No Heatley, No Additions, No Chance His Players Got the Hint?

The Dany Heatley saga has come to an end in Edmonton, but don't think the drama has. On Friday, Edmonton Oilers GM Steve Tambellini publicly announced he's no longer interested in the disgruntled Ottawa Senators sniper.

After a month of everything from constructing the trade to Heatley declining the trade, to holding the trade and eventually removing the trade, Edmonton finally decided earlier this week that enough was enough. "We gave ourselves an allotted amount of time internally ... to explore every opportunity to see if there was something that would work -- it didn't," Tambellini said during a conference call with reporters. "It's time for us to move on. We're very comfortable with that."

Speaking of "internal" conversations, I wish someone would have asked if the Oilers GM, new coaches and management have had some internal conversations with players who underperformed last year since we seem to have decided changes are not in the forseeable future. We can only hope so, because if what Tambellini says is true or we as fans choose to read between the lines, Tambellini believes that the addition of goalie Nikolai Khabibulin and continued development of a young core is enough to make the Oilers playoff contenders next season.

Now that he's done chasing Heatley, Tambellini stated he's not likely to try and make any other big moves and that's a scary thought if those "internal" conversations don't change much. Based on what we saw last year and how this team has changed this summer, the Oilers are not a playoff team and are not even close to the gritty hard to play against style that Tambellini claimed needed to be added.

"We've got a team that we're looking forward to seeing in September." said Tambellini. That statement was quite the opposite of his previous press conference in which he relieved Craig MacTavish of his coaching duties and also used that time to address his players and their lack of intensity and desire to win hockey games. "This does not absolve the players and their performance, or lack thereof." were Tambellini's exact words when addressing one of the reasons his coach was let go.

So knowing that this team consists of exactly the same players it ended the season with, less a few key components, do the Oilers truly believe that Pat Quinn and Tom Renney can turn a group of non-gritty, but skilled underachievers into a hard to play, in your face squad that rattles off 10 more wins than last year? Or was this press conference more a smoke screen to slowly lower the expectations of fans and media clammering for a change?

Whatever it is, we better hope that either just attempting to land a Dany Heatley says to some of the players on this team, "we better get our butts in gear or we could be next" or August proves Tambellini wrong and that these "hard to find" trades and opportunities to move contracts present themselves. Because, if they don't, the Oilers have neither improved nor rebuilt anything to remotely represent an improved roster.

To me, this press conference wasn't about Dany Heatley. It was about letting fans and media know the Oilers tried to make changes and couldn't. That we're about to rely almost entirely on a different set of coaches and on minor league players looking to crack the line-up.

Don't be surprised if the next public comments from Tambellini suggest the "internal" conversations have been going well. Not the kind of news I think most fans were hoping for.


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Under Investigation Again. Maybe an Oiler Blessing in Disguise

Now I'm reaching here a bit, but maybe the Oilers not being able to land many of the players they seem to have their eyes on is a good thing. It seems to me, that some of the deals the Oilers can't ever seem to put together, not for lack of trying, turn out to be positives in the long run and these players have a certain virus like quality no matter where they end up.

First there was Chris Pronger. His history shows him to be a fantastic hockey player and many of the issues surrounding why Edmonton fans dislike him so much has nothing to do with hockey, but more his personality. But, mark my words; his seven year extension is going to haunt the Flyers. Especially since we now know all seven years will count against the cap whether he chooses to play or not.

Then there was Michael Nylander. It was a done deal. An agreed upon contract, until his wife voiced her opinion and he went to Washington. Look how well that's turned out for the Capitals. He's paid too much, he's unproductive when he doesn't play with Jagr and the Caps can't move him to save their life, despite permission from his wife. The Oilers are thanking the Gods above that deal never came through.

Of course we can't ignore Dany Heatley. Do we really need to go further? While we don't know the future or how Heatley is going to affect the chemistry on whatever team he ends up playing for, Heatley is making a lot of noise trying just to get to another season where he can play hockey. He's going to be a cancer if he stays in Ottawa and/or he'll cause a million issues if he goes to San Jose in terms of cap problems. I know the Oilers need a top line LW, but Heatley just has problems written all over him and if he goes somewhere else, I think the Oilers will be glad the Heatley boat sailed on by.

