Hall Signs for 7: Predicting the Future

Well the Oilers have done something that since Chris Pronger, they haven't been successfully able to do -- that is sign a potential superstar player to a long-term deal to play in Edmonton. Granted Taylor Hall may yet be a superstar, but the arrows are pointed in the right direction with this young man.  The Oilers realize the ceiling for Hall versus what he's shown to date (which is fairly spectacular) is a "skies the limit scenario" and have attached $6 million per and seven years to Taylor Hall starting the season after this next.

Most fans in Edmonton are happy. Based on comparable contracts, Hall's isn't out of whack. Term is fair, price is fair, and while injuries may be a slight concern, there is plenty of space for Hall to outplay his dollar value and his attitude and pedigree suggests he'll do just that.

This does pose some interesting questions going forward for a young team with more than just a Taylor Hall who will be looking at similar contracts.

Jordan Eberle is next on the docket and there is no reason to suggest he sees much less money than Hall did. That's $12 million per season in two forwards. Expect that Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov might be in the same range, and $24 million per season goes out the window fairly quickly. It's a pretty potent offensive core on the team for many years, but in net and on the blue, the Oilers will have to figure out where to allocate the other $30 million or so available should the cap drop to $54 or $58 million after the new CBA.

The question becomes, is it possible? Should the Oilers use Taylor Hall as a baseline for what to expect with the other stud young players on this team, how many times can Edmonton hand out these types of contracts before running into a problem?

The answer is, it all depends on the new CBA. There shouldn't be a problem if the cap starts at $55 and goes up each year. Should it not, the Oilers will have issues.

Let's look at what could happen (we're going to make some general assumptions to keep things simple).

At forward (the core):

Taylor Hall - $6 mill
Jordan Eberle - $6 mill
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - $6 mill
Nail Yakupov - $6 mill

Total: $24 million

On the blue (the core):

If we assume that Justin Schultz is everything he sounds like he could be, $5-$6 million per might not be a stretch after his first two seasons. Petry could round into shape as a legit top four and Smid could be that stud stay-at-home d-man every team needs. Klefbom is a wild-card, but we're predicting two-seasons from now, so we'll aim on the side of glass is half full thinking.

Justin Schultz - $6 million
Jeff Petry - $5 million
Ladi Smid - $4 million
Oscar Klefbom - $4 million

Total: $18 million

In Goal:

If all goes well and Devan Dubnyk does become the starter Edmonton is banking on, he'll likely receive a $5 million multi-year deal. A notable back-up should be available for $2 million a season or less.

Dubnyk - $5 million
Backup: $2 million

Total: $7 million

So far, that's $49 million tied up out of a potential and estimated $55 million cap coming out of the CBA. We have to assume that over time regardless of the new CBA, the cap will rise proportionately over the years as revenues grow. In three seasons $62 to $63 million would be a very reasonable expectation of team salary at that time. That leaves $13-$15 million in space to fill out the rosters. (this is if the players take a lower-ball offer than they are likely seeking).

Rounding out the forwards:

A Horcoff similar at $2.5 instead of $5.5, a Ryan Smyth type at $2.5. a second line center (Sam Gagner or the like) at $3.5 or $4. That's 7 of your 12 forwards at a total of $ 9 million more. Puts us at $58 million. Six more players at $6-$7 million dollar total means a $64 million payroll.

Rounding out the blue:

Allocate $2.5 for a 6 and 7 defenseman and you have your roster at $66.5 million. Well below the current cap with some room to add a few contracts to put you over the top on your third and fourth lines.

It's fair to guess that after this CBA, $70 million dollar cap hits may be a thing of the past. But $65 million? Maybe. And to have seven major proven commodities making $5-$6 million in that range within that cap is exceptional.

It means that the Oilers will have to convince the Nuge and Nail to stay in that $6 million a season range. Winning may depend on it. Can it be done without a total team shake-up? I believe so.

Edmonton will need to ensure however that these $6 million dollar deals are communicated to the players as the potential ceiling of where their salaries will extend. If a Nail Yakupov or Justin Schultz demands $7-$8 million, they'll need to be moved.


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Gagner Agrees to One Year -- Avoids Arbitration

Sam Gagner was set to go through what is often an ugly process. Arbitration hearings are two sides getting together and pointing out all the faults of the other side in hopes that a private third party will agree one way or the other. The player tends to get the better deal financially, but in the process, takes a crap kicking in terms of his ego. Sam Gagner's hearing was set for today.

Arbitration is not a process anyone likes -- unless maybe you're a hockey team with a lesson to teach and your player is Sean Avery.

For Gagner, not wanting to go through the line up and bash me proceedings, was enough to convince him to sign with the Edmonton Oilers just hours before his hearing on a one-year $3.2 million deal. Very reasonable money for a player who by almost every measure is a legit second line center in the NHL.

It is the one-year term that we're hearing was the sticking point for the Oilers. Sam Gagner is a hard working NHL'er. He has consistently proven he can get you 15-18 goals and 40-45 points, but the Oilers aren't sure he can do more than that. Their concern in locking him up long term is that they've seen the finish line with this player and not the starting point.

Edmonton getting Gagner on a one year terms means they'll know for sure by the end of this coming NHL season when Gagner plays with a mix of Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ales Hemsky, Nail Yaupov and perhaps Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. If one can't get 50 points with these line mates, they probably never will.

For Edmonton, this is very much a win and Gagner takes much of the risk. The ball is in Sam's court now and he'll have to prove with a solid two-way likely 20 goal and 55 point season, he is worth what he and his agent think he is. He'll have to do so all while avoiding major injury and he'll have to do so in a potentially shortened lock-out season, with a new CBA looming that could greatly affect his next deal.

The best part for the Oilers, is that at the end of this year Gagner will still be an restricted free agent. This means Edmonton will have a lot of control in their next negotiation and should they lose Gagner to an offer sheet, will pick up Dustin Penner like compensation.

The Oilers aren't risk free however. Edmonton's is taking a chance that this is the season Sam Gagner breaks out with line mates that should make anyone look offensively gifted. Should that happen, the Oilers will need to reward Gagner with a four to five year, $4 million plus type contract. They'll have to do so at the same time as allocating cap money to Eberle and Hall who will also be ready for new deals.

The pressure is solely on Sam Gagner. The reward is also potentially very great if he not only handles that pressure well, but thrives under it.


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Dubnyk and Petry Sign for Two

The Edmonton Oilers have agreed to terms with goal tender Devan Dubnyk. Terms just released that Dubnyk is getting $7 million over the two seasons.

Also hearing Oilers have come to terms with defenseman Jeff Petry on a similar two-year deal worth $1.75 million per season.

Both players good prospects with a solid season in 2011/2012, the Oilers seem to feel that short-term contracts with a little flexibility is the better way to go. Jeff Petry will look like a steal if he continues along the trend he started last season and Dubnyk is now being paid as a starting goalie, so he'll be looking at 50-55 games this season.

His numbers last season were strong with a .914 save percentage and 2.67 GAA on a very bad Oilers team with inexperienced and injured defense. It may not look it now, but Dubnyk could prove to be worth every penny of the $3.5 if he doesn't suffer setbacks in his numbers and the better blue line in front of him allows him to do his thing.

More to come...


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The Big Named Teams Are Eating It

Ryan Suter and Zach Parise -- $98 million each over 13 years. The kicker? These contracts were handed out and accepted with the Minnesota Wild.

