Now What? A Look at the Oilers After Kevin Prendergast Speaks...

“I think we’ve given up hope on the Heatley scenario; but, I guess it’s not dead in the water. But, at this point, it looks like we’ll go to camp with the same team we finished with last year outside of a new goaltender.”

“I think at this point, it’s pretty evident what’s going to happen. But, we haven’t closed the door on the whole issue yet.”

Not exactly the words a number of fans were hoping to hear from the Oilers. Since it's coming from Oilers Assistant GM Kevin Prendergast, we can safely assume this isn't some media speculation to keep the story alive. This is a fact as the Edmonton Oilers have come to realize it.

So now what?

Well, outside of the fact that the Oilers don't actually have the same roster as last year due to the losses of Ales Kotalik, Liam Reddox and Kyle Brodziak; this team is not terrible and needs some simple touch-ups.
Our depth chart as is:

JF Jaques/Brule/Stortini

Pouliot and MacIntyre as extra forwards

Our take?

Move Cogliano off of centre and make him your second line winger in place of Nilsson (or at the very least interchangeable). Cogliano can pot you 25-30 goals if you give him the ice time, and he's a terrible face-off player so why ask him to fill that role? Use him where he can still utilize his speed and bring in a 3rd line center. Moreau can be moved to a 4th line checker role if there is no other useful place for Nilsson.

The Oilers are still $6 million away from the cap which is plenty of space to go out and get a Malhotra (even if overspending has to take place), Peca or Bonk (face-off specialists) then worry about moving your spare parts for picks if need be, after you've landed what you need to fill your roster the right way.

I'd like to see the following, and consider it very realistic:

Moreau or Nilsson/Malhotra/Pisani
JF Jaques/Brule/Stortini

Move Pouliot or keep him as your 13 forward in case of injury and MacIntyre as your in and out of the line-up guy based on match-ups and this is a fairly strong team, which can contend for a play-off spot despite not adding Heatley.

Obviously if a trade becomes an option and a Nilsson, Penner or Pouliot can be bunched for a Gagne from the Flyers, a Frolov from the Kings or a Kris Versteeg from Chicago; I jump all over it. For now, we'll assume Kevin Prendergast is correct in that we'll see a similar roster and that trade options have been explored, but aren't likely.

What we do know, is that the players on this roster as is, will have to achieve their potential for the Oilers even to have a shot at the post season.


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One Day After...A Look at the Oilers Regular Season Schedule

Here's what I remember about last years calendar. We started the season on the road... almost every game. We finsihed the season at home... almost every game. Of course, by then it was too late to do anything about it.

Sure, an argument could be made that the tail end of the season would have mattered and been a great advantage if the Oilers had remained in the hunt; and that's true, but they weren't, so at this point -- it's a mute point.

Now, after a day to digest and examine the 2009/2010 regular season schedule for the Oilers, we can come to a few conclusions. This year's schedule is amazingly fair and even keel for a team known as having heavily weighted games both for and against each year.

The home vs away games are spread out nicely for this upcoming season with the exception of October and January, which is great for Edmonton. Being at home in October 9 times out of 14 games; and in fact, their first 4 games all at home vs teams I feel we can contend with in Dallas, Montreal and Calgary, is great news for fans. This gives Edmonton a strong advantage to focus on a great start.

In January, 8 of 12 games are at home, which too favors a traditionally poor out of the gate team after an All Star Game. Of course with no All Star break this year due to the Olympics, I believe a similar comparison can be derived from what it must feel like with the Olympic break starting in February. The Oilers can finish a strong run at home before the break, collect their thoughts and then 3 of the next 5 are at home again to start the season back into full swing.

The remaining months are very even with almost as many home games as away games.

In terms of back-to-back games, the Oilers are tied for the lowest amount of back-to-back games this year at 11. This versus the 16 they played a season ago. Compare that to Calgary and Vancouver who have 14, Minnesota with 15 and Colorado with 16, we are seated the best in our division for rest between games.

If you account for the miles we travel -- and a great blog was posted by Dirk Hoag from On The Forecheck Edmonton not only travels less than they did last year, but less than Calgary who we've always been told is a more attractive destination thanks to travel. Not so this year as they log more miles than anyone else in the league at 55,331. Edmonton is still well above average travelling 49,191 vs 40,782 that the mean of the league sees, but it's better than in years past and good news for youngsters playing their first season and not used the grind of an NHL travel schedule.

