Comrie Wants It, The Oilers Want It, Tambellini Isn't Ready

If you read, or in this case, listen between the lines there are a number of signs pointing towards Mike Comrie and the Edmonton Oilers coming to terms in a matter of days. The only reason that it's yet to be officially announced as a done deal publicly is that Steve Tambellini isn't 100% convinced, or hasn't made the necessary arragements to make moves after Comrie joins the team.

To bring in Comrie -- a player with a more proven track record, but similar style to a number of other Oiler players currently on the roster -- Tambellini needs to make trade arrangements with another team to ship someone out. Until he feels secure he's been able to do so, Tambellini isn't ready to make an offer to Mike Comrie to make everything official.

But that doesn't mean a number of people close to this situation aren't waiting both patiently and with excitement.

Management would like to make this move, not only because they think Comrie can help, but because he has something to prove. It's the perfect time to add a player like that. It doesn't hurt that they can effectively say to a number of other players who question Edmonton as a playing destination, that if one of the original problem children of the "let's bash the Oilers" years is returning, it can't be all that bad and the reputation is simply blown out of proportion. It also doesn't hurt that his asking price is at an all time bargain.

Some of the current Oilers want it to happen too, namely Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky. Both are interested in possibly playing with the type of player they know can produce when healthy and given the offensive minutes. They've spent the last couple years juggling linemates and feel Comrie gives them a chance to either build chemistry with him or other linemates when he finds a home on another line.

Even more, Comrie wants this too. A source who knows the Comrie family suggested today, that Mike Comrie has more than one team whose offered or close to have tabeled an offer and awaiting a decision from he and his agent. (something he all but confirmed in his media interview Friday, when he said it wouldn't be situation where he would be attending camp on a tryout basis).

That said, it is our guess that these other teams are not going to hear anything until Comrie knows for certain his future isn't with the Oilers, because this is where he wants to be andthis source in fact went so far to say isn't opposed to finishing his career. That's a pretty big statement considering his past with this organization, but he has friends on the team, he likes Edmonton and is more ready for the pressures of playing for the Oilers than he ever was before.

With all this said, it's still up in the air as to whether or not this gets done, since it hinges on so many other factors. Can the Oilers move bodies? If so, who? If not, where do they fit Comrie in under the cap?


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As is being reported by Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal, Rob Schremp has signed a one-year two-way deal with the Oilers, meaning Schremp will command $715,000 if he makes the NHL club, but less than $75,000 if he is sent down to the Oilers’ American Hockey League affiliate in Springfield, Mass.

It also means that Schremp will have to clear waivers on his way to the minors because he has now played three full seasons in the AHL , which gives the New York Islanders first crack at claiming Schremp if the Oilers were to send him down. You can almost bet the Islanders would pick him up knowing that they lack major offensive depth and Schremp might finally get the chance to show he belongs that he's always wanted.

Speculation was the Oilers might let Schremp walk this summer, but this signing tells me that Rob Schremp, unless he has a terrific camp, will not be starting the season in Edmonton. Not really a big surprise. This also tells me that Rob Schremp will be called up in only two circumstances. 1) The Oilers believe when they bring him up he's shown he's progressed enough to stay or 2) Edmonton has finally said enough of your attitude and hopes the Islanders or another team chooses to claim him when they send him back down.

As Matheson adds "Rob Schremp has been great in juniors, mediocre in the AHL, but has not been able to come close to matching that offensive output as a pro. His best season in the minors came with Springfield in 2007-08, where he managed 23 goals and 76 points. Last season, however, his totals dropped to a dismal seven goals and 42 points in 69 AHL games. He also played four regular games with the Oilers last season, garnering three assists."


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The Two Mikes...

As has now been reported on numerous sites, Mike Sillinger has been added to the Edmonton Oilers management crew as a mentor in the junior ranks.

“We are very excited to have Mike fill such an important role with us,” said Tambellini. “We know his experience of 1,000-plus NHL games will benefit our younger players and the development of their careers.”

There are going to be arguments on both sides for this move. Sillinger has no management experience on his resume. The only real professional coaching he's done is as a teammate to some hundred or so NHL players over the 11 teams in which he played in the NHL. That's a pretty good start.

As one reader on another forum put it and to which I agree, the Oilers are trying to develop a core with strong character and dedication. Mike has both of these qualities. Add to that his extensive career, his exposure to multiple teams with different playing styles, coaching philosophies and two way style of play over his long career and Sillinger should help in assessing players at both ends of the rink which is a valuable asset. Others have also pointed out his talent in the face-off circle which is an obvious weakness within the organization.

That leads us to another Mike, whose faceoff % is not quite as glowing. 37% in Ottawa last year and 41% in NYI. 46% the year before and you start to get an idea of the pattern that goes on.

