What Is the True Definition of a Rebuilding Hockey Team

The Edmonton Oilers are rebuilding. Of that there is no doubt. But, what defines a true rebuild?

Taking a closer look at our Jason Spezza poll, I got to thinking and immediately saw two things that jumped out at me. First, the reaction is mixed. Rumors that Spezza may be available by trade has created all sorts of responses from fans of the Oilers. Second, those against the idea of a true number one center by trade instead of a possible number one center by draft, site Spezza as an example of going against the "rebuilding model" the Oilers are following.

My question is this. Does picking up a 27 year old first line center in Jason Spezza really mean the Oilers would then no longer be rebuilding? It can't be the term of the contract. With five years left, Spezza would be around when the Oilers draft picks start to mature. It must be the price right?

I thought, to really know the definition of a rebuild, I'd need to look at a couple of teams who are known for and have successfully "rebuilt" their franchises. These are teams that were at rock bottom and then drafted well thanks to their placement near the low end of the totem pole. They are also now, among the most competitive teams in the NHL.

I assume most people would be in agreement that the Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings, Pittsburg Penguins and Washington Capitals lead the pack in teams that fit this description. These are all teams that are either on the cusp of being winners for a long time or are now among the favorites each year to compete for the Stanley Cup (Kings lesser so than the others). I would argue most might agree they got to this status thanks to a rebuild philosophy.

Teams like San Jose, New Jersey, and Detroit aren't included. Neither are Tampa and NYI. Not because they haven't drafted well (in fact they have), but because at no time in my recollection, was the team known for completely rebuilding itself and some of these teams still suck.

Taking a look at the recent transactions and draft picks of each team tells us something interesting.


Noteable Draft Picks:

Patrick Kane (2007 1st overall), Jonathan Toews (2006 3rd overall), Cam Barker (2004 3rd overall), David Bolland (2004 32nd overall), Brent Seabrook (2003 14th overall), Dustin Byfuglien (2003 245th overall), Duncan Keith (2002 54th overall)

Trades and Signings:

Chicago started by trading for Kris Versteeg on Feb 3, 2007. They moved Tuomo Ruttu for Andrew Ladd on Feb 2008 and later on July 1st that year signed Cristobal Huet to a four year $22.5 million dollar contract and Brian Campbell to an 8 yr $56.8 million dollar deal. The following summer, Chicago went after the biggest free agent available and signed Marian Hossa to a 12 yr $62.8 million dollar contract. In smaller deals Chicago also acquired Tomáš Kopecký, John Madden, and Richard Petiot. One of the biggest trades in my opinion was obtaining Patrick Sharp from Philadelphia. Chicago may be forced to move him due to cap issues, but he's an integral part of that franchise.

A Quick Glance

Chicago did extremely well at the draft(s). They had the luxury of drafting two of its franchise players in the top three, but did well with later first round picks and found some sleepers in Byfuglien and Duncan Keith.

There is no doubt the draft made up for most of Chicago's success, but signings like Marian Hossa, Brian Campbell and Cristobal Huet can't be ignored thanks to their sheer size and dollar value. This is especially true as GM at the time Dale Tallon made an effort to outbid other teams for their services. Specifically, a player like Hossa will be a big part of the Blackhawks future for years to come and additional players who came from other trades represent some of Chicago's big salary assets.

Some of these non-draft selection signings and trades have paid dividends more than others, but it tells us that the Blackhawks didn't rely solely on their draft picks to ice a top notch team.

Los Angeles

The rebuild in LA essentially began on April 21, 2006 when current GM Dean Lombardi was hired. He revamped every aspect of the Kings from front office and coaching to player personell.

Despite being known mostly for drafting Drew Doughty (2nd overall in 2008), who is looking like a leading Norris Trophy candidate for the next decade or more, the Kings lack of an actual rebuild through draft selections might surprise a few people.

Trades and Signings:

The first thing Lombardi did, was sign players like center Michal Handzus, left wings Ladislav Nagy and Kyle Calder, and defensemen Tom Preissing, Brad Stuart and Jon Klemm. Lombardi actually traded his big name draft pick in Mike Cammalleri (49th overall in 2001) to Calgary.