All in all, if the Oilers end up repeating as team who's worse at home than away, this schedule helps as the Oilers may tend to avoid the pile up of long losing streaks. So too, they'll have plenty of rest which can only be seen as a good thing.


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Oilers Report that They've Inked a Trio of their Youngsters

As is being reported on the official Edmonton Oilers website...

General Manager Steve Tambellini announced today the Edmonton Oilers have agreed to terms with goaltender Devan Dubnyk, defenceman Dean Arsene and 2009 NHL Entry Draft choice Toni Rajala.
Dubnyk, 23, agreed to a one-year contract with the Oilers.
Edmonton’s first-round pick, 14th overall, in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft has played the past two seasons with the club’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Springfield Falcons, tallying a 27-58-2 record, 3.02 goals against average and a .905 save percentage.
Arsene, who turns 29 on Monday, spent the previous six seasons with the AHL’s Hershey Bears, helping lead the Bears to Calder Cup Championships in 2005-06 and 2008-09.
Rajala, 18, signed a three-year entry level contract with the Oilers after being drafted by the club in the fourth round, 101st overall, at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
The 5’10”, 163-pound right winger from Parkano, Finland, played 21 games with Ilves Tampere of the Finnish Elite League last season, recording two goals and three assists for five points.
Rajala has donned the Finnish jersey in three international tournaments, including the 2009 World Junior Hockey Championship and the 2009 World Under-18 Hockey Championship, where he was named the tournament’s best forward with 10 goals and nine assists in six games.
Our notes: Rajala had slipped in this years draft all the way to the 4th round, due to a knock by scouts on his size. The Oilers were pleased to get him at that spot since he has the ability to be the steal of the draft. They obviously see something in him and he's impressed thus far; that of the contracts the Oilers have remaining (a precious commodity), they used one of them to secure the future of this 4th rounder.


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Quick News and Rumour Hits from A Reliable Source

We had a chance to interview Dan Tencer from 630 CHED and the Edmonton Oilers Wednesday afternoon and he was kind enough to answer some specific questions our readers have asked. Below are some answers that some fans might find interesting:

In regards to players via free agency:

Blair Betts: The Oilers have no interest and made no effort to sign him. Betts was a fan favorite in terms of Oilers fans looking for a gritty bottom six forward, but the Oilers are not as high on him as fans might be. Betts will not be an Oiler.

Manny Malhotra:
A player we here at Oilers Insider like a lot is a player Tambellini is also interested in. Tencer was able to confirm that the Oilers did make an inquiry and had interest, but his asking price was simply too high. Tencer admits that it is possible that his price may have gone down seeing as he is still unsigned, but I tend to believe after seeing contracts like Ales Kotalik and the bidding war over Tanguay, Malhotra will fetch a nice contract and possibly out of the Oilers league. Expect them to keep kicking tires around him however.

Alex Tanguay:
The Oilers have contacted his agents, but perhaps are walking away now that a bidding war seems to have started. Tanguay is argueably the biggest name player left in free agency and those teams that have yet to attract anyone, are making moves that are beyond what the Oilers are willing to pay. If a Heatley decision comes before a Tanguay one, expect them to ask at least once more.

Kotalik leaving:
It was simply about money. Kotalik wanted more than the Oilers were willing, so he took the higher pay in New York. Tencer was of the opinion that Kotalik is worth the money he got, but that the Oilers don't agree.

In regards to the Heatley deadline:
At this point no one can confirm it. He was unable to get confirmation from the original blog writer Chris Stevens who posted the news and is under the impression that while it may be annoying the Oilers that it's taking this long, they are unwilling to walk away as they now have too much invested and need a 1st line LW, still believing Dany Heatley the best option out there.

Denis Grebeshkov:
Expect that deal to be complete before his arbitration hearing. It's about money, but they are close and Grebeshkov should be getting somewhere in the neighbourhood of $3.25 million for 3 years. (we added that last part... we like to guess and see if we're close, like when you and your friends guess the total bill at a restaurant when 8 of you go eat).

