OK, really, today wasn’t THAT good. It was good though, and I was surprised how much the Edmonton Oilers got done in a single day. This is the same crew of people that snailed their way through last off-season and did much to improve the farm team, but very little to improve the big club with Colin Fraser, Jim Vandermeer and Kurtis Foster being the “big” additions.
So, let’s summarize:
Kurtis Foster… a defenseman that really didn’t do much for this team, unfortunately. A big time underachiever, Foster provided next to no offense (8G, 14A) and was a defensive nightmare (see David Staples posts on Neilsen numbers for some good support of that). Foster was involved in a trade with the Ducks today that saw us getting Andy Sutton in return.
Colin Fraser… the forward version of Kurtis Foster, he provided next to no offense (3G, 2A), wasn’t at all the defensive talent we thought he’d be, and was poor on the dot. Fraser was moved in the trade for Ryan Smyth
Jim Vandermeer… I started to warm up to him about 20 games in, and if we didn’t acquire some toughness on the blue, I’d probably be sad to see him go. I didn’t like that he “floated” the first part of the season, but I really loved that he finally showed some give a damn around January or so. Dandy Vandy signed with the Sharks.
JF Jacques… I was probably his lone supporter… probably moreso than his own family. But even I know that his days were numbered here, given that he had big injuries issues and provides little else than toughness. Jacques is currently a UFA.
Zack Stortini… Stortini lost all favor with the coach after some poor fight results. I didn’t like how Oilers fans dumped on him when Renney lost faith in him. I think he’s a character guy that, while is a borderline NHLer in most aspects, didn’t deserve much of the fan abuse he receives. Hopefully he is picked up by a team out there… preferably out east, so we don’t have to deal with his yapping . He will be missed in the community, however. Stortini is currently a UFA.
Steve MacIntyre… he hasn’t been moved yet, like Stortini and Jacques, however you can pretty much guarantee that he will be gone with Ben Eager and Darcy Hordichuk here now. There is a small chance the Oilers try and sign him and squeak him down into their farm system, but that is doubtful. Some team looking for a big tough guy will pick him up for cheap.
Jason Strudwick… he is also currently a UFA. I think we can all agree that as a defenseman, he was pretty awful… a 7th d-man at best. He’s a funny guy, and a good guy to bridge gap between veterans and rookies. Rumor has it that he may retire and sign on in a coaching role.
Ryan Smith… acquired in a trade that involved a 7th round pick and Colin Fraser going to the Kings. This was a great deal for the Oilers that made fans here extremely happy. Ryan Smyth brings the grit and leadership that this team really needs. Expect to see him re-united with Hemsky. Smyth is signed for 1-year with a cap hit of $6.25M.
Ben Eager… big.. tough. This guy is a true enforcer in the sense that he won’t be polite and offer you to dance. Look for him to protect the young players. However, it should be known that he will rack up his share of bad penalties. Eager was signed to a 3-year deal with a $1.1M cap hit.
Darcy Hordichuk… Hordichuk’s biggest downfall is that he has been quite prone to injuries due to his high-tempo crash and bang style. Expect a J.F. Jacques like game out of him… high energy, but really weak on the offense. He can also be a penalty machine, like Ben Eager. However, on the plus side, this guy will stand up for teammates in the truest of sense. In fact, he’s already talked about how excited he is to do that for the young kids here. He’s also very known for being a very active member in the community, like many of the tough guy’s in the league. Hordichuck was signed to a 1-year deal at $825,000.
Andy Sutton… so we traded a guy that brings limited physicality, piss-poor defense, and underachieving offense for a huge monster, physical d-man that can play a decent defensive game? Well, consider me happy. But to be clear, he’s older at 36, and with his big size, he will have trouble with the quick players. I don’t expect TOO much out of him, but I think taking a poor asset in Foster and turning it into a usable piece is a great piece of work by Tambellini. Kurtis Foster is a reclamation project though, so the Ducks might be thinking they got the better of the deal here too. Sutton is a 35+ contract, with 1-year left on it at $2.125M.
Eric Belanger… for 3 years we won’t have to worry about faceoffs. This is long overdue. He’s a guy that can play in all situations too – evens, powerplay and penalty kill. Great signing here. I thought the price and term were a bit high for a team that should be looking to bring in Vande Velde and/or Tyler Pitlick and/or Anton Lander though.. so we’ll see what happens in the long run. Belanger is signed for 3-years at a cap hit of $1.75M.
Cam Barker… he has potential to be a very good pick up for us, and potential to be another Kurtis Foster failure. Time will tell here, but he is a more well rounded player, and I think it’s more likely that we see the good side of Barker. He’ll buy some time for the development of Jeff Petry and Martin Marincin, amongst others. Cam Barker is on a 1-year, $2.25M deal.
You could include MacIntyre, JFJ, Strudwick and Storini here, but let’s face it… they’re gone.
Andrew Cogliano… where does he fit in the equation now? Rumor has it that he doesn’t, and is being shopped (and this rumor monger has been gold all week). I think this is the best idea. I think we’ll likely get about 60 cents on the dollar here if we are lucky.
Gilbert Brule… the Oilers already attempted to stuff him in a deal and failed. I think it’s obvious that his days are numbered here. However, with him being injured, it’s going to be tough to move him. I’d guess that once he’s fully healthy, they’ll place him on waivers, and perhaps attempt to bury him in the minors if there are no takers. Tough break for Gilbert.
Nikolai Khabibulin… believe it or not, the Oilers have been working quite hard this off-season to acquire a goalie. They have looked at Europeans, and they have been rumored to be talking to big free agent goaltender Tomas Voukon. It would take a miracle to be rid of Khabibulin’s salary / cap hit, so I’m not sure what they have planned there. My only guess is that they are going to bite the bullet and buy him out. This saves them a little salary, but the cap hit will still stick with the team for the remaining 2 years he is here.
WHAT’S LEFT TO DO?
Sign Peckham. Find a new home for Cogliano and Khabibulin, and find a new goaltender for the team. All things considered, that’s a VERY short list for a team that finished 30th place last year and the year before it. I say it every year, but I’m really excited about this coming season. I think the pieces Tambellini acquired and moved out in the last week or so have significantly changed the face of this team. Some much better luck from the hockey gods (read: less injuries) and this team could be several rungs higher on the standings ladder at the end of the season.
Here’s how I see the lineup next year:
Hall Horcoff Eberle
Smyth Gagner Hemsky
Paajarvi Lander/VV/RNH Omark
Hartikainen/Hordichuk/Eager Belanger Jones
Our defensive pairings aren’t easy to conjure up. I’m not really sure who will work best with whom. I think Peckham and Gilbert are a good match. However, I can’t figure out who really would play top line pairing with Whitney and be suitable there. MAYBE Barker. But I’m not too certain about that, and since he shoots left, it might not be a spot he can slot into. We’ll see.
Petry should be one of the first defensive call ups. He’d be the only D besides Gilbert that plays the right side naturally.
A decision still needs to be made who will play center with Paajarvi and Omark. Belanger might move up into the top 9, in which case we’ll be trying to fit a rookie into the 4th line.