OBJECTS MAY BE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR

Although we’re still a few weeks away from the draft and what might be a wild summer of trading and free agency, NHL teams are beginning to tip their hands. What’s coming? A LOT of movement–buyouts, trades to save cap dollars, Euro contracts for NHLers no longer wanted–and for fans maybe a summer of activity the likes of which we’ve never seen before. In dear old Edmonton, the ‘waiting for the paint to dry’ approach of the previous administration appears to be a distant bell. There’s a new sheriff in town–and he’s impatient.

UFA ROUTE

The Oilers under owner Katz have spent to the cap in the past, overpaying (in dollars and term) men like Nikolai Khabibulin–which continued a trend that began in the shadow of the Pronger trade to the left coast and continued until the rebuild was put in place (finally) in the cold wintry days of 2010 January.

If we take the Oilers shopping list (top 4D, 2-way center, LW with size and skill, backup goalie) there are some interesting options: I’ll list Mark Streit, Boyd Gordon, Viktor Stalberg and Anton Khudobin, but your mileage may vary.

In the past, Edmonton had to overpay to the extreme in order to attract free agents, and there are still a couple of those contracts Craig MacTavish is going to have to deal with this summer (Eric Belanger, Ben Eager). However, with Ryan Whitney, Nikolai Khabibulin, Ryan Jones, Lennart Petrell, Andy Sutton and the last of the Souray buyout dollars all in the rear view, there is an opportunity for the Oilers to quickly turn this thing around–especially in areas badly in need like center, defense and the 3 and 4 lines.

I was encouraged by MacT’s words the other day in terms of free agency (approach free agency cautiously, players are often in decline stage when UFA is reached) and thought it might be a good idea to look at the "younger end" of this year’s free agents.

UNDER 30, READY TO ROCK

  • C-R Nathan Horton, Boston: $4M this season, 27-year old is a very nice option for the Oilers. He’ll have all kinds of options this summer, including a return to the Bruins if they can make the money work. I would rank this player as an ideal, but possibly unrealistic option. If MacT lands him, that should be considered a massive win.
  • R David Clarkson, New Jersey: $2.67M this season for the 29-year old. Although it is unlikely Edmonton would be his first option, I think he is pretty close to a ‘perfect fit’ for this team and perhaps worthy of an overpay. Should MacT get him, it should be considered in the same category as a Nathan Horton acquisition.
  • C-L Valtteri Filppula, Detroit: $3M this season, 29 years old and a famous Finn. He’d be an ideal solution for the Oilers, but Red Wings players are usually loyal to the team and this guy has enjoyed a lot of success in Motown.
  • L Viktor Stalberg, Chicago: $875,000 this season, he’ll get a raise for sure and Chicago is unlikely to re-sign (their system is producing players at a rapid clip). Rumor has Edmonton and Montreal very interested, you can see why the Oilers would be interested in this 27-year old with size and skill.
  • L Bryan Bickell, Chicago: $542,000 this season, 27 years old and listed below Stalberg only because he’s more likely to be signed by the Blackhawks before reaching free agency. A very nice option should he shake loose.
  • L Clarke MacArthur, Toronto: $3,250,000 this season, 29-years old and with some grit. Not the ideal option–the pricetag may be a little dear–but he’s certainly skill enough to chip in 20 goals on what should be a strong 2line.
  • C Boyd Gordon, Phoenix: $1.325M this season for the 29-year old, another ‘perfect fit’ option for an Oiler team that badly needs help at center. The Phoenix situation is somewhat in flux, there may be an opportunity to jump in and pick up this fine veteran.
  • G Anton Khudobin, Boston: $875,000 this season, effective backup and 27 years old. Bruins have a nice option in the AHL and may pass on signing him. He is young enough, and good enough to be an option for the Oilers.
  • L Guillaume Latandresse, Ottawa: $2M this season, 29-year old has lost much of his recent career to injuries but perhaps he’s turning a corner. Certainly brings size, and has scored well in the NHL when healthy.
  • L Patrick Bordeleau, Colorado: $525,000 this season, 27-year old is 6.06, 220 and looks and plays like an extra in Slap Shot! I don’t know if MacT will devote 2 roster spots to this type of player (Mike Brown is the current fighter, but not a heavyweight) but if that’s a priority this fellow fits the bill.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

Craig MacTavish’s point about free agents is certainly true–often NHL teams overpay for players in their 30’s and end up waiting for the contract to expire so they can better use the sunk cost of a wayward contract. However, there are players–several players–who have shown well in the NHL and are some distance from their 30th birthdays.

