Bringing in Veterans vs Sticking With Youth

Here's a list of some of the veterans who have become available and either caught fans interest or been slightly rumored possible future Oiler: (average stats over the last 3 years are provided as well)

Nikolai Zherdev : 78 games 19 goals 30 assists for 50 points
Vaclav Prospal: 81 games 22 goals 35 assists for 57 points
Alex Tanguay: 69 games 18 goals 41 assists for 60 points
Manny Malhotra: 76 games 10 goals 19 assists for 29 points

Here's a list of the forwards the Oilers are working with that have been the discussion of trade, waiver or demotion: (I've tried to list them in a similar skill order, or at least according to their role on the team)

Dustin Penner: 80 games 23 goals 20 assists for 43 points
Patrick O'Sullivan: 69 games 14 goals 24 assists for 38 points
Robert Nilsson: (only count 2 seasons since one was only a total of 4 games) 67 games 9.5 goals 25.5 assists for 35 points
Andrew Cogliano: (only played 2 seasons) 82 games 18 goals 23.5 assists for 41 points

What does this tell us?

Of these four veteran UFA's, all of them with the exception of Andrew Cogliano over Manny Malhotra would have been an improvement offensively and proven bet for the Oilers versus what Pat Quinn has at his disposal now.

All four of these UFA's are still available, and all four of them can probably be had for a decent price. So too, even though Tambellini says this is a contracts going out vs those coming in issue, all four of the players on our current list of available forwards can be moved to make space if it was required and doing so would create enough cap room to add three if not all four of those listed UFA's.


Each list of four players brings a few elements that are different to their style of play and should be accounted for if we're going to make this kind of comparison. Malhotra can win you face-offs, but Cogliano can't. Penner is a big body in front of the net on the power play whose purpose is to score goals not get assists. Tanguay and Zherdev are more assist men than anything else and don't really bring that physical presence.

Furthermore, all of the players on the Oiler's list are younger than the age of 26 while all of the players on the UFA list are over the age of 25. (I actually thought when I first started making this comparison that the age variation would be greater. Only Prospal brings with him a question of age). You can take this age factor and draw your own conclusion. Obviously if you're of the feeling that youth gets better, you'll like the Oilers age. If you'd rather haven proven career numbers to work with, all of the players on the UFA list have the experience the Oilers could use. So too, most of those players have had better seasons one of the years outside the three year average I used.

What Do I Think?

If the Oilers want us to believe we are rebuilding, stick with the youth. Unfortunately, they never actually come out and say that. They always contend we're a playoff team and do crazy things like grab a 36 year old goalie or offer up three of their up and coming stars for Dany Heatley.

The Oilers actions suggest they want to win and now. To do so means going with a roster far more proven than the inconsistent group we currently watch 82 times a year. Surprisingly, only Dustin Penner actually has showed his ability to maintain somewhat of a offensive pace, with Andrew Cogliano on his way there too. O'Sullivan's numbers were hurt by a first season average that saw him play only half a season so maybe a rush to judgement there would be unfair, but if I want to win now, Prospal, Zherdev and Tanguay all seem to make more sense.

What we can't measure are whether or not these players have interest in coming to Edmonton or the results that bringing in players with this experience and track record would do for the other players on this team namely the Fernando Pisani's, Ethan Moreau's Ales Hemsky's and Shawn Horcoff's. Whenever you bring in players who have shown that despite the teams and players they've played with over a longer career, you can almost bet that in some ways the numbers of your current players working with rookies and unproven talent would have to improve.

When you don't, you count of reliable two-way players to play a much more defensive, scrambly style of play to make up for rookie mistakes. That took a lot out of a player like Horcoff last year.

What Do You Think?


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Waiting for the Leftovers - Washington Capitals

While we've been advised as fans not to expect more in the way of moves this offseason by the Oilers, any goal in sport is to improve in talent or contracts through trade if a viable trade option exists. In our continued look at teams in cap trouble, we examine the Washington Capitals if for no other reason than the recent public comments made by Michael Nylander.

If I had to guess, I would estimate that close to 90% of Edmonton fans would not want to see Nylander come to a city he once snubbed and feel the his cap space questions can not be answered by his on ice performance.