Along the way, Lombardi added pieces like Matt Greene and Jarret Stoll from Edmonton, Jack Johnson and Justin Williams from Carolina and Ryan Smyth from Colorado.

Noteable Draft Picks:

Dustin Brown (13th overall 2003), Alexander Frolov (20th overall in 2000), Anze Kopitar (11th overall in 2005), Wayne Simmonds (61st overall in 2007).

Quick Glance:

While some might argue my inclusion of the Kings in this article, many would agree L.A. to be a team of the future. Los Angeles is often referred to as a well rebuilt team that is on the verge of being a great team for a long time. The thing is, only Brown, Kopitar and Simmonds are draft picks making a difference in terms of the Kings recent success (Frolov is likely on his way out).

The Kings made big trades for high priced veteran players like Ryan Smyth, moving young pieces and high draft picks made in years prior in the opposite direction and to other teams. Not exactly the philosphy of a "rebuild".

A perfect example would be the Kings moving someone like Mike Cammalleri. Had Cammalleri have been drafted by the Oilers, then traded in a quiet draft three way deal for a draft pick, Oilers fans would have stormed the gates! Yet the Kings essentially traded one of their best ever post lock-out draft picks in the middle of a rebuild time.


Noteable Draft Picks:

Sidney Crosby (1st overall in 2005), Evgeni Malkin (2nd overall 2004), March Andre Fleury (1st overall in 2003), Brooks Orpik (18th overall 2000), Jordan Staal (2nd overall in 2006), Kris Letang (62nd overall in 2005), Ryan Malone (115th overall in 1999).

Signings and Trades:

Sergei Gonchar signed a five year $25 million dollar deal with the Penguins on August 4, 2005. Marian Hossa, Hal Gill, Maxime Talbot, Ruslan Fedotenko, Bill Guerin, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Chris Kunitz were all additions that while not big ticket items (outside of Hossa) made a big difference in the depth of that organization.

Quick Glance:

Again, the Penguins did well to draft Crosby, Malkin, Staal and Fleury, who are undisputedly the backbone of that team. Pittsburg did however do its fair share of big game hunting, going after and obtaining Sergei Gonchar (arguably their top defenceman for the last five years), Marian Hossa and others who were brought in to put this team over the top.

Washington Capitals

Notable Draft Picks:

Nicklas Backstrom (4th overall 2006), Alexander Ovechkin (1st overall 2004), Mike Green (24th overall 2004), Alexander Semin (13th overall in 2002)

Trades and Signings:

Brooks Laich was picked up from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Peter Bondra, while Mike Knuble came from Philly and Jose Theodore and Tom Poti were big name UFA's. Washington also tried to hit a homerun with Michael Nylander, but Edmonton fans know how that one turned out.

Quick Glance:

Washington's potent offence is all related to good drafting in top spots. They made the most out of every first round selection and all are paying off and a big part of the Capitals success.

Where Washington did well in trades and signings was in their depth. They attempted to get over the hump with goaltending and other UFA's but many if not most turned out to be busts. Brooks Laich was a strong move, and Washington is known for making plays at big ticket items (ala Jagr), but their current roster was rebuit from terrible years at the bottom of the NHL standings between 2002 and 2006.

The Point of this Exercise?

This is a long drawn out way of suggesting that every team, even the ones known for drafting well at the top spots because they stunk so bad for so long, use trades and free agency to fill and improve their rosters. Not one team on this list of the most widely known "rebuilds" did it with draft picks alone.

This isn't limited to trades of depth or bottom line talent. Many are star players with big tickets brought in to change the face of the franchise in more than one respect. Some of these teams went so far as to pick up the biggest names on the UFA market or trade for veteran draft picks past their prime with big cap hits.

So, if the best examples one can find of successful rebuilds include big name players who aren't always young and not always draft selections, why should Oiler fans be so quick to dismiss adding a bigger name player by trade or free agency?

What would make someone think that a team like the Oilers who while holding the rights to MPS (10th overall in 2009), Jordan Eberle (22nd overall in 2008), Sam Gagner (6th overall in 2007), Linus Omark (97th overall in 2007), Andrew Cogliano (25th overall in 2005), Ales Hemsky (13th overall in 2001), Shawn Horcoff (99th overall in 1998); couldn't use a little extra help? None of the names listed are picks in the top five. Many of the teams we have to use as rebuild examples had that luxury.

