Mac-T's Next Move?

Some people are upset, some people are suggesting Craig MacTavish is a miracle worker. Either way, MacTavish did one of the things he'd said he was going to do in moving Shawn Horcoff out of Edmonton and onto other pastures and he did so without keeping any form of buyout or retaining any of Horcoff's salary.

So now what?

Edmonton has zero healthy centres ready to play. Nugent-Hopkins is still rehabbing a shoulder surgery, Sam Gagner is not yet signed to an extension and Eric Belanger is being bought-out. That leaves only Anton Lander, a very unproven NHL player on the Oilers depth chart down the middle. Mac-T must have another move. He can't be that blind that there isn't an Ace up his sleeve?

Mikhail Grabovski

This guy has some elite skill and he makes those he plays with better. Grabovski just finished venting his frustration at Leafs coach Randy Carlisle for mis-using his skill-set and Grabovski is free to test the market without much fear of a huge salary, since he's one year into a five-year contract for which he was just bought out by Toronto. At $3.5 million for 3 years, he's a great fit.

Stephen Weiss

This guys got game, but he's going to have a list of teams including the Leafs interested and I think he's simply not got quite enough to offer for what he'll bring. Weiss has overpayment written all over his next contract and the Oilers just rid themselves of one of those contracts in Horcoff.

Manny Malholtra

No one is talking about Manny except Manny who believes he can still be a useful player despite his injury history. Vancouver is refusing to let him play, but another team might take a chance and he could be a steal on the 3rd or 4th line if he can stay healthy.

Maxime Talbot / Sean Couturier / Brayden Schenn

The shoe's about the drop in Flyer-land. Holmgren, despite his lack of cap space keeps making moves. It's like he can't help himself. It's going to force his hand and while Braydon Coburn is the public piece that the Oilers have been talking with the Flyers about, there is a very good chance we could see a bigger scale trade, the variety of Boston/Dallas, that sends a defenseman and a centre to the Oilers in exchange for draft picks, prospects or cap relief. The Oilers could answer a number of questions in one trade if the Flyers are willing to dance.

What about Magnus Paajarvi, Nick Schultz, prospect David Musil and the Oilers first round pick in 2014 for Couturier, Coburn and a 3rd rounder? Seems like an underpayment by Edmonton, but it sheds the Flyers of almost $3 million in cap space. We hear the Flyers are after Ray Emery and Emery will command at least $2 million allotted to wherever he lands.

Boyd Gordon

Can play 4th line centre, potentiall moving up to third line centre when needed. 57% faceoff man. Sound two-way game.


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Nurse a Pick of Character - the best bedside manner?

The Edmonton Oilers have taken big defenseman Darnell Nurse at the #7 spot.

So far, the reactions are mixed by Oiler fans. Many love this pick and many feel that Edmonton mistakenly passed up on Valeri Nichuskin - a big, heavy potential top-six forward.

To me, it was always down to two choices for Edmonton. Monahan (who Calgary selected at #6) or Nurse. Both of these players were considered high character guys and natural leaders that a team can lean on or rely on to compete each and every night for his team. They fight to the bitter end and Edmonton is well aware that this is a culture they need to embrace. I believe the Oilers felt that Nichuskin was a gamble to provide that.

With Nichuskin, there were questions or his commitment to the NHL (possibly unwarranted). It's likely that while the forward had more upside, Edmonton wanted the safer pick they knew could be a great locker room guy who also has upside when he grows into his frame.

Nurse brings 6.04 inches and 185 lbs that is only going to get bigger and bigger as he fills into his body. He was ranked as high as 6th and low as low as 9th by the major scouts, so not only is he a safe selection, but if you listen to him, he embodies what would and can handle the fish bowl that is playing in Edmonton.

He likes to hit, which Oiler fans will love. He likes to impose his will and style of game onto his opponents and he does more than just play tough. He can skate well for a big guy and will make that good first pass.

Nurse won't play right away, but that he could be a player that sees some time with the Oilers in the 2014/2015 season.


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7th Overall is way too much for Schneider unless Dubnyk already has a new home

There are reports coming out of TSN that when the Canucks decided to see what the market would be for Cory Schneider, they got some hits. One was from the Edmonton Oilers who are rumoured to be willing to pay the asking price -- a high first round pick and a prospect.

