Six Degrees of Oilers Success...

I was thinking when the Jason Spezza buzz hit, just how varied the opinions are. Some fans are in love with the idea quickly forgetting how painful the Heatley fiasco was for Oiler fans. Others don't want anything to do with it thinking that the package required to obtain Spezza's services is far too great to give up.

The speculation itself led me to thinking, with the draft just weeks away and the Oilers GM Steve Tambellini set to make some of the franchises most important decisions; what would I do if I were in Tambellini's shoes? If I had six decisions to make (which I don't feel is too many compared to what Tambo is about to do), what decisions would I make to improve this franchise?

Taking into account that decisions like who the Oilers will draft, who the Oilers will buyout or who the Oilers will trade or sign as one of my six, here is what I would do (consider this is a fun exercise more than a true examination that requires more research):

1) If Spezza is actually available in trade and the Sens are willing to take a hefty Oiler contract in return, I'd make that trade. I'd offer Souray, Cogliano, Deslauriers and the 31st overall draft choice. If that didn't work, I'd place Penner in Souray's spot if I had to. I truly believe that to be something Brian Murray heavily considers. He needs defensemen with some of his top guys leaving. He needs a viable backup goalie who could one day be a number one guy and he likes Cogliano. The salaries are a wash and it moves some of Edmonton's need-to-move contracts.

2) If I landed Spezza, I would draft Taylor Hall. That gives me Hemsky/Spezza/Hall as my first line, if not for this year the next, which I like going forward. I feel Hall to be the best player anyways, but I liked Seguin's character and potential to turn into the better player. With Spezza, Gagner and Horcoff the Oilers are doing well at center, so drafting Hall makes the most sense. Without Spezza, I draft Tyler Seguin.

3) With Spezza and Gagner as my top two centers, I'd offer Gilbert Brule a two year contract for $3.5 million over those two years. Horcoff and Brule could then rotate as my third line center knowing that he's gritty, he hits, and he's tougher to play against and he can play wing. He'd have to improve at faceoffs, but I think he can do it. He could play in the top six to shake things up or due to injury, but I'd give him two years to show he's more than a third line guy.

4) If Souray isn't part of the Ottawa trade, I look to obtain at least a 2nd round draft pick and a veteran five or six defenceman for Souray to move him. That second rounder replaces the 2nd rounder I gave up in the Spezza trade. This helps give a bit more presence to the Oilers blueline after losing Souray, but means I'd still need to sign someone to play bigger fourth d-man minutes. If I can get a valid dman in return great, but doing so requires taking money back and I'm not sure I want to do that.

5) I'd make a pitch for Nashville blueliner Dan Hamhuis, offering something in the neighbourhood of 4 or 5 years at about $3.2 million per. He's due for a raise and we'd be placing an offer to compete with Nashville who still wants him, but with Whitney and Gilbert around $4 million each, Hamhius' $3.2 per isn't detrimental to the Oilers moving forward. If it didn't work, I'd sign Aaron Johnson (who I might sign anyways) and make a pitch for either Adrian Aucoin or another player who can log some key minutes and brings some special team elements.

6) I'd sign some key low number contracts such as Pisani, Comrie, Dubnyk, Potulny for around a million or under on one year deals. Not all of them of course, just the players I'd need to fill holes. It allows me time shape up my rebuilding team, add or keep responsible veteran players while the team matures and expire other contracts that we don't really want.

My team would look like this:

Hemsky (4.1) / Spezza (7) / Hall (3)
Penner (4.2) / Gagner (2.5) / Nilsson (2)
MPS (1.5) / Horcoff (5.5) / Pisani (.7)
Jones (.9) / Brule (1.75)/ Stortini (.7)

Whitney (4)/ Gilbert (4)
Smid (1.3) / Hamhuis (3.2)
Johnson (.7) / Strudwick (.7)

Khabibulin (3.7)
Dubnyk (1)

Cap Hit: 53.15 Million
Current: 56.8 Million
Room Before Projected Cap Increase: 3.65 Million

I do realize this creates a need to move Moreau and O'Sullivan for low draft picks or to the minors, even possibly buying them out, but the 3.65 million in cap space allows for it. The cap is expected to go up another $1-$2 million and if it does it creates even more space to leave one as a thirteenth forward letting their contract simply expire.

I give Eberle plenty of time to mature and not necessarily in the NHL, knowing with injuries he could still see significant playing time.

I expect this to be widely criticized and possibly liked by some. What would you do?


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