In our last blog, we mentioned that the Flyers were that team with the largest tabled offer, but cited Minnesota as a team to watch for. This was before the signings happened. I kind of saw the writing on the wall, but I'll admit, I didn't see this coming.

Taking a page out of the Miami Heat book, I'm shocked that Suter and Parise not only stuck together, but did so by heading to a team that has made the playoffs about as many times as the Oilers in the last nine seasons. Perhaps the tide is changing.

Jaromir Jagr and Ryan Whitney were overpaid and went to Dallas. Matt Carle was overpaid and went to Tampa. Garrison got six years after one really good offensive burst in Vancouver (the money isn't that bad, but the terms is a bit out there).

And the Oilers landed prized prospect Justin Schultz.

Where is all the traditional noise made by the Rangers, Red Wings, Flyers and Blackhawks of the world?

Oiler fans think Edmonton has been quiet, these teams are ghost-towns in comparison being eclipsed only by Nashville who probably feels like a pile of dog poop right about now.

Edmonton is smart to wait what's coming out, because what's coming won't be pretty.

Free agents like Jason Arnott, Ruslan Fedotenko, Alex Semin, Shane Doan, Dominic Moore, Carlo Colaiacovo, Daniel Winnik and others are going to get huge paydays because the big teams missed out on the big guys. The Oilers shouldn't be fool enough to get into such a mess.

If there are scrap pieces down the road that are left for the taking, the Oilers might make an addition or two, but trade is their best option at this point. You don't want to get in a bidding war with teams who traditionally spend a ton of money and haven't yet. They're itching to spend what they have.

There are also teams who aren't at this new $54 million cap floor. The Oilers are right in the middle.

Let the teams overspend and lay in the beds they make five years from now.


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When the Smoke Clears

This was a busy week for the Oilers. First there was the Justin Schultz saga that had every hockey fan -- at least in eight hockey markets -- all over twitter. Quickly following the franchise moment for the Oilers, there was the nice contract finally agreed to by Ryan Smyth to remain in the blue and orange. Just those moves alone made the Oilers along with #1 overall pick Nail Yakupov a much improved team.

Most agree however the Oilers aren't done, nor should they be if the playoffs are a serious consideration this season. Since Smyth and Hordichuk (who also re-upped), the Oilers haven't made a sound. Some fans are getting a bit stir crazy. July 1st will do that do a hockey fan.

I do however believe the Oilers have a plan. I also believe it's a strong plan and smart not to get involved in what looks to be $90 millon pay days for players who are fantastic, but will never be worth $90 millon. Instead, Edmonton plans to wait for the Suter, Parise, Nash, Ryan and Carle smoke to clear and then they'll pounce.

Instead of jumping in and trying to hit two homeruns (Schultz being one), Edmonton will wait for teams to lose their mind, overspend and Edmonton plans to walk-up to the plate and hit a game-winning double in the ninth inning.

The Oilers management team knows they have at least two areas of need:

1) A top four defensman
2) Some skilled grit in their top nine (preferred top six) forward positions

a distant 3) a back-up plan in goal

Number three doesn't concern me as much. Dubnyk looks to be the real deal and Khabibulin, while losing (or perhaps completely lost) his starting goalie skill, can still be useful in a more limited role. 25-30 games for Khabibulin I believe will ensure he's healthy, not over-worked and one of the stronger number two netminders in the NHL.

However, when it comes to the first two points, the Oilers are well aware of their needs and I believe have the names on a short-list of who they'd like. Their plan? To wait for the big UFA fish to land and the after-effects of said UFA's final destinations to create a need to offload contracts on their new respective teams. The Oilers intend to take advantage and be waiting in the wings.

The following are the names I believe Edmonton is watching for (I chose these teams because they are rumored to be the most commonly mentioned teams for the big ticket players on the market):

1. Jay Bouwmeester

Ok, nobody thinks Calgary has a shot at the big-two, but it hasn't stopped them from spending money. Enter the dilemma of Jay Bouwmeester.

Bouwmeester isn't being shopped we don't believe. We also don't believe him to be at the top of Edmonton's list, but Calgary is in a tricky position. If Sven Baertschi makes the team (and it looks like he will), Calgary is likely still a forward short of icing a full team and they are currently only $3 million from the cap.

Could Calgary ice a team that close to the cap? Yes, they could, but moving Bouwmeester's $6.8 cap hit would help a lot. The Oilers wouldn't normally want to take a hit that large, but the beauty in Bouwmeester, is that his cap hit comes off the books in two-years. Plenty of time for the Oilers to move forward with their youngsters and without cap troubles.

Bouwmeester was grossly overpaid, since coming on board with the Flames, but with the new cap ceiling and the contracts being dished out to heavy minute playing defensemen, Bouwmeester is technically only now slightly overpaid. The Oilers also believe he can improve his offensive totals if put in the right position.

Feaster has gone on record saying he wants more grit in his lineup. Players tough to play against. Bouwmeester out, Peckham/Sutton, Jones, and a draft pick in? Hard to say what Calgary would ask, but the cap hit might play a factor here.

2. Marc - Edouard Vlasic

I don't see why the Sharks would want to move Vlasic, but they are a team rumored to be in on Rick Nash. Pavelski is the name we hear going the other way and while the Sharks will have to add other pieces and draft picks based on Scott Howson's demands, Nash's cap hit puts San Jose close to the ceiling if they land him in trade.

The Sharks won't move Boyle, Burns or Stuart (partly due because they wouldn't want to and because of the NTC clauses) so Vlasic is the odd-man out with a cap number that makes space.

Vlasic is a 23 minute a night defenseman. He was a plus +11 is 6'1 200 lbs and can add a bit on offense.

3. Nicklas Hjalmarsson

Chicago is rumored to be pushing hard for Ryan Suter. If they land him, Hjalmarsson is easily being moved and likely for pennies on the dollar. This is a prime candidate for the Oilers.

6'3 and 207 lbs, Hjalmarsson didn't really live up to expectations in Chicago, but he wasn't bad either. Plays 20 plus minutes a night, adds not much offense but is reliable in his own zone. Would really help the Oilers in the goals allowed department.

4. Scott Hartnell

This only happens if both Suter and Parise wind up in Flyer-land and we've heard that when it comes to the money offers both Suter and Parise are considering, the Flyers have offered the highest paydays. Should either player (or especially both) land there, Philadelphia is over the cap.

Hartnell had a great year and his previous season puts Philadelphia in a sell high position. Chances are he won't repeat the year he just had and Holmgren isn't afraid to trade big name players. Should Parise and Suter land with the Flyers, it's likely fans wouldn't even notice Hartnell's exit. Assuming he's willing to trade his NTC.

Whether Hartnell scores 37 goals again ever or not, he's still a consistent 20 plus goal man, he plays big and he'd be exactly what the Oilers would want to improve their top six toughness.

Hartnell only has one year left on his $4.2 million hit and should he repeat his performance and be due a huge raise, Edmonton could feel ok letting him go or trading him at the deadline if they aren't in the playoff picture.

The Flyers also will be owing big raises to RFA Wayne Simmonds at the end of the 2013 season and Matt Read at the end of 2014. If the CBA changes and the Flyers have tied up money in Suter and Parise, the Flyers won't be able to keep them both and may see the writing on the wall.

5. Jakub Voracek

Much like Hartnell, moving Voracek only happens if Parise and Suter land, but Voracek is currently an RFA and due a raise. Might be easier to trade him than negotiate a deal with him if all the money is tied up.

