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.


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Well What Now? The Dany Heatley Debacle...

Well, as we were on the air last night, the self imposed deadline from the Ottawa Senators to move Dany Heatley had passed with no action. No change in offer from the Edmonton Oilers, no new teams placing a bid for the scoring left winger and no response from Dany Heatley other than he was not yet ready to make a decision.

Speculation is wide ranging that this lack of action could be due to a number of factors. Is it true that Dany Heatley believes Ottawa could have done more to facilitate a trade to other teams; or at least presented other possible options? We'll never really know. Is it that Dany Heatley is having a change of thought and thinking Ottawa is perhaps a better option than Edmonton? Unless Heatley says so, we'll never know. Is it true that Heatley is so upset that he simply wanted to stick Ottawa with the $4 million bonus and then make his decision? I suppose, but now it may not really matter.

Ottawa sports reporters are now translating statements from Bryan Murray - GM of the Senators -- that while the trade offer from the Oilers hasn't been pulled it will have to change for a trade to take place now that they're on the hook for the $4 million that was transfered to Heatley last night at midnight eastern time. But not so fast...

Word is now, that the NHL would not stand in the way, should the Senators choose to file a grievance if the team who eventually receives Heatley as part of a trade offer to pony up the money. If this is true, the scenario that Heatley was trying to force his current but likely former team to pay his bonus doesn't make a lot of sense. For now, it leaves Oiler fans knowing that Heatley probably just isn't that interested in becoming an Edmonton Oiler.

So what now?

Unless something was said at the meeting in Kelowna last night between Heatley, his agents and the Oilers management that we all don't know about yet; the Oilers have two options. Sit around and wait for a decision or make other moves to try and secure their need for a top 3 left winger.

I'm of the latter. While we don't really know what has been said between the parties involved, this situation and the longer it drags out makes the Oilers look desperate. I can only compare it to a guy whose told his ideal dream girl he loves her enough times that she finally says she loves him back, knowing full well she doesn't mean it; and in fact, probably has another guy on the side that together are just stringing along the poor schmuck until its a suitable time to dump old news. In this case, the Oilers are old news, but only they don't know it being blinded by their love of this ideal dream girl.

There are plenty of options available to this team and it's time they start taking action. Perhaps the following could be suitable:

Trading Souray to LA for Jack Johnson and Alexander Frolov - Souray has value, Jack Johnson's has dropped and Frolov has one year left in LA who won't be making a push this year and is on their list of expendables.

Frolov is a first line LW with more than 20 goals per year since 2005 a relatively healthy games playing record and decent cap hit at $2.9 million per season. This also gives us the chance to sign a faceoff center like a Many Maholtra who can play rugged two way hockey.


Trade a few a combination of players to the Flyers for Simon Gagne. LW winger who can score goals and may be able to be picked up for less than his value due to the need from the Flyers to shed cap space.

The same can be said for Phil Kessel who is an RFA with Boston and obviously being shopped with rumours he was available at the draft.

There are options. UFA's may not be one of them with our inability to move salary to fit a player in, but that said there are teams in a crunch salary wise with players who do not have no movement clauses and might find Edmonton a willing home.


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The Oilers Have Their #1

Nikolai Khabibulin has come to terms with the Edmonton Oilers. The specifics will pay the veteran netminder in the neighbourhood of $3.75 million over 4 years.

A serious pay cut over his previous salary, Khabibulin creates a workable environment to help move along younger netminder Jeff Deslauriers, which was an important factor for the Oilers moving forward, but also secures the Oilers need for a #1 netminder with the departure of Dwayne Roloson.

At 36 years old, this puts him at a slightly younger age at the end of his contract than Roloson would be and perhaps creates somewhat of an concern that should he retire the Oilers are responsible for his cap hit and contract; but he brings a lot more as a starter with a proven track record and a Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay which was important to Edmonton.

With the goaltending situation taken care of now, the focus likely shifts back to Dany Heatley, with a little buzz going that the Oilers are a leading contender to land Chris Neil from Ottowa.


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Roli Rolls On To NYI

It has been confirmed by TSN that Dwayne Roloson has signed in NYI and joins the revamped team to share the duties with Rick Dipietro. 2yrs @ $2.5 million per season are the terms.