This is way too much if I'm Craig MacTavish and I already have a pretty good goalie in Devan Dubnyk available to me. I don't believe anything more than a 2nd rounder and a roster player would be fair unless I've already got a trade in the works for Dubnyk to a team like the Flyers for Braydon Coburn.

A goalie tandem of Dubnyk and Schneider sounds great on paper, but it creates more of what Vancouver is dealing with now (on a smaller scale) and Edmonton has way too many other areas of need to be wasting the 7th overall pick when all Edmonton really needs is a solid back-up option in net.

Money better spent would be trying to move a 2nd round pick and prospect for Coburn out of Philly and going all in for Letang out of Pittsburgh. Give up your 7th overall, prospect and a roster player for Letang and you have the cap room for his $7.5 per season ask.

Letang/Smid, Petry/Coburn, J. Schultz/Belov, Potter and you have one of the most dynamic blue in the NHL. Two legit power-play threats, lots of stay-at-home toughness and shot blocking and room for injury should something happen.

The best part is, you can keep your young guys all in tact, with the only risk that your cap doesn't go up to the point that you can't afford to keep everyone. Around $22 million for your defense in 2014/2015, but the Oilers have Letang at one year on a bargain price.

Maybe this isn't realistic, but you can't do any of it should you trade your 7th for Schneider.


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Depth should be easier to fill than fans might think

This time of year and with the lock-out ending, this is a buyers market in the NHL. Teams are looking to unload cap space, make room to maneuver should opportunities present themselves and with compliance buy-outs, opportunities will present themselves.

And, the same teams who are taking advantage of these buy-outs will likely make the same mistakes again.

Lecavalier doesn't go to Vancouver, the Flyers or Detroit unless they make room. Briere can't land in many of the some 15 teams who have expressed interest unless they move pieces first. Letang doesn't move to Toronto unless a bigger name blue-liner probably leaves first.

This isn't to name teams that might not be looking to make a splash, but just need to clear space like Chicago who wants to sign Bickel, or Minnesota who might move Clutterbuck to free themselves of the Parise and Suter cap dilemma they created last summer. Boston has to find a way to fit Horton, Rask and Bergeron.

Polished and experienced players will become available and many for song. Fortunately for Oiler fans, it's these depth players who may have some cap that Edmonton can and sort of wants to take on.

Mac-T has already stated his willingness to move his second-round picks. Look for these picks to land a few names that make very much depth sense for the Oilers. 


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How Different Could This Team Look and How Quickly?

So if the rumors are true, and potential trades like Dion Phaneuf for Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky for Zack Smith were to happen, how quickly would the Oilers look very different than they do today?

If, and that's a big if; these rumors are true, this could be the fastest roster turnover in Oilers history.

With the trade rumors out there, the news that Edmonton has given Shawn Horcoff and his agent permission to speak to other teams about interest in Horcoff's services, and a press conference coming on Tuesday, it could be less than one week and the Oilers will be very different team.

The top six blue could be Smid/Petry, Phaneuf/J. Schultz and N.Schultz/Belov/Potter. That's a lot of different and in my opinion miles better than it was last year. Phaneuf for all his detractors has a lot of game left in him, he's got that nastiness Edmonton lacks and it spreads out the top six quite evenly. Add to that former Toronto Marlie and Eakins friend for life Paul Ranger to that defensive group, which I think the Oilers will, and I'm quite comfortable with the Oilers depth on the blue. Actually very comfortable.

Moving Ales Hemsky gives Edmonton Nuge/Hall/Eberle, Paajarvi/Yakupov/??, Zach Smith/R. Smyth/R. Jones, A. Lander/Mike Brown/??

That seems to leave a lot of question marks. I think there would be more as Lander should start in OKC and Ryan Jones may not be retained.. I fully believe Belanger is gone, as is Smithson and Petrell. The obvious hole exists at 2nd line center, where if Gagner is moved I would keep Horcoff. I'm not sure the Oilers agree.

The Oilers likely feel and they may be correct that Edmonton should be able to wait for compliance buy-outs. There are bound to be centers available from Danny Briere to Brad Richards, to Vincent Lecavalier or to down the depth chart with Adam Hall. All have been rumored to be moving on and that's what's going to make the next two weeks so exciting.

Depth players like R.J. Umberger and Ryan Malone could be picked up for a song and free agents like Viktor Stalberg, Clarke MacArthur and Eric Nystrom could be left when the big tickets go as they always do.