The Oilers will have just one draft pick at a comparable level. The kicker is, that selection hasn't even happened yet. It makes sense to me that the Oilers should be looking at more than just draft picks to effectively "rebuild" this team.

Could Spezza be the Marian Hossa of the group? Could he be the Ryan Smyth to arguably put this team over the hump? Why not? People will argue semantics -- that Spezza isn't a leader, that he's paid too much. All of those arguments may be true. But those same people would likely find fault if the Oilers were to consider Patrick Marleau, Tomas Plekanec or Ilya Kovalchuk should any of those names become a possibility or a good opporunity. I use the word opportunity because I don't believe the Oilers give up the farm to get Spezza. They simply weigh the options of a good hockey trade and accept it if one is there.

To truly compare this Oilers rebuilding team to any of the rebuild success models we've used, the Oilers would either a) need two to three more years including this draft to make top five picks or b) pick up a few players outside of draft selections that make a big impact.

I'm not sold that Spezza is the answer. I also not sold that Spezza throws a rebuild out the window.


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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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Tambellini Claims to "Have No Idea What That Would Look Like"...

In an interview with Dan Tencer, Oilers GM Steve Tambellini covered a number of topics. Remaining as political as he has since finding out the Oilers would be drafting first overall, Tambellini did provide some interesting responses.

When asked by Dan Tencer to respond to how he felt about Chiarelli going public with the fact that he and the Boston GM had spoken about switching picks, Tambellini gave no real response other than that he finds it unfortunate and unprofessional for GM negotiations to be shared with the media.

He added that he fully expects teams to contact him about his first overall pick and "provide advice on what the Oilers should do with it". Tencer followed up by asking if other GMs had and Tambellini's response was he hasn't even given thought and "has no idea what that kind of deal would look like."

Tambellini followed up with noting that while he is obliged to listen to offers, it would have to be one heck of an offer to then get him to go to Kevin Lowe, Daryl Katz and anyone else involved to suggest that the Oilers flip their first ever #1 overall draft selection.

I like Tambellini's response on a number of fronts. First, if Chiarelli wants to play public games in terms of creating or limiting trade leverage, Tambellini has very subtly showed he's ready to play ball. Tambellini understands the value of the first overall selection. For Boston to take it from his clenched little fingers is going to take an offer Chiarelli won't consider small.

This tells me and should tell people thinking that Wheeler or another NHL ready forward plus is too much, should think again. Tambellini is going to try to hit a homerun. If he can't, he'll just go on up and draft first overall.

Quietly, Tambellini just figureatively said 'hey Chiarelli... don't even ask if you can't come up with something that is going to knock my socks off'. Good for you Steve. The first overall pick is a big deal. Boston wants it and to get it, they have to pay dearly. When you have all the leverage, you better damn well use it.

This also tells me that the Oilers really may not have made up their minds yet as to who they consider the best pick at #1.

When asked how the scouting staff was leaning in terms of the selection. Tambellini showed maybe his only real excitement of the interview by discussing how passionate his scouting staff has been in relaying their findings on both players. They've formed some strong opinions on both sides and for both players and the Oilers GM is having a blast and taking as much time is required to hear everyone out.

Tencer switched gears and also covered the idea of the newfound Jason Spezza blitz, by not directly asking or naming names, but mentioning if Tambellini would consider trading for an impact forward and how his relationship with Bryan Murray is. As expected, Tambellini remained neutral avoiding at all costs getting into a conversation about a rumor and saying his relationship with every NHL GM is great including having a great one with Murray.

On the topic of newest Oiler Magnus Svensson, Tambellini was asked about the Swedish player's status. The question itself came not long after a prior Pierre McGuire interview in which Pierre did everything but label MPS a "monster" and emphatically state Magnus would be in the NHL next season and a superstar for Edmonton in the years to come.

Tambellini confidently stated he's excited about MPS and his track record, but more importantly his attitude. Tambellini won't be at all surprised if MPS starts the season with the big club.

McGuire as we all know is a bit more easily excitable, and Tambellini's review wasn't quite as glowing as Pierre's, but this is good news all around for Oiler fans.