So if not Nylander, (who the Capitals don't want back and would likely dump for peanuts) - then who?

The Untouchables

Alexander Ovechkin for obvious reasons. Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green. These are the cornerstone pieces of a powerful and offensive Capitals team. An argument may be made for Semin, but when he's on, there's very few better.

The Unwanted

In Washington at least? Michael Nylander. This for all of the reasons stated above and more. Check out an earlier article if you want the scoop on what's going on with him.

Chris Clark, while I don't have it on any good authority, may be trade bait in Washington. He makes a healthy salary at $2.63 mill per season and has been injured the past two seasons. With Washington's known interest in Afinogenov and Zherdev, someone is the odd person out, and that could be Clark if Nylander can't be moved.

The Unlikely

Mike Knuble, in what I consider the steal of the off-season signed with Washington for an extremely friendly $2.8 million for two years and has consistently netted 20+ goals and 40+ points since 2002. He brings leadership and grit as a true power forward. The Oilers only wish they could have landed a player like him when he came available July 1st. He's 35, but that's not a concern for the Caps.

Brooks Laich at the age of 26 has really stepped into his game, becoming a 20 goal guy and complimentary forward for Ovechkin or Semin.

Tom Poti won't be moved, at least not to Edmonton after the hate-on he's developed for the team and his departure and Edmonton. Plus, the Oilers have a good core at their defense that I don't see remaining players on the Caps adding much in the way of real value to.

The Target

Robin Brownlee over at Oilersnation, has a real love on for David Steckel. Brownlee writes: "Steckel, for the vast majority of you who don’t have his name on the tip of your tongue, is a six-foot-five, 222-pound pivot who just finished his fourth season with the Washington Capitals. Steckel, 27, is a demon on the dot. He finished the 2008-09 regular season among NHL leaders at 57.9 per cent. In 14 playoff games, he upped that to 58.4 per cent...Steckel kills penalties and his face-off record shorthanded this past season was 153-130....He’s cheap. Steckel has one year remaining on a contract that will pay him $725,000 in 2009-10.

I have to agree that he makes some good sense to fill an Oiler need.

So too as much as I'd hate to say it, but I did earlier; if Nylander can be brought in at the expense for a few lousy Oiler contracts, namely a Staois, Nilsson, Pisani I might painfully consider this deal for a couple reasons.

You have a bonafide #1 center (assuming he doesn't play as crappy as he did last year) to take some pressure off of Horcoff. Nylander might click with Hemsky, and if Jagr is at all on the radar, he'll be even more interested in Nylander is in the mix.

There may not be a lot in Washington that the Oilers want, that of course the Caps would also be willing to part with; but I can see the Capitals as somewhat of a dumping ground. They have players they don't want, and we have contracts we need to shed. Maybe somewhere we can meet in the middle.


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Thank You, But No Thanks Nylander

So Michael Nylander won't be back in Washington. At least not according to an interview that took place between Nylander and a Swedish hockey writer.

Caps coach Bruce Boudreau has basically come out and said Nylander isn't good enough to play for his team and has no immediate plans for the forward whose production has dropped significantly since leaving the NYR and his linemate Jaromir Jagr.

So what happens to him? Well if it were up to Nylander, he'd come to Edmonton. Nylander has a no-movement clause which won't allow the Washington Capitals to bury his whopping $4.875 million cap hit in the minors and at that price, he's virtually untradeable.

When asked what he thinks should happen, Nylander responded with, "Uh ... hmmm .. I can't say that I have a dream team like that and it will be difficult to get into most of them now, given the salary cap. But it would have been fun to try Edmonton. Now, of course, I said no to them before. Instead I chose Washington because we had more friends and knew more people there. And it was perhaps a little better socially. But I would have liked to try Edmonton. I think that it would be fun now. I would like to try that now but it will probably be difficult for them to get me under the salary cap".

Nylander hit the nail directly on the head with two points. One, that he's already said no. To me, Edmonton has to finally stand up and say enough is enough with people who want to play anywhere but here. This is as good a chance as any to turn around and say to someone who already stuck it to you, that the grass isn't always greener somewhere else.