When the opportunity to speak to these new free agents arrives, the Edmonton Oilers have a great story to tell these free agents. Objectives–playoffs, playoff wins, series victories, deep trips into the spring–are likely to happen with this Oiler team during the back half of the 2010’s.

Telling that story to Viktor Stalberg, to Anton Khudobin, to Boyd Gordon, may be enough in one or more cases to win the day.

  • Lowetide

    I may have thought Boyd Gordon played centre too when I made my first mock team proposal earlier. If he is just a wionger then Horcoff would stay at centre for me while the Oil needs a tough good centre like Zonopka to go with Brown and smyth. Smyth is flexible to move up as well so he slots in this yr for #4 line easily.

    Anyways, the Ufa situation is not as weak as a lot of those believe. That salary cap line drop for next season definitely opens up a lot of new, expected and unexpected buyouts and that changes this year differently more so than that of recent years.

    I see teams like Chicago, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Boston, etc, having to let go players they normally would have kept longer. The Oil having so many UFA’s this year already are in an excellent position to grab a couple then trade for others.

  • horndog77

    I think the UFA market this year is the worst in quite a few years. Everything that Edmonton seems to be looking for is quite watered down. No real goalies/defenceman or big centers to pick from. To me trades are the best way to go. Hopefully MacT is better at wheeling and dealing than Tambelini!

  • Lowetide

    The first priority for MacT is the draft. He already knows who he will resign/let go from the team and there is nothing much he wants to keep (Fistric, Whitney, Khabibulin, Jones, Petrell, Gagner, MPS, etc).

    The Oil will clearly and surely try for a top future centre first (Barkov, Lindholm, Monahan, Horvat) at #7, with Nichushkin right in the mix too. I believe that Mackinnon can be tried for but he goes before Barkov.

    My D choices are that I like the idea of Mark Streit and/or Karl Azner being brought here to lead/Mentor and go with J. Schultz, Klefbom, Smid, Petry, N. Scultz and with Potter or Fistric as extras. Peckham is traded if Fistric resigns/stays if Fistric does not….I believe.

    Pending the draft, the Oil definitely should make a run for Stalberg, Bickell, and Gordon.

    My goalie to come here Smith or Khudobin to go with Dubnyk. My first mock team/lines (with Gagner and Hemsky traded)would be:

    Hall-RNH-Yakupov…
    Stalberg-Lindholm (my pick)-Ebs…
    MPS-Gordon-Hartikainen…
    Brown-Horcoff 9If not traded)-Smyth

    Streit-Klefbom
    Alzner -J.Schultz
    Smid-Petry

    I can tweak all this too but in my mind this is a huge upgrade versus this years team.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    in an ideal world, we’d sign all of Clarkson, Filppula, Bickell, Khudobin and Bordeleau. if Filppula was used as a center, then Gagner or Horcoff would become expendable. Khudobin for Khabby, Bickell and Bordeleau for Petrell and Brown, Clarkson for Jones. but realistically, because many teams are interested in these players, the Oilers could still score a few of Stalberg, Gordon, Khudobin, MacArthur, Latandresse and Bordeleau.

  • eastcoastoil

    On a side note, what happens if…

    Gagner-Hall-Yak

    Nuge-Omark-ebs

    Arcabello-Rajala-Nichushkin

    Horc-Smyth-Hemsky

    Just Talent hits the ice

    Sub in Harti/MPS

    Please don’t roast me too bad

      • eastcoastoil

        That 3rd line doesn’t have much talent and even less experience. I’m also pretty positive we will never see Omark in Oilers silks again. Aside from being lucky and drafting Nichushkin this roster looks worse then last years.

