Next season begins now

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The NHL’s busiest three-week stretch involving player movement is upon us.

The compliance buyout period starts today. Keep in mind teams need to put a player on waivers before they can buy him out, and only Aaron Rome (Dallas Stars) was on waivers as of 11:15 MDT, but a team could announce its intent to use one later today.

The buyouts are just the beginning.

Free agent interviews, the 2014 draft, player elected arbitration, free agency and multiple trades will all occur before July 6th.

It should be an exciting 21-day stretch.

I’ve touched on compliance buyouts before, but the obvious ones are Martin Havlat (the Sharks already said he isn’t returning), Ville Leino, Jordan Tootoo and now Rome. Brad Richards seems like a solid candidate based on what he’s getting paid now, but also due to the recapture penalties. He’d be sought after as a free agent, especially on a shorter deal with less money than his current six year, $6.66 million deal. 

This summer free agents will be able to talk to teams prior to signing with them. I know for a fact that teams and agents spoke about players prior to July 1st. I flew home from the 2012 draft and sat beside an agent who let it slip that two of his clients had already been to NHL cities and spoke with their GMs.

The new free agent interviews evens the playing field. Now every team has a chance to try and court a player before July 1st. Teams can’t officially announce a signing until July 1st, but we can expect leaks of potential deals prior to July.

This year’s UFA class has some decent options.

Forwards: 

Benoit Pouliot (27), Steve Downie (27), Nikolai Kulemin (27), Devin Setoguchi (27), Paul Stastny (28), Tomas Vanek (30), Ales Hemsky (30), Matt Moulson (30), Derek Roy (31), Steve Ott (31), Dustin Penner (31), Marian Gaborik (32), Mike Cammalleri (32), Dany Heatley (33), David Legwand (33), Radim Vrbata (33), Brian Gionta (35), Olli Jokinen (35), Brendan Morrow (35), Jarome Iginla (36), Saku Koivu (39) and Daniel Alfredsson (41).

The Oilers would love to get Stastny, but if he makes it to July 1st he will have many suitors. The Oilers could use a player like Pouliot, Kulemin or Ott as well.

Defence:

Matt Niskanen (27), Anton Stralman (27), Mark Fayne (27), Andrej Meszaros (28), Nikita Nikitin (28), Kyle Quincey (28), Matt Hunwick (29), Clatyon Stoner (29), Joni Pitkanen (30), Matt Greene (31), Tom Gilbert (31), Brooks Orpik (33), Ron Hainsey (33), Andrei Markov (35), Henrik Tallinder (35), Derek Morris (35), Mike Weaver (36), Willie Mitchell (37) and Stephane Robidas (37).

Niskanen is very similar to Justin Schultz and Jeff Petry, so adding him would mean they’d need to move one of those two. Stralman seems to be the new flavour of the month for many, but how good is he when he’s not playing beside Mark Staal? I don’t know, but I’d be leery of giving him a long term deal at big money.

The rest have different skill sets, but they all have NHL experience which is something the Oilers severely lack. MacTavish has made it clear he won’t rush his young D-men, Nurse, Klefbom and Marincin, so I expect him to sign two veteran defenders. The Oilers gave up the most goals in the league last year, they don’t need to get younger on the blueline. If only one of those three starts the season in Edmonton, that is a good thing.

Goalies:

Jonas Hiller (32), Ryan Miller (33), Ilya Bryzgalov (33), Tomas Vokoun (37), Evgeni Nabakov (38), Tim Thomas (40) and Martin Brodeur (42).

After Hiller and Miller age is the biggest concern amongst the free agent goalie. Alex Stalock from the San Jose Sharks might be the best bet for NHL teams to take a gamble on. He is only 26.

DRAFT AND TRADES

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The draft usually provides a lot of excitement. Teams and fans are hopeful that their first round pick will become a franchise player, while other teams are willing to move high picks for proven players.

The Ottawa Senators don’t have a 1st round pick, but Jason Spezza is on the market. The Anaheim Ducks need a 2nd line centre, they own the Senators pick (10th) overall and they have nine NHL D-men on their roster. Luca Sbisa, Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen are all young. The Ducks could offer a package that stats with one of them and the 10th overall pick for Spezza or Ryan Kesler.

I don’t see the Canucks trading Kesler within their division, but stranger things have happened.

The Oilers could use an upgrade at centre, but Kesler and Spezza likely don’t have Edmonton on their list of teams they’d go to. When you’ve been the worst team in the NHL for eight seasons it is more difficult to attract players.