Edmonton should have enough options with the cap room they possess to fill that part of their roster moving guys up and down the lineup. Could or should the Oilers draft a player at the #7 spot like Sean Monahan or Alexander Barkov, both might be players in a deep draft that could get some time on the roster immediately. If they trade the pick, the value is likely enough that Edmonton could pick up an immediate second line center right there.

When the dust settles and the smoke clears come 48 hours after the completion of the Stanley Cup Finals, the Oilers could very much be the 2013 version of the every day Phoenix Coyotes. Wait for left-overs and build a very competitive team with the scraps. The only difference being there could be some very worthwhile scraps.

Edmonton has the elite talent to play top six. The missing pieces should be available in trade or buyout and it could all come together in a matter of 48-72 hours. 


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Krueger Out. A Nightmare on his street.

In a quick presser that gathered Edmonton media as fast as it appears the decision was made, Ralph Krueger is out and Dallas Eakins? in.

There has been no official announcement as to who the Oilers will name next as bench-boss, but insiders all seem to be in agreement that Eakins is the "new man" and we do know that MacTavish and Krueger saw differently in philosophy related to hockey and the direction of the team. It appears as if, during the interview process for an associate coach, MacTavish found a match that made more sense than continuing on the same path.

To me, this looks as though MacTavish believed, if he's changing so many faces and there will be a lot of new learning and a bit of chaos to start this coming season, this would be the best time to pull a trigger. He made a quick move, was firm in his reasoning and fans will be left to wonder, is one coach with no real NHL experience better than another who had only 40 + games?

The match MacTavish believes he's found in Easkins will hopefully be the Oilers coach for the next three to four years.

I believe this to be a good move and the right time, but I'm also hoping this isn't the next Guy Boucher situation.


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Advantage Mac-T Style - Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks fired their coach and a lot of people felt that then bench-boss Alain Vingneault was simply a scapegoat while the "sky-is-falling" attitude in Vancouver was and is solely the blame on GM Mike Gillis. Most of that is irrelevant now as Gillis isn't going anywhere and will look to find a new face to lead what will be a changing Canucks line-up into next season.

The Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider fiasco will need to be addressed and if I'm Vancouver I'm looking to move Schneider. But I'm not and Gillis has already come out on record that Luongo will likely be dealt (likely around the draft) and while I'm not sure Luongo is the smart choice, MacTavish did suggest there are questions surrounding Devan Dubnyk, so who knows.

Goal tending aside, the Canucks are going to need to get below the cap. While moving Loungo would get them almost if not completely there, Gillis has made it sound as though more changes will be coming. Can the Oilers, despite there not being a big trading history between Vancouver and Edmonton, find a fit?

There isn't really as large a need for Vancouver to get under the cap as some other teams we've already discussed, unless they choose to keep players like Derek Roy (who was a large let-down since coming aboard), Mason Raymond and Maxim Lapierre. If the Canucks try to keep those players aboard, then the Canuck blue line might be due for a shake-up.

Keith Ballard is the obvious choice, but like Edmonton fans who suggest it's easier said than done to off-load under-performing contracts, Ballard is an albatross that Vancouver will have trouble getting rid of.

Alex Edler has a hefty cap hit that kicks in this coming season and with Bieksa, Hamhuis and Garrison on no-trade clauses perhaps Gillis looks to move him. If that's the case, MacTavish should be all over that, but otherwise I don't see a fit.

Kesler would be a great pickup, if he somehow becomes available a boat load of teams will be interested, so really, the only fit from Vancouver I see will have little to do with making any kind of deal with the Canucks. It will be in picking up a UFA like Lapierre as a depth move.

Vancouver has cap issues, but I don't see Edmonton coming into play in any way.


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Taking Advantage MacTavish Style - The Flyers

We last spoke about the Washington Capitals and whether an opportunity existed for the Oilers to go after names like Karl Alzner, Troy Brouwer or Mike Green. With the decisions McPhee will need to make in Washington, I believe there to be just that -- opportunity.

However, Washington isn't the only team potentially ripe for the pickens'. One team, the Philadelphia Flyers, have created an opportunity for every NHL team under the cap line. Currently $8 million over what next years cap will be, simply by not signing their UFA and RFA contracts and losing players like Simon Gagne, Ruslan Fedotenko, Jody Shelley, Adam Hall, and Mike Knuble, which is probably the first names they'll sacrifice, it still only brings the Flyers down $7.6 million or so and keeps the Flyers above a cap they'll need to get below.

