Only One Way This Ends Well

On Saturday Sheldon Souray cleared waivers. That's right, the former Allstar and 26 goal defenceman was passed over by 29 other teams who could have had him for free.

Ok, Souray wouldn't have come free (not with a 2yr $5.4 M per year cap hit still remaining on his contract). But because a team would have had to give nothing to get him, Tambellini made a logical bet that some of the teams who missed out on the spree of defencemen the first day of free agency, might have wanted Souray as a backup plan. Tambellini was wrong and all 29 GM's said they'd rather go with Plan C.

The reality is, Souray might be plan C, D or E on an NHL GM's needs list. At his price point the odds were high to start with that Souray got moved and that along with recently being shutdown by everyone has to be humbling for Souray.

Remarks like the ones Souray made wouldn't have come from a man who thought he was unwanted everywhere. Souray likely never guessed at the time of his public statements that he'd be playing in the minors just a few months later. That's now a real option unless he begs to come back to Edmonton or gets put on re-entry waivers.

Here are all the options available to Edmonton now:

1) Re-entry waivers
2) Buy-out during the next buy-out period
3) Trade crap and money for crap and money
4) Play him in the minors
5) Bring him back to the Oilers.

The Oilers don't want him. Offering to give him away for nothing should be a clear indication of that. But, the Oilers will not buy Souray out and don't want to pay half of his salary for two years if claimed on re-entry. Even if the buyout period hadn't already ended (which it has), at $1.5 million per season over the next four years he's too expensive to do that with. His re-entry price hit is $2,700,000. Ouch.

A trade seems no longer much of an option. There were all sorts of rumors he'd be going here or there, but obviously the market for Souray is about as big as a grain of salt and since the Oilers don't want to take garbage for garbage, Edmonton can't really move him without an associated cost. That cost is likely a term longer or more expensive than the one attached to Souray.

You could play Souray in the minors, but here's the issue with that. From what we hear the Oilers are dead set against letting that type of cancer infest a much more young and susecptible lockerroom. If we thought the damage he could do to the Oilers was bad, imagine what he could do with a bunch of kids hanging on the every word of a proven pro. Souray could spread the negativity into every prospect coming up instead of his being the only bad apple. That's just compounding the problem.

So what can Edmonton really do? Somehow, when Souray bashed the team, he threw in that he'd be willing to come back. He's still got a crap attitude, always has. But of all the options this is the one I'd consider.

Let's say the last few days have really humbled Souray. He won't want to be obvious about it, but swallowing his pride, putting his tail between his legs and asking the fans, the team, the players and management to make this water under the bridge might be more possible than it sounds.

The Oilers have done a good job of bringing in quality guys who want to be Oilers. If management makes a conscious effort to treat them well and communicate, they'll be a lot of voices telling Souray to shut the hell up if gets out of line. If he's really regretting what he said and doesn't speak up unless in a positive more leader like way, the problem likely just kind of fizzles away.

The upside is, Souray actually plays well and stays healthy. It's conceivable that a line up with Gilbert, Whitney, Souray, Smid, Foster, Vandermeer and Strudwick is a better line-up than without. Souray's presence gives Edmonton two top powerplay units, a defenceman who can log minutes, but doesn't necessarily have to now and another weapon on offense. He too is tough as nails (outside of a freak wrist break on Iginla's head) and can be tough to play against.

If he starts strong, the teams that saw him as Plan C or D might move him to Plan B. He becomes much easier to trade then and the money, attitude and contract questions go away. If he really turns it around, there is about a 2% chance he makes keeping him a smart move.

I'm not sure how else this will end well, but it's the only option I can think of.


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Oilers Sign Alexandre Giroux

Right after we wrote an article suggesting the Oilers had done well to pick up toughness in trades and free agency and should go back to finding skill, the Oilers sign Alexandre Giroux. If there is a definition of skill at the AHL level, Giroux is that guy.

Giroux has scored goals at the pace of 36, 42, 33, 60 and 50 in his last five minor league seasons and won the AHL MVP award in 08'/09, having also won back-to-back Calder Cup Championships the past two seasons as a member of the Hershey Bears. Giroux hasn't spent much time in the NHL (only 9 games in Washington last year and a few games with Tom Renney in New York), but this new one way contract with the Oilers will change that.

In a Hartford Wolf Pack News & Commentary interview Giroux told Howlings, that he had other NHL options, including an offer from the New York Islanders. He also had a much more substantial $1.3mm offer from the KHL that he leaves on the table in order to complete his dream of being a regular NHL player. He does it with no regrets. “It was a lot of money and it was a hard decision, but I’m really excited to have this chance to make an NHL roster,” the recently turned 29-year old said. “Coach Renney is a great coach and the organization has such a great history. I’m looking forward to going there and giving it everything I’ve got to help the team become a contender once again and prove I belong there.”

This is a one way deal for Giroux. Meaning, if he doesn't make the team out of camp, he'll be paid well to make Oklahoma a much better team. Giroux is thinking he'll make, the Oilers seem to think he'll make it, so it has to be asked, who isn't going to make it.

Interesting question.


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When Does A Team Cross the "We're Too Tough" Line?

The Oilers made a couple of additional depth moves (very depth) today by adding Jason Strudwick and Steve MacIntyre.

While one we saw coming, the other we could have logically figured wasn't a stretch based on two previously failed attempts by the Oilers to land a legit tough guy.

Both Strudwick and Big Mac have been Oilers before and both will be counted on to provide more than offence and defence. In fact, it's the likely reason both were signed -- their intangibles and not their hockey skill.