He's big, he's got hands and he's just hitting the best years of his career. He's fit well into Edmonton's top six or nine depending on how the lines are rolling and players are producing or struggling.

The bottom line here is that even if the Oilers sign Gagner to a $3.5 million dollar deal, Dubnyk to a $2.5 million hit and Petry to a $3 million multi-year hit, Edmonton still has money to spend. Their plan is to improve by trade and include a few contracts and prospects in said trades.


The Oilers aren't done. We've heard that an offer has been tabled to Matt Carle (one he's not likely to accept because he'll get more money elsewhere), but Edmonton is aware of the market.

Teams like Pittsburgh, Minnesota and the Rangers are names to watch as the UFA saga unfolds. There are likely assets to become available that aren't currently. Or, as Steve Tambellini explained in his after day-one presser, "GM's were kicking tires at the draft to see if other teams  would be available in player "x" is they became available".

Give it a couple days Oiler fans. Don't be in a big rush to make a move. You likely won't like what leaves if the Oilers rush things.


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Krueger Impresses, Schultz Signs, Tambellini Prepares...

We said it in our Same Old, Same Old post -- that Krueger should hopefully do most of the talking in the presentation made to d-man prospect Justin Schultz. Well, we found out Saturday that Justin Schultz chose the Oilers over 26 other teams and new head coach Ralph Krueger was a major factor.

The twitter world was buzzing all day waiting for the verdict and when the news finally broke, one tweet that caught my attention was from a reliable source...

James Duthie of TSN: Those who were in the room say Oilers new coach Ralph Krueger was incredibly impressive in his presentation to Justin Schultz.

This is why the Oilers chose Krueger. He has the ability to send a message that gets received loud and clear and makes you want to go to bat for him.

When asked, Justin Schultz commented "it was awesome when I met him and I'm really excited to hopefully get the opportunity to play for him".

Schultz was obviously wow'd by the Gretzky and Coffey phone calls and Edmonton was smart to use that tool if it was at their disposal, but if I'm the Edmonton Oilers or even more, if I'm Ralph Krueger, I'm thinking, 'not a bad first couple of days for the new bench boss in Edmonton'.

Just two days on the job and you get the first overall pick in Nail Yakupov who should get you 20-30 goals in his sleep and quickly after land one of the most touted UFA's in this years crop and an offensive blue-liner in Justin Schultz. Schultz, whether he wanted to or not, became the Brad Richards of last year, where everyone wanted him and only one team would win.

Fans from at least six other teams waited. They found themselves glued like Oiler fans were to the twitterverse until one at a time each team was eliminated. The masses quickly turned from optimists to haters when the news came via the Oilers twitter feed that they'd signed Schultz. As an Oiler fan, if you didn't know who Justin Schultz was, such reaction is the real tell that people think this kid will be something special. When everyone else hates on you because you got what they wanted, you know you've got something good.

But, with Yakupov waiting to start at right wing and Schultz working toward a top-four defensive role, what's left -- perhaps literally?

Well left winger Ryan Smyth still lingers. It looks as though Smyth has turned down Edmonton's final offer and will test free agency. My guess is that someone will give Smyth close to what he wants and that team won't be the Oilers. It means that while Edmonton potentially has enough offensive fire-power on LW in Magnus Paajarvi to fill the hole, a two-way LW is on the Oilers radar if for nothing other than penalty kill minutes. Paajarvi needs to find his groove offensively. To ask him to tackle the tough minutes that Ryan Smyth did, wil hamper Paajarvi significantly.

Edmonton also needs to add one more top-pair defenseman according to many and I would tend to agree. Their core seems to be coming along with the signing of Schultz, but they are at least one veteran top minutes guy away from having a good back-end that can handle tough minutes and injuries, if and when they arrive.

The Oilers could look to accomplish this task through trade instead of free agency. With names like Bouwmeester, Methot, and Yandle potentially on the block, they might find the value in terms of dollars spent for contracts that are running down instead of just beginning, this would make more sense.

Edmonton should have an interesting day tomorrow. I'm especially interested to see if free agents start to see Edmonton as a destination of interest instead of a plague you'd absolutely want to avoid.


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Same Old, Same Old

While there's a lot going on in Edmonton Oiler-land, is it me or does it seem to feel like a lot of the same old, same old?

Let me start by saying, that I'm not opposed to the hiring of Ralph Krueger as head coach of the Edmonton Oilers. I think in fact it's the type of hire the Oilers needed to make. A coach with experience (maybe not NHL head coaching -- but a healthy resume none the less), and a man who is respected and liked by the young core of this team and a man with a passionate vision. If there is one thing Krueger is known for, it's on his ability to deliver a motivational speech.

He's going to need to be not just good at it, but really good at it if he expects to see change in the results column where change is not very present inside the dressing room.

To date, only one new face has arrived since the Oilers finished 29th place last season. That being the draft selection of Nail Yakupov, who should be playing right wing when the Oilers open the season in October and is currently showcasing his skills at the Oilers development camp at Millenium Place in Sherwood Park.

The hire of Krueger and the retaining of both Steve Smith and Kelly Buchberger as assistant coaches means the faces will stay the same in the directors chair, but the message -- one that Steve Tambellini has touted as the real need for a new coach -- must change. That's hard to do when new blood and a new delivery isn't a by-product of a new coach that hasn't already been here.

Krueger has his work cut out for him. His biggest hurdle will be in finding a way to do what Renney and Pat Quinn before him couldn't -- that is get the veterans to chip in. The Edmonton Oilers are a team of youth. That is their future. But to succeed, they'll need contribution from the Horcoff's, Hemsky's, and Belanger's of the team to try and match the intensity level and effort put forth by the youth on a nightly basis.

I believe that's why Krueger was hired. That message has to be not only delivered, but received and demonstrated as understood by everyone on the team. If it isn't, a lot of people will be held accountable and none faster than current GM, Steve Tambellini.

Tambellini is putting a lot of faith in Krueger who will get his first chance to really showcase his motivational talents when he, along side Kevin Lowe, Steve Tamebellini, and Taylor Hall will pitch young defensive college prospect Justin Schultz on the merits of becoming an Oiler.

Schultz has placed Edmonton on a short-list of five teams -- Edmonton and Vancouver considered by many to the be the two favorites. My hope, is that if Krueger is as good as they say he is at sending a message and having it be received and accepted, Krueger and Taylor Hall will do most of the talking. Young star to potential young star and coach to prospect wanting a chance to produce results leading into a big time contract in a couple years.

If the Oilers can't convince Schultz, and our history as Oiler fans should let us know that it's a bad idea to get  our hopes up too much, there will be major need to use free agency and trades to bolster their blue-line. Again, where have we heard this story before? Go after the big name free agent and strike out. Try your hand and only succeed by drastically overpaying for the wrong player.

Even at Oilers prospect camp where fans are delighted to see the youth (mainly Yakupov) energize crowds with his goal celebrations, many are stopping to suggest that he cool it before insulting goalies and veterans he hasn't even played with yet.

These same veterans that are the problem in Edmonton. If you ask me, what Yakupov is doing is exactly what the Oilers need right now. A brash, confident young potential star to rub a few noses in the same old, same old. There needs to be a wake-up call to this team, and while we sit here waiting to see if we'll again come away empty handed in the Schultz sweepstakes or if the same coach who's already been in the room can change the perception, Yakupov is the only real visible difference. It's a difference I like.