So too, Nylander makes a rediculous salary for what he brings to the table in a salary cap NHL. If the Oilers were to do this, and this is a big if; it's because they see this as a way to dump 3 or 4 crappy contracts into the lap of the Capitals who badly want to move Nylander. But even then, if I'm the Oilers, this is simply too little too late.

That said, Steve Tambellini and I haven't agreed on a lot of decisions over the past month or so, meaning I could see him making such a move. So my only request Steve is this... if you're going to make this trade, shape it in this way. To Washington, Staois and Pisani. To Edmonton, Nylander and David Steckel.

Your lines would be as follows: (or at least something similar to this knowing a bit of tweaking is required)


I like this combination much better although I'm not sold on the grit of the 3rd line less of course Steckel who brings something. But it does provide two centers who can win draws. Moves Moreau to a place where he can be more effective and puts Nylander with Hemsky, which at the very least you'd have to see in action. You never know, perhaps and Hemsky/Nylander combo really strikes a chord with one Jaromir Jagr.


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An Edmonton Oiler Trade Proposal...

With Oiler fans having listened to Tambellini say that Edmonton's inability to change it's current roster had a lot to do with contracts going out vs coming in and the salary cap; I got to thinking what it might take to start solving this problem. After all, if Tambellini really wants to improve the team, there has to be a way right?

Here is one idea that came to mind and I think is more than realistic.

Trade: Ladislav Smid, Jean-Francois Jacques and Robert Nilsson to San Jose for Jonathan Cheechoo

Before you comment, with either your "we don't want Cheechoo" or "San Jose would never do that deal" rants, here is why I think this might make sense.

San Jose's Needs:

1) To add to its roster: Right now they don't have enough contracts to roster a full team. They especially don't have enough cap room to add players. What this means is that, even if they don't necessarily think what the Oilers are offering is fair value, they might take it. If San Jose moves Smid (as we'll discuss in a bit) the big advantage here for the Sharks is in adding Jacques on their bottom six and putting Nilsson in there somewhere without adding to their cap and essentially trading one player for two, which is a good start. In fact they'd lessen their cap hit if they move Smid later as part of a trade for Heatley.

2) Get trade bait Ottawa wants: Ottawa likes Smid and we're willing to move Smid. San Jose can move Smid to Ottawa and doing so doesn't increase the Sharks cap hit if they simply say "here you go" after obtaining Smid from Edmonton. Plus adding Heatley later would reduce the "ouch" factor in what might be considered a small return for Cheechoo.

3) Rid Salary: Nilsson and Jacques make a combined $2.525 million which is helpful for San Jose considering Cheechoo makes $3 million per season as a cap hit and is buried under a ton of forward depth. He still has something to offer, but San Jose won't miss him.

In fact, in a quote from PJ Swenson at, Swenson contends that Cheechoo has more to offer than some might think. "His heavy shot and quick release have not diminished in the slightest, and he remains a deadly option for any power play. Cheechoo struggled with a broken thumb and a double hernia surgery which limited his production to 37 goals and 23 goals the two seasons after his Rocket Richard winning 56 in 2005-06. This year Cheechoo was the odd man out in a numbers game that saw seven top-6 forwards in the same lineup. Cheechoo was relegated to limited minutes on a third line that was racked with injuries (Goc, Plihal, Marleau, Roenick). Cheechoo has struggled to regain the form that allowed him to slide into open areas in front of the net, but in the proper situation he should be a lock for at least 20-30 goals."

I'd be willing to give it a shot.

Edmonton's Needs:

1) Better top six forward depth: No matter how you slice it, Cheechoo is more consistent and brings a grittier more in your face style than Nilsson. Cheechoo makes a lot more sense as your 2nd line RW than Nilsson and a Penner/Gagner/Cheechoo or Penner/Horcs/Cheechoo line has a nice ring to it if O'Sullivan gets a crack at first line LW to start the season.

2) Rid themselves of contracts to add by subtraction: Tambellini says he has too many players to make moves. Well if he can ship out three players for one, he gives himself enough of a cushion to go add that 3rd line center he needs.

Bottom Line: Whatever we lose in the deal, we have bodies to replace it. Peckham for Smid, MacIntyre for Jacques and Cheechoo for Nilsson. Heck, if Cheechoo still struggles, he's gritty enough to play a checker role on your 3rd line, where a guy like Andrew Cogliano can take his place on the 2nd line.