One will play as a 7th or 8th defenseman and one will play as a 13th or 14th forward, but neither brings much in terms of hockey skill and if either sees 50 games this year it would be a feat. Simply put, both players are here to help move forward in their own ways the kids that are expected to be the faces of the Oilers franchise.

The Hall's, Eberle's, Hemsky's, Gagner's, Svensson's and Cogliano's now have their big brothers. Kudos to the Oilers for looking after securing their superstars.

Strudwick who has been known to let the fists fly was signed mainly for his attitude as a professional, his desire to coach while playing and his leadership skills. He's loved in the dressing room, he's fantastic in the community and he's in many ways like a father-figure to some new NHL rookies. He's just what management wants these new guys to become and Strudwick's job is to help these rookies become professionals. MacIntyre was hired solely to punch people in the face when they looked at those rookies the wrong way.

I'm not suggesting there's anything wrong with that. In fact, I'm for the legit heavyweight who makes the opposition slightly second guess taking a run at a star on your team. That person does more than fight. He gives your stars more swagger, he makes your middleweights more aggitators and penalty drawers and he gives everyone a sense of security -- even if by a statistical breakdown it can be proven he changes injuries and hits to stars in no way whatsoever.

I wonder though, when does addressing toughness go too far? Can a team sign too much toughness?

Of the four recent aquisitions (Foster, Vandermeer, MacIntyre and Strudwick) only one of these players -- Foster -- brings any potential for the Oilers to be a more skilled hockey team. There at some point has to be a fine line a team will walk between balancing skill, experience and raw talent vs adding toughness.

If one goes too far on either side that team can't win. Look at last years Oilers to see an example of trying to have too much skill. Look at last years Maple Leafs as a team with no skill and too much toughness. Is it any coincidence that both of those teams landed in the bottom two of thirty NHL teams?

I have no issues with the job Tambellini has done so far. With Vandermeer, MacIntyre, Stortini, Strudwick, Penner, Fraser, Peckham, Jones and Smid, this Oilers team now has plenty of players willing to drop the gloves. They'll be much harder to play against and that's a good thing.

Let's hope the next couple moves involve players that can put the puck in the net or win some faceoffs. Give the team a few more guys that your toughness can protect.


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Strudwick Signed, Souray on Waivers

The Edmonton Oilers bring a veteran leader with little hockey skill back and they try to give away a highly offensively skilled cancer in the lockerroom. This wouldn't normally be the soundest of moves until you realize that we're talking about Jason Strudwick and Sheldon Souray.

The Oilers have re-signed Strudwick to a 1yr contract. We don't know the terms yet, but one would have to assume somewhere in the $700,000 range. Strudwick brings a strong work ethic a good attitude for a pro and leadership skills. This has to be why Edmonton sees him playing here next season.

The Oilers have also decided that getting the bad out is critical despite the return, thus the big quick to speak Souray has been placed on waivers by Edmonton. Souray is an ex- allstar who offers a ton of offense when healthy. The Oilers I guess don't care because he's a gonner.

Edmonton is hoping that they can repeat the success they had in moving Patrick O'Sullivan and Ethan Moreau. It's a decent bet that some NHL team will take a chance and pick up Souray's last two years at $5.4 million if they have to give nothing back. It's also possible that because they can't give anything back (namely salary), Souray's big cap hit will be too much to swallow.

The Oilers should have an answer by this afternoon.


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Day 1 Sees No Real Winners and No Real Losers

If you take any time at all to read around after day one of NHL free agency in any year, you'll find a variety of opinions on the relative intelligence behind certain signings.

There was a year when free agency's only big ticket items were Briere, Gomez and Drury. The result was 30 teams competing to improve their team on one day and all of these players getting rediculous contracts. There was also a year where Brian Campbell made headlines for the size of his contract since he was the only real valued defenceman on the market (which by the way no matter how many people say they feel sorry for Chicago having to dismantle a winning team thanks to the NHL salary cap, can look directly to Campbell and Huet as the cause). And there were the 10-12 year deals for players who were never going to live up to their hype.

This year (particularly today) wasn't nearly as bad as in the past. There were no crazy numbers of the $60 or $70 million variety nor were there any terms longer than 6 years given away. But, unlike a lot of people who are eager to pick their winners and losers, this writer/blogger doesn't see any clear indication of anyone coming out leaps and bounds better or worse than they went in.

Some will argue the moves Vancouver made turned them into instant contenders. Hamhuis and Malhotra are good pickups no doubt. But let's not forget, while the Canucks have a ton of quality players under contract, they'll be hard pressed to keep the current roster together now.

With six blueliners each making more than $3 million, someone will have to go. At best, Vancouver is ahead thanks to addition by subtraction. Hamhuis and Ballard in with Mitchell, O'Brien and likely Bieksa or Salo out.

I agree with many who say the blueline is improved. The two new defencemen are superior to the ones that might be leaving. But, Vancouver will also have to lose some depth at forward to make room for these new higher salaries.

The Canucks as is sit less than $2 million from the cap ceiling and have only 11 forwards under contract. What does this mean? It means that Jeff Tambellini at $500,000 might be an indication of the type of depth Vancouver will add instead of players like Wellwood and Demitra to round out the team. That's a huge step backwards in my opinion.

On the flip side, the Rangers were seen as likely a loser because all people are talking about is the headscratcher or a contract they gave to Derek Boogaard. I'd call NYR a wash or slightly ahead as they snuck a winner of a deal in at the end of the day when they re-signed Vaclav Prospal ($2 million is a decent number for 50+ points). They also solidified their goaltending by adding a value in Martin Biron for very little money.