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Five Hundred Year Old Leadership Lessons For a Young Hockey Team: What Machiavelli Can Tell Us About Leading the Edmonton Oilers

An article by the Prof...

Niccolo Machiavelli was a Renaissance philosopher, whose works is more than 500 years old. Some see him as evil, encouraging people to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals. Indeed, the phrase "the ends justify the means" is attributed to him and Machiavellian (a term from his famour work, The Prince) has come to mean cunning, deceitful, and manipulative. Others see him as a realist whose insights influence modern political ideas.

Few however have sought Machiavelli's advice about hockey. That said, perhaps many of his ideas for achieving political succes and power translate into hockey's climate of intense competition. In this blgo, we take seven of Machiavelli's ideas and translate them into the needs of hiring the perfect coach for the Edmonton Oilers. 

Here are his ideas, with our added thoughts. 

Machiavelli Idea #1: “Good leaders understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity and are able to turn both to their advantage.”

A good coach’s most important job is to find innovative solutions to the issues that face the team. No team will go unscathed throughout the entire season. Each team faces obstacles – game after game, and practice after practice. What separates good coaches from poor coaches is how they deal with these obstacles. Because, to a good coach, no obstacle, no opportunity. Teams face similar obstacles and face similar barriers: it is the team that rose to the challenge that eventually wins over the long haul.

Machiavelli Idea #2: “Nothing great was achieved without danger.” and “Where the willingness is great, the difficulties cannot be great.”

Arguably, Tom Renney was a good coach and helped provide a calm space for the young Oilers’ players to grow and develop. But, with a young team, big risks often lead to great rewards. Few risks lead to mediocre performance: it is the risk-taker who holds the promise to lead the Oilers to great times. We believe the willingness to take risks is a critical success factor for future Oiler success. “The coach should take big risks and encourage players to do so as well – that is what we see as Oiler Hockey! Furthermore, it gets harder as you get older and begin to 'acquire' things you don't want to risk losing.” Recently departed Apple CEO Steve Jobs reminds us, “Time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

Machiavelli Idea #3: “Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.”

A good hockey coach must be able to adapt quickly to change. His mind must be flexible. This might be especially true when dealing with young hockey players – a nagging injury, a prolonged slump, a young player getting “down on himself,” youthful exuberance off the ice, the stress and grind of a long season, momentary mental lapses from another team. All these events call for the ability to see the times and change proactively to meet the possibilities that the times present. We believe it would be a mistake to get someone set in his ways – with an unchangeable “system” that must be followed, or else.

Machiavelli Idea #4: “I'm not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it.”

There is tradition and there is status quo. In Edmonton, our tradition is what we call Oiler’s Hockey. It relies on speed, grit, quick turnarounds, and attack. We tolerate on-ice mistakes – actually hoping to trade mistake for mistake, because we are faster and quicker than our opponents. That is Oiler Hockey. But, we also seem mired in a status quo that accepts finishing out of the playoffs – way down in the standings. And, this status quo must change. We need a coach who will simply overthrow it. We need a coach who will question common wisdom that we are willing to wait. We need a coach so NOT OKAY with the status quo that he seeks a better way to do things – one that crushes the recent molds. Machiavelli also said, “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.” Bringing change takes guts. The Oilers need a coach with pucks.

Machiavelli Idea #5: “The first method for estimating the intelligence of a leader is to look at the men he has around him.”

Weak coaches surround themselves with weak assistant coaches. Strong coaches always hire the best people they can find. Weakness leads to dysfunction and gets stuck in a lower stage of development. Who are the co-coaches the new coach will bring in? Will they act like adults, or more like children? Will they work as a team? Will they act decisively? Machiavelli also noted, “The wise man does at once what the fool does finally.” We need coaches who act decisively without over-planning.

Machiavelli Idea #6: “The more sand has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it.”

Finally, it would be nice if the coach were older. Let’s call it the “Darryl Sutter Syndrome.” Sutter will be 54 in August. That is an age that brings with it wisdom. The perfect Edmonton Oiler coach should be someone who has guts, can think on the fly, can act decisively, and who has wisdom gained from experience.


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Draft Day Rumor Hits 2


There was word that Subban was back on the block and talks heated up with Edmonton. It appears those talks have slowed as Tambellini just told Pierre LeBrun that he doubts he'll move the pick. Seems as though the return Montreal wanted was a bit too much and that's understandable from a Montreal point of view.


There was a report that Igor Larionov was upset when Jason Gregor asked him to join his show. "I don't talk to Edmonton and Edmonton doesn't talk to me." There was some immediate backlash that this meant Edmonton wasn't going to draft Yakupov. We've also heard now, Edmonton hasn't talked to Ryan Murray's agent either in weeks and that Edmonton did in fact contact Newport Sports.

Roster Moves

Edmonton is looking to move it's second round pick and a roster player to improve their blue-line. Word is Hemsky, but Edmonton also willing to part with Jones, Belanger, Eager and Omark. When names like Smid and Petry come up, it's a non-started for the Oilers.

Rick Nash

Looks like Columbus couldn't find a trade partner and is going to wait until after July 1st and see where Parise goes feeling the market will warm up.

Luongo to Toronto Close

The only trade that looks not only possible but probable is Luongo to Toronto. Burke and Gillis have been seen having long talks. What appear to be more than just friendly chatter.

We'll see if something actually gets done.


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Subban Back on the Board?

There was some talk a while back that P.K. Subban was a rumor to go to Edmonton along with the #3 for #1 overall and something else. We're hearing that Montreal squashed that back when it last came out. Now, we're hearing the talk may be back on.

Word is Montreal is quietly shopping Subban and has contacted Edmonton to see if something can be done. Mark Spector reports that going the other way might be Smid or Petry, so this trade could involve a lot of moving pieces.

Even more interesting is that Jason Gregor reports that Igor Larionov (Yakupov's agent) was asked to come on Gregor's show and flat out refused. His exact words were, "Edmonton doesn't talk to me and I don't talk to Edmonton.". Gregor further added that Larionov was not a happy camper.

Could it be that Edmonton has informed Larionov that they don't intend to take Yakupov? Not sure why they would do that, but I guess anything is possible.

This just got very interesting. Edmonton may be maneuvering to move to #3 where they can grab Murray or Reinhart and get Subban back in trade.


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Draft Day Rumors Hit 1

We'll be coming to you a few times with updates on what we're hearing regarding a big day for the Oilers at the draft. Update 1... and away we go.

Keith Yandle

The Oilers are not really big players here. Edmonton is well aware they need to upgrade their blue line, but the asking price for Yandle (who is not actively being shopped by the Coyotes) is a top six forward preferred to be center. From what we hear, Edmonton is willing to move Gagner, but is more interested in Hemsky going the other way.

No official inquiry or offer has been made from what we understand. Pittsburgh may be the biggest player here.

Ryan Murray

There is some real concern among fans that Edmonton will pass on the best player as listed by almost all scouts in Nail Yakupov and draft Ryan Murray. We've learned there should be some concern. The Oilers have let their staff and management know, but not released to anyone else who they've deemed #1. It could be Murray. My guess is 50/50 that it's Murray or Yakupov. I'm still on Yakupov, but won't be at all surprised if Murray is who they've identified and Edmonton is prepared to let the intrigue and excitement among the fans continue.

It's worrying a lot of fans, but it's go them talking and that's what Edmonton wants.