Ladislav Smid:
Don't expect him to be signed until a trade either does or doesn't happen. Smid wants to know where he will be playing before he agrees to any extensions.

Trade possibilities:
He says that if a trade is to happen, not to look to a team with a high salary cap like the Flyers or Blackhawks, but more to a Columbus, Ottawa or L.A. Those teams have the room to take on some of the salary the Oilers would need to dump to fit in anyone else. Edmonton is not interested in giving away a number of their prospects, which is what teams with high caps would have to take in return.


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Liam Reddox No Longer An Oiler

Liam Reddox has rejected the qualifying offer from the Edmonton Oilers and will likely move on to play in Europe.

As reported by David Staples, Reddox got 12 points in 47 games against average competition, according to Behind the Net, and he did so playing with average quality teammates. His most common linemates were, in order, Shawn Horcoff (who knew?), Kyle Brodziak, Andrew Cogliano and Jason Strudwick.

A gritty little forward who knew how to drive the net and be responsible in his own zone, this coin definitely has two sides.

For a team that needed to remove contracts and players that had no defined roll on the team, this helps Edmonton accomplish its task. Reddox was one of those players that was going to fight for game action night in and night out, possibly spending a lot of time in Springfield with the Falcons.

On the other hand, Reddox surprised many with his ability to play productive minutes and some argue including Jonathan Willis of the Copper and Blue that he could have carved himself a pretty handy rolland "could have been a legitimately useful bottom-six player in a few seasons."

No matter which side of the coin you choose, we wish should all wish Liam Reddox the best. He worked hard every night, which is a lot more than we can say for some of the current Oiler roster.


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Waiting for the Left Overs Part IV - Detroit

Known as one of the best teams in the NHL over the past 5 or 6 years, and on the verge of being called a "dynasty" the Detroit Red Wings have taken a hit in the past three weeks in terms of returning players. Granted, they are still a popular pick to finish first in the Western Conference, but remain extremely close to the ceiling in terms of salary cap, which can't bode well for a team looking to stay on top.

The loss of Marian Hossa, (possibly) Jiri Hudler and Mikael Samuelsson is bound to cause offensive depth issues for a team widely known as the deepest in hockey and the loss of a proven back-up goalie in Ty Conklin leaves way for a team of netminders that is questionable. (we say this knowing that Osgood has proven how valueable he is, but never seems to get a fair shake).

Detroit seems to have a variety of contracts that are not advantageous to move. Superstars like Zetterberg and Datsyuk are not going anywhere no matter what you offer Detroit. Both players are the cornerstone of that team and have contracts that will see them stay Wings until 2013 at the earliest. Neither player makes $7 million which shouldn't concern the Red Wings even when the cap falls. Good position to be in concerning your superstars.

Franzen and Fillpula are growing steadily in value and decent cap hits for what they bring. While neither might be considered untouchable, they might be close. Franzen has established himself as the next true power forward for the Red Wings and Fillpula is no joke at $3 million per season.

Lidstrom and Rafalksi make-up the backbone of their blueline, with Kronwall a close second and likely the future on their top pair when a Lidstrom chooses to reduce his role, take a paycut or move on at the end of this season. (I see the second of those three options as more likely).

The rest of the team seems to either play distinct roles on the team or make under $1 million each and it will have to stay that way to Detroit to remain under the cap. Both factors are extremely important to the team considering what they lost in terms of free agency this summer and wanting to keep the depth. Daniel Cleary is the perfect example having been invited to the 2010 Olympic tryouts.

For me however, a name that peaks my interest in a guy like Tomas Holmstrom. For the right swap, Detroit might be willing to move him knowing that Franzen has helped reduce both his role and importance to the team and is quickly taking over as the go-to power forward.

As reported by MrNorrisTrophy from Winging It In Mowtown, "far be it from me asserting that Holmstrom has hit the end of the road, rather an assertion that he has been out performed by his country mate and will likely see a reduced role in the future because of Franzen's performance. Holmstrom has fallen off slightly in recent seasons from injury and lack of production but could be ushering the way for the new big threat in Hockeytown. "

This could be a perfect opportunity for the Oilers. Holmstrom finds his strength in the style of game a Ryan Smyth used to play. Hard nosed, irritating in front of the net hockey contributing garbage goals. Edmonton has missed that type of player since Smyth was traded at the deadline for what seems to be the exact opposite in a Robert Nilsson.

