What Do the Oilers Really Think of the New Faces?

I can't say I've ordered many Oilers PPV's of late. With a team that is more than likely on the losing end of the stick and scoring 1 or 2 goals, adding $15.99 to my cable bill doesn't make a lot of sense when the games are so not entertaining.

I was however inclined on this instance, with a few new faces, to open my ever so tightly gripped money clip and see what newly aquired Ryan Whitney, Aaron Johnson and Ryan Jones would look like as possible futures on a rebuilding Edmonton Oilers team.

My first notion was that Ryan Whitney sure knows how to say the right things for someone who has to be dissappointed to go from a playoff possible club to a 30th place basement dweller. That said, he's been there before with Pittsburg and became part of a great team. In short, he's got the patience to grow with a team in the rebuilding stages and he'll be looked to as top billing going forward.

My second notion was that Ryan Jones was now joining the ever growing list of done for the year Oilers after a more than obvious and dirty knee on knee collision with Boogard. I'm 100% certain that play will result in some form of suspension or disciplinary action by the NHL and Boogard continues to show why he really has no place in todays NHL.

To see Jones even attempt to come back into the game, tells me a lot about this kid and his will to compete. It's a great sign if these are the type of players the Oilers are looking to aquire, even if Jones lacks some of the skillset the Oilers have flocked to in the past.

All in all, Ryan Whitney looked good. He led the Oilers with over 26 minutes of ice-time and outside of a couple scrambles where he seemed out of position, I'd watched him closely through the entire game and his lack of positioning seemed to me more about his infamiliarity with his team than a defensive breakdown in his game.

Whitney made some great passes out of the zone, which he's known for. He took the body a few times and seemed fairly calm for his first game with his new team taking on pretty much anyone who attempted to park themselves infront of his new goalie. Not a bad start for a guy known as sometimes kind of falling asleep at the wheel.

I was really surprised by Aaron Johnson. Granted, I didn't pay as close attention to him as I did a few others, but from what I did see, he's not the throw away I expected him to be in the Staios trade. At least not if he plays this way consistently.

What really impressed me, was his physical play and grit, but knowing when to turn it off for the benefit of the team. Owen Nolan running into Deslauriers was a prime example.

This was golden opportunity for a new Oiler and young kid fighting for a job on this team to take on a legit tough guy in Owen Nolan. Other players in Johnson's position would likely try to fight Nolan, but not this time. Johnson had a quick conversation with Deslauriers, was told his goalie was alright and allowed his new team to go on a powerplay by cooling his jets and choosing a more appropriate time to lose his cool.

Considering Johnson logged over 21 minutes, he looked good. You could tell he was tired, not being used to that much time, but he battled until the end. Maybe the Oilers won't consider Johnson a throw away after all and see taking a look at him as a 6 or 7 blueliner worth while.

For faces that weren't so new, I liked the play of Mike Comrie and have liked it all season. For some reason he's been in and out of the lineup since returning from illness, but if you think about it, Comrie has 8 goals in 28 games. If he'd have been healthy, he'd have scored 24 goals this season which is a steal at just over $1 mill a season and exactly why the Oilers thought to give him a shot.

I hope the Oilers give Comrie another chance to do what he wanted to do this year, which is come back and prove himself in the NHL. The Oilers should still be able to get a good price for him and he provides good mentorship on a rebuilding team. The combination of the two is what the Oilers will look for in the next one to two seasons.

Finally, I thought Deslauriers was the best I've seen him in a long time with the Oilers.

Maybe it's just me and I'm now completely sold on the idea of a rebuild. I'm looking at different things and noticing different facets of the team and this game showed me that there are bright spots on this team going forward. Sure, Tambellini has work to do, but not as much as people might think to at least be competitive.


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Where Do the Oilers Go From Here With Their Blueline? I Have a Feeling This Is Just the Start

If you didn't catch it yesterday, a serious rebuild is underway here in Edmonton. Fan favorite and productive veteran Lubomir Visnovsky was traded and despite an earlier unanimous feeling from fans that a clearing house and shedding of salary was the smart way to go; Visnovsky was moved to a chorus of geers and vocal regrets.

I was absolutely a fan of Visnovsky. Hands down, I believed he was the best all around Oilers defenceman to play for this team in the last two seasons. But this turn from fans all of a sudden has me wondering if most understand the definition of a rebuild in the NHL.

It seems clear to me that for Visnovsky, he was getting older and the team was getting younger. He was expensive and the team was getting cheaper. He was of value and the Oilers wouldn't have been able to do much to utilize his skillset this, next or maybe even the year after next in terms of competing for the playoffs, which the Oilers likely won't do.