This now leaves the Edmonton Oilers without a number 1 goaltender and focus shifts away from Heatley and to landing a netminder.

This is a good news bad news situation.

The good news, is that the only teams that were really in the market for a goaltender in Colorado, St. Louis and NYI now have their goalies in place, which leaves tenders like Biron, Clemmensen, Khabibulin, through free agency or Harding and perhaps Lethonen through trade.

The bad news is that this could possibly be considered another black eye for the city. Roloson who says he holds no ill feelings towards the Oilers said it was simply an issue of the extra year. Why can't Edmonton do what it needs to do to attract players and no keep players who would like to stay in the city.

The day is looking to start as many other July 1st days seem to for the Oilers. Lots of hope, but nothing on the horizon.


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How Do We Approach NHL Free Agency?

As of 9:10 am and the start of this article, while an offer is still on the table; no word has come from Dany Heatley, his agents or the Edmonton Oilers on the status of whether or not Heatley is willing to waive his no movement clause to come to the Edmonton Oilers.

With free agency set to kick off in less than an hour, the question becomes what do you do if you are the Edmonton Oilers? If you recall the Michael Nylander mess, the Oilers felt as though their lack of ability to react with the proper information hurt their ability that year to be more active in the UFA and trade market. Sure, the inability to sign Nylander worked out better than anyone could have expected, but do the Oilers really want to take that chance again?

As long as Steve Tambellini and the Edmonton Oilers have to sit out of the negotiations with 29 other teams starting a 12 noon eastern time; they run the risk that other forwards they may be interested in -- namely Marian Hossa or Marian Gaborik make decisions and not wait for the Oilers to sort out their Heatley related issues.

With that in mind, is it business as usual? Can the Oilers move on holes they need to fill like a starting goaltender? It is the feeling of this writer, that the only logical way to do so is to contact the Ottowa Senators and pull their offer indicating their need to address other issues while Heatley takes his sweet time.

With trades involving Souray rumoured, or decisions on where to go with the goaltending, an understanding by GM Tambellini of the situation the Oilers find themselves in relative to the cap is critical. How can we offer money to UFA's if we don't know where we sit? With Heately here, the cap goes up almost $2 million for an Oilers team already lacking the cap space and financial freedom.

Even worse, knowing the Oilers have some serious holes in their line up, how do they fill those holes if they have no idea who is or is not on the roster?

This situation is far from solved as long as the Oilers choose to keep control in the hands of Dany Heatley. Perhaps they'll be better off knowing that he is not an Edmonton Oiler and conducting business as usual on the basis they have not filled their need for a top line LW scorer. Should he make a gesture towards wanting to come to Edmonton, the Oilers may be able to reshape the deal to their benefit.


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What A Heated Situation

First we have him, then we don't. What has come out officially now is that Dany Heatley was told about the possible trade but that this trade was never actually official, nor had it received his stamp of approval -- at least not yet.

When the trade was presented to Heatley's camp (as is required thanks to his no movement clause), his response was the he "wanted to sleep on it", a statement backed-up by Heatley's agent J.P. Barry.

So where does this leave all the parties involved?
As was reported by almost all news sources involved, the specifics of the trade involved Dany Heatley coming from Ottowa and Andrew Cogliano, Ladislav Smid and Dustin Penner from the Oilers.

As of now, we understand Heatley has all the control. It is his decision to make and that he has until at least midnight on Wednesday to make it. He may be deciding on spending his last 4 years in Edmonton or hoping another team presents a better offer. For all we know, Heatley could wake up, put his bunny slippers on, read the paper, drink his Sunny D and make a call to the Senators saying a) I've changed my mind and I'll stick around in Ottowa or b) I'll be ready to move, go ahead and sign me up.

But what about the current Oilers who were involved in what has turned out to be a bigger cluster poop than the Chris Pronger, Michael Nylander and Marian Hossa false hopes combined?

Bob Stauffer, a reporter and color analyst for the Edmonton Oilers has reported from his conversations with the players and their agents, that despite the mess, things are not being seen as the end of the world as far as the players are concerned. This can be nothing but good news for the fans and Oilers management who despite wanting to make the best business move for the team, must feel terrible in the way this all became public so quickly.