Holmstrom has been hit by the injury bug as of late, but when healthy he's a shoe in for 20-30 goals on the left wing, contributes significantly to the powerplay and can add that team toughness the Oilers are looking for. So too, with one year left on this current deal and a $2.25 million dollar cap hit, he provides a lot of what Smyth did at about 1/3 the price tag.

This allows Edmonton to take a risk on a first line LW (he can always move in and out of that role with Penner), split or take most of the PP time, and the Oilers are not locked in to a contract past a year that the cap might decrease significantly.

If I'm Edmonton and waiting for the left overs, I'm making a phone call to Ken Holland in Detroit to see if they have any interest in some cap relief and moving Mr. Holmstrom.


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Oilers Impose Deadline on Heatley and the Senators

The Oilers have sat patiently and waited. They've endured criticism, they've been the butt of league wide fans jokes that "nobody wants to play in Edmonton", and they've held off on making other significant improvements while Dany Heatley decides where he wants to play hockey next season.

But as is now being reported by Chris Stevenson of the Edmonton Sun, "an NHL source indicated yesterday the Oilers' patience is wearing thin to have Heatley agree to a deal and they could give up and move on perhaps as early as today. At this point, the Oilers appear to be the only viable trade option. With Edmonton out of the picture, returning to Ottawa and an ugly reception from fans could be the Heatley camp's only option."

For readers of this site, assuming the poll results on what fans would like to see the Oilers do in respsect to Dany Heatley suggest, any sort of deadline by the Oilers would be considered good news and a sign that the Oilers might finally be fed up with this whole strange and somewhat ugly situation.

News broke yesterday that more teams were beginning to ask questions about Heatley and what it might take to pluck him from the Senators. The Oilers offer was and is still the only tabled offer; but Minnesota, San Jose and possibly even Columbus were starting to show some interest.

Oilers GM Steve Tambellini knows that should this information be true, it doesn't bode well for Edmonton as Healtey was really just waiting to see if another offer, a more attractive offer, was out there for him to accept. Rumblings also suggest that Tambellini may have other trade options available for viable top line left wingers and if so, the longer this drags out, the more it negatively affects his ability to make a necessary move in that direction if need be. It ionly makes sense now that the Oilers would like an answer.

Should this deadline be accurate, fans can only expect that quickly this either removes Edmonton from the running or allows Heatley to become an Oiler.


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Eklund Posted Something I Actually Found Interesting

As posted on Hockey Buzz...

Here is a quick look at Heatley Rumors..

1. The Oilers are still leading the pack, and there are some inside signs that Heatley may be cracking here.
2. The Sharks are having a tough time making the needed deal with Montreal to free up the space needed, otherwise that would be done.
3. The Rangers are still angry (more on why later)
4. The Blues are considering getting back into it.
5. The Wild are waiting to hear about a proposal.
6. The Bruins (mostly Chiarelli) are keeping their nose in the game.
7. The Islanders would LOVE to get in the game, and are trying to get added to Heatley's list.
8. The Calgary Flames, Heatley's hometown team, are also rumored to be "quietly" offering up a significant D-man.
9. The Blue Jackets are also trying behind the scenes to explore options and are beng nudged by Nash.
10. If this lasts long enough for Phoenix to get the ownership issues decided a Jovonovski for Heatley deal is "not at all out of the question."

Of course, way back when, Bruce Garrioch put out Heatley's list of teams to which he would accept his demanded trade. That list included: The Kings, Sharks, Red Wings, Blackhawks, Canucks, Bruins, Rangers and Calgary.

If this is accurate which is often a debate among readers of Eklund's posts, it answers a lot of questions for Oiler fans.


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Waiting for the Leftovers Part III - Chicago Blackhawks

We started with the Bruins, commenting that we'd like to see Phil Kessel above anyone else who may be realistically on the trading block in Boston. From there we moved to Calgary where we didn't see many viable and plausible trade options that greatly improved the Oilers roster. Today we move to Chicago, where the Blackhawks have more than their fair share of available and attractive options that the Oilers should or could pursue.