Griffin Reinhart

Edmonton has not labelled Reinhart as the #1 selection. Should Edmonton keep the pick, he will not be chosen. But, they do like Reinhart -- and a lot. If they can successfully manage a move within the top #4, Edmonton may see what's available.

Edmonton is worried at the Islanders will take Reinhart, so they can't trade below #4.

Sam Gagner

Is not being shopped, but Edmonton is listening and there are teams interested. Edmonton sounds only willing to move Gagner if they can add a significant roster piece of need. That be a top four defensman or another centre of Gagner's caliber in which the Oilers would have to give up another prospect to get the deal done. Some talk involves Niklas Hjalmarsson from Chicago, but nothing major has been done yet.

More to come...


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First Piece to Fall?

Jordan Staal has just given the Pittsburgh Penguins a pretty good indication he won't be staying long-term. Bob Mckenzie reports that Staal has turned down a 10-year extension from the Penguins.

Obviously the contract was a healthy one as it would have been a raise over this current $4 million cap hit. This is a pretty good sign that Staal has his sights set on being more than a third line center. This is also an opening for teams to come calling Penguin GM Ray Shero. Staal could be the first to move.

There are plenty of teams interested and one might be the Edmonton Oilers. Going the other way would for sure be center Sam Gagner and as would a defensive prospect and likely a draft pick.

The question becomes, outside of size, point totals haven't been a big game changer in Staals game versus Gagners. If Staal won't sign a minimum $40 million dollar deal, what would it take to make that trade and sign him in Edmonton.

My guess, is Carolina is the front runner. The Hurricanes are looking to improve their forward depth and rumors were were there was some interest in Gagner for the #8 pick. If Staal could be had instead, Carolina would be sure to do so.


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Some Quick Hits on the Oiler Rumor Front

Not Moving the #1

There is a lot of buzz going around that there are plans in the works to perhaps move the #1 overall selection at this years draft by the Edmonton Oilers. That there are teams close to making moves, offers to consider and options to weigh.

All of that is not true.

We've learned that Edmonton has in fact had very little talks with anyone about moving the pick and that no official offers of any kind have been made to the Oilers. The exact response we heard "we're open to it if someone wants to knock our socks off, but we anticipate picking at #1 and we've had no talks to the contrary with any teams."


Who to Take?

What we've also learned, is that the Edmonton Oilers don't know yet, who they'll take with the #1 pick and that if there were in fact good offers to trade, they would consider it because they are contemplating taking someone that might be available in this years draft at #2, #3 or #4 It sounds as though their thought process is if they knew they could get the player they covet by not picking #1, they would move it should they be able to get an asset that immediately helps their squad.

To do so, is tricky because the Oilers have their eye on three players. Past #4, these players may not be available.


Oilers Have Some Interest In Jagr

The Oilers are getting a little closer to signing Ryan Smyth. While it sounds like the two sides haven't had further discussions beyond the tabled offer from the Oilers, there is a common belief that there will be some coming together.

That said, the Oilers are considering other options and one is Jagr. He wants to play for the money. It's why he hasn't signed in Philly. He likes Hemsky and is a great leader to the young kids. Many of the Flyers have publicly made aware their fondness of the job Jagr did.

I don't see Jagr as a good replacement for Smyth and if Edmonton drafts Yakupov the right side is overloaded so where Jagr would fit is beyond me. Someone would have to play the off side as Jagr would need to be a top six forward on this team to justify the $3 million plus his contract would get him.


Oilers Kicking Tires on Bouwmeester?

It would seem like an incredible stretch, but Edmonton and Calgary may be talking a bit about Bouwmeester in Edmonton. We know the Oilers would like a top pairing minutes guy and Bouwmeester is that. The Oilers believe that with the right minutes along side the many minutes Bouwmeester would log, his poor offensive totals would improve.

Even if they didn't, Bouwmeester is a reliable and underrated defensman. Overpaid? Yes. That said,  the Oilers might not care if they can send the right pieces back. Calgary would take on money, but they would need someone who could play minutes on the blue such as a Theo Peckham or Andy Sutton. This goes to show how badly Edmonton thinks it needs to bolster it's defense.


Brent Sutter Out

It sounds as though Sutter is no longer in the running for head coach. The strange thing is, unless the Oilers were hiding it well, Sutter was never in the running. Edmonton has interviewed a number of candidates and it appears as though they may look internally.

It appears that while Edmonton was saying that Sutter wasn't contacted because of his contract in Calgary, that was a cover as Feaster has said that he didn't deny permission for the Oilers to speak to Sutter.

Unless Edmonton and Sutter are really trying to hide this hire together -- which would be odd -- Ralph Kreuger seems to be the leading candidate at this point.


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Oilers Keep Petrell

The Edmonton General Manager Steve Tambellini announced today the Edmonton Oilers have agreed to terms with left-winger Lennart Petrell on a one-year contract extension.

While this isn't huge news and the Finn has some obvious deficiencies, I did like Petrell and felt he was a big factor to the improved success of the Oilers penalty kill last season. 5 x 5, Petrell was not good and with whatever choice the Oilers make on their coaching this season, one has to hope that the new bench boss has the smarts to keep Petrell in a situation where he can maximize his strengths and remove him from his areas of weakness.

Petrell makes sense on the PK and he's an energy guy when a team like the Oilers who lack physical play, need that boost on the forecheck.

He should be a 13th forward when all is said and done and while we don't know the details of the contract yet, I expect that it will be around the $900,000 or less than he made last season.


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How the CBA Affects the Oilers

With the NHL about to sit down and hammer out a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Oilers and twenty-nine other teams are waiting eagerly to not only see if there will be any kind of work stoppage, but once things get sorted and an agreement reached, how it will affect the NHL salary cap.

There aren't too many situations where Edmonton is at an advantage when it comes to NHL salaries. For example, Edmonton is known as a less that desireable destination among players. That may change if and when the Oilers become a consistent contender, however for now, Edmonton ranks low on players' "wish list" for trades and new contracts.

So too, Alberta in general is a highly taxed region. While others cities like Vancouver are higher (hopefully this helps with Justin Schultz), locations like Florida who have no tax and Nashville who have little, have a distinct advantage when a player takes the time to look at his take home pay and make a decision. It's a reason the KHL has been an option for many -- low tax always benefits those who make a lot of money. When you have to give away 30-45% of your income, a $5 million per year salary that turns into $3 million understandably scares some away.

So with all these disadvantages, why could the Oilers benefit from whatever comes of the CBA talks? Because their players -- the ones who will make a boat load of money, will all be negotiating contracts under the new guidelines of the salary cap.

As Jonathan Willis pointed out in a recent piece he did, he recognized that typically a star player in the NHL makes between 8%-11% of the teams overall cap. There are of course always deviances from that rule, but for the most part, when one looks around the league, you see this as very accurate.

If that trend stays true, when the salary cap goes down $10 million per season - or whatever number it ends up being dropped - the average number for players like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and if they draft Nail Yakupov, should drop in line with the new cap.

Meaning, salaries like that of Eric Staal, Anze Kopitar or Rick Nash, whom when they signed their deals were recognized as the teams true franchise player, should be a thing of the past. For a team like Edmonton who has a history or perhaps is required to overpay, this is great news. The new salary cap in some way, will take care of a large part of the negotiating for all of Edmonton's franchise guys.