Like no other team I can think of, the Flyers are being leveled with albatross and no-trade contracts that will hamper their ability to ice anything more than the team that missed the playoffs this season. Paul Holmgren, the Flyers GM, will need to shake things up -- and he's proven he's not afraid to.

Trading players like Jeff Carter and Mike Richards when literally no one expected it, shows us that the Flyers are a team to watch this and really every summer. If you're an opposing GM with cap space, the Flyers better be on your speed dial.

Craig MacTavish needs to let Holmgren know the door is always open to talking. That the Oilers have some young talented prospects and that Edmonton would be happy to "help" the Flyers -- an eastern team, relieve themselves of some cap trouble.

A few names should be at the top of the list.While Wayne Simmonds would be the prize to snag from the Flyers and exactly what Edmonton needs, I don't see under any circumstances Philadelphia moving Simmonds or for that matter Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier; so Scott Hartnell becomes the conversation starter. He's big, he has hands and he wouldn't cost a prize to get. A mid draft pick and prospect or smaller contract NHL player might get it done.

Yes, I understand that Hartnell has a no-trade clause in his contract and that he likely doesn't want to leave the Flyers. I also understand that the Flyers were dreadful this past season compared to seasons past and Hartnell being older and on what will likely be his last ever contract in the NHL, he might see a benefit in spending his last five seasons with a team on the upswing instead perhaps on the down. The Flyers are undoubtedly a better team than Edmonton currently is, but they are getting much older much faster. Hartnell may see the writing on the wall as one of the Flyers older players.

The Oilers might have to tread carefully here as Hartnell had an off year in 2012/2013 and he's got a longer term contract. As MacTavish stated, you don't want to obtain people on the tail end of their usefulness.

If Edmonton believes Hartnell has something still in the tank; but, Hartnell refuses, one asset a lot of teams will be looking at is Jakub Voracek. Drafted in the same year and just after Oilers center Sam Gagner, Voracek had a breakout season. As a major piece in the Jeff Carter trade that sent Carter to Columbus, Voracek has finally turned into what both the Jackets thought he'd be when they drafted him and what the Flyers only hoped he'd be when they moved Carter out.

The Flyers won't want to move Voracek, but if they can't get players like Briere or Hartnell to waive their no-trade and no-movement clauses, Holmgren just may not have a choice. It will take a healthy return of draft picks and prospects, but Edmonton has the assets to move and if there was ever a time, this is it and MacTavish is the guy.

Finally, a quick move and one I might kick the most tires over if I'm MacTavish, is obtaining a player like Maxime Talbot. It won't get a lot of press, but it's exactly what Edmonton needs.

A much upgraded fourth line center option, Talbot would be a steal for the Oilers and would likely cost little in return. Talbot has the ability to move up to the third line, playing center and wing and if Edmonton does move Shawn Horcoff, Talbot might make for a more fired up, less expensive option. If they keep Horcoff, Talbot's not terribly cheap for a fourth line player at $1.75 million per season, but not so expensive that he can't challenge the other players in that position to keep their spots. If injury hits, Talbot can fill right in.

While not really a career over 50/50 face off guy, Talbot isn't going to lose so many that you have to worry ( he was 48% in the dot this past season), he's a veteran player whose had to work his way into the NHL as an 8th round draft pick, offers plenty of grit and has playoff experience on winning teams like the Penguins and Flyers. That could speak volumes for a team used to losing a lot and why MacTavish has considered his options with Shawn Horcoff.

Talbot takes the body, he's just that little bit of dirty you like in a teammate, blocks shots and he also happened to lead the Flyers in penalty killing time on ice. Talbot is a great bottom six fit Edmonton has specifically set their sights out to acquire.

If you're Edmonton and you are worried about Talbot's face off ability, you can always call on and make a UFA pitch for Adam Hall whom the Flyers will likely have to let walk and is a great face off specialist.

That would give you Nugent-Hopkins, Gagner, Talbot and Hall as your middle-men. A good mix of skill, face off ability and grit. My only other thought might be moving Gagner to wing if he can't improve his face offs and looking for a second line center via trade. 