If we look back to July 1st, Chicago has had a busy two weeks. First, they scoop Marian Hossa from free agency, an interesting choice by GM Dale Tallon. It definitely makes them a contender next year, but it raises contract questions for players like Partick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith. Add to it, the fact that days later, news broke that Tallon and the Blackhawks management had messed up a number of qualifying offers to RFA's like Kris Versteeg and Cam Barker; Chicago now finds themselves in an interesting pickle in terms of cap space for every year after this current season. Changes will have to be made to keep the core together, which could be good news for 29 other teams around the NHL including the Oilers.

Update** Mere hours after writing this article, Dale Tallon was released as GM of the Blackhawks. Perhaps I wasn't the only one who thought his recent moves were questionable.

We know that Chicago likely won't move Kane, Toewes, Hossa, Seabrook or Keith as they see these guys as the future of the organization. They also won't likely be able to move Huet or Campbell simply due to the size of their individual cap hits.

That leaves players like Patrick Sharp (F), Dave Bolland (F), Dustin Byfuglien (F), Andrew Ladd (F) Kris Versteeg (F), Cam Barker (D) and Brent Sopel (D) with cap hits higher than $1.5 million that should they be moved, helps Chicago breathe a little easier. Keep in mind that more than one will have to go as Tallon has said on record he'll be making sure his core of players are "comfortable" with their new contracts -- "comfort" being defined as up to $6 million per season for Kane and Toews each.

Dustin Byfuglien is a gritty winger who can score. He plays tough in your face, drive to net style hockey, which is exactly what the Oilers are lacking. At 6'3" and 247 lbs, he'd be a tough man to move around. He's a $3 mill cap hit; which for the offensive numbers he produces is not a steal by any stretch, and maybe not right for Edmonton.

At 23, Dave Bolland scored 47 points in 81 regular season games and had a strong +19 rating, then continued his excellent play in the postseason, scoring 12 points in 17 playoff games. Word is that he is not being shopped as a report from NHL writer Tab Bamford Bolland is that Bolland is considered by many within the Hawks organization to be one of the most important building blocks on the roster, and is one of coach Joel Quenneville's favorites in shootouts. If Havlat and Pahlsson both leave this summer (which they did), Bolland will have a more important role in the offense next season.

On defense, the Oilers are not looking to shake up their core and any movement from the Blackhawks would have to be for salary, so don't expect Chicago and Edmonton to talk blueline.

Our Pick (s):

Patrick Sharp and the newly signed Kris Versteeg.

Patrick Sharp may be the first area of relief as he's a higher cap hit among the above mentioned forwards. At $3.9 million he makes room to give one of the Kane and Toews duo their upcoming raises without having to do much else. He's a great two way player and really started to show his knack for goal scoring, potting 20 plus goals since 2006 and netting 26 g in just 61 games last season. His playoff stats in 7 games weren't anything to snub your nose at either. If Chicago moves him it will require a generous return in terms of prospects and picks, but he's easily worth the attempt.

Kris Versteeg is going to be a terrific offensive winger and in my opinion a better alternative to Dany Heatley. Sure he hasn't proven as much in goal scoring, but he's only going to get better and is $4.5 million less a cap hit than Heatley, who wants to be in sunny California. Versteeg is small, but can still play two way hockey, having scored well in the short-handed goals department last year. That said, on the first line along side Horcoff and Hemsky, he'll be expected to be offensive, which he can do. From Lethbridge, AB, and young, he'd fit in well with the current roster and his salary allows the Oilers an opportunity to keep cap room available for Gagner and Cogliano, which will be due at the end of next season. His 53 points in 78 games and nomination for the Calder Trophy doesn't hurt either.


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Zherdev and Huselius Back-Up Options to Heatley?

While the Oilers continue to wait on what transpires with Dany Heatley, it sounds like Steve Tambellini has been discussing alternative options should the Heatley situation either take too long or Heatley be dealt to another team.

A couple of names that have popped up in speculation are Kristian Huselius from the Columbus Blue Jackets and Nikolai Zherdev of the New York Rangers.
Zherdev, the more complicated of the two options has taken the Rangers to arbitration; but word is that regardless of what an arbitrator decides, Glen Sather and the Rangers will be walking away from Zherdev as their interests lie in finding a true puck moving center to play along side Marian Gaborik and possibly adding Sergei Zubov to their blueline. Sather's priorities seem to leave Zherdev without a home although still technically a New York Ranger..

