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The Oilers have made a lot of changes. They were soft, they added toughness. They had players who lacked effort and character and they added character guys. They had issues with morale in the dressing room and they cleared out almost everyone who trained, managed or could influence the team in that respect.

The Oilers still have a few puzzle pieces left to fit into place.

On that list is a need for a penalty killing machine. Losing Pisani and Moreau may not mean much in terms of offensive production, but in the case of playing one man down, both players were relied upon to pull much of the heavy weight.

The Oilers could fill one or two more spots. Comrie seems to be one that makes sense in terms of a top six forward with experience, but on the blueline (an area that I think Edmonton has really improved) one more experienced defensive minded blueliner could help. That they can also kill penalties will be a must and Comrie isn't really that guy.

Right now the Oilers only have Tom Gilbert (2:39), Ryan Whitney (2:30), Colin Fraser (1:26), Jason Strudwick (2:33), Shawn Horcoff (2:22), Sheldon Souray (2:12), Ladislav Smid (1:51) who have played any time on the kill. Souray likely won't be here and Strudwick's numbers are deceiving because he won't play 60% of the games.

There are a few defensemen and forwards available on the market still who can fill that role quite nicely. The Oilers might be smart to go after one. There is no telling what these kids (MPS, Hall and Eberle) can or can't do on the kill and finishing worse than where the Oilers did last year (26th in the NHL) would mean trouble.


Willie Mitchell

Mitchell won't be going back to Vancouver. Gillis has said he'd wait until he was aware of what health issues were still of concern for Mitchell before ruling out bringing him back, but the moves Vancouver made during the draft and free agency means there is absolutely no room for him.

Mitchell is a question mark because of his health. If he's ready to go for opening night, it might be worth taking a chance. The Oilers could use a veteran defencemen if they were to add someone and Mitchell led the NHL last season in time/game on the penalty kill at 4:04. That's almost a minute and a half more than anyone on the Oilers roster.

Mitchell made about $3.5 million last season. There is no way he makes that again. If the Oilers offered $2.5 -$3 on a one year once they knew he was healthy, they might have a good chance of landing him.

Mike Weaver

Weaver is a blueline UFA from St. Louis who finished second in the entire NHL in terms of penalty kill time last season with 3:59 per game. The bonus with grabbing someone from St. Louis is that they were the best team in the NHL shorthanded last season, so if Weaver led the way, we know he must be good at it.

Weaver made $800,000 last season. I don't think he gets a lot of time as a high ranking defenceman for you, but at $1 million bucks, you could play him in the #5 or #6 spot and use him primarily on the kill if you needed. It would still be money well spent. Weaver is 32 and has NHL experience dating back to 2001. Otherwise, I don't know a whole lot about him.

Ian Laperriere

Truly a grit and character guy who makes for a great fourth line right wing. Problem is Laperriere is still under contract for one more season with the Flyers. The Flyers however are in a situation where they won't be able to keep everyone they want to and there might be a situation where Laperriere becomes part of a trade between the two teams.

Lapperriere spent 2:50 per game on the kill last season and likes to block shots with his face. I strongly emphasize the word like. While noone really enjoys it, I can't remember the last time someone smiled after it happened -- Laperriere did. He reminds me of Jason Smith, just as a forward. He might not be captain material, but his actions speak loudly in a teams dressing room.

Craig Conroy

Veteran center who could fill in well on that fourth line and played 2:13 per game last year in Calgary on the PK. You wouldn't want anything more than a 1 year contract with Conroy thanks to his age, but he seems quite durable.

Calgary had a few forwards who were strong on the kill last season. Langkow, Higgins and Conroy led the team and with that many strong guys to play a similar penalty killing role it is possible Conroy is being overlooked in Calgary. He could be had to a very fair price and is definitely a leadership and character type guy the Oilers have been going after this off-season.

John Madden

The Blackhawks are still stuck in cap hell and are in the midst of trying to figure out what to do about an recent RFA offer on Hjalmarsson. Madden quietly was the leading forward for Chicago on the kill averaging 2:18 per game. Madden could be a 3rd or 4th line center for the Oilers and the added bonus is that he was 53% on faceoffs last season adding 10 goals and 23 points while doing so. Killing two or three birds with one stone is a good strategy here.

$2.5 million for one year or if you want to take a chance $1.8-$2 over two years would get it done. Madden is 37 though, so the Oilers would want to be careful with dishing out more than one year contracts.

Fernando Pisani

The Oilers and for that matter any other NHL team have yet to make a call. Pisani's injuries and health are of major concern and Pisani likely won't be offered a contract. It means that either a) Pisani can be had for league minimum and surprise a few people or b) will be offered a tryout by some NHL franchise.

If Pisani is healthy he's a deal at $500,000 - $700,000. Perhaps he might even accept a two-way contract to keep playing and show he has something left to offer. In either case, his skill on the kill is reason enough alone to warrant consideration.

Going back to the well is something Edmonton seems to be avoiding, but if other short-handed options aren't available Pisani fits.


There are others, but this list is a start. The longer free agency goes on, the more likely some of these players go unsigned. It becomes a matter then of who offers the only contract these guys are going to see versus offers the first tryout to an NHL camp.

Players like Blair Betts slipped through Edmonton's fingers last season. I don't suggest the Oilers let it happen again.


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