        Watched the Bruins/Rangers matchup yesterday and thought it was pretty awesome of Shawn Thornton to step in on Dorsett when Dorsett was picking a fight with Paille…. If we don’t go with Mike Brown I’m ok with grabbing a mean mug to make people think twice before taking liberties at our talent.

        I’m sure many of you are tired of seeing the boys get pushed around and the rest of the NHL thinking its an easy 2pts coming into Edmonton.

  • eastcoastoil

    LT,
    Looking at the free agent market for defence, have you heard any more about Grebeshkov?

    Stopgap between next season and the future(Klefblom,Davidson, Musil, MARINCIN)

    As far as forwards go, Lander not going to cut it for you as a 4th Line C?

    Still think Penner would be a good fit

    Nuge-MPS-EBS

    Gagner-Hall-Yak

    Horc-Penner-Hemsky

    Lander-Smyth-brown/harti

    Shultz-Grebs

    Petry-Smid

    Shultz-Fistric/Klefblom/Sutton/Musil

    • G Money

      I like your overall roster,your lines are interesting,if the two wingers you slotted into center spots panned out the combos look really interesting,it definately is a deep and solid lineup,the tops 6 are shaky because neither guy is a center but that is a very solid bottom 6 lineup to me.If we are going to make mistakes with that roster they will happen on the top 6 maybe thats better than having big letdowns in the bottom 6?Like picking your own poison.

      They say championship teams are built from the bottom up,who knows,eh?

      Actually the dynamic matches in your bottom 6 are excellent,to bad the Oilers dont use the NHS where positional focus is one dimensional and it doesnt matter who takes the faceoffs or starts in the center position during playaction,because there are no set plays.You have your size in the right spots,now you just need to convince the Round Table to abandon collectively over 100 years of traditional thinking and experience.Good luck,I haven had much in 3 years,ha ha ha ha.

      I just have to say this,who the hell cares who takes the faceoff if you have Penner bulling his way through three guys to the puck anyways??Same with MPS,how many guys will seriously be able to handle him if he has specific and impactfull focus?On faceoffs an explosive bullrush by a big man can be deadly effective on the dot,you just run the suckers over plain and simple and because usually you are in a deep zone,you only need to make a short and dominant burst of distance coverage to win the battle even if you lose the faceoff,just get ready to rumble and smile at the opposition centermen and run them over Slapshot style,who cares how you gain possesion off the dot anyways?Just DONT plan to go for the puck ever,intend to bullrush every time and do it hard and fast.Teams will get the message quickly like by the ten game mark.And we will likely win more possesion battles off the dot by changing to non-traditional tactics like bullrushing off the dot.

      I would rather see a huge man lose a faceoff but force the playaction immediatly where we want it using his bulk and sheer force,than see another man just lose the faceoff and scramble to re-enter the playaction having no tangible impact immediatly.

      I know is isnt normal hockey thinking but it is a winning program if executed properly.

  • Gret99zky

    Unlike homer fans, NHL UFAs probably still see the Edmonton Oilers as they really are, a bottom team wandering in a seemingly endless rebuild.

    The story is not that good.

    The only way MacT is going to get any of those players on the list is to overpay, overpay, overpay.

    What player is going to leave Detroit, Chicago or Boston to come play in Draftown?

    They will take a paycut to stay or sign with a contender.

    The Oilers brass has been selling HOPE season after season and delivered nothing but top draft picks. But wait til next year…

    I don’t think the top 4D, 2way C, or LW with size are as impressed with MacT getting the GM position his fanboys are. Sure looks smart in them glasses.

    Prove me wrong Mac. Prove me wrong.

    • PutzStew

      This is my thoughts too. To many, better options and I can’t see them being able to sell the city using the same selling point hey have used for 2-3 years now.

      I also winder how many free agents will look at previous free agents and how the did in Edmonton. THere haven’t been very many free agents succeed in Edmonton for a very long time. Most seem to get run out of town.

      I totally agree that rest of the NHL isn’t as impressed with the re-hiring of MacT as the People in the City. I think I have read more stuff making fun of the hiring, then praising it. Combine that with the Arena fiasco and you’d have an easier time selling a date with Wanye at a bachelor auction then you would trying to convince any of those player Edmonton is better place to be then just about every other city, in the NHL.

