Tom Gilbert (and other UFA’s) possibly Europe-bound

According to Jim Matheson, unrestricted free agent defenceman (and former Oiler) Tom Gilbert might end up signing in Switzerland for this coming season. It’s an odd move in a summer of oddities.

Gilbert was a controversial player in his time with Edmonton, with some people (raises hand) seeing his ability to move the puck and play his position in the defensive zone as a major positive, and others (looks at the comments section expectantly) believing Gilbert was a Downy-soft turnover machine. Regardless, it’s hard to believe that he’s fallen so far in such a short time that he isn’t even seen as a useful third-pairing guy by all 30 NHL teams.

Gilbert isn’t the only guy on the outside looking in. Peter Mueller, the 6’2” scoring winger (over his NHL career, he’s averaged 44 points per 82 games played) went from a contract just shy of $2.0 million per season last year to a new deal in Switzerland. Ron Hainsey played 22:51 per night in Winnipeg last year; he’s still without a contract. Mason Raymond, a competent auxiliary scorer who can also kill penalties, is also still looking for a home. Damien Brunner and Brendan Morrow and Ian White and Dan Cleary and Ilya Bryzgalov and Brad Boyes and others round out a list of unrestricted free agents that’s still surprisingly rich at the start of September.

What’s Up, Doc?

It’s hard not to look at a team like Nashville that might start the year with three rookies in its top seven and think, ‘you know, they could use a Gilbert or Hainsey or White.’ It’s hard not to look at a team like Phoenix and say, ‘Damien Brunner might be a nice fit on the wing’ (though the Coyotes have taken advantage of a tough summer to invite Guillaume Latendresse and Gilbert Brule to training camp). There are teams with needs, and free agents who could help, but it’s seemingly taking a long time for the two groups to find each other.

Some of it has to do with the warts of individual players. For a guy like Hainsey or White, militancy during the lockout could be costly. Teams will be turned off by Bryzgalov’s off-ice persona. Some of it probably has to do with price tag, which is probably why Brunner is still on the market.

It’s also easy to spot a trend, at least with the forwards – aside from the older warhorses, there are a lot of second-tier scoring wingers still on the market, guys who don’t contribute enough for a first line job and might be ill-suited to a line with heavy defensive responsibilities (most of them are also under-sized). So on the one hand it’s easy to say ‘Player X is better than [generic fourth-line forward]’ and it’s true, but there are definitely teams out there that aren’t interested in installing a Brad Boyes-type player on their fourth line.

The biggest factor, though, is probably the crashing salary cap. For many years, teams have signed contracts and structured their payroll based on the implicit assumption that the cap was going to keep rising. This year it fell, and sharply; the resultant cap crunch meant that rich teams had no money to spend and poorer teams had lots of options available to them. Some guys falling through the cracks was likely inevitable.

Recently around the Nation Network

Betting service Bovada released it’s lines for the season earlier this week, but they’ve had to change one – Toronto’s. At Lwafs Nation, Cam Charron explains:

Today, those lines have been shifted, presumably from a sharp amount of activity in the first day the lines were published. As of Friday morning, no other team saw its line moved, but the Leafs have dropped to 94.5, and are now just +135 to miss the playoffs:

Click the link above for more details or check out some of my recent work:

  • YFC Prez

    Brad Boyes and Brendan Morrow IMO are the most surprising on the list of “the outside looking in”. But still quite a few useful players, and I also include Gilbert in that category, without jobs and TC starting very soon.

    I would take Morrow and Raymond in a second in our bottom six, not really all that realistic with the cap though. Too bad.

    • RexLibris

      Morrow I can get – he’d look pretty good on the Oil 4th line, but I doubt he’s ready for that role & with $26M in the bank may be the motivation is less than the ego deflation.

      Raymond is soft as butter, but he’s 27, can skate, play top 6 (as a complimentary guy), PK and is good for 15 goals a year – you’d think at least 1/2 dozen teams could use him. Be shocking if he didn’t at least sign a 1 year for cheap to showcase himself.

    • 719

      yep! trade old ballz Shultz to any team looking for dman for a 4th round pick and we can sign them both for 2 mill each 1 year deals…then we would have a solid 3rd line and good PK!!

  • Admiral Ackbar

    IMO, I can see MacT and the Oilers liking both Raymond (27 yrs old, good fast skater/good PK guy/about 15 goals per yr) and Steckel(31 yrs old, very decent 4th line centre/PK guy) for some more bottom six depth….but things likely depend on what happens with defencemen out of training camp and therefore the extra salary cap space that may still come.

    With the lines predictably almost set (Hall, RNH, Ebs), (Perron, Gagner, Yak), (Jones or Joensuu, Gordon, Hemsky) and then (Smyth, Lander/Acton, Eager/Brown), these two would add better depth to even unseeding certain players as well.

    But the defence settings are questionable right now after Ference, Smid, Petry, and young J. Schultz. The guys on the bubble from here on in are Grebs, N. Schultz, Belov, Larsen and Potter….especially pending what Klefbom can do or show in camp.

    If the Oilers can delete three of these…either through trades/waivers…the capspace will be about $4 to $5 mil plus more available. For example…Schultz ($3.5 mil this yr), Potter ($775K), and Grebeshkov ($1.5 mil) gone by end of camp opens up almost $6 mil ($5,775,000) and the Oil can easily get two excellent available depth players such as Morrow, Mueller, Steckel, Raymond, etc. These type guys would definitely improve the 3rd and 4th lines more so at the least.