San Jose is actively shopping Cheechoo and if Ottawa doesn't want him, the Oilers maybe could use him and this could be an interesting starting point for a Heatley to San Jose deal which is complicated at best.

Then again, I could be way off. What would you do as arm chair GM?


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Zherdev Now Technically a UFA...

General manager Glen Sather announced today the club has exercised its right to walk away from Nikolai Zherdev's arbitration award, making the winger an unrestricted free agent.

Will this affect the Oilers? It might, but don't expect Tambellini to discuss it publicly until it's done. If it doesn't get done, don't expect the Oilers to ever admit they made a call. They don't need another player expressing any disinterest in the team.

If you were Edmonton, would you be interested? If so, how much is too much considering the arbitrator had awarded a one year $3.9 million contract.


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Looking Differently at Dustin Penner

With the percentages getting higher and higher that the Oilers stand pat and do very little more to upgrade their current roster for the upcoming 2009/2010 season, one has to wonder where the production will come from in respect to the Oilers current line-up.

The Oilers traditionally lacked that superstar player who can change a game. Some might argue Ales Hemsky's ability to do so and a case can be made there as every game Hemsky was able to obtain at least two or more points, the Oilers won all but one (Maple Leafs on Nov 13, 2008). The problem for the Oilers is that Hemsky doesn't have that consistency needed to be a sole reason for the Oilers to win games: 27 games he played in, he didn't get on the board at all and when he did score he only had two game winning goals all season for a guy considered to be the Oilers best player.

Furthermore, if Hemsky were to "break out" what would the difference be in his totals? I've listed his current stats since 2005, with a projection of what 2009/10 might look like:

2005/06: 77 points in 81 games
2006/07: 53 points in 64 games
2007/08: 71 points in 74 games
2008/09: 66 points in 72 games
2009/10: 85 points in 80 games (four game winners)

That would be nice, but not something the Oilers could rely on to get them into the playoffs. We'd be kind to suggest he gets 5 more goals and 5 more assists than his closest totals in 2005.

What Edmonton will need, is a player who can take that next big step and go from a player who produced a little to someone who exploded offensively (we'll exclude defensman in this conversation). Since we likely don't have that superstar on our roster, who would be the logical choice to be the next Oilers difference maker?

Here's possibly one option.

Dustin Penner

If Penner finds himself an Oiler come the start of the season, he should have the ability to bust-out as an offensive threat and a go-to guy for Pat Quinn and co. Penner has new coaching, which he badly needed. He's got an almost completely clean slate (no one ever totally ignores a players reputation and previous statistics) and according to Edmonton Oilers strength and conditioning consultant Simon Bennet, Penner's in the best shape of any off-season in his NHL career so far. Knowing that, what could Dustin Penner do if he were to break-out (and I'm not talking acne here folks)?

I'm not one to blame the previous coaching for the Oiler woes, but if there ever was a case to be made for a player who saw a direct correlation between his performance and what happened with the coaching staff, it was Dustin Penner. In 2008/2009, Penner spent a lot of games as a bottom six forward when he shouldn't have. MacTavish chose to use Penner as an example (in some cases perhaps rightfully so) and with every change MacTavish made, Penner's production dropped. That was a mistake.

Unfortunately for MacTavish, the numbers didn't suggest that such moves would improve or help increase Penner's production and in hindsight likely should have kept Penner in the top six, resulting undoubtedly in a better year.

Why? Despite Penner's ability to play ok with almost all of his linemates, having gotten points with every line he was on, I truly believe a lot of his inconsistency last year had to do with the constant movement from line to line and new mates every night. When it was showed Cole wouldn't mix, Penner was moved. When the kid line didn't have a similar start like it ended the previous season or other lines didn't mesh despite the first line playing alright, Penner was moved. If Penner had a bad game or looked sheepish, Penner was moved. All in all, Penner was moved a lot. Sure, the rest of the roster was too, but it greatly affected Penner's game.

With all that, Penner had a lot of positives. He had five game winning goals which was an increase over his previous year and tied his career best in Anaheim, despite not being put on the ice in last minute pressure situations towards the end of the year.