But now, the lastest in the saga is Marian Hossa. Word is coming down that Chicago is again under investigation; this time as it pertains to the rediculously long 12 year contract given to Hossa on July 1, 2009.

Edmonton, AL (Sports Network) - The National Hockey League is reportedly investigating Marian Hossa's new 12-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks amid allegations that it circumvents the collective bargaining agreement.

According to the Edmonton Sun, if Chicago is found guilty, it could face a maximum fine of $5 million and the loss of draft picks. Hossa and the Blackhawks allegedly agreed that the star forward would retire before the end of the contract, which would lessen the cap hit on the team.

I don't know what seems to be the problem with the Chicago Blackhawks, but this is now two major glaring violations in less than 3 weeks and Hossa is turning out to be a bad deal and possibly a shady personality for Chicago. He's hurt, and maybe while the Blackhawks knew that, it came as a big surprise to everyone else when it was made public Hossa would miss a good chunk of this coming season.

So too, if the allegations are true, then we know he doesn't like to follow the rules. Agreeing to retire prior to your contract ending is a direct violation of the terms of the CBA and I can guess a few teams, including the Oilers who had offered Hossa a nine year contract last year; would have issue with a team and player agreeing to such a long term without ever having the intentions to live up to it.

I can't say that this isn't as much about the teams that end up landing these players as it is the players themselves being a poor showing of character. What I can say, is that each time we set our sights on a big fish, that fish ends up finding a different fisherman and that fisherman ends up badly wanting to throw that fish back into the water.

All we can hope is that as a result, the Oilers are able to take advantage of what few good fish are left in the sea and just waiting to jump into someone's boat.


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The Idea of Collusion Is Just Silly

As has been reported on numerous news sites and specifically by Bruce Garrioch of Sun Media, "a high-profile agent told Sun Media yesterday that the current environment for free agents is "all being orchestrated" by the NHL and the plan all along was to make these players sit to see if they’re willing to sign for less money."

We're now a full month into free agency and while traditionally most of the big name tickets find whatver respective new homes they'll be playing hockey; this year seems different. Players like Alex Tanguay, Petr Sykora, Manny Fernandez, Marcus Nilson, Dennis Seidenberg, Dominic Moore, Rhett Warrener, Miroslav Satan, Mathieu Schneider, Robert Lang and Brendan Shanahan have yet to sign with any teams and the word on the street is that the offers for these players are lower, in fact; much lower than expected by the remaining teams interested.

What strikes me as odd is that fact that this anonymous source goes on to say “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bunch of guys sitting around like this looking for work. This is something teams have been looking at for a while." Really? Sitting around looking for work? I think that can be said of Dany Heatley, but c'mon...

Let's forget for a second that convincing 30 NHL teams to work together for the betterment of the NHL, its salaries and ultimately Gary Bettman and 30 NHL owners trying to succeed in some behind the scenes agenda, is a long shot and thus ignoring the desire of 30 GM's to better their respective teams; these players are not looking for work. There is plenty of it out there.

Players like Tanguay, Sykora, Satan, Schneider, Lang and Shanahan, just to name a few, have options. Even if it isn't with a number of the teams that have limited salary cap room or which they'd like to play. There are 8-10 teams that could fit in players of the caliber listed and would be more than interested ie. Tampa, NYI, Nashville, Phoenix, Columbus, Dallas or Atlanta. Furthermore, any one of these second tier superstars could land a job in the KHL, Europe or many other leagues that will pay them handsomely. And that's what this is all about -- players who are so-called "desperate" for jobs, being paid handsomely.

For a number of these players, the ability or shall we say willingness to "lower" themselves to signing a 1 or 2 year contract for a bit less money (see Biron's contract), or playing with a team that might not be their number one choice (notice most if not all of the teams with cap room are not considered the number one locations for hockey players), but offers fair value is the reason they now find themselves unemployed. Not because the teams have decided to teach some skilled players a lesson.