I bring this up because Mike Comrie to Edmonton rumors just don't seem to be slowing down and I'm not sure why. If the contract term and numbers are as low as they say, then perhaps there is not a whole lot to lose, but whatever possessed the Oilers to even consider a player that offers the same if not less than a good five other forwards on the Oilers roster right now is beyond me. I'm guessing this has more to do with the Comrie camp calling Edmonton, than the other way around.

Regardless, the Oilers will struggle in the faceoff dot this year and Comrie doesn't address that need. That said, here's what I can see coming...

Comrie signs for 1 yr at $1.3 million, which provides the following advantages:

a) he has a bit more of a proven record than some of our current similar style forwards, but at less the cost.
b) he's been around longer with relationships to players the Oilers might have interest in aquiring (perhaps Dany Heatley)
c) he's looking to prove himself over this coming year to earn a better contract next season

The dominos:

One of the other forwards are traded possibly along with picks for grit or a bonafide 3rd line centre. I envision the former as I think the Oilers truly believe they have internally someone who can fill the 3rd line role. Names to look for might be Cheechoo out of San Jose, Ryan Johnson out of Vancouver, or even a player like Tomas Holmstrom out of Detroit.

We thought the summer was interesting before. We'll have lots more to talk about if both Mike's become a part of the Oilers in some way, shape or form.


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Jason Smith Absolutely Bails Out Ottawa

I'm a big fan of Jason Smith. I'd like to start this writing by mentioning that I believe Smith to be one of the grittiest, firey, and passionately true "Oilers" that ever played for the Copper and Blue. Oiler fans should always be greatful for having a guy like Jason Smith help define and set forth what it meant to be an Edmonton Oiler.

With all that said, Smith's retirement announcement comes at a time that helps everyone, especially the Ottawa Senators. This retirement devoids Ottawa of all consequences related to going over the salary cap and signing a player like Kovalev, when as a team, they didn't have the room to do so. With their inability to move Heatley and the season not far off, the Senators and in all likelihood Jason Smith knew that a decision was coming. A decision that would have made everyone look bad.

When you have cap issues and you can't make further trades, you're options as a team are to find an expendable player and waive or bury their contract in the minors. Jason Smith was going to be that player. At $2.5 million and being far less effective than he was with his limited skill set to start with, it's very possible this decision comes after a conversation between Murray and Smith which gave Gator the option to publicly leave on his terms. Sure, it's just as likely Smith was looking at or contemplating retirement anyways, but it's no coincidence that he made this announcement before being moved ; and it was smart to do so.

Ottawa didn't want to bury a gritty verteran and captain material player in the minors, and Smith wouldn't have wanted to go there. Retiring allows Smith the opportunity to leave in a dignified manner, and in the meantime, help Ottawa clear up some much needed cap space. So too, if my hunch is correct, I respect Murray for giving Smith that option.

Regardless of why this retirement took place, my hat goes off to Jason Smith. He'll truly be remembered as an Oiler who took no crap, who stood up for his team and who was able to make a worthy career out of more than skill. It's too bad not all of our current roster could be a little more like Gator.


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Behind the Bigger Story Lies a Smaller More Concerning One...

I'm a bit concerned and I'll tell you why. While I have about as much interest in what happens with the NHLPA and the firing of Paul Kelly as executive director of the National Hockey League players association, as I do sticking a pickle up my nose, I did find it interesting that Shawn Horcoff, who is a high ranking rep and Oilers team rep in the NHLPA had some comments on the topic.

When asked during an interview about what was going on in the NHLPA, the topic switched to the Oilers and Horcoff's excitement to get the season underway. Like a good little Oiler, he answered many of the questions in a politically correct fashion with phrases like "we're eager to prove people wrong" or "wipe clean the end of last season which we were all terribly dissappointed with".

What stuck with me however was his answer to how he thought he personally could live up to his rather large pay increase and his personal excitement to get on the ice and be a more offensive player. Among other responses, Horcoff mentioned he wasn't sure what his role would be since he hadn't yet spoken to Pat Quinn. Hmmm... and this is second interview in which Horcoff has made that comment.

Does that concern anyone else but me? I'm not out here to suggest that at this stage Quinn, Renney and Horcoff speak offensive strategy, play combinations and linemates; but no contact at all? No "hello"? No "hey Shawn it's Pat Quinn, we'll talk to you at camp, but I'm looking forward to our discussions about how to improve this team?"

Pat Quinn has had months now to contact any of the players he'd like to. Whether it be an outreach to players like Penner, Smid and Cogliano to tell them he's happy they are still a part of the Oilers future plans, or to introduce himself as coach to his new captains, I can think of plenty of reasons the new coach might want to at least call one of the assistant captains. Heck, if the management team and coaching staff can fly to Kelowna to chat with a player not even on their roster, could Quinn not pick up the phone and say hello to someone who is?

