With the Entry Draft in the rear-view mirror, the best UFAs already picked over and the Edmonton Oilers wrapping up their development camp, GM Craig MacTavish could pack for Kelowna and spend several weeks doing nothing more taxing than kicking back or slapping around a golf ball.
MacTavish won’t slip into holiday mode, of course, and that’s because he’s not anywhere near satisfied with what he’s managed to accomplish in the last few weeks, a period in which he envisioned re-shaping his Oilers at the draft and through free agency in his first off-season in the big chair.
That was abundantly clear when MacTavish, who’d rather under-promise and over-deliver than the other way around – especially in what he foreshadowed as a summer of "bold moves" – spoke with reporters at the conclusion of development camp.
At a time when a lot of GMs will be retreating to the lake or the golf course or wherever they go to recharge their batteries after rolling the dice on teenagers at the draft and throwing big stacks of money at fading free agents, it says here MacTavish isn’t nearly done massaging his roster, or at least trying to. No chance. No way. Take that to the bank.
WHAT HE SAID
"I’m still hopeful that we can get one other thing done here in the next little while, short little while,” MacTavish said. "Then it’s just trying to continue to have those discussions, trying to get another piece that can start to excite me in terms of how our team is shaping together.
"The UFA pick-ups (Andrew Ference, Boyd Gordon and Jason LaBarbera) are going to really help us. I’d like to do one or two other things before we’re happy."
"Another piece," like a bonafide centre, a top-pairing defenseman or the kind of top-six winger the Oilers pursued in David Clarkson? "One or two others things," like getting that one piece in exchange for a package that includes Ales Hemsky? Not an unreasonable conclusion, given that pulling the trigger on Hemsky is MacTavish’s likeliest next move.
"I’m a little frustrated," admitted MacTavish, who has worked the phones every day for weeks and did a long, although ultimately fruitless, waltz with Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren in pursuit of Braydon Coburn on the draft floor in New Jersey.
"I had certain objectives in mind and I’m going to be able to accomplish some of those things, but it doesn’t look like I’ll be able to accomplish all the things I wanted to do."
You can listen to MacTavish’s session with reporters here.
THE WAY I SEE IT
While none of MacTavish’s acquisitions to this point fall under the "bold moves" he talked about, there’s no question he’s been in the mix. I’d go as far as to suggest ridding the Oilers of Shawn Horcoff’s contract is something of a coup in itself.
I like MacTavish’s signing of Andrew Ference, the player, even with the deal being for too much term and too much money. I like what the Oilers get in Boyd Gordon, the player, as long as he ends up being the fourth-line centre. I like the acquisition of Jason LaBarbera as a fit behind Devan Dubnyk.
What I like most is that MacTavish recognizes the moves he’s made so far don’t address all the needs and holes in his roster and that, even with mid-July approaching, my bet is he’ll spend a lot more time pursuing those needs than reading putts or sipping sangria by the lake. Check the transaction timelines of a lot of GMs, including MacTavish’s predecessor here, and you’ll see that is not always the case.
Is there still time for bold this off-season? Sure, but MacT will need a dance partner because there’s nobody who qualifies as such left in the free agent pool, meaning bold will have to come by way of a trade. Hemsky might be a start on that, but it’ll take a package of players because the Czech winger alone won’t get MacTavish what he seeks. I’d suggest you stay tuned over the "next little while, short little while."
No chance MacT is done yet.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.