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:

    • pkam

      Not sure if this was the player you spoke to Jason but on Craig Button’s draftcentre podcast he mentioned that Haydn Fleury thought Draisaitl was the toughest player in the league to play against. If it’s not the same guy, there’s two guys confirming Draisaitl is a load for Dmen.

    • pkam

      Heatly is exactly the type of player that the Oilers should avoid acquiring. He isn’t a character guy, he isn’t a leader, he isn’t physical, he has lost his scoring touch and any price will be overpriced.

      If the Oilers add during free agency, they need to find undervalued assets, if possible, who can add to the roster. They do not need Heatly or anyone who even resembles him.

      • I don’t think he will be overpriced at all. In fact I think he falls perfectly in the range of undervalued, hence why he would be great for a new third line that pushes Gordon and Hendricks down to a tough minutes fourth line.

        Like I said, Edmonton has a lot of problems, and they are not going to find easy answers. But Heatly might just be an easy answer.

      • ubermiguel

        Pressed the Cheers button multiple times hoping to give multiple cheers for this comment.

        Heatley’s like a beautiful girl you asked out years ago and she emphatically said “no” and embarassed you publically. Now you’re a little wiser, she’s a little older, maybe put on a couple of pounds and she’s in your league. Still, have some pride and move on.

    • Craig1981

      Is there any reason they can’t sign 3 solid old D-men to one year contracts and then trade them midway through the season if one or 2 young player turn out to be just too good fore the AHL and they need to make roster room? …….or is this to much of a NHL14 manager mode way of thinking?

      • Mo Playoffs Mo Problems

        I think that’s basically what MacT did last year with his “defence by committee” approach and the Belov, Garbagekov, etc. signings.

        He took a gamble on a couple guys hoping they’d exceed expectations and/or generate some trade value and we all know how that worked out.

        They already lead the league in the number of 5/6 defencemen they have. They don’t need to bring in more and based on MacT’s comments at the end of year presser, he’s not looking to add those kind of guys.

        They need impact players.

        • Craig1981

          I have thought about that…..and maybe you are right, but I am talking about older midrange guys that will only get one year contracts (like Hainsey,Mitchell,Morris) and of course the players know that IF they get traded it would be to a playoff team.

          I do agree MO playoffs, but I disagree it turned out terrible. They now do have a 4th and a 5th out of Nick Schultz and Bryz which isn’t going to change things drastically, but is better than nothing.

    • A-Mc

      i haven’t been to a game all season, won’t go back until the DJ is gone and Oil actually win. losing 5-0 in the 3rd? Perfect time to play cotton eye joe as everyone is leaving!!! might aswell have no music at all!!!

    • A-Mc

      Just heard from a friend of a friend that closer to or in conjunction with Draft day…Kadri and Gardiner straight up (plus futures?) For YakCity. Hold me to it. Burn me if I’m wrong but praise me if I’m right!

    • A-Mc

      I’m so nervous that Eckblad and Draisaitl will go #1/2 overall and then we’re left with ‘the rest’.

      Lots of fans love Bennett, so that would be just fine with them, but not me. I really want one of either of those 2 players.

    • Will

      It is a hard sell to be patient and this team is still many players away, but that doesn’t mean doing nothing will get those players.

      Eventually, the team will have to pull the trigger in free agency. No top contending team has done so strictly through rebuilding through the draft and trades.

      Also, can anyone please explain to me why Heatly’s name is never ever mentioned in UFA’s for this year. He’s big, has had monster seasons, and would come cheap. And yet, not one mention of his name.

      Whatever team lands Heatly will win free agency.

      • Mo Playoffs Mo Problems

        Heatly is 33 and has definitely lost a step.

        Since 2009-2010 he has steadily declined from being a point a game player (82 pts in 82 games) to 0.37PPG (28 pts in 76 games last year).

        I think the line on Heatly is that he doesn’t skate well enough to score at the pace he used to. If skating is his issue then I don’t know how effective he can be as a banger/checker on a thrid line either.