QUICK HITS

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  • Colorado elected for club salary arbitration for Ryan O’Reilly, while Winnipeg did the same with Michael Frolik. The teams can still negotiate with their players before their arbitration date. If not, then they go to arbitration and the player can decide on a one or two year term.

  • The Oilers have three RFAs. Justin Schultz, Jeff Petry and Luke Gazdic. Gazdic will be an easy signing, while Petry and Schultz don’t have much leverage. I think you will see both defenders get two-year deals.
  • If Boston wants to resign Jarome Iginla they need to move a D-man. Johnny Boychuk has one year left at $3.36 million. The risk in moving him is that Miller, Bartowski and Krug are all similar style of players, and none of them can replace Boychuk. Zdeno Chara is 37 and you wonder how many more years he has left as an elite defender. Boychuk is a solid second pairing D-man and if the Bruins are looking at moving him the Oilers should be very interested. They need big, right hand shot who plays physical, can move the puck and kill penalties.
  • The Oilers shouldn’t go into the season expecting any of Klefbom, Nurse or Marincin to make the team. They need to stop hoping for best case scenario on kids and instead have eight solid D-men and if one of the young guys is ready to be an every day D-man, great, and if not, then they will have some proven, quality NHL veterans who can play. MacTavish should sign or trade for at least two or even three proven NHL defenders this summer. Marincin looked good last year and so did Klefbom, but don’t assume they will automatically improve next year. Very few player’s developmental curve is constantly trending upwards.
  • I don’t see the Oilers trading down, and I think the asking price will be too high to move up. I spoke to a WHL player, who is very good himself, on the weekend and he said Leon Draisaitl and Sam Reinhart were the best players in the league. He said they both have great skill, but feels Draisaitl will be better in the future because of his vision and how strong he is. It is always interesting to hear from a player who plays against the kids. Usually they have a very good read on how good players are.
  • Just a hunch, but I expect the Penguins to be very active in free agency and trades over the next three weeks.
  • As hard as it will be to sell it to the fans, I think this is the summer Craig MacTavish needs to be patient. This team is still eight players away from being really competitive. One trade won’t solve all the problems, so he needs to be patient and calculating, rather than try to hit a grand slam. It sucks for the Nation, but I don’t see the Oilers making the playoff in the ultra-tough Pacific division next year.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

    • james_dean

      Patient? Really? Are you kidding me. Mac needs 2-3 defenceman a complete 3rd line and diversity in the top 6.

      This patient thing is getting out of hand. Make something happen already. The above to do list shows just how much needs to be done. Sure he might not get it all done in the next 3 weeks but SOMETHING substantial must be done asap.

    • SLURVE

      Since this is a well known fact, we should sign players who are good leaders with lots of experience that can help our young team move forward. With experience comes older and seasoned players such as Robidas and Alfredsson. Again, will they come to a team such as the Oilers…probably not but money always talks even for one year of mentoring.

    • nuge2drai

      Oiler Domination To Follow

      Forward Targets: Grabovski, Pouliot, Kulemin, Moulsen, Downie, Ott

      Defence Targets: Fayne, Meszaros, Nikitin

      Adding 3-4 of these guys would go a long way in making this team competitive.

    • Rdubb

      I see nothing wrong with MM making this Oiler team out of training camp as I personally thought that he was easily on Edmonton’s top 4 men, so if he doesn’t make this team, then MacT has either traded for, signed, or a combo did a combo of both to get 4 d-men, and I do not see that happening.
      One d on your list that I’d like to see come to Edmonton is Green, as he is a solid stay at home defenseman who could bring and show our young d-corpse how to play hard every night and what it takes to make it to the next level…
      Peck

    • Zarny

      Gotta love the silly season. Targets go off the board, some GM signs Dennis Wideman to 5 yr @ $5.25M and we all get a laugh. That is what MacT needs to avoid.

      I wouldn’t preach patience per say. The Oilers need to get better and the next 3 weeks is the primary opportunity until the trade deadline in March.

      There are certainly UFA’s (Stastny, Fayne, Ott, Pouliot, Boyle etc) that could help the Oilers but it’s a weak crop with lots of competition. Dallas, Columbus and half the league will be targeting the same players. MacT needs to be realistic, creative and focused.

      There is likely more opportunity via trades. The Oilers aren’t going to land Kesler, Spezza or Thornton etc. Braydon Coburn, Johnny Oduya, Johnny Boychuk, Tyler Myers, Zack Bogosian are all rumored to be available.

      Colorado has elected to go to arbitration with Ryan O’Reilly. If Stastny re-signs there could be a trade opportunity but again lots of competition (Calgary).