In the middle are teams like Tampa, Atlanta, Dallas, Minnesota, Edmonton and Phoenix. All gained but lost. Phoenix for example is close to a wash as they increased the offense, but hurt their defense. They added Ray Whitney which was great, but lost out on Zbynek Michalek. They'll also likely lose Matthew Lombardi and Derek Morris was just a keep.

New Jersey essentially traded Paul Martin for Anton Volchenkov while Pittsburg traded Gonchar for Martin and Michalek. Even though the Penguins have improved their defence overall, they have again hurt their chances to upgrade their wingers over previous seasons. Every year they have enough depth their to contend, but every year they feel they need to improve it, but they don't.

Ottawa looks better until the 2nd or 3rd year of the Gonchar deal when that old fossil's numbers start to decline. The Sens are on the hook (much like the Oil and Khabibulin) no matter what.

All in all, if there were any real legitimate titles to be handed out, it would be on the losers side and a competition between Chicago and Calgary.

The Blackhawks were losers for reasons we're all familiar with by now. But today for some reason it sank in when they traded Andrew Ladd. Chicago was way over the cap and had to move out bodies. The problem is they moved out the wrong bodies because players like Campbell and Huet were not moveable. Without getting any real value back Chicago gave away Versteeg, Byfuglien, Fraser, Ladd, Eager, Sopel and Burrish for next to nothing.

I thought they were making room to bring back players like Ladd. They traded him anyways and I now think Chicago is a much weaker team today than they were yesterday. Not just because of Ladd, but because they lost more than just a couple pieces from this fiasco.

Calgary baffles everyone. It's not so much what they spent today that makes me cringe, it's that they could have done it years ago with these particular players. It reminds of the scene in "The Goods:Live Hard Sell Hard" when Jeremy Piven refers to having not seen a Nigerian buy-back in years (owner sells a car, then the salesman sells it back to said owner at a markup minutes later). It's just weird on so many levels.

That said and unlike most people, I think Olli Jokinen and Alex Tanguay could outplay their $3 million and $1.7 million dollar respective contracts. For the money, I'd have considered both if I were a GM. The problem is, Calgary had already considered them and sent them unceremoniously packing for total wastes of skin in players like Ales Kotalik and Chris Higgins.

With such wonderful exits, why bring them back? Sure, I think Calgary is a better team today than they were yesterday and sure I still think they have some crap contracts; but really, they just look like fools. It is for those reasons only (not the value of the contracts themselves) that I'd consider them losers on the day.

Of course tomorrow is another day and another chance for at least one of thirty teams to show me this trend of no real winners and no real losers can't continue.


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Oilers Sign Colin Fraser 2yrs $875,000 per

Another good move by Oilers GM Steve Tambellini. Fraser is being paid a fair value for two years for a guy who could be your 3rd or 4th line center.

Fraser recorded seven goals and 12 assists in 70 regular season games with the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks last season and should improve on his numbers this year with a much more pronounced role.

Tambellini didn't do a lot today by comparison, but the moves he's made over the last three days have been great ones.


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Oilers Sign Kurtis Foster

While the NHL has seen a busy day in terms of high priced defencemen moving in the first few hours of free agency, the Oilers made what has to be seen as a smart and value conscious investment grabbing Kurtis Foster from the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Defenceman Kurtis Foster has signed a two-year contract with the Edmonton Oilers worth $1.8 million per year.

Jonathan Willis' says a bit about Foster. Willis writes "I love this deal, and not just because Foster was talking about the Oilers’ jersey he had as a kid. Foster was a power-play force with Tampa Bay last year, and appears to be the heir apparent to Sheldon Souray in Edmonton. His shot is good though not the same calibre as Souray’s, but his price point is significantly lower at $1.8 million per season for two years.

Lowetide adds "Great signing. We've talked about him in the past (he had a horrible injury which made him a bit of a question mark) and has a monster shot. Souray is gone."
Foster is a 28-year-old and had eight goals and 34 assists with the Tampa Bay Lightning last season. His numbers are likely to dip with less talent in Edmonton offensively than Tampa had, but at $1.8 million per year, he's still value even if he gets you 30 points which is a good bet.

Foster does have some injury history having suffered a broken femur in 2008 as a member of the Minnesota Wild but he played most of the season last year in Tampa and had a breakout performance. Good signing by the Oilers who now have Gilbert/Whitney, Smid/Foster, Vandermeer/Peckham.


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The Path to Captaincy and Letter Candidates

The Oilers might not be as busy today as some other teams as it isn't expected that the Oilers make much of a pitch for major free agents. Instead they'll wait to see what the marketplace bears.

As tradition usually goes, the first day of free agency brings out the big players. We see which teams have chosen to overspend and which teams will focus on one or two guys at most to make a drastic difference for their franchises.

Will a team like the Canucks give Dan Hamhuis far too much money? Will the Kings go for Ilya Kovalchuk and blow their remaining cap space? Will the Rangers somehow find money from some pit in some bowel and give a drastic amount of cash to an undeserving free agent? The answer could be yes to all of the above.

The result is teams that hide in the shadows waiting to offer value deals to those valued free agents left on the outside looking in. 3rd and 4th defencemen, bottom six forwards, older veterans with something left to offer; all get pushed aside until teams who know exactly what needs filling come calling.