And for all the quick to judge the value of a trade fans who feel Tambellini got hose (and there are a great number that feel that way), Ryan Whitney isn't a bad return either. Sure, he's not Visnovsky. But who's to say he doesn't become a close comparison at what is currently $1.6 million per year less for the next few seasons. If he's able to put up 40-50 points along with the size he brings and the leadership he says he'd like to offer, the Oilers could do much much worse.
Whitney is hitting his prime as a player. He's learning how to play without the assitance of a terrific surrounding cast like he had in Pittsburg, and despite what many are geering him for, he's still an Olympian who in a bad year has twenty some points from the blueline. He's also a fraction of the cost, many years younger and his totals so far rank him tops among the Oilers by the way.

With the clear direction now in place, the question on a few minds becomes where the Oilers go from here with their blueline.

Don't for a second think that the Oilers are done moving things around. They'll have time to inquire at the draft and during the summer and if value exists for Sheldon Souray, they'll likely make a move. Souray's no trade clause ends after the final game of the season for Edmonton and to some teams, including Anaheim who had discussed Souray before injury finished Souray's season, he has value.

If not and the Oilers can't find a taker; with a corps of Souray, Ryan Whitney, Tom Gilbert, Ladislav Smid and hopefully Taylor Chorney if he continues to improve, the Oilers shipped out three big name defencemen, the money that went with them and left themselves nothing to sneeze at. It's a much less expensive and still decent start for a total retooling of their blueline.

The prospects in the system (outside of maybe Chorney) are likely not ready to make the jump, leaving the Oilers with two choices. Spend next year near the bottom of the standings, but develop and draft high, or bring in one or two more younger defensive bodies through free agency or trade that help the Oilers as they get better eventually competing in the next two to three years.

With Souray as your leader and possibly future captain should he not be traded, Whitney providing size and playoff experience, Smid a gritty and a shut down blueliner in the making and Tom Gilbert and Taylor Chroney your puck movers; the Oilers could do a whole lot worse. Assuming they can stay healthy.

But who do you add to round out your blueline?

The Oilers have for absolute love for Dan Hamhuis, who I'm sure the Oilers are aware is a UFA come the end of this season. Hamhuis will draw some attention from other teams, but the Oilers could do worse than spending some of their newly freed up money on a fair but longer term contract on what could be a top defenceman in the NHL if he progresses as the Oilers seem to think he will.

Even without Hamhuis, who I agree is a nice building block on a long term (maybe five or six year)deal, there are plenty of options available which help you round out your top six if you are the Oilers.

Players like Paul Martin from New Jersey at 28 yrs old, Denis Seidenberg who just moved to Boston at the deadline and the Bruins won't likely keep, or even an Adrian Aucoin from Phoenix, who while not a rebuilding piece, provides great leadership and a terrific shot from the point at a fraction of the cost; show that the Oilers have quite a few options and that what we see now is likely not what starts the 2010/2011 season.


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Why the Visnovsky and Staios Trades Are Good For the Oilers

Fans were waiting...and waiting... and waiting. What they got was news that came in after the deadline passed that a two players, one many fans liked for a player most Oiler fans aren't too familiar with and another a sheer salary dump have left the Oilers.

For a long time on Wednesday, fans were starting to get frustrated that the Oilers who were in massive selling mode, had been doing nothing. But much like last year, at the final moments the biggest trades of the day came and involved Edmonton.

One Olympian in Lubomir Visnovsky heads to Anaheim for another Olympian in Ryan Whitney. Visnovsky, the more proven asset of the two takes with him a high salary cap hit at $5.6 million for the next four years and his years senior in age for a 27 year old offensive defeceman with a ton of offensive potential at a lot less money.

Initial reaction seems to be a lot of dissappointment over moving out Visnovsky, but if you consider the Oilers are in what could be a three to four to year rebuild, Visnovsky at 37 wouldn't have made an impact on an improved Oiler team in 2013 or 2014, thus he'd have kept playing on a team up until then that wouldn't have won the big one. Those complaining the Oilers lost leadership and replaced it with nothing, need look no further than the player who didn't move in Sheldon Souray. So too, having to option to keep a Ryan Whitney or let him leave after his remaing four years at $4 million gives the Oilers more options in trade or free agency when it matters most.

In a separate move, the Oilers made history by trading directly with the Calgary Flames for the first time in Oilers franchise history. In what has to be a financially motivated move, Staios was on the block and Edmonton successfully moves another $2.7 million in salary for next season.

For obvious reasons, freeing up this kind of cap space gives the Oilers plenty of options and if buying out or waiving Nilsson, O'Sullivan or Moreau does happen, those are the easier of the contracts to waive and thus cost the Oilers the least in cap trouble at the time they might choose to do so.

The end result after all this salary dumping in Denis Grebeshkov, Lubomir Visnovsky and Steve Staios, is that the Oilers still employ Sheldon Souray, Tom Gilbert, Ryan Whitney, and Ladislav Smid, all of whom could help the Oilers as they clearly rebuild and could be far worse off than two or three previous and potential Allstars/Olympians on the blueline.

Is there more to come today? Doubtful, but even though the Oilers have shed loads of salary and replaced it with a decent player, they given themselves options headed towards the draft.