In many cases he was effective on the man advantage yet was moved the second unit and as a result, his production suffered. In 2008/2009 he finished the year with 13 power-play goals. Last year he had 5. Granted the man advantage was not very kind to the Oil last year, but perhaps some of that could be attributed to the lack of net presence that Penner effectively provides.

He ranked 6th on the team in ice time above only Robert Nilsson who is arguabely a top six forward, clocking in at 17:12 in 2007/08 to last years 15:22. So too, he ranked seventh in shots on net with 137 where as the year before and in Anaheim he showed he was not shy about shooting letting it go 201 and 200 times respectively.

There are two things we should know by looking at Penner's history. He plays well with excellent linemates. In 13 minutes a game but with Cory Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, Penner netted 29 goals. When he played with Hemsky in 2007/2008 he hit the back of twine 23 times. Not bad considering it can be argued the Oilers don't have talent on the team that resembles either Getzlaf or Perry. When he played with lesser mates as would most players, his numbers dropped. When he wasn't with the best the Oilers had to offer, they really did.

Also, when Penner is played effectively on the powerplay and in pressure situations, he seems to shine. Last year, he wasn't there nearly enough and the numbers reflected it.

Penner has become a much better two-way player in his three years, leading the Oilers in plus/minus at plus -7. This number despite the fact he was in position more often to see those numbers get worse. That's a good sign and something Pat Quinn is a fan of knowing how little he likes to line match.

It's safe to assume that in every category Penner will see an increase in production as a direct result of the opportunities to improve given by Pat Quinn and Tom Renney. What will be interesting, is whether or not Penner can improve to the level we consider him a game changer or break-out performer. Let's hope so, because like Hemsky, when Penner has a multiple point game, the Oilers win. They did so in every game last year that it happened.

I had earlier disputed the idea of Penner getting 30 goals when suggested by my co-writer here. The more I look at the numbers and how I see Quinn and Penner as a much better match, 30, even 35 isn't out of the question.


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Quick Hockey News and Rumors August 3rd


The Oilers walked away. Or at least that's what we're led to believe. We're hearing that actually Heatley, who has a previous relationship with Steve Tambellini on the international stage privately contacted him to let him know the Oilers should walk away, as Heatley didn't want to go there and wouldn't waive his no trade clause to do so.

One has to wonder why that wasn't said in the first face to face meeting, but it sounds like it was a leverage move on the part of Heatley and his agents to keep an offer on the table so other teams knew someone was interested. What this means, is that the Oilers being out of the running for Dany Heatley was not a choice by the Oilers.

Phil Kessel:

The Oilers are speaking with Boston regarding interest in a trade for the forward, but they are not the only ones and Boston is actively shopping Kessel trying to get the best return. The problem for Boston is in taking salary back which is important for the Oilers in a trade. Edmonton would need to move at least $3 million back to Boston and the Bruins really can't take that on.

Jason Williams:

Sounds like he'll be a Red Wing by the end of the week. "I wasn't expecting the call, but after they lost (Mikael) Samuelsson and possibly not being able to get (Jiri) Hudler back, they talked to my agent and we thought it might be a good fit to come back," Williams told the Booth News.

The Wings also have interest in Sykora, but expect one of these two to sign and for just over $2 million. A good deal if you ask me and Detroit is counting on someone taking a discount to play with them.


Nikolai Zherdev was awarded $3.9 million from an arbitrator for one year and the Oilers are interested as is Dallas and Los Angeles. While Zherdev is technically a UFA if New York chooses to walk from this deal tomorrow Tambellini may approach Glen Sather and convince him to sign then trade Zherdev to the Oilers. The Oilers are comfortable with the $3.9 tag for one year, they need to move bodies and the Rangers would take unfair value in return to accomodate a trade instead of losing Zherdev for nothing. Expect this to happen today or tomorrow if the Rangers sign him.

If this does happen and the Oilers can successfully move a couple bodies, it could open things up for them to sign the 3rd line center they desperately need.

Bertuzzi Headed East:

Todd Bertuzzi is chatting with three teams in the east and he hopes to wind up playing for a team with less travel. Rumors are that NYI are leading the way and it makes sense considering their history in signing players on the downside of their careers.

More to come later today...


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