Whether more speculation stirs up in respect to Spezza remains to be seen, but don't expect Spezza to say anything negative about the Sens after what he witnessed with his "good buddy" Dany Heatley. Spezza has more class than to run down his current team (even one he may want to leave) while they try to explore trade options for him. If there is action, expect whatever will happen to do so before July 1st when Spezza's no trade clause kicks in.

This could be an interesting draft for the Oilers, whether they are part of this Spezza talk or not.


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Senators and Spezza Parting Ways?

Fresh of the Bob Mackenzie of TSN wire, the Ottawa Senators and Jason Spezza have had some heart to heart conversations. Out of that has come an understanding, that in the right situation, the Sens would be fine moving forward without Spezza and Jason Spezza would be ok to start over elsewhere.

Spezza feels a fresh start where fans haven't soured on him might be alright. The Sens might like a new look after missing the playoffs.

Before people get too carried away, let's take a look at whether or not Edmonton is even an option and if the many rumors about to hit the fan are realistic.

Here is what we know from the perspective of the Oilers. Edmonton is clearly rebuilding. They are not interested in adding pieces to their roster that are not part of that rebuild. Spezza has five years remaining on his contract. One that will see the first line center receive $7 million per season.

That works in terms of a time frame sure. Even more, the Oilers like Spezza. But, and this is a big butt, the money is huge and would be a lot to take on for a team constructing a rebuild. A Spezza trade wouldn't come without Ottawa taking money back. The Senators know it and the Oilers would have to do it to the tunes of names like Shawn Horcoff, Sheldon Souray or Dustin Penner plus.

from previous rumors/reports, we know that Spezza is liked by management in Edmonton and has been the topic of more than one inquiry from the Oilers side. Until now, the Sens have always just stated Spezza is not up for trade. After the Sens and Spezza have some more time to see if this relationship can or cannot be mended, all of that may change things.

We also know, that the Sens and Oilers have pieces each team has respective interest in. All the elements of the Dany Heatley trade that never happened are still in Edmonton and there is no reason to assume that Ottawa doesn't still like Cogliano, Dustin Penner and Smid (especially Penner after his breakout season).

The Sens may also need a big name defenseman since Volchenkov is about 90% out the door. The Oilers have one they're actively shopping.

We've also heard - and this is the part I find most interesting - that Ottawa is not opposed to adding someone like Shawn Horcoff. Horcs wouldn't be enough by any stretch on his own to get this deal done and his salary plus that of Penner or Souray, means this trade would need to be bigger than just Spezza; however adding perhaps Cogliano and the 31st overall pick in this years draft, might start the conversation.

Horcoff would give Ottawa a stop-gap and reliable top two line center in the place of Spezza and while Horcoff is a cap burden here, would help shave off some of Spezza's $7 cap hit in Ottawa. If the Sens will take on Cheechoo and bury his $3 million in the minors, we can't dismiss that they'd consider a $5.5 million dollar player who can actually still produce results.

Here's the kicker. The Oilers aren't necessarily in agreement with most Oiler fans that moving Horcoff is the best thing for Edmonton. They like what Horcoff brings to the team and strongly feel he has the ability to turn around his poor play, becoming a consistent 50-65 point player. Those numbers understandably would make Horcoff a better deal than he currently is at $5.5 million per year.

Realistically however, any conversation between Edmonton and Ottawa will start with Dustin Penner and end if the Senators ask for the #1 overall pick. The Sens like Penner, the Oilers will not lose their right to one of the top two picks in this years draft.

Would you do it? Consider a bad year for Spezza is 57 points in 60 games played, that being his lowest totals oustide of a 73 point in 82 game season in 2008. Three times in the last five years, Spezza has eclipsed the 87 point mark, often in less than a full schedule (which lends itself to the argument Spezza has a tendancy to get injured).

At 27 years of age Spezza is a $7 million cap hit. He's still going to be a strong player for the next five years of his contract and definitely part of the Oilers when they start to see some success.

Should they be able to pick up a player like Spezza before the draft, they could do so and their first line might eventually look like Hemsky/Spezza/Hall which would be a scary first line option.

The Oilers would likely have to give up Dustin Penner and Andrew Cogliano plus a draft pick to get Spezza. With Penner's breakout season, is that too much for a $7 million dollar player? Could the Oilers keep Cogs but include Nilsson? I doubt it, but it might be worth asking.

