Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Edmonton Oilers - 2009 Off-Season

I started writing this post a few months ago (end of March or so) and updated to today JUST SHORT of the whole Heatley 'thing'. We know changes are coming so take this post for what it is worth.

Funny thing though - anyone but me notice that NONE of Moreau, Staios or Pisani was involved in that trade?

In some ways this team is quite predictable.

Immediate Notes

The chart shows that Edmonton has, in 2009/10, ~ $45.89 mill of next years Cap space allocated to 11 forwards, 4 defensemen and 1 goalie. This leaves 3 forwards, 3 defensemen and 1 goalie to be signed.

The 2009/10 Cap has been set at $56.80; the difference being ~ $10.91 mill.

The RFA's

Brule, Reddox, Grebeshkov and Smid

Brodziak, ostensibly, was moved to make space on the roster. Brule is one of the guys who should benefit from that. Given that he couldn't even dominate the AHL I think he should, and does, get a paycut - a 2 year deal in the mill-a-year club would be more than enough.

Without MacT to champion his cause, Reddox is on the bubble. Depending on his remaining waiver eligibility we will be looking at a Roy-type deal where the second year is one-way (~ $650k).

Grebeshkov got the contract he wanted last year (the one I feared) and will get a big raise now. With any luck he is okay with getting less than what Gilbert did but I still don't see a smart agent letting him sign long-term. All signs point to a 3 year deal for $3.5+ million.

Smid is turning into a decent #5 and looks to have #4 upside. If Burrows is willing to sign for 4 years and $8 million there is no reason why Lowe can't try to get Smid into the same kind of deal - maybe even longer. I expect, however, a shorter deal and $1.65 million a year for two years sounds about right.

As with last year, one of the keys for Tambellini will be to keep inflationary effects out of the contracts he signs the players to. For example, a contract for Smid at 1.65 / 1.65 is much better for the Oilers than one at 1.30 / 2.00.

The UFA's

Kotalik, Strudwick and Roloson

Kotalik is a situation player. I'm not sold on him and neither are the Oilers (as they never made an offer apparently) but I expect he gets proffered a contract somewhere. While I do think that Kotalik is a useful player and would have signed him if he was willing to take a paycut (say $2.0 million) he isn't THAT important a player that he can't be replaced fairly easily*.

As it stands I will put a low-level replacement salary in that spot for now.

* However, if Souray is traded then the team would be well-advised to get a big shooter for the powerplay... oh... wait

I like Strudwick (more as a 4th line winger than a 7th defenseman though) but with Tambellini running the show now it isn't a sure thing as to whether or not he gets picked up again. If so, I have him down for another year at the same rate as before.

Roloson probably earned himself an extra contract. Won't be for what he made before however. Sounds like Edmonton has offered something in the $3.0 million range so I will go with that - this franchise has a history of rewarding its veterans.

Cap Flex and Maneuvers

Add it all up and the Oilers sit at ~ $56.84 million in Cap salary next year. The team is over the Cap by some $40k (way to save that 10%).

In terms of Cap flex, as with prior year, I don't see a lot. The easiest thing to do is drop a player or two into the minors and do the old up-n-down trick until waivers become an issue. That should take care of a $1 million or so and allow the team to make Cap.

More probable is that some combination of Penner, Pouliot and Nilsson is traded and the salaries coming back are low enough to allow the team to slide just under the Cap.

Apparently we are an option for Bouwmeester [Editor's Note: Not anymore apparently]? That'll be interesting.

Finally, don't expect to see any of the veteran core of Staios, Moreau and Pisani get traded. I think at least one should go but I don't see it happening. Loyalty trumps all in Oilerville.

For The Defense

With Grebs new contract incoming the defensive core is getting a bit pricey. This is okay if the names are spelled P-r-o-n-g-e-r and N-e-i-d-e-r-m-a-y-e-r or L-i-d-s-t-r-o-m and A-n-y-o-n-e-h-e-p-l-a-y-s-w-i-t-h but that is not the case here. Visnovsky and Souray are both injury prone and neither is elite level so at some point the law of diminishing returns will kick in.