As Stauffer seemed to suggest, a player who often gets a bum rap in Edmonton - and we can all logically assume is Dustin Penner, has told Stauffer that "business is business". "I'll either play in Edmonton or not, but I'll be happy to play and I'll play hard".

Similar confirmation has come down that Smid's agent, while confirming that the Oilers had not jumped the gun and informed him that Smid had been traded nor had any contact with Smid himself, admitted the player "hears things", but understands.

In short, from all accounts, the players are more than understanding and hold no hard feelings. Sure, in this day and age it is safe to assume that all players involved were well aware of what unfolded, but seem to understand that if they are Oilers on July 2nd or Senators, they'll be playing professional hockey as best they can.

What do you think? Knowing that we really know very little about what is truly happening here, would you rather keep your current players that were involved in this possible trade, or still hope that Heatley says yes?

Or, would you go into free agency tomorrow thinking the Heatley trade is no longer an option and the Oilers look at something like Hossa or Gaborik? To me, the risk becomes another season of shooting for the big ticket, but landing only a speeding ticket and missing out yet again.

If there is no answer by 8am Edmonton time from the Heatley camp, I truly believe Tambellini needs to make a public statement that his trade offer stands only until the start of free agency. Any lack of Heatley or Ottowa to confirm or shoot down the trade, means it's not a viable options and the Edmonton Oilers will look at alternate arrangements. It might be nice to turn this back, at least a little towards the other side and let them feel a bit of pressure.

Should they not, is it reasonable to think the free agents will wait for the Edmonton Oilers to sort out their issues? Likely not and players will continue on with business as usual knowing only 29 teams and not 30 might be in the market. Waiting for Dany Heatley decision could be costly, especially if that decision is no.


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Quick Hockey News and Rumours Update June 30, 2009

Dwayne Roloson has not made any decisions on the 1yr $3 million dollar offer from the Edmonton Oilers and may wait until July 1st to see if any multi-year offers exist from other teams before making his decision. Rumour had it that Roloson might have been offered a 2yr deal in Detroit for significantly less money, but as a back-up to Chris Osgood; which may not be the highest priority for the 39 year old netminder. Tambellini has been said to have spoken to both Chicago and Minnesota about trades involving Huet and Harding as a back-up to Roloson signing somewhere other than Edmonton. Expect the goaltending issue to be the first thing to Oilers settle on the July 1st.

Sources say that Lecavalier was inches away from a trade over the draft weekend that would have made the soon to be 11yr contracted centre a Montreal Canadien. Both GM Brian Lawton and Oren Koules had ok'd the trade only to have it turned away last minute by Len Barrie -- co-owner of the Lightning -- who wants to keep the superstar in Tampa.

While interest is still out there for Lecavalier, it doesn't look as though this trade will happen in before noon on July 1st, when Vinnie's no movement clause and new contract kicks in.

The Sedin's have been given what many consider to be a final offer from Mike Gillis, GM of the Canucks in Sweden today. While it does not match the terms the Sedins had set, both twins are mulling over the offer and will decide by early tomorrow whether or not to test the free agency market. Should Henirk and Daniel decide to move on, word is that Gillis already has his eye on a couple big name tickets come noon on the 1st.

Komisarek has decided and told the Habs that he will be waiting until offers roll in from other teams on where he will be playing hockey next season. While he respects the Montreal offer and would like to stay; he is interested to see what kind of value is out there for a defenseman of his caliber.

An offer from the Calgary Flames has been tabled to Jay Bouwmeester that would allow the current core of d-men in Calgary to remains Flames. It is estimated at about 6.25 million per season, but no word on the length of term. Some are suggesting as many as a six year deal.

Marian Hossa may be all but complete and announced as returning to Detroit for a long term contract that will pay somewhere in the $5.5-$6 million per season range. That is a considerable pay cut to what he'd receive on the open market, but it's well known that Hossa would like to stay in Detroit and is seriously considering the pay cut to do so.

Havlat may be staying in Chicago, but only on a 1yr terms. The Blackhawks want to keep their options open when both Kane and Towes becomes RFA's and are willing to give the big bucks to Havlat now but only for 1yr, while they have the cap space to do so. LA and Vancouver are rumoured to have shown interest in Havlat on longer terms, but the forward would liket to stay in Chicago.