Case in point, the inability of Alex Tanguay (who the Oilers expressed some interest in) to find a home. We have it on good authority that Phoenix was almost a done deal that only fell apart last minute thanks to a salary cap concern. If the rumored $1.2 million for one year for Tanguay is true (which it isn't), why would that be a concern? It seems only reasonable to think the Coyotes could use Tanguay, could fit in $1.2 million on a team with $14 million in space and would like the idea of a player with a name in a city that can't do much to attract fans. In fact I can name probably ten teams at that price point that would be calling Tanguay even if they didn't need him.

The lack of players being signed isn't a conspiracy, it's an inconvenient truth about their attractiveness to 30 NHL teams for the dollars they are asking. And those must be high dollars. Players like Kotalik at $3 million, Dererk Morris at $3.3 million, Tuomo Ruutu at $3.8 million, Travis Zajac $3.9 million or even Kyle Brodziak at $1.15 million to a lesser extent (but comparable to the rumoured Tanguay salary offer) all being signed within the last two weeks suggest much more to me than teams can't find the money to pay players. Who would you rather have, Brodziak at $1.15 or Tangauy at $1.2?

Stuff like this just makes me laugh... then it makes me mad as an Oiler fan because we can't even sign players when we offer more than they're worth.


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Waiting for the Leftovers Part IV - Philadelphia Flyers

In our continued look at the teams in awful cap space situations and how it affects what might be future moves, we take a closer look at the Philadelphia Flyers.

Widely known as a team with offensive depth, the Flyers made a splash at this years NHL entry draft adding to their d-core when they picked up Chris Pronger along with Ryan Dingle for Joffrey Lupul, Luca Sbisa, Philadelphia's first round pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft a first rounder in 2010, and a conditional pick for either the 2010 NHL Entry Draft or the 2011 entry draft. That's a big price to pay for a defenseman on what might be his last legs.

Of course it didn't take long for the Flyers to show they didn't think so, inking Pronger to a seven year extension with a cap hit of almost $5 mill per season.

The move while debated by many, also put Philadelphia in further cap trouble as they currently sit $972,085 from the cap. Deciding to save most of their payroll at the goaltender position between Emery and Brian Boucher, the Flyers can stand put if they bring an entry level contract up as a 7th defenseman and quite frankly have a strong contending team. That said, we know better and the Flyers still want to make moves.

The Untouchables:

There are not many outside of Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Claude Giroux and now Chris Pronger. I would imagine anyone else on the roster, for the right price or value in trade is something Paul Holmgren would consider discussing with other teams.

The Unwanted:

Daniel Briere at $6.5 million for another six years seems to have a contract likely hard to shed. And from what we understand, the Flyers have tried. Moving Briere is all it would take to clear the Flyers of their troubles, but Briere has the dreaded no trade clause, as does Simon Gagne, Kimmo Timonenn and Scott Hartnell.

The Attractive:

The problem for the Oilers is two-fold. Both of the players they might have interest in, Scott Hartnell and Simon Gagne have no trade clauses and not likely to come to Edmonton even if they were to waive them. We have absolutely no confirmation that either have said as much, but why would either willingly move from a contending team to a barely scraping the playoffs team, when Gagne and Hartnell play significant roles on the Flyers?

With that in mind, I'd make a strong pitch to the Flyers if I'm Tambellini to have a conversation with Gagne. Maybe even send him a video of the city...

The Flyers might be willing to move Gagne for less than his trade value and Gagne is argueably a better fit than Heatley when you consider his cap hit ($5.25 for two more years), his ability to be more than just offence and his production when healthy -- Gagne had a bounce back year last year with 34 goals and 4o helpers for 74 points in 79 games. He's a power play machine, shoot first style player and penalty killer for a gritty team in Philadelphia.

Seems to me, if the Oilers could convince both Gagne and the Flyers, this would be a match made in heaven. Those are pretty big if's though.


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What's the Right Price for Prospal?

