The Fourth Period reports that the Oilers are still in search of the elusive “top-scoring winger”. Some possibilities the article suggests are: Alex Tanguay, Vaclav Prospal, a Flyers forward (Daniel Briere, Simon Gagne, Scott Hartnell) and Brad Richards.
So on that note, who would make a good fit for the Oilers?
RW – Phil Kessel – Boston Bruins (RFA) – Age 21 – Shoots Right
Assets: Owns electric skating ability and a howitzer of a shot. Can line up at all three forward positions. Is an exceptional dangler.
Flaws: Needs to work on his play without the puck. May not have enough face-off or defensive ability to line up at center in the NHL. Lacks ideal size.
Potential: First line forward.
08/09 Stats: 70GP, 36G, 24A, 60PTS, +23, 16PIM
My Take: The Fourth Period has rumored Kessel as being shopped by the Bruins as contract negotiations aren’t going as planned. He’s said to be asking for $5M/year. That is pretty steep for such an inexperienced player, however, Kessel could potentially be one of the best American-born players for years to come. Comparisons have been drawn between him and Mike Modano. He’s not the big body this team needs, but he certainly has the goal-scoring potential, having scored 36 last year. The Boston Globe reports that Kessel could miss part of the 09/10 season though, as he is recovering from shoulder surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and labrum. He may not return to action until November or December.
RW – Nikolai Zherdev – New York Rangers (1-year @ $3.9M cap hit) – Age 24 – Shoots Right
Assets: Skates with explosive strides and is one of the best one-on-one players in hockey. Can do anything he wants with the puck and oozes offense.
Flaws: Needs a lot of work in defensive-zone coverage. Takes too many shifts off. Must become more dedicated to the NHL game.
Potential: First line winger.
08/09 Stats: 82GP, 23G, 35A, 58PTS, +6, 39PIM
My Take: The New York Newsday lists Edmonton as a possible destination for Zherdev via trade. He’s a right winger, but is a right handed shot, which might mean he could play the other side, with Hemsky. He’s got great playmaking skills, and is not afraid to shoot the puck. At 6’2, he would be one of our bigger top-six players. However, while his size would be considered large on the Oilers, he isn’t much of a physical player. His heart and work ethic have also been questioned.
LW/C – Vaclav Prospal – Tampa Bay Lighting (UFA) – Age 34 – Shoots Left
Assets: Sees the ice well and gets the puck to an open man effectively. Plays intense hockey and doesn’t back down from challenges. Can play left wing or center.
Flaws: Has lacked consistency over the years. At times, his instigating qualities can be detrimental to his team. He’s also a below-average skater.
Potential: Top six forward.
08/09 Stats: 82GP, 19G, 26A, 45PTS, -20, 52PIM
My Take: The Tampa Bay Lightning recently bought out Prospal. It stands to reason that the team he signs with will get a bargain, with Prospal already prospering (bad pun intended) from the buy-out money he received from Tampa Bay ($3.5M times 3-years). I would think that at most, he should cost a team $2M/year. Hemsky’s countryman might be worth the Oilers taking a risk on. He could fit in well on Pat Quinn’s team, as he is known to favor his veteran players. However, it’s hard to see this signing as a good thing long term if it means making room for him by pushing one of the young kids out of the top six. If he’s still around come training camp, he might be a good player to send an invite out to.
LW – Simon Gagne – Philadelphia Flyers (2-years @ $5.25M cap hit) – Age 29 – Shoots Left
Assets: Is an exceptional skater. Sees the ice well and loves to use his imagination. Has solid defensive instincts and versatility.
Flaws: Could use a few more pounds in order to do a better job in the corners. Concussion issues are a concern going forward.
Potential: Top six winger.
08/09 Stats: 79GP, 34G, 40A, 74PTS, +21, 42PIM
My Take: Rumors have been circulating in the off-season of Gagne’s availability. The Flyers are close to the salary cap. I don’t feel that the Flyers need to give up someone such as Gagne to keep below the cap (not to mention, he does have a no-trade clause), however we will humor this idea since: a) it’s been rumored by several sources since the end of the season, and b) it’s fun. Simon Gagne would make a great fit on the team’s top line. Twice in his career Gagne has broken the 40-goal mark. The star winger missed much of the 2007/08 season due to concussion issues, and this may be a concern for any team looking to acquire him. His drop off in goals in 2008/09 may be a result of concussion issues. However, with 34 goals last year, he would be no slouch in an Oilers uniform.
LW – Scott Hartnell – Philadelphia Flyers (4-years @ $4.2M cap hit) – Age 27 – Shoots Left
Assets: Has improving offensive instincts and upside. Plays with tremendous poise and defensive makeup. Is versatile enough to play any forward position. Loves to crash and bang.
Flaws: Must stay healthy in order to enjoy a lengthy career. Has already experienced concussion problems, which could be a factor down the road.
Potential: Power forward.
08/09 Stats: 82GP, 30G, 30A, 60PTS, +14, 143PIM
My Take: Hartnell is the big body this team needs. He’s a guy that really likes to make use of that size, as well. He also does have some goal scoring ability, having scored 30 goals last year. I don’t see him as a top line player on this team though, but he could make a great 2nd or 3rd liner (if our 3rd liner shows more of an offensive-bias). Like Gagne, he has a no-trade clause that he would need to waive in order to be traded here. His contract might be a bit on the high side for a guy who has only broken 30 goals once.
Alex Tanguay – he is an available option, however I don’t consider him a very viable option for a couple of reasons: he is more biased towards playmaker than shooter and he is not very strong on the puck.
Daniel Briere – much like Tanguay, I don’t consider him a viable option for the Oilers due to his size. He’s a very small player and as such has some injury issues. His contract also isn’t going to do him any favors with the concern that he won’t put in a full season each year. He also has a no-trade clause.
As much as I hate to say it, and while the Fourth Period does say the Oilers are interested in landing a scoring winger, I see Tambellini standing pat the rest of this off-season, aside from re-signing the few unsigned players on this team. I would also like to see Dustin Penner get another shot at #1 LW. He has proven chemistry with both Horcoff and Hemsky, and the three of these guys do seem to suffer offensively without each other. Penner has the size this team needs (even if he doesn’t always use it) and is a big body presence on the powerplay.
In a recent phone conference, Tambellini also indicated that the Oilers wouldn’t be very active from this point forward. It’s proven difficult to move our over-priced assets in the cap world, and in order to sign any free agents, Tambellini is going to have to free up some cap space. Really, it’s likely that what we see now is what we’re going to see when the season starts.
Having said that, I would love to see the Oilers make a move for Kessel or Gagne (assuming he’d waive his NTC to come here) if the trade possibility is there. While neither are big players physically, they’d still be great additions to the team for their goal scoring abilities. Gagne would likely come at a higher cost though given his proven track record. He would be worth sacrificing one of our skilled forwards for, however.
It might not be a bad idea to consider some of these names for the 2nd line (such as Prospal, if he comes cheap). Kessel would also look great with Gagner and O’Sullivan or Cogliano.
Again though, don’t be surprised if the team doesn’t make any radical changes during the off-season.