Perhaps the Oilers Should Work With What They Know...

Here is what we know:

1) We have a hard time attracting UFA's to Edmonton -- plain and simple. You can give any reason you want -- weather, lack of hot spots for players to chill, the constant spotlight of fans and media... it doesn't change the fact, that until this team starts being a contender, most players will choose somewhere else to play.

2) The young kids and the older vets, seem to like it when they start out here and where they can be teachers. Smyth, Hemsky, Gagner, Cogliano, Strudwick, Horcoff... all have some nice things to say about the city.

3) There is no limit to the amount of money a team can spend to buy the best scouts in the NHL.

With that said, here is what I suggest...

Dump your players with value that have less than a 3yr contract and build through the draft. I say this for many reasons, but here are the key ingredients.

Edmonton fans will be Oiler fans if you do one maybe two things each year to improve your team. You don't have to do the blockbuster deal, you just need to give a glimmer of hope to those who badly want something to cheer for.

We know this team the way its built cannot win enough games to do anything but squeeze into the playoffs. Dany Heatley or no Dany Heatley, that doesn't change. The Oilers need to think long term. Heatley's contract won't benefit this team until it's almost complete, so really, what is the point?

If I were GM, I'd try to facilitate the following:

Players you keep:

Hemsky - I'd trade him if it weren't for his long term good money valued contract

O'Sullivan - This kid has potential and scoring ability we never saw when he came here from L.A. Put him with some talent and he'll start to make good.

Cogliano - I seriously think the Oilers should consider both he and O'Sullivan on that top line left wing. It's not been tried except for a couple games.

Gagner - He'll be our number one center no doubt

Gilbert- Better than people think and with a decent contract

Smid - Will be an excellent shut down dman and likely can be signed for 3 or 4 years right now at $1.5 mill or lessPeckham - He'll be a force when he matures

Eberle - Small, but will be a crafty scorer

Brule - I think this kid has more than people realize and will surprise us all

Stortini - He'll have breakout year this year, just wait. Look for 12 goals and tons of PM's.

Svennson - He'll be a scorer.

Pisani - Don't bother. He's got one year, can score a bit and kills penalties. Not much value around the league, but can help a team.

Grebeshkov - Assuming he signs for around $2 - $2.5 for 3 or more years. Not a stretch considering what UFA's went for this summer.

Khabibulin - He's a good goalie and may steal you a few games

Players you trade:

Souray: Has value. His shot is nice, but not enough. Signing Kotalik or a dman like Aucoin (too bad he went to Phoenix) would effectively replace what Souray brings you but for less money.

Visnovsky: I really like him, but he too probably has value. You might be able to get good young return for him in the form of 1st round picks or prospects to team making that final run.

Horcoff: Unlikely, thanks to his salary but if possible, do it.

Penner: Same as above, although he's young and could improve and we know that at least one team (Ottowa) has some interest. I actually gave some thought to keeping him as I think Penner will improve under new coaching.

Staois: Someone could probably use his shot blocking and leadership. Could get some decent low picks in return. If not, he resigns for so little money that he's a good locker room guy to keep later on.

Moreau: Same goes

Guys you go after in trades:

Kessel : he will be a cornerstone for a team and is only going to get better year after year. Can be had right now if you fit the right pieces for him and is versatile enough to play all forward positions. He's asking $5 million and that will be a steal later in his career. Mark it down that I said that.

Dustin Boyd: Will be a good player and goal scorer and Calgary can't afford him thanks to his requiring a bigger contract than the limited cap space they have due to the Bouwmeester signing.

Ryan Clowe: Man can he score on the power play. That alone makes him worth something and San Jose is willing to move him.

Alexander Frolov: 1 yr left, he can score 20 on his own every year. Probably easy to keep resigning on a 1 yr deal if need be. Brings some flash that Oiler fans want, an inexpensive goal scorer and a 1st or 2nd line option.

Once you've made those trades, you free up tons of cap space and fill it with players like Ruslan Fedotenko, Todd Burtuzzi, Radek Bonk, Todd Marchant, Robert Lang, Jason Williams, Mikael Samuelsson, and Manny Maholtra. Before you get all crazy on me, understand that I'm well aware that these players will not win you games on their own.

My reasoning is more that they don't cost much, have unique skills and they aren't likely big commodities on the free agency market so you keep things cheap, but steal some games to keep the fans somewhat happy. These players can be recycled while your draft picks pile up and mature. Fans stay interested even though have a competitive, but likely non-winning team.

The Oilers need to understand that the draft is the only way to improve this team with kids who both want to be here and are excited just to be in the NHL. They'll get better and better, working along side the rest of the roster is full of inexpensive leadership, grit and average to above average skill.

Get rid of those skilled players with value who can help a more competitive team. Trade them for prospects and good young players on teams cap strapped and understand that 3 yrs worth of good drafting and patience gives you a shot to do well for years to come.

Do that, and the Oilers won't have a problem attracting anyone. If you think I'm way out to left field, see the Chicago Blackhawks last 5 years for more information.


I absolutely agree - when the Oilers had their best years, it was through the draft. And, don't forget that we got some great high draft picks (like Nilsson and Dan Cleary) for little. Look what happens in Cleary's case when you give a skilled player time to develop -- and who is to say that Nilsson won't do that soon?

Go young - build a new "boys on the bus" (like we had in the old days). Bring in some of the older players - as you need them. I think that is the only way the system can work -- and the fans will adore the players and the team.

July 3, 2009 at 8:08 AM comment-delete

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