Tuesday it was learned that the Tampa Bay Lightning had bought out the remaining three years on the contract of Vaclav Prospal as a way to save on the salary cap and do what a lot of speculators are guessing -- add another forward to their line-up -- perhaps Alex Tanguay.

It was seemingly a quick decision and has sparked some debate; but no where more than Edmonton, where the Oilers badly need an upgrade at the first line LW position. Could Prospoal be the answer? I'd normally say no the way the Oilers have to overspend to attract certain players, but at the right price, I'd consider it.

The Upside:

Prospal has been an 80 point player twice. (Well almost... in 2002/2003 with the Tampa Bay Lightning and playing with players like Lecavalier and St. Louis he scored 79 points.) Add to that he's been a 20 goal scorer four times and hit the 19 goal mark twice, including last year when everyone in Tampa seemed to have a poor year. Despite his streaky play, Prospal is an offensive threat a power play guy and versatile foward and always has been. A player who likes to shoot, Prospal would have ranked in the Oilers top 3 forwards in shots taken each of the last few years. No forward on the roster for Edmonton even comes close to what Prospal has done and I included Hemsky in that list.

At 6' and 195 lbs, he does have a tendency to play a somewhat physical game because he's not a small forward like the Oilers seem to have an abundance of and he stays extremely healthy having played 80 plus games in all of his last 7 seasons. Furthermore, despite the knock that he disappears in the playoffs, that argument doesn't seem to hold true. In 2007/08 with the Flyers he had 13 points in 17 games, in 2006/07 he had 5 points in 6 games with Tampa and in 2002/03 a modest 6 points in 11 games.

Here's the stat I like. His face off percentage is fantastic. Last season 53%, 2007/08 he was 55.7% and in 2006/07 he was 52.4% from the dot with 2005/06 being the only blip since the lock-out at just over 45%.

These are all elements the Oilers have been looking for.

The Downside:

Prospal is no spring chicken. At 34, it can be argued he's starting the down-slope of his career. This argument though can really only be based on his last season in which his totals were down and he was very poor plus/minus - 20. So too, he's not really ever been considered first line material and that is what the Oilers seem to need. Sure, it can be argued the Oilers don't have the offensive depth that Tampa and Philly had, keeping Prospal on the 2nd line on those two teams, but this is a perfect example of why the Oilers have been in the Heatley sweepstakes so long -- first line dominant offensive LW players don't grow on trees.

Prospals +/- rating has always been somewhat low with the exception of the few games he played with the Flyers in 07/08 after his move at the trade deadline, but very few players in Tampa were plus players last year; which should be no surprise to anyone.

The Verdict

I'd like to see the Oilers make a call and express some interest if Prospal can be had for the right price. After the 24 hours Prospal has to either accept the buyout from the team, or choose to go through waivers he'll become an unrestricted free agent.

If Prospal chooses the buy-out, he'll be paid $1.167 for the next six seasons. This could lead to a pretty good deal for the next team he plays with, since he'll be getting more than one paycheck as long as he seemingly continues to play hockey in the NHL and may not require a big contract from his new squad.

To me, the right price is $2.5 million. For that, he can be tried as first line LW if no other solution presents itself before Oiler camp opens. If it does, then that price is respectable for a guy on the 2nd line. Should that not work, he can play center and if his offensive numbers are down, at least he can win you face offs. $2.5 is high for a third line center, but not one that also has the ability to play first line LW and on your power play.

Anything more I think is too high a price tag for a couple reasons. First, the ability to sign a temporary but strong offensive player still exists in free agency (although it's somewhat down to slim pickin's) and the Oilers have Dustin Penner and Patrick O'Sullivan, both who deservedly should be on your top two lines.

What would you do?


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Quick News and Rumours Tuesday July 28, 2009

Peeters Hired in Anaheim

As is being reported by Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal, former Edmonton Oilers goaltenders coach Pete Peeters has been hired by the Anaheim Ducks replacing Francois Allaire as the new goalies coach. For those that were not aware, Peeter's contract was not picked up by the Oilers on June 30th after serving 8 seasons in Edmonton.