      Not trying to be a dink, but I can’t see why I would go to Edmonton if Vancover, San Jose, LA, Chicago, Boston, Toronto, ETC,ETC, ETC was offering me the same money. Just Saying.

    • oilabroad

      I was talking to a couple current NHL players last week about this, and they said exactly the same thing… Edmonton will have to overpay any players they want to bring in, and that will not change just because they move up a few spots in the standings… They said, outside of Vancouver, Canada has no appealing places to play, TO is a fishbowl, Montreal is a french Fishbowl and the rest are small markets with very little appeal from a living/working perspective.
      They did mention the quality of the organization makes a big difference in terms of where they will sign though, and once again Vancouver was the only one that got full marks (hopefully MacT can start to improve this in Etown). Edmonton should stick to trades and offer sheets if they want to bring in any elite talent, otherwise be prepared to pay for it.

      BTW neither player was from or has ever played for Vancouver

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Not a 21 team league, unfortunately. Ask these players their thoughts on revenue sharing?

        MacT better temper his words, don’t want to see him painted into a corner so soon.

          • G Money

            It’s a bit of red herring to overdo the value of the city. With the exception of LA/Anaheim/Florida, few players settle down (or even live in the offseason) of the city they play in during the season.

            Conversely, Edmonton (and Winnipeg, Ottawa, and Calgary) are all better places to live than Detroit.

            But Detroit can get UFAs without overpaying because they are (still) a good team.

            So, the game plan for MacT is:

            – Address the worst of the gaps in the team primarily through trade and perhaps one UFA overpay. Enough to get the team into solid playoff contention.

            – Once the team is a solid playoff contender, UFAs will be available at fair value (not necessarily a discount), and the remaining gaps can be addressed through the UFA market.

            I believe that MacT is smart enough to understand this strategic reality; I do not think Tambo was.

  • 106 and 106

    ” I’ll list Mark Streit, Boyd Gordon, Viktor Stalberg and Anton Khudobin, but your mileage may vary.”

    If this happens, the Edmonton Oilers are one – massive – step – better. Say what you will about Streit’s age, but he’s an improvement and secondary scoring? Defensive ability (as opposed to Liability)? Depth? A back-up goalie not 40+?

    Lordy, dare to dream.

  • The Worrier

    Pretty sure MacArthur is only 28 LT. I haven’t looked at his birth year or anything, but he went to high school with me when he played in the AJHL. Unless he got held back….lol

  • Word to the Bird

    Also, even though he’s over 30, I wonder how a D like Leopold might fit, especially if EDM could get him on a 2 year deal?

    I haven’t seen him play much the past couple seasons, but by memory and reputation he seems like a guy that might interest EDM.

    • Muji

      If we’re going to stretch the age limit, I’d like Hainsey in the discussion too.

      Ian White’s just under the 30 yo cut off, but I can’t say I’m a big fan.

      Out of the young RFA Dmen out there this summer, I think the cheapest would be Bogo as he hasn’t really hit his stride offensively yet.

      And out of all those Jet Dmen, By Fusion (as a buddy refers to him) might be the easiest to obtain (by trade).

  • The Worrier

    As for the back half of the 2010 the Oilers may get close but with contracts and aging players they will have plugged the holes torn down what they tried to build in terms of the top round picks. I think it is a tough story to pitch free agents.

  • Muji

    We’ll see how MacT goes about addressing the D, the RFA offer sheet market doesn’t have the age related drawback and includes a vastly superior quality of player this summer. It would certainly fit in terms of being “bold”.

    • Muji

      I think he’s going to toronto. Something about being a huge wendel clark fan and being born there. Sucks. He’d be a great fit in EDM.

      Also I’d rather take Bickell over Stalberg (if available). Just look at the highlights from last night. Bickell was running over people and scored. Good fit on a line with Nuge-Eberle

  • The Worrier

    He’s slightly older, but comes with less miles and plays a position that favours age and experience, so I’d like to throw his name into the hat: Ray Emery.

    There were no blueliners in your list!

    • Lowetide

      spOILer: It’s funny, the blueliners who are under 30 don’t really represent an upgrade. I almost used Kostka from Toronto, but don’t think they’ll let him get to UFA