    Certain big questions now become: Will the Oilers let these players (Grebs, N. Schultz, Potter or Larsen)go by either trades or waivers? And….Will it be done soon enough to do in order to still get good new depth players who may not be long on availability?

    • OilClog

      All good NHL clubs have at least 8 guys that can play D, now you’re wanting to clear the ranks to add a $1.5mil forward.. we can do that without the clearing.

    • 719

      exactly my thoughts!

      IMO..were drafting the ruskies & bringing in Grebby & Belov for the likes of Yakupov (Russians)….which means old Shultz (3.5) has got to go! we have ference now, we don’t need him any longer….and Potter deserves a shot with another team….Petry-Smid** Shultz-Ference** Belov-Grebshkov….Larson

    • djc

      It’s shocking you haven’t been hired as an NHL GM yet. Thank you for gracing Oilersnation with your knowledge and wisdom 30 times a day so everyone else can learn from you.

      • 719

        As opposed to being graced by the knowledge of the sack-riding fangirls who are delusional about a player’s worth in the league? We need some ying (reality) to counteract the overwhelming yang (delusion) surrounding this team.

        Only here at ON are Penner and Gilbert great players and Hemsky 10 million over 2 years is a great contract. The rest of the hockey world sees it differently.

  • RexLibris


    Hey bud, I see your point for being of defence depth, but the Oilers would still have eight always ready to go with one of (or both of -but that’s very unlikely) Fedun and Marancin also either to stay and/or call up.

    The top eight d-men I think that will stay after training camp would be Ference, Smid, Petry, J. Schultz, Belov, with one of Larsen or Potter and Klefbom.

    IMO, that makes N. Schultz, Grebeshkov, and one of Potter or Larsen gone…. either through trades or waivers.

    I am having believe that Belov is more valuable to stay than Grebeshkov, because he is bigger, a better hitter, a very good skater and he can also put up points.

    Don’t forget as well that we (Oilers) have other kids getting ready in the near future for the NHL too with Davidson, Musil, Gernat, Simpson, Gustaffsson, and Nurse (I say within two more yrs at the least)

    • OilClog

      No, MacT is setting up the D so we’re not in that state of “until the kids arrive” replacing any of the current D with Fedun.. is a downgrade.

      We can improve the bottom 6 without sacrificing the D, that is currently NHL ready.

  • djc


    I agree that several of the kids are not ready as yet…but Marancin and Fedun appear to be very close if not there yet.

    However, there is no way that the Oilers keep ten defenders on the roster (9 – if Klefbom does go to OKC)… and especially with younger prospects ready to come up.

    The Oilers should never lose sight of that they have waited for very good prospects to come up, and also, Fedun and Marancin are two who should be staying as one of the extras.

    If Klefbom shows up looking that strong/good with training camp games…then he should be clearly be the sixth guy.

    I like the idea of Ference and J. Schultz playing together, then Smid with Petry, then Belov plays with Klefbom. IMO

  • 719

    The players have just made Roenick look like the wisest old man. And I am pretty sure Brownlee was also saying the same thing that some of these guys don’t realize that the lockout will end thier careers and of lose them money.

    Makes me laugh, especially Hainsey.

  • 719

    If we signed Raymond he couldn’t play until christmas. It takes that long for the Canucks stench to wear off.

    Also Jones could of been signed for less. If not him someone like him.

    Now I think the Oilers should be training Eager and Brown to kill penalties. Both skate better then Smyth. Both have shown flashes of being real hockey players. Eakins may be able to make them a little more well rounded. I laughed watching Hordichuk try to kill penalties. How a man can stay on his skates, while having a seizure, is amazing.

  • 719

    If you were MacT and had Katz’s approval, would a sane general manager not buy out Nick Schultz and then sign Gilbert at 2 million per season on a two year deal? Gilbert for Schultz swap is exactly the direction MacT wants to go with the D crew from his reports, Schultz was thoroughly underwhelming last year, and such a move would free up 1.5 million cap room. Or is the buyout option closed? Even so, guarantee Nick passes through waivers to OKC and if he doesn’t, thank the team who takes on his overpriced contract.

    I guess ultimately what I don’t know is what deal Gilbert is demanding. If it is close to 3.5 million per season, I can see why there is reluctance to take him on, but even so, could you imagine the move I proposed, then using that 1.5 million to sign a 4th line center?

  • 719

    Just in case you are interested: Former Oiler Jim Vandemeer also signed in Switzerland with the Kloten Flyers.

    As I am Swiss, it is interesting to see which (famous) players fromg the NHL sign in our Elite Leauge: Lennart Petrell and Matthew Lombardi signed in Geneva, Rob Shremp in Zug, Chris Campoli in Lugano and Marc-Andre Bergeron in Zurich.

  • Admiral Ackbar

    Boy would I love the Oil if they could delete Hemsky, Schultz Sr. and Jones. Not delete them from the team, but from the entire matrix, or existence so to say.

    This is what happens when the Oil no longer want you around, you cease to exist, like a burned spy.

    It’d be money to see Raymond on the 3rd line with Gordo. Schultz Sr. is useless and easily replaced by our abundance of 6-7 defensemen. Jones is a spare-part that has no business earning $1.5mil when there are guys like Omark that will sign for $600k.

    Remove these 3 players from the team and watch the instant improvements.

  • Admiral Ackbar

    Other than Suter and their rookie that stepped up and was made better by Suter, the Wild have a super thin defence. For them to just let Gilbert walk is indicative of how bad Gilbert is.

    This is not the Tabellini era; the oilers should not be in the market for other teams’ table scraps.