A FRENZIED FRIDAY

The moaning and whining in some corners about big talk and no action from Edmonton Oilers GM Craig MacTavish was only hours old Thursday when MacT pulled off a STFU move by unloading captain Shawn Horcoff and his bloated contract to the Dallas Stars.

With the new buzz suddenly all about MacTavish being a man of action, the table is set for what fans anticipate will be a frenzied Friday, starting at 10 a.m., for MacTavish and the Oilers. My guess is that expectation will be met.

It had better be, because while some fans are celebrating MacTavish’s ability to jettison Horcoff’s contact, the bottom line is the Oilers have a gaping hole in the middle with No. 10 on his way to Big D and Eric Belanger being paid to pack his bags and get to stepping elsewhere.

Those moves leave Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner as the top two centres with the cupboard essentially bare when it comes to NHL experience behind them. Anton Lander will no doubt get a crack at pivot on the fourth line, but, at the very least, MacTavish needs a third-line centre.

That need, of course, is in addition to addressing the need for grit up front, a bonafide defenseman or two and help in goal. Here’s what I think and here’s what I know about some of the names rumored to be of interest to the Oilers.

MAN IN THE MIDDLE

The name I keep coming back to when I connect the dots as to who makes sense as a target for MacTavish is Zack Smith of the Ottawa Senators, who has been mentioned as a trade target, perhaps in a deal involving Ales Hemsky.

Smith, 25, is far from the biggest or flashiest name who might be available, but he’s a player with 200 NHL games on his resume who could fit nicely in a third-line role with the Oilers.

While Smith produces very little in the way of points, he’s a decent face-off man, going 51.8 per cent on the dot this season, has size at six-foot-two and 210 pounds and has some grit in his game.

New coach Dallas Eakins has the book on Smith as he was behind the bench with the Toronto Marlies when Smith was toiling with the Binghamton Senators. My best guess is Smith is at or near the top of MacTavish’s list as a candidate for his third-line centre. Striking that deal is another matter.

ADDITIONS UP FRONT

Lots of buzz about UFA David Clarkson making a visit to Edmonton and there should be. With suitors lining up, an in-demand player like Clarkson doesn’t have the luxury of taking the time to visit cities he has no interest in just for the sake of appearance. That he visited tells me something.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I like Clarkson a lot. I think he brings the leadership and edge the Oilers sorely lack on this roster. He’s tough to play against and, the way I see it, he’s exactly what the Oilers need. Statistics don’t tell the story with Clarkson. Given the make-up of this roster, he’s a fit.

Price point is obviously a consideration and we’re hearing is something at or north of $6 million a season for Clarkson. That’s a big overpay, but if that’s what the nutty NHL market will bear, that’s the price. I don’t like it, but if MacT is serious about bold moves, he’ll have to break out a big stack, especially with the Toronto Maple Leafs making a big pitch.

Clarke MacArthur of the Maple Leafs has also been mentioned. I’m not overwhelmed by the native of Lloydminster, but he’s a two-time 20-goal scorer with 403 NHL games on his resume and Edmonton associate coach Keith Acton knows him from his days in Hogtown.

On the face of it, I’d say there’s a better chance MacArthur ends up here than Clarkson, but the wildcard is I’m told the Pittsburgh Penguins want him and that he could sign there as early as Friday.

THE NAME GAME

I don’t for a second think MacTavish’s pursuit of Braydon Coburn of the Philadelphia Flyers is over and I expect he and Paul Holmgren will, or already have, re-visit this . . . I see Boyd Gordon, as Bob Stauffer of 630 CHED suggested, as an option for the 3C centre spot . . . difficult to ignore Ray Emery as a candidate to push Devan Dubnyk in goal, especially with word from TSN’S Darren Dreger the Oilers are in the hunt . . . Jason LaBarbera, as others have pointed out, seems a reasonable option if Emery says "no thanks."

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

  • 15w40

    I think I would rather Schenn over Couturier and that provides the Flyers with more cap relief – maybe both Schenn brothers instead of Coburn.

    Sounds like Emery is going to the Flyers too, so that’s out for Edmonton.

    St. Louis has excess goaltending – maybe the Oilers can swing a trade with them for one of their goalies and Chris Stewart. That would be a “bold” move.

    Still think Boyd Gordon should be one of the main contacts as a UFA.

