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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