Not having yet spoken to a pivotal cog in the machine known as the Oilers in Shawn Horcoff, is like moving into a new house but not looking at all the rooms because you only sleep in the master and personally have no need for the other ones. By doing so, you have an incomplete picture of what your entire house (or in this case your entire team) looks like before its time to put it to the test.

As an Oiler fan, I've come to learn never to get to overly excited about the prospects for change. I've also come to expect that as a result, the Oilers come out publicly and declare their intentions to improve this team internally because they have the peices to do so. With Horcoff meaning so many things on a team that needs, so many things, I'm surprised and any internal investigations and searching for answers are hard to buy into if the coach and his players aren't talking yet.

Being years removed from the NHL, I would like to think Pat Quinn can't wait to chat with, listen to and skate with his team, yet in two -three months, he and Horcoff have had absolutely no contact.

Maybe it's just me.


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My Guess? It's Down to NYR, Minnesota and Ottawa

Bryan Murray is about to go on record setting a deadline for a trade to take place for Dany Heatley, or he'll be a Senator. It sounds almost like punishment when you say it that way, but we're learning more and more that teams that may have had some interest or were at least rumored to are dropping out of the race officially or coming to the forefront.

After Hextall's comments, we all knew LA was unlikely. Many still seemed to think there was a chance even though signs like Ryan Smyth pointed away from it. With rumors starting to surface that Frolov might be headed out, Heatley to LA once again gained some steam. That is of course until LA Kings GM Dean Lombardi said in an earlier interview with the Los Angeles Times "Do I want to bring in a Dany Heatley with all that baggage? It might work," Lombardi told the paper. "But I don't think we're in a position where we can afford that. ... Maybe a change of environment and he grows up. But my point is, do we need to take that risk right now? It scares me."

So LA is out and we kind of always knew that.
San Jose started to look interesting when Wilson made some cap space available trading defenseman Christian Ehrhoff and Brad Lukowich to the Vancouver Canucks for center Patrick White and defenseman Daniel Rahimi. Signs started looking like they might be making move to finalize a Heatley deal. Of course that was until Brad Staubitz and Torrey Mitchell were added to the roster taking back just under $2 million of what Wilson had freed up.
San Jose now has just enough players to ice a team this season and even if the new signings aren't going to all play with the big team, any trade involving Heatley would mean either a) superstar for superstar b) equal quantity of players going both ways or c) Wilson is able to execute a preceding trade to facilitate the Heatley deal before this supposed Ottawa deadline comes due. All options are extremely unlikely thanks to no trade clauses and salary concerns as the Sharks are still less than $1 million from the salary cap.
I've always contended the deal to the Sharks unlikely, but now it looks more and more like San Jose is working its way to officially being out of the running as well.
The New York Rangers, if you ask Sather were always out. However, no one seemed to believe him because the Rangers tend to find their way into every trade rumor for a superstar in the NHL regardless of how absurd it seems. Heatley would qualify. Sather has the pieces to make this move and in fact a few options should Ottawa feel the need to desperately move Heatley.
For me, I think it possible only because regardless of how Sather overpays players, he seems to find a way to trade the garbage. Doing it again wouldn't surprise me at all and if Ottawa is hurting, they'll take something they don't really want just to move Heatley elsewhere.
While Sather signed Gaborik, Kotalik and Prospal, and in doing so used a lot of his available cap space, he has one big piece in Rosival who makes a big salary and Ottawa may have some interest (even though it's not their first choice).
Minnesota is now my pick as the sleeper team to watch as this Ottawa deadline moves closer, especially with the news that Tanguay is headed to Tampa. Rumors are that an offer has been made, and while the proposed deal does not include stud defenceman Brent Bruns, it does apparently include Mikko Koivu, Nick Schultz and Tyler Cuma. There may be other pieces involved both on Ottawa's end as well as Minnesota's and it sounds like the swap could include a salary dump on Ottawa's end which is what makes this trade somewhat believable.
Adding a little steam that I find far fetched, is the news that Ottawa is trying to see if they can include Martin Havlat in the package. Let's just say at the very least, Minnesota is unlikely to say yes if the deal hinges on Havlat.
The real long shot here would be a three-way trade between Ottawa, Minnesota and San Jose which would see Heatley with the Sharks, Cheechoo with the Wild and Koivu with Ottawa.
That said, I still contend that in all likelihood, Heatley will be back in Ottawa to start the year. Trades are just too difficult to facilitate and every time we see a team do something to suggest movement on the Heatley front, they do something else to back away from him.
If a trade could have been done or the teams still left were going to step-up, they'd have done so already. Perhaps this is a waiting game and Murray with his latest comments is trying to make one final effort to up the bids, but I just don't see Heatley being moved before camp. If he is, you can bet it's either a complicated swap or a flurry of action comes right before and/or after the deal is reported.


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