Phoenix did it last year and it worked wonders. The Oilers intend to do the same.

Edmonton has key spots open for rookies and prospects out of camp and the franchise needs are to fill veteran leadership roles, bottom end forward spots and 4 through 6 defencemen. The Oilers may not do any of that on the first day.

Instead, they'll wait and see what is available to them at a good price. They'll see who fits the needs of an overhaul in the dressing room and overall Oiler attitude as much as they'll look for skill. They'll look for toughness to protect the "kids" and sign the many RFA players still with the franchise but without new contracts.

All the while, they'll look to name a new team captain.

Ethan Moreau was claimed off waivers by the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday. It leaves the Oilers without a leader and prior to the season one will have to be named from a list of probably few candidates. This lack of players to select from is a reason the Oilers are overhauling their franchise.

Players like Sheldon Souray, who at one time had fans begging the Oilers take the "C" from Moreau, have shown fans anyone is more deserving (if he stays an Oiler). Players like Shawn Horcoff might seem a leading candidate, but the team might also want Horcoff to focus on rebounding in terms of on-ice production. Ryan Whitney quickly endeared himself to Edmonton and took no prisoners with his opinions, but he's still less than a one year Oiler. Ales Hemsky is the most talented player on the Oilers, but it might not always be best to automatically give the captaincy to the best player.

So the question becomes, who deserves the letter? IYou'll be surprised at my answer and I'm going out in left field on this one. It's also the reason I spouted a few paragraphs about value free agents, because this guy is one. My next captain would be Mike Comrie.


Some of you will have stopped reading after I dare say such a thing. No problem. For the rest of you, here is my argument.

While Mike Comrie doesn't even have a contract with the Oilers yet, I think Comrie will get one. If they didn't see it last year, the Oilers should now view Comrie's veteran presence, his willingness to be the voice (not the face, which is now Taylor Hall) of the franchise, and his skill level as critical moving forward.

The Oilers have spent the last couple of days collecting "hockey players". Guys who play because they love the game and have a passion to be professionals. This is Mike Comrie and his characteristics as a player and a person make sense in this role. Think about it. Who else personifies the new attitude better than Mike Comrie? He's lived both sides.

Comrie went from the most popular Oiler at one time (no disrespect to Doug Weight), to the most hated Oiler (no disrespect to Chris Pronger), to one of the more loved Oilers. He did so all by publicly admitting he had some growing up to do and understood now what it meant to be an Edmonton Oiler. This is what Edmonton is trying to again be known for.

The Oilers want players who work hard, who play with passion (Comrie showed lots of that last season with limited playing time), who bring their game up to the next level when the next level is required and who send the message above all else that being an Oiler is important. Comrie learned that lesson the hard way.

The rookies (many of whom are forwards) will look to a guy like Comrie for guidance both as professionals and as skilled players. Because Comrie is a well liked and respected guy in the dressing room, he'll have those players ears. He's older, but he's still cool enough to be looked at as a young guy. (dating a hot celeb will do that for you).

He's not your best player, but he'll get you 25 goals if he's healthy and he's not your biggest or toughest guy, but he plays like he's bigger than he is.

Mike Comrie has some clout around the NHL as a veteran of many years, he's at a point in his career where he's learning to make a career out of more than just being a goal scorer and he's already in the public eye quite frequently.

He's seen a variety of coaches in his time, he's played a variety of systems and he's produced year in a year out no matter what team (good or bad) he's played on.

The only downside? Comrie's time as an Oiler (if he's offered a new contract) is limited and likely shorter term. This isn't all that terrible though as I'm sure the Oilers are hoping someone from this team either re-signs long term (Penner or Hemsky) and has by then stepped out as a true leader or, one of the young guys have blossomed into a leader (a la Jonathan Toews). If not and Comrie is on the backend of his time in the NHL, why not make him the leader going out?

If Comrie isn't given a new deal, Horcoff is the logical choice. If Comrie is back, Comrie would be my Captain with Horcoff, Hemsky, Gilbert and Whitney my Assistant Captains.


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Versteeg to Toronto

TSN has reported the Chicago Blackhawks have finally traded forward Kris Versteeg after weeks of speculation to Toronto in a five-player deal. Toronto was rumored to have a lot of interest and this trade comes as no surprise, especially just before free agency. Chicago now has a better picture of which of their free agents can get signed under a tight cap.

Versteeg tallied 44 points in 79 regular-season games last season and 14 points in the playoffs.

In exchange for Versteeg and the rights to left-winger Bill Sweatt, the Maple Leafs give up forwards Viktor Stalberg, Chris DiDomenico and Philippe Paradis.

If there is any surprise here, it's that the Leafs gave away Stahlberg who is seen as a great potential prospect with size, speed and a bright future. Chicago did well to pick up a solid return for a player they seemingly had little choice but to move out.


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A Busy Day Before Free Agency

The Oilers have been busy. We said they would be and it was obvious there was a short window of time, but so far some shrewd moves by Steve Tambellini and what seems to be a clearer understanding of the cap, buyouts and team needs has us thinking the Oilers are being smarter this off-season than ever before.

First came the buyouts of Ethan Moreau, Patrick O'Sullivan and Robert Nilsson. It was expected all three would clear waivers and all three would be bought out. The cap situation wouldn't have been critical (somewhere around an additional $1.5 million per season for the next two years), but not helpful either.

Then came some good news.