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Oilers Claim Ryan Jones from Predators: Some Action in the Oilers Offices for Moreau?

The Oilers haven't done much on trade deadline day as of 12 noon eastern time. Yet...

Edmonton has claimed size and a little scoring touch in forward Ryan Jones from the Nashville Predators from waivers in an attempt to either fill their 2010/2011 roster with some size and potential at a low cap or make room for another move -- possibly Ethan Moreau.

In the case of a team like Edmonton, who is only able to make moves to a team with cap space available or moving dollars out for dollars in, any moves involving prospects or call ups are a decent indication that something more meaningful is on the way.

Ryan Jones name won't spark a lot of interest from fans who are looking for a bit more to talk about after this day comes to a close. In fact, many fans might not know who Ryan Jones is.

One thing we can't forget, is how much this deadline day for Edmonton will be about managing next years cap and setting themselves up for options come this years draft and the summer. Picking up players who can provide a little something at a lower cost in comparison to players who may be heading out make sense.

In 41 games this season, Jones has 7 goals and 4 assists for 11 points. He brings some size and sandpaper. Sounds like an Ethan Moreau type player to me, with a fraction of the cost.

Could this forshadow the Oilers trying to fill a hole for a departing Ethan Moreau? With L.A. now rumoured to be out of the sweepstakes for a few rumoured names, but interest in Moreau, it might make sense.

More to come...


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Bring on the Backlash: Grebeshkov Gets Two Points Against the Oilers in a 4-3 Loss to Nashville

One day after being aquired by the Predators in deal that brought a 2nd round draft pick to the Oilers, Grebeshkov literally walked across the hall in Nashville to join his new team.

A player who in Edmonton spent more time at the end of a million complaints about his lack of defence and total ability to turn the puck over, Grebeshkov did what no team wants to see right after a trade -- he played a pivitol role in his former teams loss with a goal and an assist.

As it is, and will likely be tomorrow until another name is moved an occupies some of the conversation from an Oilers standpoint; those same fans who all year had terrible things to say about Grebeshkov are now set to jump all over the Edmonton Oilers for moving a player for "merely" a 2nd round draft pick, using his two point night as evidence the Oilers made a mistake.

But trust me, the Oilers didn't make a mistake.

Grebeshkov, who has been a thorn in the side of Oiler management since his arrival for Marc-Andre Bergeron, has proven to be one of Edmonton's best weapons at times from the blueline to one of the worst offenders of major collapses and sheer bonehead plays costing the Oilers victories. The same type of comparisons get made frequently to the likes of a Robert Nilsson and an Ethan Moreau, two players most Oilers fans would like to see added to the list of names headed to another NHL city on Wednesday and for nothing in return if it took that much.

If you compare the movement of players so far at this deadline since the Olympics broke, only Ponikarovsky was the target in a move by a playoff bound team, the rest being offensive minded defencemen. None of whom by the way have attracted more than a 2nd round selection. Give Tambellini credit for getting 2nd rounder of the bunch considering Nashville's standing in the NHL right now.

Add to that, Grebeshkov is a higher end cap hit, a player that the Oilers deemed expendable, with a plethora of the same style defensemen much harder to move and most importantly a contract, which if the Oilers chose to fight for next season would be forced to offer $3 million per season to keep. Grebeshkov wasn't worth $3 million when he got it this year, and he definitely isn't worth it in 2010/2011 when the Oilers can't afford to overpay any new contracts based on production, which Grebs hasn't provided.

As Oiler fans it's clear that the Edmonton Oilers have a lot of players that might be interesting to other teams if not for their contracts. Of the players to move to help the Oilers out, only a name like Fernando Pisani seems to be generating interest and he's one of the few names on the team with no contract restriction next season.

Oiler fans should be prepared for a slower day on Wednesday. One that won't likely return any fresh, new or exciting faces. Should the Oilers make moves, the odds are that 2nd, 3rd and 4th round picks are what comes back.

Of course, that won't be for lack of trying on the part of Tambellini. What may shock some people are the names people aren't expecting to move that might go.. ala Dustin Penner.

I won't put any money on it, nor do I think it's a likely scenario, but I've heard a few rumblings.


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First to Go is Denis Grebeshkov

In what shouldn't be a surprise by any stretch, the Oilers have begun what might be a slow process in shedding some salary from the team and moved defenseman Denis Grebeshkov to the Nashville Predators for a 2nd round pick in 2010.

To me, this is a smart move. Grebeshkov, who was overpaid for his one year of high offensive production, has really come back to reality and had a poor year for a player making more than $3 million per season.

With the Oilers need to really move salary from the back end and the arrival of players like Taylor Chorney and Theo Peckham, keeping a player who at any time could bolt to Russia and the KHL as an RFA meant getting something in return now makes sense.

Grebeshkov, who is viewed highly in Russia as a valued offensive defenseman would have been a target internationally and the Oilers could ill afford to overpay for his lack of production next year when the salary cap is bound to hit the Oilers hard.


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