        I’d pass on Heatly unless I had insider knowledge that he’s got an appointment with the same witch doctor that kept the ageless Selanne going all these years…

        • A-Mc

          Because he was an overpaid player who is on a drastically downward decline since his departure from San Jose.

          Unless I’m mistaken he’s also been suffering from an eye injury that has made his sight a larger problem over years.

          The reason why no one talks about him as much as they may have several years ago is because no one sees him being that scoring machine that he once was. He got 28 points in 78 games last year, several of those against Edmonton.

          So I don’t see him being a big benefit to the Oilers.

          • A-Mc

            So why would we want him if no one else does?
            Sounds like we’d be adding a piece that is questionable at best in terms of making the team better, as well as having to deal with the fact that he snubbed this city in the past.

            Fans don’t forget that kind of thing. If he were picked up by the Oil, i bet he gets booed from day 1 by Edm fans.

            • Well, the Oilers have a lot of problems. One of the often sighted ones is that they need to get bigger, another is that they need to play more physical, another is that they need more veterans.

              Unfortunately with 30 other teams all having problems of their own, there are no easy or cute ways to solve these problems. Heatly, however, helps in all of these areas, and he is not expensive.

              I just think until the team is a winner, they will need creative solutions to become a winner.

            • pkam

              If Heatley is the solution, then he will have many choices and won’t be available to the Oilers, the last team he wants to join.

              If he is not a solution to 29 teams but the Oilers, then we are not going anywhere with him.

    • I heard from a season ticket holder that allot of people did not re-new this year, allot more than usual that is. Hopefully this message is RECEIVED and the at game experience for fans is revamped! Oh it’s the 3rd period, time for Kick Start My Heart. If the team is going to be bad, at least try to entertain the fans with 42 different at-game experiences instead of the same old recycled songs played at the same points of the game!

      • Mo Playoffs Mo Problems

        I am a season ticket holder and I would tend to disagree with your source. I went to the seat upgrade last week and there were no more available seats than there has been in previous years. In fact I would argue the opposite, that LESS people are giving up their seats because the new arena is only 2 years away now.

        Just my observations.

        Even if your friend is right and many fans did give up their seats, Katz wont feel a thing because there are 2000+ people on the waiting list eager to get their hands on season seats.

        • Spydyr

          Just curious what your time slot was this year at the upgrade. Mine was 7 pm and I can tell you that there were way more tickets then previous years. Even before I got into the arena I talked to other fans from earlier time slots and they all said the same.

          My personal opinion is that quite a few seats were given up. Maybe a few hundred, I dunno? There was some pretty big blocks of tickets available. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t wide open but there was a noticeable difference then in previous years.

          I also asked if I could go from 4 tickets to five and was told not unless I was on the Registry list. Apparently there are 2,000+ people on the waiting list. Once people see that new arena going up in the fall that number will only grow. Somehow I don’t think Katz is too worried.

        • pkam

          Yes, I would agree. The problem is, once you give up your season tickets, good luck getting them back. It doesn’t seem right, but there are lots of people still itching for season tix.

          • Mo Playoffs Mo Problems

            That’s my point. You WONT get them back if you give them up unless you join the 2000+ person waiting list at a cost of $50 per year. And in 5 years when you finally DO get seats again, you are stuck with the worst seats in the house until you become senior enough to get into the seat upgrade on Day 1.

            Last year I went to 15 games and sold the rest. I made enough money that I went to the 10 games for free and broke even for the season. The demand is still there even with how bad this team is currently.

    • hallsyoilerforever5

      A new Rexall DJ would be nice as well. Can’t have a great atmosphere when Rexall DJ continues to play cotton eyed joe all the time. And please change the goal song. Pitbull? Really? Terrible.

      • Craig1981

        I would love a new DJ that plays music post 1999. If I was the DJ I would let it be like baseball and give ever player their own song (like they do in baseball)……and play “I’m the man, I’m the man” ever time Taylor Hall scores a goal!!

        …………..the song for Ryan Smyth’s farewell spotlight moment was just terrible.