Best case scenario for a Souray trade has San Jose getting booted early** and them being interested in a Souray-type to give them a better bomb option on the powerplay (they already have the puck-movers and passers). I wouldn't expect a miraculous return but moving the Cap hit is the main objective regardless.

** Really, I did write that before the play-offs, now if only I had mentioned how Souray would be willing to do to be closer to his family. At least then I would have been right.

Moving Visnovsky presents some of the same problems (big salary, aging player, injury filled past) as moving Souray but moving either of them is preferable to moving Gilbert imo (FTR, I would hate to drop Visnovsky from this defense core).

That leaves Staios and Smid. Staios is the obvious option and I remain in favor of trading him. Fat chance of that. Smid is, to me, the next Scuderi***. As long as he remains cheap why, excepting in a clear upgrade for an on-ice player, move him?

*** To whit, a long time ago I said that one should scout Pittsburgh to see who was the guy to target - Scuderi or Melichar. The reasoning being that both were starting to show decent results and it is always a good thing to get players who other teams have spent time and money molding them into useful players.

Going Forward

The forward group needs to be blown up real good. Or given a hug. Just too many players need to be hidden for this to form a cohesive group.

Horcoff, Hemsky, Gagner and Stortini are about it on my list of untouchables while O'Sullivan and Cogliano populate the list of mostly useful and probably keepable.

Note, if Cogliano doesn't have markedly improved face-off numbers next year he either moves to the wing or gets moved.

Moreau and Pisani are probably overpaid for what they deliver but at least, when playing the minutes and position God made them for, they do deliver the goods. Reddox is cut from their mold but it is hard to say whether or not he makes the grade on a non-MacT team.

Penner's asset value has never been lower but with a new coach coming in it is hard to say whether or not he gets moved. I have been one of those who have always thought Penner was a great building block towards a Kovalchuk type deal but after MacT threw him under the bus (multiple times) there is nothing there left to trade.

Right now the better move is to keep him.

Nilsson is inconsistent yet too far down the veterans road to think bright lights await while Pouliot, apparently has decide whether or not he should be a goalie.

Think about all of those players for a second.

Of those listed I see only three that don't require sheltering or special treatment (Horcoff, Hemsky and O'Sullivan), one that is on the cusp (Gagner) and four that are good at what they do (Moreau, Pisani and Stortini). The last group of names belong to players who are 3rd or 4th line guys (at best) and of the rest only one (Hemsky) could qualify as having elite level skill.

Quite a few spots to fill and most of what is filling those spots is questionable (to some degree). And small. Can't ever forget how small this team is.

Except for doughnut boy anyways.

Some of those pieces have to be blowed up. My guess would be that it will start with Pouliot and Nilsson. Penner is an outside shot but again - for what? That said, Tambellini will never be safer than now in trading Penner so you never know.

Going Back

Goaltending remains an issue. Fernandez is out there but once that name gets dropped then real money is on the table. Tyler likes the idea of a Harding offer sheet and I can't say that I'm opposed. I have a feeling we are looking at a higher number than proffered however.

Hard to believe that the Oilers are now wandering the goalie barrenlands on full-time basis. All this time I had hoped we were only visiting.


Last year I said a lot of good, smart decisions needed to be made to lock in the gains made 2007-08. So much for that.

Yes, MacT misplayed what had been mismanaged and so he, quite rightly, took the fall... I learned a lot from watching Lowe operate the last few years.

I like how Hemsky started to speak up, I like how Gagner grew his game, I like how Peckham emerged I liked how Smid showed some jam more often than not and I like that the team is now, possibly undisputably, Tambellini's.


Overpriced contracts remain a huge issue and how Tambellini resolves that issue is the big ?. He has more flex than many give him credit for but wholesale change will remain difficult.

New coach has his work cut out for him.

Here's hoping.


Have a great evening everyone.


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