Because Edmonton will have three or four big contracts to take care of, this is especially critical because their next step will be signing players of value who outperform their contract numbers. That can be tough to do if you're a team that has signed big name guys just a couple years shy of the cap dramatically dropping.

The Other Side of the Coin

There is however another side of this coin. A way that my theory is shot down and the Oilers could be in real trouble.

What could be a big advantage could be quickly wiped clean by the negotiated percentage drop that each player who currently has a contract will be asked to take under the new CBA. Often when the overall cap goes down, players will be asked to reduce their individual and existing current salaries.

If for example a 10% reduction in total team cap translates into a 10% drop for the players, all things remain even. If however a total team cap is 10% and the individual player cap moves down only 5%, the Oilers could have a problem.

This would mean that the Oilers who will have to pay fair or better wage for their stars, will have to use current contracts as a gauge or guideline, but those contracts will be priced higher than the 10%average team rate that exists now. It could mean that the Oilers big four could make 45% or more of the team total.

If the Oilers are paying $22-$23 million to four guys and the team cap is say $52-$55 million, Edmonton could have a tougher time landing those ever so important value contracts. And value contracts are critical to being a contender when your team is finally ready to make that push.

Obviously every team will be affected by the new CBA. The Oilers may come out ahead, or way behind. If all things remain the same and team cap and player cap goes down comparitively, that should be considered a good day for Edmonton fans.


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Gardiner is not being considered for #1!

There is a very stupid rumor floating around that Toronto defenseman Jake Gardiner is being considered for the #1 overall draft pick this year. The entire purpose of the next few paragraphs is to clearly demonstrate how stupid a rumor I believe this is.

I'll admit to hearing lately that there has been considerable steam being built up that Edmonton is in fact strongly considering moving the first pick, but there better be more than Gardiner on the block.

I don't think Gardiner and the #5 pick get it done. In fact, I don't think Gardiner, the #5 pick and a prospect would get it done. And, this is not because I over value the selection of Nail Yakupov -- an unproven, but by all accounts should be dynamite prospect.

Why I think you can't make a trade in any of the above situations, is because we're talking about moving down four spots, where it's very likely that of Edmonton's top three or four player draft selection wish list, all of those players could theoretically be gone come the time the Oilers get up to draft at #5 overall.

If at the end of draft day on June 22nd the Oilers leave the draft with only one player who they could plug into the lineup, and that one player isn't who they deem the best selection at the draft, that's a huge mistake.

Unless they grab a single star player, any trade that the Oilers make will have to include at least two, maybe three ready to play NHL roster players. Otherwise the Oilers miss out on the help they desperately need to climb out of the bottom five and push for a playoff spot. Without that return, you take the best player available -- who seems to be Yakupov, put him in your lineup and make other moves before the season starts.

Part of this crazy speculation comes from Toronto fans who feel that by adding Gardiner to your team, you immediately will see college prospect Justin Schultz follow. If I'm a betting man, I consider those odds at best 4 to 1. Those are not odds I'm willing to gamble on if I'm in the Oilers shoes.

Gardiner and Justin Schultz are buddies. But Schultz will have other factors weighing on his mind when he ultimately decides where he'll end up playing. If friends is the only reason, Schultz wreaks of bad news to me.  A player who come contract time will be a problem. A locker room distraction in a locker room the Oilers spent years cleaning up and are still working to make the best it can be.

If the Oilers do in fact trade the pick, I see only two possible destinations. Columbus or Montreal. This leaves Yakupov, Murray and Reinhart who I believe are the three players the Oilers truly believe are the best options at this years draft and can be plugged into your roster immediately.

* UPDATE: Damien Cox has come to say that Brian Burke has denied even considering a trade of Jake Gardiner or Luke Schenn for the #1 pick. If that's the case, there is definitely no chance the Leafs and Oilers make any type of deal involving that selection.


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If the Oil Want Norfolk's Cooper, They Now Have Competition

If the Edmonton Oilers are interested in Norfolk Admirals coach Jon Cooper, it looks like they officially aren't the only ones.

Stephen Whyno of the Washington Times has done a piece today on the Washington Capitals keen interest in Cooper's future, citing conversations George McPhee and Cooper have had dating back to 2010.

Are these conversations recent? Apparently not.

Have they talked specifically about the vacant Caps coaching job? No, it doesn't seem that way.

But, it also seems that their brief meeting at the 2010 NHL draft was enough for them to consider keeping an eye on one another.  They have, and Caps GM McPhee has a history of hiring coaches without NHL experience, bringing Bruce Boudreau Bruce Cassidy, Glen Hanlon and most recently Dale Hunter into the fold.

Since none of the above coaches have brought a cup to Washington, would this be the time McPhee changes things up and steers away from his recent trends of AHL hires and instead bring in an NHL vet like Marc Crawford, Tom Renney or John Stevens? Maybe, but logically one might have thought new Oilers Vice President of Hockey Operations Craig MacTavish name would have popped up on McPhee's radar. MacTavish admits, he'd heard he might get a call, then never did.

I don't assume we should read into the MacTavish brush off that McPhee has been waiting for Cooper, but I don't suggest the Oilers ignore the possibility.

Considering McPhee's options and willingness to make big moves, for an Oiler management team that has a tendency to wait around, if they have their eye on the prize, sooner than later is time to play their hand.

The question becomes how long can they wait?

Well for now, Cooper is far too busy celebrating and traveling having just led his team to the AHL's Calder Cup. There is usually a short grace period that allows for a coach to bathe in the glory of a well deserved victory. But that won't last long if Cooper wants to take advantage of a golden window available to him.

The good news for Oilers fans, is that while the Caps may have interest in Cooper and Cooper would love an interview, the Norfolk coach sees all roads available. Meaning, Cooper is aware that Washington might have interest, but Cooper also knows about Edmonton's vacancy and has some interest in the Oilers future. Whyno quotes Cooper's understanding of the Oilers as, "look at one franchise that has been struggling in the the standings a little bit but is just pulling up No. 1 draft picks who looks like in the next few years is ready to take off". "I think, a great situation to go to."

Is it possible, a coach with no NHL experience could have two teams hoping he chooses them? We don't know where the Oilers head it as right now, but the possibility could strongly exist.

Cooper also understands how hot a commodity he is right now. This above any other time may be the time to cash in his chips having built such a nice resume, missing only NHL experience, in such a short time frame. If he were to ever consider an NHL jump, now is that time. Cooper is an educated man. He realizes that a window or "grace period" might exist more in Edmonton than in Washington. It might be nice when your first NHL job has some security with it.

In the end, it appears as though Washington wants Cooper. Cooper likes Washington, but might want to consider Edmonton. Edmonton is not tipping their hand at all.

Should be very interesting to see how this all unfolds.


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Oilers Sign Klefbom

What is considered by many as the Edmonton Oilers best defensive prospect, Oscar Klefbom has signed his three-year entry level contract with the Oilers as per Bob Stauffer on Oilers Now.

As we said with the Tambellini contract extension and the Craig MacTavish contract, this is the start of a very busy couple weeks for the Oilers. Klefbom will be seen as a small but significant piece in the domino of moves that will shape up the Oilers summer.

This signing really only means that the Oilers have solidified their confidence in the young blue liner who has by all accounts been one of the best young d-man prospects from the 2011 draft. That said, Oiler fans will not see Klefbom in Oilers silks unless they make it to an Oilers summer development camp. Klefbom will remain in Sweden next season and likely really make cracking the Oilers line up in 2013 a goal.