Peeter's became known last year in Edmonton for his somewhat public dispute with Mathieu Garon and his comments on Garon's ability to be a starter. Some say it had a factor in Garon's move to Pittsburg last year.

P.J. Axelsson Leaving Boston

Axelsson had spent his entire 11-year NHL career with the Bruins, but the Boston Globe reports he'll now finish his playing career in his native Sweden. This in some way possibly makes a little more room for Kessel to stay a Bruin, but it seems that every time we think so, Boston turns around and makes a surprised move that moves them further from keeping Kessel on the roster. I for one, would love to see Kessel traded and I wouldn't be sad one bit to see it be to the Oilers.

Zherdev's Hearing Coming Quickly

Zherdev, the Post claims, is going to submit a case to make $4.5 million per season, while the Rangers are expected to submit a pitch around $3.25 million on July 31, 2009 when his arbitration hearing is set. The paper suggests Zherdev could be awarded between $3.85 million and $4.15 million per year on a new deal and if so that the Rangers would walk away leaving Zherdev a UFA. The Oilers I've been told are keeping a close eye on what happens in that hearing.

Oilers farther away from Malhotra Than Before

While Oiler fans seems unanimous in their desire to land a 3rd line centre, one name that came up continually -- Malhotra -- is moving farther and farther from possibly being in the hunt for that role. Word is that Atlanta has an offer on the table for Malhotra, a team for which he doesn't want to play and that the Red Wings have started to show some interest.

Heatley Still Not Going to San Jose

An offer of Patrick Marleau and Christian Erhoff (as we suggested might be a possible offer a week or so ago) was tabled by San Jose to Ottawa for Dany Heatley. Two things got in the way. Marleau's no-trade clause and Bryan Murray being unwilling to accept the deal thanks to salary cap complications.

We've always held that San Jose wants Heatley, but that a trade between the two teams was more than complicated. It could take all summer just for these two teams to sort out the salary cap implications to a deal like this.

San Jose is actively shopping Cheechoo in the meantime hoping to clear some cap space. The Oilers are on that list of teams to be which Cheechoo is being shopped.


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An Important Change in the Oilers Locker Room

For anyone who has ever played a sport, had a lot of down time or done a lot of travelling, what you use to fill that time is of the utmost importance. For the Oilers, we’ve received word, that in the past a good game of cards; was among the tops on the list as enjoyable bonding and time filling exercises. So too, playing cards had been used as a player distraction from the pressures of a big game or to help relax a bit while travelling.

Unfortunately, a new set of rules hit the Oilers dressing room this past week that made it difficult for the Oilers to hold onto this tradition. In fact, the changing rules are so drastic, it may affect the ability of the team to perform on the ice. Our hidden insider was able to provide some in depth information about the new rules and regulations as it pertains to recreational card games and the Oilers locker room.

Below list the new set of rules as we’ve heard them passed to the players and coaching staff:

Rule # 1: At all times, card games should be played for fun and not money. Games are not to be taken seriously as hands and cards dealt can not be considered random. A number of instances where players are playing the same cards over and over have occurred, since the only member of our team able to shuffle; Craig MacTavish has left the organization.

Rule # 2: Go Fish, while not technically outlawed as a game option, is asked to be kept to a minimum. Management would like all players and staff to know; that should you attempt to go fishing, the likelihood that you’ll catch anything is slim to none.

Rule #3: Players cannot dispute the rules of the card game “War” with any staff member employed by the organization longer than 10 years. We hold that only those players know the true rules of the game, since the Oilers haven’t been to war with an opponent in nearly a decade.

Rule #4: 5 card stud is to be played over the alternative 5 card draw format when playing poker. We’d like all players to understand a consistent set of poker rules and we find the stud format easier for players to pick up since Oilers coaching and management have had trouble explaining how to win a draw since the 2006 playoffs.

Rule #5: If playing 21 (black jack), a player beats the dealer when any combination of cards reaches a higher total than the dealer but does not exceed 21. Should you exceed 21, that hand is considered a bust on the part of the player. For more information on the definition on a bust, see the terms Rob Schremp, Jason Bonsignore, Jesse Niinimaki and Alexei Mikhnov.