Moreau Wears a New Jacket

Ethan Moreau was picked up off waivers by Scott Howson and the Columbus Blue Jackets. There must be some sentiment here from Howson that Moreau wouldn't have either a) come to Columbus as a free agent or b) that Moreau was worth his $2 million dollar salary, but not enough to trade an asset and pay that money.

Howson did say that he expects Moreau to give some much needed help to the 3rd line for the Jackets playing along side Sammy Pahlsson and I see a fit there I suppose, but more important is that the Oilers were cleared of having to pay any additional monies to Moreau over the next two years and his cap hit of $2 million is no longer the Oilers problem.

Good for Moreau. I'm not sure Columbus would have been his first choice, but he quickly finds a new home.

Patty O' for Vandermeer

Then in even better news, the Oilers were actually able to get an asset they needed for Patrick O'Sullivan. POS was easily the worst plus/minus player in the Oilers organization and the largest cap hit of the Oilers in terms of a buyout, so picking up a rugged, mean and able to fight defenceman in Vandermeer is great news.

We've learned that O'Sullivan will be bought out by the Coyotes. No surprise there. Because O'Sullivan's buyout is $795,583 the Coyotes will take the hit because that hit would be far less than the hit required in buying out Vandermeer who is older and buyout rules make him more steep to get rid of. Not an issue for Edmonton who will keep Vandermeer and add his toughness to their thin defence corps.

Vandermeer is a 30-year-old defenceman who had 12 points and 60 penalty minutes in 62 games with the Coyotes last season. His salary cap hit will be $2.3 million next season. If he doesn't work out, the Oilers just don't give him a new contract next year. If he does, perhaps they sign him cheap next season or he becomes trade deadline deal bait for a team willing to part with a draft pick. Should suit the Oilers fine who will continue to look to the draft next year and the year after.

Sheldon Souray Wants To Come Back Now?

Holy crap, what is the deal here? First he can't stand the Oilers, now he'd be willing to come back if the option was there? At least this is what Darren Dreger and Bob Mackenzie are reportedly repeating after hearing it from Souray or his camp.

Of course, this comes conveniently at the same the Oilers have a trade in the works with the St. Louis Blues to bring back Eric Brewer in exchange for Souray.

Is it too little too late? Even if Souray has had a legitimate change of heart, in my opinion it should be.

I think Souray is a better option when healthy and provides scary offense if he's on his game, but to talk the way he did about this team and Oilers management, only to change his mind when a team like St. Louis is in the mix smells of a player taking the lesser of two evils and hardly something we want around the kids coming in.

Plus, I have nothing against adding Eric Brewer. While he's not exactly loved by all fans in St. Louis (if you look at the message boards there), he still can be counted on for tons of ice-time, he was (is) their captain and he's a big boy who plays with a physical edge.

Brewer is often injured thanks to nagging back injuries, but so is Souray who has a bad hand, shoulder and obviously brain. Brewer also has age and salary on his side. He has one year left at $4.5 million vs Souray's $5.4 for two years and Brewer is 31, not 34.

Nilsson Next?

It seems unlikely, but there is still a glimmer of hope that Nashville who we heard had slight interest has interest. The odds are that Nilsson will get bought out and Tambellini can't go three for three, but wouldn't that be something? How fast would fans jump on the Tambo-wagon?

As it is, Tambellini has done some good work so far and if the Souray trade goes through tomorrow, his depth chart looks like...





This gives Edmonton a chance to add another more stable defenceman but it isn't critical. If he can't get it done via free agency, the Oilers are in much better shape today than they were yesterday at this time.


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No Buyout For Ethan

Well, Ethan Moreau's agent Pat Morris was mistaken. Ethan Moreau will not require a buyout which is great news for the Oilers as the Columbus Blue Jackets have claimed the veteran forward off of the waiver wire.

As TSN notes, Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson was the assistant general manager in Edmonton before landing his post and has brought several former Oilers to Ohio in recent seasons, including Raffi Torres, Jason Chimera, Michael Peca, Jan Hejda and Mathieu Roy.

I guess if there's a team out there who would know what Ethan Moreau is all about, then Scott Howson is that guy.

This is good news for the Oilers in terms of needing to dedicate cap space for Moreau's buyout. It wasn't much, but every little penny not required to be spent by the Oilers helps.


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Depth UFA's. Oilers Yes? Oilers No?

With July 1st fast approaching the work is only partially done. A big step was taken today and the Oilers now have a better, but not entirely clear picture of how this roster is going to shape up after the Nilsson, O'Sullivan and Moreau waivers/buyouts.
As it is, the depth chart for the Edmonton Oilers (if we assume at least two of the rookies at camp make the team) would look something similar to what's below.




There are more moves coming I'm sure and I'm making some assumptions here. Slotting certain players in certain places is by no means an exact science at this stage, but I figure giving a player like Hall the most chances to succeed and keeping too many rookies off the same line is a safe bet.

I'm also guessing both Andrew Cogliano and Sheldon Souray find new homes. This leaves a spot on the 3rd or 4th line (depending on where you slot Cogs in the depth chart) for a more suitable replacement and a gaping hole(s) on the blueline.

One of the question marks on the blue should be filled by Jason Strudwick as a 6th or 7th d-man and at forward, I think the Oilers are interested in bringing Comrie back. Comrie would and should play in the top six or top twelve at worst.

Other than the obvious lack of depth on defense, this is actually a line-up I don't mind too much. Without overrating players, there is a possible five or six forwards who can score 20 if healthy and a start to the blueline. That's the plus.