Some have described Klefbom as the "next big thing" in Swedish hockey. This is great news for the Oilers who will have to work hard to put together a competitive defensive core. Klefbom could be a key piece to that core in the next two to three years.


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MacTavish Hired By Oilers

We've been waiting a bit on where the Oilers will be going management and coaching wise before the draft. It seemed awfully quiet (outside of Tambellini's extension) on the Oiler front.

Today seems to be the first of what could be a few louder days in Edmonton Oilers hockey as Craig MacTavish was brought back to the Oilers in a senior-vice president role.

This hire tells me two things.

First, it leads me to believe that the Oilers wanted MacTavish back but realized bringing him back as coach might have been tough to do. He was let go under trying times and it now looks to many like perhaps it wasn't MacTavish that was the problem. MacTavish had a very strong record compared to our recent swing of coaching hires. He's well respected in the coaching world and a management position makes pretty good sense. MacTavish is a smart guy, not afraid to make decisions. (he was quoted on the radio with Bob Stauffer that if he was GM, he'd wipe clean the coaches that created the 30th, 30th and 29th place finishes).

Second, MacTavish now gives GM Steve Tambellini and president Kevin Lowe the ability to make a riskier move in terms of coaching by perhaps hiring Norfolk coach Jon Cooper as a new head coach. Cooper to me seems the best fit for a young Oilers team and his only negative is his lack of NHL coaching experience -- he has none.

With MacTavish, should Cooper completely flop as coach (which I doubt he would), Mac-T could step in immediately and fill the shoes should the Oilers have made a poor choice.

Some suggest that Ralph Krueger moves to the front of the line, but to me if Krueger was going to be hired, he would have been already. Hire Krueger right away, show your faith in him and bring in MacTavish later. The Oilers have had plenty of time and know Krueger well. I just don't see them hiring him as the bench boss after such a long gap.

But, I could be wrong and the MacTavish hire perhaps just gives the Oilers the confidence they needed to make Krueger the guy if they were worried he wasn't the guy before now.

The question becomes who MacTavish reports to. It was announced by the Oilers that this was a Steve Tambellini hire, but the title given to MacTavish suggests he's more in the driver seat than that. Is this the Lowe and MacTavish show now? Is Tambellini on borrowed time with the new GM possibly being Mac-T himself?

It wouldn't surprise me at all if Katz were part of this decision and wanted a back-up plan. We're immediately assuming or thinking MacTavish has been brought in as a coaching replacement should one be needed. Perhaps we should be thinking bigger picture. Perhaps this is a way of saying to Tambellini, "we gave you three years, but we also brought in a guy who is ready to go if you can't do this now."

Tambellini has often said "competing for jobs" is the best way to build a team. Katz and Lowe may have taken those words to heart. I believe this is a good day for Oilers fans. Especially those that don't want to see Brent Sutter as coach or are not big fans of Tambellini. MacTavish smells of signs that the Oilers are going to do something unexpected.


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Stuart Traded To Sharks

It was pretty clear that the San Jose Sharks would end up with defensman Brad Stuart. He'd made it clear to Detroit that his interest was to play closer to home where his family resided and San Jose would have been his destination of choice come July 1. Detroit was wise enough to recognize the inevitable.

Detroit got the ball rolling today by trading Stuart's rights to San Jose for Shark forward Andrew Murray and a late round draft selection. This gives San Jose a window to negotiate with Stuart on a new contract before July 1 and Detroit a chance to pick up a couple assets while they make plans for life without Stuart.

With the writing on the wall, what that meant for Detroit was that there would be a real need to bolster their blue line. The retirement of Lidstrom and the loss of Stuart creates a large gap for the Red Wings that will need to be filled. Many expect Justin Schultz and Ryan Suter to be the main two targets.

Recently however news broke that Suter and the Preds are making ground toward a new contract. Nothing is final yet, but the two sides are closer than they've been at any point in the negotiations.

Will Suter wait for Detroit to offer big bucks and then see what Nashville is willing to throw back to match? Or will Suter stay where it seems his heart is and remain in Nashville.

It looks as though Detroit will be a team to watch come July 1 and perhaps as soon as the draft on some rights trading. Dennis Wiedman might be someone Detroit looks to snatch up before the UFA market opens. Making a swap with Washington could be a definite possibility.


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How Could Owning Thomas' Rights But Not Playing Tim Thomas Benefit a Team?

I don't always agree with Jonathan Willis of the Cult of Hockey and Oilers Nation. That said, even when I don't agree, what I do find is that he has very interesting takes and viewpoints on certain topics and raises some very interesting questions. One of those questions got raised in his article about Tim Thomas on Oilers Nation today. It got me to thinking.

In the end Willis argued that Tim Thomas doesn't make a lot of sense for some teams including Edmonton, but that for an NHL franchise looking to hit the cap floor, Thomas could be a great bargain. I wonder, what if we look at it a completely different way? What if a team sees this as an opportunity to grab a player they want, taking Thomas or his dollar value as the baggage that comes with it?

This theory hinges on the fact that Boston GM Peter Chiarelli really is irked by the fact that Tim Thomas is sticking the Bruins with a $5 million cap hit for a player who is simply choosing to take a year off. So irked, that he'd like to remove Thomas from the roster and the team payroll even if it costs him something to do so. Think the Oilers and Sheldon Souray if you need a history lesson that this can and does actually happen from time to time. Perhaps knowing Boston is usually a fairly attractive location for free agents, Chiarelli needs the cap room to make moves and will sacrifice a bit to do so.

If we consider the above as possible, what if revisiting whether the Oilers might be a candidate shows there could be some reason for Edmonton to kick tires?

If you're the Edmonton Oilers and newly renewed GM Steve Tambellini, it's time to think out of the box to save your skin and be competitive this year. I'm of the many who think that even if Tambellini was given a three year deal, he has one year to make a run towards the playoffs or suffer the consequences.

If Tambellini is under the same impression, such out of the box thinking might make one realize that while it's not ideal to suffer a cap hit for a player who isn't going to play, as a team you won't have to pay Thomas' actual salary once Thomas is officially suspended for not reporting. Furthermore, the cap room the Oilers have this season to make such a move creates an opening that not all teams have.

How much cap space the Oilers have to actually play with might not be known until after July 1st. If Edmonton does or doesn't strike out at free agency, they'll have a better read on their cap situation. Land a couple free agents worth a fair penny and this Thomas  train of thought isn't an option. Don't land anyone, out of the box thinking becomes extremely important. Edmonton simply can't stand pat. With some $27 million in space available, they have room to be creative.

If what Willis says is true, that the team who owns Thomas' rights can choose to toll the contract and let Thomas walk after this season, essentially should he not report during any part of the Oilers 2012/2013 season, it's like a trade of the old days in terms of cash compensation for a player or prospect. The Oilers just need to let Thomas walk at the end of the year and they essentially gave up $3 million real dollars and $5 million cap space for whatever trade they wanted to make that Chiarelli would agree to.

If Thomas does report, and "Mr. Political" seems the type to change his mind and do strange things, it's not like the Oilers couldn't use his skills for that last part of the season should they be in the hunt and contending for that 8th place seed in the Western Conference.

Who the Oilers would target is another article completely and much of that depends on where Chiarelli's head is at. We could throw options out all day, but only really having a GM to GM conversation would really give us a true indication.