Rule #6: Solitaire is permitted to all players except Ales Hemsky. We ask that players assist the coaching staff in teaching Hemsky games that involve more than just himself as a player.

Rule #7: The game A$$hole is completely outlawed from being played in or near an Oilers dressing room. In the event that Dany Heatley were to join the Oilers organization, we ask that players refrain from games in which any attention might be brought to his presence in the dressing room.

Rule #8: In any game where pairs and combinations of cards are to be counted as a factor for determining a winner, a pair of 9’s will always beat out any other combination of cards followed by a pair of 1’s. A pair of 4’s is considered by management and staff the low hand in any game and to be immediately traded for any other combination of cards available. In fact, should you be sitting beside the player who is dealt a pair of 4’s, you are to immediately slap that person across the face.

Rule #9: Should any players require further explanation or video instruction on any and all card games, please see Kevin Lowe and Steve Tambellini who can point you in the direction of Dany Heatley's summer home in Kelowna. There should be no need to rewind said tape as the likelihood Dany Heatley has watched the tape is quite slim.

We thank you for your understanding and hope that you continue to enjoy your card playing experience…


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More of the Same Rob Schremp? Or Mr. New and Improved?

In a very interesting interview conducted by Dan Tencer of the Edmonton Oilers and 630CHED, Rob Schremp had the chance to let off a little steam. Smartly, Schremp stayed within the boundries of what would be considered whiny and pity-seeking, using only the openings given to him by Mr. Tencer to relay a somewhat universal belief amongst Edmonton fans -- that we've yet to really see what Rob Schremp can do. After all, some would argue that he has a right to be a little sour.

In December and as Tencer states, about a month before Craig MacTavish ripped him in the media, Schremp earned a call-up to the big club and got a brief chance thanks to an injury to Robert Nilsson. To his credit, and undoubtedly a reason many Oiler fans still yearn for the day Schremp is a fixture for the Oilers, he didn't disappoint. He put up three assists and a +2 rating in his first two games. "It was fun," smiles Schremp. "I knew the situation. I was there to replace Robert Nilsson while he was injured; I knew I only had two weeks to do something". Many argue, Schremp should have been given a bit longer to see if he could have continued the streak.

We all know Schremp has skill, we've seen his dazzling shootout moves. If you haven't check out the video below:

That said, Schremp has been knocked for his lack of speed and ability to play a physical game, both of which he denies are a problem. But who are we to believe? The player who gets 3 points in two games or the one who struggles mightily in the minors after his brief stint with the big boys?

When Craig MacTavish at the time comes out with quotes like, "We all know what he can do, he's got decent hands, he can work a power play okay, but he's slow, he's not a physical player, he's soft at this level.", your future may not be looking bright as an Oiler if your Rob Schremp.

Perhaps there is something to what MacTavish said. The rest of the teams around the league apparently feel the same way as trade offers for Schremp to this point haven't amounted to anything higher than a mid or late round draft pick.

But this is a new day and perhaps we should reserve judgement until we've seen how Schremp responds under the newly appointed Pat Quinn and Tom Renney. Maybe this change is exactly what Robbie Schremp needs.

Will we as fans finally get to see the Rob Schremp everyone seems to have talked about for the last three years? That Rob Schremp has amazing skill and ability to be both shifty and elusive. Or will we see the player a number of the decision-makers within the Oilers organization wonder whether or not can play at the NHL level? That Rob Schremp talks a big game with words like "The season I had last year is not OK with me. I expect more out of myself and I have a lot higher expectations.", but doesn't seem to follow through.

I might ask, for a player that likes to let us all know he's lacked a fair chance and that each and every summer he works harder and harder, should we be concerned this interview took place during a workout with Sam Gagner? Obviously Gagner was working out, but what was Schremp doing on the phone with Tencer, when Sam could have used a hard working, motivated and set to prove us all wrong exercise wing-man?


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