Even more food for thought? At one point Ottawa wanted Ladislav Smid. What if they could have Sheldon Souray, who is definitely an upgrade. Yes a more costly one, but a player with a name that might be important to Ottawa is you're trading one star for another.

If the Sens will give Heatley and a 5th rounder for Cheechoo, Michalek and a 2nd rounder, perhaps Penner, Nilsson and a 2nd isn't too little. Maybe Souray, Cogliano a 2nd and a 5th rounder for Spezza and a 6th rounder?

The big question if you're Oilers management? Is Spezza something that you consider a piece of a successful rebuild? If you can't immediately say yes to that question, there is no reason to even call the Senators.


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Boston Interested In Souray, But Would Rather Have Kaberle

With confirmation that Tambellini and Chiarelli have spoken at the NHL combine, many are wondering what was said between the two GM's. We do know as was confirmed by TSN that the conversation was interesting enough that the two are going to talk again shortly about swapping picks.

We have a source, who while not close to the Oilers GM or direct management, is close to the Oilers office and tends to overhear things from time to time. One of the things overheard was the name Sheldon Souray and that Boston might consider a trade that involves the disgruntled defenceman.

That's the good news. The bad news, is that this source also heard that Boston has more interest in Tomas Kaberle than they do Sheldon Souray. With confirmation from Brian Burke that Kaberle is an acceptable topic of conversation for Toronto, Chiarelli would like to explore that option first.

Boston is in a win now mode. They feel with the roster they have and their stars up for new contracts in the next two years, their window of opporunity is small. Tomas Kaberle with one year left on an acceptable salary cap contract fits into those plans exceptionally well.

Boston already showed interest in Kaberle at last years draft when the Kessel deal was large topic of conversation and didn't happen thanks to some confusion over a first round pick being included or not included by Toronto.

This year, if Chiarelli can move a prospect or his 1st round 15th overall draft pick to Toronto (which would be big to Burke since he has no pick in the first round), Chiarelli could still talk to Edmonton about swapping the first and second overall, while not taking on Souray's two year more steeply priced deal.

Boston can make room for Souray if another team makes a more attractive offer to the Leafs, such as Columbus might with the 4th overall pick in some kind of package deal, but the conversations are really starting to take shape now that the draft is a mere three weeks away and teams have had some of their final showings of this years draft prospects.

Meanwhile, the Oilers I'm told have no interest in Kaberle, unless he is willing to sign an extension. That's a big concern since there is still a year left and Toronto has received some interest in the email they sent regarding Kaberle by a number of teams.

Could the Oilers use a player like Kaberle? Yes. And my guess is they'd be willing to give Cogliano plus to get him, but not on a one year deal when Edmonton is clearly rebuilding. Any player coming in would have to be part of the future of this team, or an extremely inexpensive and temporary stop-gap.

I am still of the belief that the Oilers, if they could make a choice of all available free agent or tradeable defencmen, would like to talk to Dan Hamhuis' camp. The Oilers love this guy and see him as a possible cornerstone blueliner if he could be had at a decent price. That is, if Nashville doesn't negotiate a contract with him first, which I hear Nashville would like to do.


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MPS Signs

This is a good news day for Oiler fans as highly anticipated prospect and surprise star of the IIHF Swedish team Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson signs a three-year NHL entry level contract with the Edmonton Oilers.
Considered one of the more NHL ready prospects having spent time in the Swedish Elite League and having played with professional hockey players, MPS stands a chance to make this upcoming seasons squad.

Odds sit now at about 50/50 that he spends some time in the AHL, but those are decisions a lot easier to make now that he is officially an Oiler.

Paajarvi-Svensson, the Oilers 1st round choice, 10th overall, in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, recently completed his third season with Timra IK of the Swedish Elite League. The 6’2”, 201-pound left-winger from Norrkoping, Sweden, finished third in team scoring with 29 points (12G, 17A) in 49 games


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Should the Oilers Believe Boston's Peter Chiarelli?

The Edmonton Oilers and the Boston Bruins are talking. Fans have been waiting a while for confirmation of what they figured was an obvious future discussion between the two GM's, but the recent NHL combine created the stage for these two team bosses to have a chat.

The question now, is should news coming out of that conversation be news Oiler fans and more importantly Steve Tambellini should believe?