More to come as we hear more...


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Does Money Motivate Athletes? I Don’t Think So! by "The Prof"

Although I am talking about hockey here, I want to use two other Edmonton-based sports teams to make the point my point. I think the high salaries in hockey are creating a situation where hockey, as a sport, is suffering. Frankly, I don’t think we have a clue about what is best for hockey and, I believe, we will eventually pay for it.

Money does not motivate athletes in positive ways, and while our acceptance of high salaries in hockey might be good for some players in the short term, it is NOT good for the game or for the fans.

First, let me start with basketball. I would encourage all Edmonton sports fans to attend the International Basketball League’s Edmonton Energy games next year. The games are great, and I was struck by (1) the talent level of the players and (2) how hard athletes on both teams competed to win. At the game, I had a chance to meet and talk with one of the Energy’s owners, and he told me that these players made all of $110 Canadian each game. These players play for a number of different reasons, but money isn’t one of them.

Second, although I love the Oilers, I have to admit that my favorite Edmonton team is the Eskimos. I love the way these guys play for themselves and for each other – and all but a few are making less than $100,000 a year. They also are playing for a number of reasons, but money is NOT one of them.

I got to thinking about this when I saw the recent picture of Sheldon Souray and read the rumors about his being trade bait at the recent hockey draft. I wondered how it must make Sheldon Souray feel to be considered expendable. What if your girl friend, or father, or coach, or anyone you loved thought you were really NOT that important? I know how I would feel. Then, I wondered how motivated I would be to bust my butt for the team that so easily thought I was less important than some yet unknown draftee. I am a person after all, as is Sheldon Souray or Kyle Brodziak or Ryan Smyth.

My nickname for this blog is “The Prof,” and in truth I really am a university professor. My recent research has been on what makes good teams work well together and what also motivates people to work hard.

In the work teams I have recently talked with, one thing that comes out over and over again is that good teams care for each other and take care of each other – many times they use the phrase “we are a family.”

In 1979, “We Are Family” was a hit song by Sister Sledge and became the theme song for the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates who won baseball’s World Series that year. They really were a family. I loved the movie “The Replacements” where a bunch of guys replaced on-strike professional football players and made it into the playoffs. We love the theme of family in sports. It is highly motivating.

One thing we know about families is that they stick together.

Families would not find their sons or brothers or mother expendable.

Sadly, when money becomes the big motivator for athletes – and not team, community, or each other – we all suffer. How often have we heard “He (fill in the blank) will have a good year this year, because he is going to be a free agent next year?” In other words, we accept that players are NOT giving their all until they are up for a new contract. Sad, isn’t it?

In a blog earlier, I wrote about how I wanted to keep the Oilers together and see how we can shape this team to become a real part of the Edmonton-based community. I know we think this is important, because I see the way we all treat those horrible evil villains Chris Pronger and Mike Comrie. Why don’t we like these guys? The answer is because they didn’t like Edmonton enough to stay. See, we do believe in family and community after all.

I will probably write more about motivation later – but for right now, I want any thinking person out there to consider this. How are we ruining a great team sport like hockey by subjecting it to the seduction of money as a motivating factor? It won’t work for much longer – sooner or later we are going to ruin this great Canadian game.


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As reported by the Edmonton Oilers website:...

Legendary voice of the Edmonton Oilers Rod Phillips returns for his 37th consecutive year in the Oilers Radio play-by-play booth.

Click here to watch Rod's announcement online at

Rod has called them all, beginning with the first six Oilers seasons in the WHA and then 30 straight years in the NHL. He has called Stanley Cups, record moments, playoff runs, goals, gaffs and fights since the Oilers were first formed – all the greatest Edmonton Oilers moments. He’s created some of the most unique new words in the English language during hectic moments or big fights and has never been shy about his view of a call that didn’t make sense.“I honestly thought I might call it a day after last season,” said Rod when announcing his return to the 630 CHED broadcast booth on The Link at this morning. “In fact, I had my seat cushion under my arm and was headed for the hockey sunset but as usual a few weeks off have rejuvenated me and in fact right about now I can’t wait for it all to begin again.”Inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame in the Broadcaster category in 2003, Rod has called over 3400 Oilers games and will surpass 3500 games this season.


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