The minus is the need for a more fiesty sandpaper type on the 3rd line who can kill penalties. You could look within the line-up to plug a hole somewhere and leave an easier to fill spot elsewhere or you could go outside to the UFA market. I think the Oilers might do both.

For example, moving Fraser up to 3rd line center and Brule to wing, thus creating a spot for a brute of a forward on the 4th who isn't doing much besides banging the snot out of the opposition, makes sense to me. Renney is more likely to do that type of coaching based on his track record than Quinn ever would have.

These are the players I think they'll target if that's the direction they choose to go.

Derek Boogaard: (F)...(who cares, he'll barely play and position won't make a difference)

As silly as it sounds to pluck someone who can't play a lick of hockey, the Oilers might just do so. Boogaard has run roughshout over the Oilers for a good three years and been solely responsible for the injuries to some of Edmonton's key pieces.

Edmonton may see a need to find that enforcer type who plays three minutes a game and sole purpose is to put fear into the eye of the opposition. Just by having Boogaard on your team, as a franchise you're telling everyone, "touch our kids and the Boogyman will make you pay for it".

Pat Quinn would never have given the time of day to a player like Boogaard hence the exit of a Steve MacIntyre, but Renney will. As Oiler fans we won't see much of him, but when we do, we'll know there's a reason.

Boogaard could be had for $1-$1.2 mill. If so, the Oilers might take interest.

Rob Neidermayer: (C)

There's an extremely good chance Rob isn't leaving New Jersey. If he does, he'd make for a great fourth line center. He doesn't have the jam so to speak that the Oilers would like, thus the reason they didn't qualify Pouliot or Potulny, but he does bring something else those two didn't. Neidermayer is an extremely good faceoff guy and penalty killer.

While Pisani (less the fact he wasn't a center and often injured) would have kept a job on this team for these similar skills, Neidermayer is a much safer bet and smarter move for the Oilers at a $1-$1.5 million dollar deal. If the Oilers gave him two years, he'd likely take it because few other teams will.

Craig Conroy: (C)

Conroy may be one of those players Calgary keeps thanks to their need to resign forwards on the cheap, but they haven't done it yet and they may not.

Conroy would be a nice one year pick up. He's a penalty killer, has some size, wins faceoffs and brings a wealth of experience to a very young team. With that experience however comes the fact that Conroy is reaching the end of his career. He'd be the oldest Oiler by far and injury would always be a concern, but he does have some scoring touch at one time being a 75 point player.

John Scott: (D)

John Scott is a big boy, plain and simple. At 6'8" and 258 pounds, he's built not to piss around. Just ask Dean Arsene. Scott much like Boogaard won't produce much offensively, but he will be that 5th and 6th blueliner that makes the opposition pay for taking liberties with his players.

He finally spent some consistent time in the NHL last year with Minnesota, so he's not as much of a project as he once was. Scott is defintely a what you get is what you see type player. He's pretty big, so you see a lot of him.

It's unlikely the Wild will keep both of these players (Boogaard and Scott) and he'll come on the cheap. Pick him up for $700,000 or so and you'll have some very happy young Oiler prospects who won't be shy about doing what they're good at. Someone like Scott alone may give a player a second thought about creaming Taylor Hall if he has his head down like many fans are worried about.

Denis Grebeshkov: (D)

It sounds strange to suggest the Oilers consider bringing Grebeshkov back, however they don't have to qualify him now and he'd be signing for a lot less than the outlandish $3.1 million the Oilers gave him before when he fits free agency on July 1st.

He's still got defensive gafs in him, but playing him along side Ladislav Smid who has become a much stronger shutdown d-man is where they'd put him. Those two could be a good pair -- think Visnovsky when he played with Smid.

David Staples over at the "Cult of Hockey" has been writing a few bits about this idea and at first I didn't like it, but knowing a one year is out there at a lower price tag, makes me wonder if it would be worth a shot for 2010/2011. I wouldn't offer him more than $2 million though.

Colby Armstrong: (RW)

A good number of GM's will have Armstrong on their radar and if they do and the offers are similar, Armstrong will likely choose a team other than Edmonton. However, if Armstrong is thrown a bone by the Oil to the tune of maybe $8-$8.25 million over 3 yrs, Armstrong might consider Edmonton a valid option.

Armstrong brings height, size, a scoring touch and the ability at RW to get any team about 30-40 points. This makes him the perfect 3rd liner and the amount of minutes a 3rd liner gets has to be key. Armstrong is good at making the most of those minutes.

Armstrong doesn't get you a lot of powerplay time, but the Oilers don't need that. What they need are penalty killers and Armstrong is that to a tee. He's also nasty and relentless. The Oilers could use a bit of that too.

Dan Hamhuis (D)

He's the only big ticket item I have on this list, but I've spoken of him a few times and would love to see the Oilers take a run at his services. Despite the fact that other teams like the Flyers, Penguins and Canucks have also shown interest, why should I change that?

Ultimately, I think Hamhuis will sign in Vancouver for far too much and become their highest paid defenceman with the most minutes which is why he'll go there, but what's the harm in making an offer?

Throw out a front loaded 5 yrs at $3.8 million average over those five years. It probably won't get it done price wise, but term wise, who knows. I only like this because I can see Hamhuis as a big part of any teams future, even one that is rebuilding like the Oilers.


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Moreau, O'Sullivan and Nilsson on Waivers

** Update: Marc Spector tweeted that according to Pat Morris (Ethan Moreau's agent), Moreau has cleared waivers and been bought out.

We expected it and today it happened. Three of Edmonton's under-performing forwards have been placed on waivers with the likelihood that a buyout or two will occur today or tomorrow.