Boston picks at #24 this year. Not sure if I'd take the cap hit for that late a pick unless for some reason someone dropped dramatically out of the blue. If that's the case, Boston might want the pick.

I'd ask about d-man prospect Dougie Hamilton or bruising forward Milan Lucic, but those might be non-starters. It's really hard to guess.

All the same, a phone call is a phone call or a walk to the draft table is just a few steps. No reason not to ask. Especially if the right deal can be struck.


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Justin "Time" or Two Days Too Late?

If the Oilers have a shot at Justin Schultz, would there be any consideration at all for Ryan Murray?

The consensus among most scouts is that the Edmonton Oilers should draft Sarnia forward Nail Yakupov as the first overall pick. Despite the consensus, in recent weeks discussion has creeped in that because of the Oilers need to bolster their blue line, defenseman Ryan Murray may be their target. Murray of the Everett Silvertips is not considered the top pick -- perhaps not even the top defensman --, in this years draft. Yet, the Oilers have still invited Murray to Edmonton Friday for a visit and tour of the city and the Edmonton Oiler landscape.

While the idea of not taking Nail Yakupov has many fans beside themselves, would the Oilers be going to all this trouble if Justin Schultz, a college defenseman, was available and the Oilers knew they stood a great chance of landing him?

Schultz will be a hot commodity come his free agency eligibility. Choosing likely not to sign with Anaheim, the team who drafted him, Schultz will test the free agent waters and its likely that 29 other teams would love to have this kid. From all accounts, Schultz is a sure thing.

The problem is, unless the rights to negotiate with Schultz are traded for with Anaheim who doesn't obviously want to lose such a prospect for nothing, no team can technically talk to Justin prior to June 24th. That is two days after the NHL draft and for the Oilers, two days after they could pass up on the best young forward prospect available.

Not that adding Ryan Murray and Justin Schultz would hurt your club, but would you take Yakupov and Schultz or Murray and Schultz? Most would likely say one elite forward and one elite d-man makes more sense. The Oilers may not get that chance?

But, what happens if the Oilers don't have a shot at Schultz? What if they play their hand thinking they do and Schultz has every intention to sign in Detroit or Toronto? What if that happens and the Oilers draft Yakupov?

Sure, they'll get the best young forward, but their blue line will still be suspect and the success of their defense will rest on Steve Tamebillin's ability to make a trade or sign a UFA, which is much harder to do.

It's a tricky spot, where the only real solution seems to offer Anaheim something for the rights to negotiate. It might be worth it more to Edmonton than any other team to know where Schultz stands.


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Tambellini Gets a New Contract

We knew it was coming. It should be no surprise to anyone that officially the Edmonton Oilers have announced a contract extension for current General Manager Steve Tambellini.

Here's where it gets a bit foggy for me. According to a statement by Kevin Lowe on the Oilers website, one of the reasons for Tambellini's extension was as follows.

Kevin Lowe says, "Three years ago we asked Steve to begin a rebuild which we all know hasn't been easy. However, Oilers fans can take some consolation in the fact that Steve and his staff have acquired some amazing talent which will most definitely be the cornerstone to future sustained success for the Edmonton Oilers."

I really don't have an issue with Tambellini. But I do feel giving him credit for things he really didn't do (or at least have a huge hand in) is the wrong reason to reward someone with an extension. If you want to say "hey, we're curious about where Steve can take this team now that it's time to be competitive" or "Steve has a great international and NHL background and we're confident he can take us the next step" then fine... say those things.

But to give Tambellini credit for building depth that should mostly be attributed to Stu MacGregor and his scouting staff, or to say he's made great draft picks when drafting first overall should be the easy part is hard to swallow. Tambellini's trades have been suspect and his UFA dealings less than sufficient. What we don't know is the mandate Tambellini had going into these decisions.

I'm prepared as likely many fans are to see what Tambellini can do now that the pressure is on and the excuse of a "rebuild" is pretty much over and past it's initial stages. For me the jury's out though on whether Tambellini is the right guy and can make those decisions now.

Oh to be a fly on the wall in the Oilers offices that last couple years and to know if finishing last was on purpose or not.


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Can We Over Talk The Draft?

We did it when it was Taylor versus Tyler. We did it when it was Nugent-Hopkins versus Larsson and we're doing it again.

It seems as though the increased exposure and constant lack of being able to talk about anything other than the NHL draft has people losing their minds in respect to who truly is the best prospect at the draft. Oilers fans aren't the only ones either.

When Sean Couturier was ready to be drafted, but had to wait a full year before he was actually eligible, at the time, scouts were aware he was a consensus at a top pick. Over the draft eligible year however the scouts had already seen the good, so it became time to pick apart the bad. It was done so much, that Couturier's stock actually dropped all the way to the Flyers who selected him eighth overall. He showed in the playoffs and with his sound two-way play, that he really was the good that scouts saw earlier and before they began to tear apart his play having seen him too often.

When Taylor Hall was drafted over Tyler Seguin, there were some who thought the Oilers made the right choice -- the consensus choice. There were others who had worked Seguin into the equation as the smarter of the two options. While the jury is still out, Hall has done more in a limited time that Seguin and proven to be the top selection. Hall is a true leader on the Oilers and I don't think if you asked fans, that many if at all would trade Hall straight up for Seguin at this point.

Nugent-Hopkins was tops in the NHL as a rookie on a point per game basis and he's likely going to be punished by not winning the Calder trophy due to injury. Of course, there was a contingent of fans and media that believed because the Oilers needed better defense and that Adam Larrson was the better option. Larrson has spent much of the playoffs as a healthy scratch.

The point here is that we can over-hype the draft. Picking #1 should be the easy part. It's picking #3, #4 and #5 where things aren't so clear.

The Oilers haven't had that problem so with the #1 pick, is there really any reason the Oilers shouldn't take the guy who's been the talk of the draft for the last year and a half? Yakupov is not a defensman. That much is true. But, he is the best player available this year and he would be by leaps and bounds had everyone not had nothing better to do that dissect his every little move.

Take the best player available. From there, if you have to move him or another piece to fill the holes you need to fill if that in the long run benefits your team.


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What Happens If Certain Things Do/Don't Happen?

If the title of my post isn't generic enough for you, let me take a second to explain it. I've been reading a ton of posts and comments from bloggers, media and fans about what the Oilers should do or not do when it comes to their current roster of talent.

Let Ryan Smyth go if he wants too much. Trade Omark for peanuts. Send Gagner for a decent blue liner. Trade Belanger for anything.


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Fans and Media Need to Chill Out on the Coaching Situation in Edmonton

There is no doubt that the nice thing to with an employee when their job is in limbo is to let them know immediately so they can look for gainful employment elsewhere. If you're going to cut bait, do it quickly instead of dragging the process along.

This seems to be the consensus among fans and media in Edmonton who are quickly jumping on Oilers management regarding current coach Tom Renney.


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Trade Tracker

Tomas Vokoun has been traded from the Washington Capitals to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a seventh-round draft choice. The Penguins immediately signed Vokoun to a two-year deal for $4 million.

Pittsburgh now has their backup to Marc-Andre Fleury in Vokoun and there might be a few unhappy teams Vokoun is off the UFA market.


The Washington Capitals aquired centre Zach Hamill from Boston in exchange for winger Chris Bourque.

Hamill won the Bobby Clarke trophy for the most points in the WHL with 93 during the 2006-2007 season.

He was drafted 8th overall by the Bruins in 2007.


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