their post into something a little more accurate.

  • oilerjed

    If Tom Gilbert steps foot on rexall ice next year wearing an Oilers jersey I will seriously loose my dinner and then I would have to clean it up and that wouldn’t be fun. He can skate and make a pass but for god sakes he’s a brutal hockey player.

    • oilerjed

      Article #9 by icedawg mentions he heard on the FAN that Iginla has narrowed down to four -Chicago ,LA , Detroit and Vancouver he believed the 4 to be . Many Flame fans seem to think Vancouver is his best bet . Their poll shows Oilers as most probable , however . Would be nice, especially seeing as his cap hit could be zero if Dreger’s report is accurate !

      • oilerjed

        Thats funny, if he has narrowed it down to those four teams(his choice not the teams remember) its funny that poll would figure he is going to Edmonton. Im just saying that there didn’t seem to be a very warm reception to this idea in Vancouver.
        And the only way to carry over the cap space is if you are over the limit, at least that is how I read it.

    • DSF

      Darren Dreger ‏@DarrenDreger 4h

      Alfie scenario:

      CBA allows for teams to spend over the cap on 35+ players using the bonus cushion. However, the overage is deducted next yr.

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    I remember coming on Oilersnation to read the analysis and the comments when Gilbert was traded for N Shultz.

    Tons of people upset about the trade- they felt we should be adding to the defense not trading one out to bring one in. Lots of fans were upset to see him leave.

    I was NOT one of those fans. Nothing more I hate than a soft defenseman and Gilbert is soft as they come.

    Now I’m not so sure I feel the same way. Oilers Defense handicaps the forwards by not getting the puck up with speed. I miss his points and frankly Oiler D don’t put up enough of them.

    Any change is better than no change. I prefer Coburn for Paarajvi + a second, as Coburn is a much more complete player, he would be a great addition to the team.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    If the game plan is to not get taken advantage of/overpay in the coming week, Craig best concentrate on repairing those relationships with Horc and Hemmer. There’s little doubt they’ll be returning here again in the fall. Craig is at the end of his first difficult lesson as a GM.

    At least one more year of games that don’t matter appear to be on the agenda with these results. The smoke and mirror show continues, as management talks a good show and delivers, well, something that smells.

    Nothing but a couple B or C level moves coming in the next week. Have to wonder how much of this wandering in the desert these all important 5 kids are going to take. Now more than ever, MacTavish needs to pull off a Seguin/Couturier or a Clarkson type deal to have those arrows trending/pointed in the right direction again for the Oilers. Tough week, it has been, mentioned Oiler fan Obi One Kenobi.

  • nuge2drai

    It’s nice to see Paul Lorieau finally mentioned on here today, even if just briefly. I had the pleasure of meeting him briefly after an Oilers game. I took a picture with him, and he had wanted to see it, so he asked if I could find him on facebook, and “tag” him in it.
    Eventually, I did. he wrote me a message saying how lovely it was to meet, and just struck up a conversation. I messaged him after the home opener this, and after I heard he was feeling sick. He said, more than anything, he wanted to sing at that game, but his health wouldn’t allow it at the time. He said that if the Oilers were to make the playoffs this year, he would have tried to find a way to sing the anthem again, for at least one game. I wish he would have seen them make the playoffs again, but at least we’ll always have the ’06 cup run, right?

    RIP Paul

  • Bonvie

    Not sure why Horton would not consider coming here ………maybe not being in the spotlight is a good thing for the nerves?

    It’s starting to look like the Oilers will have to take whatever is left over after the big dogs eat. I really hope that the Oilers consider giving Jagr a chance, with one arm and one leg, he is still more talented than our entire bottom six. He would make a great mentor to our youth with his strong work ethic and positive attitude. I hope that Ben Eager also gets another chance……..not many guys with his skating abilities and size.

  • oilerjed

    UNRELATED to JG article. Just read on PuckDaddy that Jaret Stoll was rushed to hospital last night after suffering a seizure. He’ll be released later today.

  • Bonvie

    Speaking of Jagr , does he drive a silver Royles Royce with license place JAGR — ( I won’t say the rest in case it might not have been him ) ? Whomever it was, they blew by me yesterday just before the Quesnell bridge area yesterday afternoon. Odd the first 4 letters were big and JAGR makes me wonder if he might be in town ?

  • If you know how bad EDM’s D depth is, you’d want Gilbert as he’s a top 4 D man and EDM has about 2 or 3 of em.
    If you don’t think EDM needs Gilbert, get your head out of your.. butt.

    Trade targets I’d hope for:
    Peverley, Kulemin, Coburn, N Thompson

    FAs I’d go after:
    Khudobin, Emery, Thomas, Ference, Clowe at a reasonable cap n short term, gordon, lapierre

  • If you know how bad EDM’s D depth is, you’d want Gilbert as he’s a top 4 D man and EDM has about 2 or 3 of em.
    If you don’t think EDM needs Gilbert, get your head out of your.. butt.

    Trade targets I’d hope for:
    Peverley, Kulemin, Coburn, N Thompson

    FAs I’d go after:
    Khudobin, Emery, Thomas, Ference, Clowe at a reasonable cap n short term, gordon, lapierre

  • oilerjed

    It’s just on bonuses for 35+ contracts. If their salary is 3 million and bonuses are 1 million the team can have the cap hit be 3 million a d carry over 1 million (if they earn it). I think it’s how it is at least.

  • Zamboni Driver

    I will never understand the obsession so many people have with bringing back retreads.

    Ostensibly they move people because they think they are crappy – in Gilbert’s case because he doesn’t compete….ever.

    So bring him back to the team who got rid of him because he didn’t compete is going to make him compete harder? Especially if he gets paid millions of dollars to do it (sure, he’ll get less than the joke of a contract he had, but it’s still MILLIONS).

    Btw…how’s that Ryan Smyth homecoming working out for ya?

    Makes zero sense.

  • To sign Valteri Filppula and put him on the wing would almost be an injustice. We’ve got such sh– center depth, he could easily be ahead of anyone we’ll have available at C. Not only is he a solid 2-way guy, but he’s also quite good on the dot.

    He’d easily be my 2nd center.

    Gagner-Filppula-Yakupov would work for me.

    I like Ryder as a short term solution for wing, but my only issue there is he’s a right winger.. so that would likely drop him down to line 3, unless we want to go the slow,patient route with Yakupov and drop him a line.

    Clowe, I’m a firm believer he’s got some gas left in the tank still. I’d bring him in for line 3 LW duty, and try and trade for Talbot.

    A 3rd line of Clowe-Talbot-Paajarvi might be interesting.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      I agree with you on Filppula. Gagner on the other hand, playing wing makes me cringe some. Ever so easily pushed/knocked off the puck when it matters, often has his head down. Can’t see that working out any better for him than it has at center.

      On the other hand, if he does have his head down while battling up against the boards, he could draw numerous boarding majors, which wouldn’t be a bad thing.

  • 2004Z06

    Saw a recent piece on Manny Malhothra wanting to return. He is apparently cleared and ready to rejoin the NHL. I would give him a 1 year deal. If anything, he can still win draws and he has something to prove.