Ethan Moreau, Patrick O'Sullivan and Robert Nilsson are looking at a possible end to their careers as Edmonton Oilers.

All three make far more than an equal or lesser counterpart would from free agency and all three make more money than their current level of production suggests they should.

O'Sullivan is scheduled to make $2.95 million next season, while both Moreau and Nilsson are slated to earn $2 million each.

Come July 1st, the Oilers should have no problem filling holes at lesser price tags or giving opportunities to prospects and rookies coming out for this years camp.

The Oilers should know by tomorrow who, if not all three will clear waivers and who, if not all three will be bought out. The only sad part here and Wanye over at Oilers Nation writes an excellent tidbit about feeling the need to waive your team captain is that Ethan Moreau is one of these three players and a trade couldn't get done before this move was necessary.

There was a time that Ethan Moreau was well deserving of his salary and was a one time 20 goal scorer and ideal idea of what an Oiler should be. Now that time is gone and while I'm happy that space gets cleared for the signing of possibly Mike Comrie (who I think is a much better option) and Ryan Jones who fills this role more appropriately; this also gives prospects like Magnus Paajarvi, Jordan Eberle and Linus Omark a fighting chance.

It's that fight the Oilers hope to see and the reason POS, Nilsson and Moreau (or at least two) were waived in the first place.


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Oilers Qualify 10

TSN is reporting that goaltender Jeff Deslauriers and center Sam Gagner are two of 10 players to receive qualifying offers Monday from the Edmonton Oilers. The others are forwards Gilbert Brule, Andrew Cogliano, Colin Fraser, J.F. Jacques, Ryan O'Marra and Liam Reddox along with defenseman Theo Peckham and netminder Devan Dubnyk.

Of note, the Oilers are letting Marc Pouliot and Ryan Potulny head to free agency July 1st.

This isn't to say that the Oilers won't sign one or both of these players, it's just that they'll consider doing so after July 1st and dependant on what other teams do or do not offer.

Pouliot has struggled to become the prospect the Oilers had hoped he'd be. A big time draft selection and an incredible set of stats coming off playing with Sidney Crosby in junior, Pouliot hasn't found a stable home anywhere in the Oilers lineup and has been injury riddled.

Ryan Potulny had a great rookie year after coming over from the Flyers, but he's got a habit of performing well on bad teams. When part of a competitive lineup, his production tends to vanish and the Oilers must feel they'll be more competitive in terms of similar players with the prospects coming to this years camp.

There is word that the Minnesota Wild have interest in Potulny. Oilers fans may see him playing against Edmonton an awful lot next season.

It has also been rumoured that Gilbert Brule will head to arbitration thus the qualifying offer is merely a stepping stone to getting a contract done. He'll be somewhere in the neighbourhood of $2 million for two years if the Oilers keep him.


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Should We Feel Sorry For Andrew Cogliano or is This Just Business?

The draft was good for the Edmonton Oilers in many ways. They selected certain to be superstar Taylor Hall first overall, got a steal of a pick in Tyler Pitlick at #31 and moved out disgruntled center Riley Nash.

In other ways, whether you want to call it good or bad, Oilers fans also got a clear indication that GM Steve Tambellini is focused on a rebuild. Rumors were all over the place and media attention focused on the fact that Tambellini was pitching hard for Boston to move the 2nd overall pick.

As part of the offer, rumored names being sent by Edmonton included Ales Hemsky and Jordan Eberle. While I question the inclusion (or at least the logic) of Eberle as trade material, Tambellini's willingness to move the Oilers argueably best forward in Ales Hemsky tells us the Oilers organization is clearly focused on going young and getting the best possible prospects here and ready when the Oilers could contend in two or three years.

Unfortunately, one thing also clearly established this weekend was the desire to move Andrew Cogliano out of the Oilers organization. We may never know if that desire comes from a frustration at his lack of progress or simply where Cogliano fits on the Oilers depth chart, but this is now twice in the last two years Cogliano's name has come out quite publicly as trade bait.

The first time was during the Dany Heatley fiasco last season. Along with Dustin Penner and Ladislav Smid, Cogliano was headed to Ottawa before the trade was squashed by Heatley and his no trade clause. At the time, it was a bad situation for the Oilers, the city of Edmonton and for all three players.

On Friday, Cogliano came up publicly again, this time as trade for the Florida Panthers #15 overall pick in the 2010 draft. Tambellini has yet to confirm that Cogliano's name was mentioned or officially offered, but Tambellini did admit in a later statement that it was unfortunate Cogliano's name came out... again.

The question I'm pondering, is should we feel sorry for Andrew Cogliano or is this just business?

It's never fun to think that the team you're on doesn't want you. Whether as a player you're reading too much into the situation or you know for fact you're not wanted, publicly being mentioned in most, if not all of the trades you're team is involved in can't feel good. This is the current status of Andrew Cogliano.

Certainly, Andrew Cogliano offers a variety of skills to any NHL team. He's fast, he's young, he's on the upside of finding his potential as a professional hockey player and from what we've seen as Oilers fans, Cogliano is willing to re-define himself as a hockey player to fit into any role the team he's on requires. Those are attractive qualities for many NHL GM's.

But, Cogliano doesn't provide so much value that other teams will pay handsomely or even fair value for his services when his name becomes public knowledge in trade talks. Now that Cogliano is known league wide as a player the Oilers are shopping and accompanied by the fact that his last year as an Oiler came with decreased production under Pat Quinn, moving him (while I think will be accomplished) won't be easy nor for a fair return.