  • 15w40

    One hour and five minutes to officially begin!!!!! Exciting eh??? I got my munchies, my pot of coffee and a cold case of beer and then with what is likely to be some headaches about some deals I got my meds….

    looking forward to today…lol

    • You know guys “sometimes feel uneasy” how?

      Never once in 25 years covering this game have I heard a player declare that he hesitated to go to a team where he’d get the contract or opportunity to win he wants because he might be forcing another guy out.

      • You’re right about that. Few would pass on a great opportunity. But hockey is a small world, much like my field. We all know each other and taking one job, you know exactly whom you’re sending packing. It’s not always pleasant.

  • 15w40

    Yep I heard philly is dealing closely with emery too and so it will be likely he signs back with Chi or Philly…but one never knows cause at this time…Money talks.

    I like Khudobin more so than Emery myself but either will be fine if one comes to Edmonton.. To me tho Dubnyk still is #1 for one more season at least… IMO, because of the skaters getting high deals today…odds are very good that the back up will be a cheapy and probably someone like LaBarbera

  • 15w40

    @TeeVee

    Lol…yep I need the coffee to stay awake and th beer to maybe drown some sorros too..lol.. I just covered all my bases…even the meds (Motrin – nothing serious by the way) for the headaches and the need to sleep thru any possible depression lol

  • 15w40

    addition by subtraction does not fill the holes in our line up, nor is it a bold move. i applaud mact for creating 5.5 million in cap space, however i’m not prepared to let him off the hook. we now need a third line centre to, what about depth at the centre positon. what happens when nuge, gags and lander get hurt? what about gritty 3 and 4th line players? what about a number 1 or 2 defence man? (don’t tell me no one will part with one, gretzky got traded). what about size and grit in our top six? then there’s goaltending, emery isn’t coming, he wants more playing time i hear he’s off to philly. no he’s not off the hook there is still tones and tones of work to do.

  • 15w40

    Sounds like Sakic and Yzerman will remain the last of the super stars to go to retirement with the team that drafted them.

    Alfredsson giving the Sens the Heisman and jettisoning to the Wings is the rumor. That is really surprising.

    Definately shaping up to be one of the most frenetic UFA days in recent memory. Draft was a snooze-fest, this may make up for it.

    Biggest fear is that the Oilers are left with the paper bag and its contents that gets lit on fire on your front step.

  • 15w40

    @Rama Lama

    I agree that the salaries should be reasonable but if say Clarkson got a high 4 to 5yr deal max with no such \NTC or NMC then the deal can be digestible..

    In fact, I hope there are no such NTC or NMC deals with the Oilers this yr cause that is the biggest worst handicap to making deals/trades in the future.. Salary alone…can be then easily traded off or bought out…

  • LinkfromHyrule

    can’t help but feel like free agency will be a bust, either because we land nobody, or because we massively overpay and end up with horcoff 2.0.

    Also, Clarkson seriously wants 6mil+? He’s approached 50 points once, and not been close the rest of his career. I dunno about that…

  • 15w40

    I am looking forward to the next 48 hours mostly so that all of the Chicken Little’s around here can stop panicking about the falling sky. Worrying about holes in the lineup 1 hour before free agency begins is like worrying what presents are under the tree on Christmas morning. Plus, we got to open one early last night with MacT doing what he said he would do and sending Horcoff down the road.

    Now, if we come away empty handed on some of the key guys then I will be the first to be Jackie Moon in Semi-Pro:

    http://www.Reelz.com/trailer-clips/32400/semi-pro-clip-8

    Everybody panic!

  • 15w40

    Suspect that the prospect of facing RNH or Gagner at centre for 35 to 40 min in a game is going to strike fear of physical pain (or losing a faceoff) in NO ONE. The oil NEED a physical, fierce 2nd line centre. Not a 3rd liner who will play less than 15 min/game.

  • oilerjed

    Sounds like Alfie is off to Detroit according to tsn and sportsnet. That may help us in getting a better return for Hemsky seeing how they have one more top 6 forward spot they need to fill. They seem ready to be poached as well.

  • TeeVee

    No suprise we are out on Clarkson. Thank goodness. That contract is going to be stupid money.

    Nice we landed Ferrence.

    Looks like we are going to have lots of AHL players in the lineup to start the season though.