A new article from ESPN’s Craig Custance (subscription required) is an insightful look into the thinking of potential free agents this summer. Oiler fans well know the difficulty in getting free agents to sign, and even those who do sign get a premium and some other nice things (free bag of nuts on the plane, jumbo fries on bus trips, I mean they go all out) thrown in. Custance does a great job of identifying the real problem for a team like Edmonton, and it isn’t the weather.

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There should be no surprise here, Edmonton and Winnipeg are teams that have no tradition of winning (one is an expansion team, the other has been acting like one). Why would a player, having finally reached free agency, sign a long-term deal with a losing organization in the hinterland?


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If you are a free-agent winger, say Lee Stempniak, and you’re watching Patrick Maroon play with Edmonton these days, does it cross your mind? No idea if the Oilers are interested in signing Stempniak (he is 33), but you get the idea. A winger who could spend some time with McDavid, evens and on the power play? That is a very attractive spot in the batting order.


A few winning seasons and signing free agents should be much easier. Steven Stamkos mentioned last summer that he was impressed with Connor McDavid:

  • Stamkos: “This guy is a special kid. I think he’s better than me right now. I wouldn’t have a
    second thought on saying that.”
  • Source


Pretty sure, yeah. Now, I am not saying Stamkos is a lock for Edmonton, and I can see him heading to a contender (Detroit?) more than signing in Toronto or Edmonton, but the fact remains things are going to change in Edmonton.

A few years ago, I interviewed Mark Napier on the Lowdown. I asked him about playing in Edmonton. He told me that coming from Minnesota, after being dealt there by the Montreal Canadiens, was like a breath of fresh air. He felt isolated from the highest level of competition in Minnesota (who were not a strong team at the time), and he told me within days of arrival he informed his agent to make a deal with the Oilers if they had an interest in bringing him back for the following year. Napier won his second Stanley Cup ring with the Oilers in 1985. Source

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The Oilers don’t perform well in the latest survey, but it will be interesting to see where they land when Connor McDavid is 21, or 23, or 25. I believe the times they are a changin’. We wait.