For all the wrong reasons, Cogliano is much like Sheldon Souray. Teams know the Oilers are somewhat eager to move him, thus the leverage is in the opposing teams court. Unlike Souray, and to Cogliano's credit, Cogliano has done all he could to be a team player, a good person and a fine Oiler. Souray on the other hand, has limited his value around the league thanks to his own stupidity. Same result -- two completely different paths to get to it.

If we use Tomas Kaberle as an example, we quickly can see what Andrew Cogliano isn't. Kaberle will have up to ten teams interested in his services. Because Kaberle has proven his worth as an NHL defenceman, when Brian Burke publicly throws out the release, "Kaberle is available" Kaberle will fetch multiple teams involved in a bidding war to land him. For Burke, actively and publicly shopping Kaberle makes sense. The end justfies the means.

Yet, no one feels sorry for Tomas Kaberle. This is two summers now that his name has been the focus of draft day and possibly the second summer he remains a Maple Leaf. So given the similar situation, why is it Kaberle gets one reaction and Cogliano another?

For Cogliano, the Oilers have tried to trade him twice -- both times unsuccessfully. The difference here is that Cogliano has no clauses in his contract that give him control, he has no bidding war for his services and he has no GM telling other GM's that he'll wait until the offer is right because his player is worth more to him than what's been offered thus far. Cogliano just has to sit and wait to see where he'll be playing.

This is the life of a professional NHL hockey player. If they (and hopefully Cogliano) have learned anything by now, it's that hockey in the NHL is a business above all things. It's not personal (alright in Souray's case it might be now) it's just business. For the Oilers, Andrew Cogliano is an asset. We may hate the term, but as an asset, Cogliano's value has diminished.

His value by no means has diminished so far that he's not tradeable. There are teams that could use his services. Ironically, one of those teams is the same home of Tomas Kaberle in Toronto. They've inquired about Cogliano, but nothing to this point has materialized.

The issue involving Cogliano now, is that teams will lowball Edmonton if and when the Oilers qualify him as a RFA before July 1st. Because Tambellini has to move contracts, he'll likely take a lesser hand to accomplish a goal -- that is moving out players who offer similar skills.

We wrote an earlier article about how busy Steve Tambellini will be over the next few days. Andrew Cogliano we think, is one of those deals Tambellini has in his back pocket and will happen sooner than later. Unfortunately, it's a deal for less than fair value and this now makes two players the Oilers won't get fair return for.

One I feel sorry for, the other makes me feel sorry for Edmonton.


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Time To Get Busy Steve

If the Edmonton Oilers and GM Steve Tambellini thought this Friday and Saturday were busy, they should hold onto their socks. The to-do list for the Oilers is only going to get longer and more complicated now that drafting Taylor Hall is part of their franchise past.

To their credit, the Oilers scouting staff did a lot of hard and detailed work leading up to this past draft weekend when Edmonton selected Taylor Hall (#1), Tyler Pitlick (#31), Martin Marincin (#46), Curis Hamilton (#48), Ryan Martindale (#61), Jeremie Blain (#91), Tyler Bunz (#121), Brandon Davidson (#162), Drew Czerwonka (#166), Kristians Pelss(#181) and Kellen Jones (#202). For now the scouts are done and it seems as though their efforts paid off in a strong 2010 draft class.

For Steve Tambellini however, the hard part begins now. Tambellini has only a matter of days to make critical decisions regarding players that he and the organization feel have little to no future in Edmonton but are currently assets in the Oilers organization. Once June 30th comes and goes, the buyout period will have passed and difficult to make trades will be Edmonton's only option.

If you want, you can chalk up the draft to other GM's being busy and focused on their own selections. You can suggest Tambellini wasn't getting fair value in return for the players he offered. You can even say, at the time Edmonton making additional moves just didn't make sense.

Whatever rationalization you choose, Tambellini made fewer moves than most would have hoped. Successfully moving only disgruntled prospect Riley Nash, Steve found out quickly that the market for Oilers assets is thin and slim at best. Steve will now have to get creative.

The bigger problem is that it's no longer just trades that will require Tambellini's attention. The combination of continued trade talks with required buyouts before June 30th and essential qualifying offers for RFA's means Tambellini has a long four days ahead of him. Decisions on players like Robert Nilsson, Patrick O'Sullivan, Ethan Moreau, Andrew Cogliano, Ryan Potulny, Jeff Deslauriers, Devan Dubnyk, Sam Gagner, Gilbert Brule, Marc Pouliot, JF Jacques among others, are critical to the success of his shaping the team going forward.

Should he not be able to manage the incredible amount of tasks laid before him, the Oilers will only find themselves more overwhelmed than they likely already are. Why? At that same time the deadlines for some of these decisions pass, July 1st and NHL free agency will be ready to smack everyone, including the Oilers straight across the face.

No, the Oilers won't be making any major splashes on pending free agents and Tambellini doesn't necessarily have to sign his RFA's right away. But, to fill in the depth Tambellini has recognized he needs, their needs to be a plan of action. The Oilers bottom six needs work, the Oilers defence needs more NHL ready players, and the Oilers top six needs to be established.

Needless to say, Tambellini is on a tight timeline. What he couldn't do at the draft, he needs to immediately address. If he doesn't, the domino effect of bad timing will start to move around the roster faster than Taylor Hall can skate. If you haven't figured it out yet, Taylor skating fast is good. Dominos in this case are bad.


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