Zherdev is wildly known as a highly skilled offensive winger the likes of an Ales Hemsky, but has been knocked in the past for being dramatically inconsistent at best. Having lost favor in Columbus, Zherdev seems to have seen his time with the Rangers end and Hemsky could be the instrumental piece that helps add Zherdev to the Oilers radar. Add to that his history with Oilers Assistant Coach Tom Renney (under whom he had the most success as a Ranger) and this rumour might have some legs. With Kotalik now gone, the Oilers are very interested to see what takes place with Zherdev's arbitration hearing.
Another name floating around is Kristian Huselius. According to the Columbus Dispatch, Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson is also combing through the trade market. The paper lists the Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs and San Jose Sharks are possible trading partners. With Huselius listed as someone who could be falling slowly out of favor as a permanent 1st liner to play with Brassard and Nash, Columbus may be willing to move his $4.75 million cap hit.

The same knock on Huselius exists as it does with Zherdev; however not to nearly the same degree as Huselius is seen more as a player who has hot and cold moments throughout the season as opposed to extended periods of time where he simply looks like he'd rather be watching tv than playing hockey. Scoring 20 or more goals in 5 of his 8 seasons as a pro, Huselisu has the skill to score plenty of highlight reel goals.
Neither are widely known as gritty, tough to play against two way players, but can add that offensive spark the Oilers are sorely lacking.


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What Is the Oilers Insider?

Happy Sunday. After a day filled with 18 holes of below average golf (my score of course being the below average part), a few adult beverages with some close friends and the build up of an eagerly awaited season premier of "Entourage", today was a good day.

In my attempt to relax and wind down, I had the chance to go through some reader feedback. Thanks to some time on the web and folks like Wayne Gretz at Oilers Nation (kudos), what we write on the Oilers Insider has not only started to find readers, but strike a nerve (both good and bad) with our small, but hopefully growing audience. Our hope, is to continue to write both interesting and unique pieces, adding even more readership and as a result, envoking even more response, good or bad. After all, we love talking about the Oilers.

With that in mind, one reader got me thinking. Because of this one ... well let's say "insightful" (note the sarcasm) comment, I realized that we've yet to explain to the readers what the Oilers Insider site is all about. At first, I found it a waste of time to even acknowlegde the response, but then I got to thinking...maybe I can see where he/she is coming from. We've not introduced ourselves, nor given any indication as to what we hope to accomplish with our articles, or even more why we call it the Oilers Insider.

I suppose the name itself is a tad misleading. Sure we research like crazy and have a couple of sources in interesting positions that can supply us with news about the Edmonton Oilers that the average fan might not be privy to, but those "scoops" will be only a part of this site. Our ability to write would in fact be quite limited if we chose to restrict ourselves to only "the scoops" that this reader was hoping to find when he/she starting reading the Oilers Insider for the first time.

Instead, we'd like to examine our team and yours, the Edmonton Oilers from the "inside" out. With articles and blogs focused on stats, player motivation, education, 29 other teams and their relation to both the Oilers and the NHL, perhaps we can give readers a unique perpective from a couple of educators and writers, who see hockey and the Oilers as more than just "scoops". The "scoops" are good, but we hope so is a little humour, questioning and thought provoking ideas, that get us to think outside the box.

Our "Waiting for the leftovers" series is a perfect example. Does it "scoop" the other many blog sites out there? No. But that was not the intention. What we set out to do, was take a view of those teams in cap trouble and how maybe; just maybe, the Oilers can take advantage of some situations that lend themselves as options. In some cases, a hidden gem or two (like Edmonton's interest in two forwards from The Flyers) stands out, but more so that these options exist when as fans many become frustrated at the Oilers lack of change in the days after free agency.

Whether you agree or not, we hope you keep reading and we encourage all feedback that adds value or gives us something to think about. What some find obvious, others do not. What some find boring, others find interesting; and comments, should they add to the conversation, we'd love to see. After all, isn't that the point? Information, speculation and conversation about a team we all want to talk about -- the Edmonton Oilers?

So let's put up a poll. What do you find the most interesting? Vote away.


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