From a recent ESPN article by Pierre Lebrun,"Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and Oilers GM Steve Tambellini briefly chatted this week at the combine in Toronto." Lebrun goes on to add, "Right now, the Bruins remain undecided on which player they like most, Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin."

This sounds an awful lot like a strategy being employed by a GM who doesn't want to lose his shirt obtaining the player all reports until now suggest was/is Taylor Hall.

Are we to believe that Chiarelli, despite no real changes in his roster and his need for a winger, believes Seguin can be that winger, while Bergeron, Krejci and Savard clog up his center spots?

As unlikely as that seems, Chiarelli is wise not to tip his hand. My guess, is that both GM's remain fence sitters (at least in the public eye) and for this type of back and forth to go on until just before that first pick is selected, when finally one GM gives in as if the two were playing a game of chicken.

If Tambellini sticks to his guns, the GM who gives should be Chiarelli.

Edmonton being a much less talented team, could use both a stud winger and a stud center, thus their conflict revolves more around drafting the better player versus the better prospect. Yes, the Oilers need a center, but outside of Hemsky and Penner, have no real proven depth at wing either and would be stupid to completely ignore that other glaring weakness.

If Chiarelli appears to be "helping" the Oilers, he deflects attention away from the real truth... the Bruins still want Hall.

Chiarelli's claims that any team might want to consider Seguin for his strength at wing and that it would be wise to start Seguin there while he learns the NHL, is a bit of a stretch. Seguin's ability to play wing wouldn't be why you'd draft him. He's a natural center, he's taken huge strides in one hockey season at center and he's made his claim as a possible top pick in that position. Chiarelli is simply playing a game of positioning to lessen Taylor Hall's value as the top winger in the draft. Boston's needs are a bit more defined there and they'd rather not give up to much to fill them.

Perhaps Chiarelli's thought is, convince the Oilers Seguin can do both equally well and Seguin then becomes a natural choice for the Oil, who in turn leave behind Boston's real need in Taylor Hall. Might the Oilers be considering Seguin anyways? Sure, but Chiarelli's odds are better the Oilers take the natural center and less popular fan and media choice if he personally adds his two cents like he's publicly doing now.

Admittedly, we did an article a couple of weeks back stating the importance of having versatility at both positions in any player, arguing that gift being a strength in your draft selection. It's obviously a factor the Oilers are considering.

I only believe it to be a major factor if you don't require filling one position more than another. Chiarelli and the Boston Bruins to me is/are that exception.

Their lack at wing is much more glowing than their lack at center and I'm still not sold you'd draft Hall to play in the middle nor would you draft Seguin to be your star winger.

If what Chiarelli is doing works, thus costing the Oilers a greater return, is yet to be seen. Hopefully, Tambellini and company call that bluff and realize Chiarelli is just trying to add a little fuel to the fire, so as not to give up his 15th overall pick or a player/prospect he'd rather not lose.

Unless the Oilers truly are sold on and want Hall more than Seguin, they must see these commnets for what I believe they are and truly drip every last drop from the Bruins bucket. Edmonton won't be hurt by drafting either Hall or Seguin and if Boston doesn't bite, the Oilers are still completely in control of the first overall pick. A betting man would see the Bruins hand and bet that the Bruins will never get closer than a few minutes prior to draft time without ensuring they've got their man.

Tambellini simply saying to Chiarelli ahead to time, "if you give me this... I'll leave Hall alone. If you don't, the Oilers will be taking him and nothing less than our asking price will do." Does that have to be true? Of course not, but they key is what you can get Chiarelli to think. It's much more likely Chiarelli will believe the Oilers who need both positions filled, than the Oilers currently believing Chiarelli's latest comments.

The only lose scenario for Edmonton, is the slight chance Chiarelli is actually telling the truth. But even if he is, Tamebellini's cards will be on the table knowing full well, he's laid out a reasonable deal to walk away from Hall and that Chiarelli won't gamble when push comes to shove if Chiarelli isn't wanting to make massive changes to his whole roster which adding another top center might require.

With the facts, a little gamesmanship and logical thinking, the worst Edmonton can do is take the player they really want first overall, which is a pretty good day for Oiler fans. Hopefully by the draft, the Oilers have decided who that player is.


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