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Taking Advantage - MacTavish Style

Craig MacTavish said some interesting things since taking over as General Manager of the Edmonton Oilers. Among them was that he and the Oilers would tread cautiously when it comes to the UFA market and NHL free agency.

Even though Edmonton will have a fair bit of cap room to make UFA signings; understandably, this cautious approach makes a lot of sense. MacTavish has watched Edmonton go out into the free agency market and often over-pay for player after player, many if not all of whom have been nothing short of a disappointment.

MacTavish and the Edmonton Oilers are not the only ones to feel the pain of spending too much too quickly.

There are a number of teams who have a reputation of making a splash with UFA's and if the cap were to drop today to the projected $64.3 million that it will drop to next season, nine teams are already over that cap limit. This opens up a lot of opportunity for a team like the Oilers whom have space to take on salary.

Not only is Edmonton in good financial cap shape, but MacTavish has played a pivotal role in a similar situation before. In 2006 and coming out of the previous NHL lockout, with a dropping salary cap, the Edmonton Oilers were able to benefit from a few NHL clubs who'd overextended their payroll and were forced to eliminate contracts. Contracts like that of Chris Pronger, whom after the lockout, had St. Louis had a choice, likely wouldn't have parted ways with.

MacTavish is well aware this will be something he can look to again come the opening of NHL trading, the draft and July 1st. Mac-T will be using what he labelled a "competitive advantage" in his approach to finding what could be as many as eight new faces for his opening night roster this coming season.

So, what teams will MacTavish be looking at closely? The answer is a series of articles on this site looking at the top five or ten cap strung teams, most of whom will have some tough decisions to make.

Each article will examine what that teams GM will be forced to deal with and how they might free up critical cap space for their teams. Each article will then examine how Craig MacTavish and the Edmonton Oilers can take advantage of a potential opportunity where other teams may not or cannot.

The Washington Capitals

I really don't have a reason to have started with Washington. I suppose if you forced me to pick a reason, it would be that the Caps have a couple big name defensemen, one of whom will likely not be there next season - at least not without it affecting the rest of the roster.

The Washington Capitals are not currently over the cap, but they do have decisions to make and are already very close to the financial ceiling. Mike Ribeiro, who had a great season scoring 49 points in 48 games. will be a UFA and Washington will want to hang on to him. He currently makes $5 million per season. There is no doubt he'll getting a matching or better contract, which then puts Washington in cap trouble to sign some other players.

The real dilemma comes after Washington chooses to keep Riberio in the fold.

Enter opportunity Karl Alzner. A twenty-plus minutes smart in his own zone defenseman who is vastly underpaid and a soon to be RFA. If the Capitals want to keep him, $4-$4.5 million per season on a multi-year contract is a reasonable expectation and the type of big ticket Alzner will be looking for.

Alzner is 6'3" and 213 lbs of soon to be all-star caliber top four blue-liners. Just what the Oilers need and likely what Washington won't want to give up.

With this information and with heavy hitters like the Flyers, Bruins, Rangers, Canucks, Blackhawks and Mapleleafs likely out of the running due to their own cap situations, MacTavish can play this one of two ways.

Because Washington also has Marcus Johansson at forward to get under contract -- and due a raise, then Ribeiro, whom Washington wants to keep, the Oilers could offer sheet up Karl Alzner. If Washington doesn't match, the Oilers likely lose a first and a third round draft choice in exchange. I'm sure MacTavish would be bold enough to try that and Alzner would easily be worth that kind of compensation.

If the Capitals plan to match, and Edmonton gives Washington a bit of a heads-up, perhaps MacTavish could talk George McPhee (the Caps GM) into working with Edmonton before an offer sheet is tendered.

Who's to say that Edmonton doesn't find out that Washington plans to match any offer made to Alzner. Why not potentially target a trade involving forward Troy Brouwer (who could easily move up and down Edmonton's top nine). Brouwer is the perfect kind of compete hard and skilled forward with size Edmonton is seeking more of.

If Brouwer isn't available, perhaps a smaller trade involving Joel Ward is a quick fix for the Capitals. Or, MacTavish could try to hit a home run in top pairing Mike Green who makes a boat load of money per season. While Washington wouldn't want to part with Green, they also might see the potential freedom moving Green would have under the cap.

Green has two more seasons at over $6 million per year. Whitney's $4 million out and Green's $6 million in only slightly affects Edmonton's cap situation. Edmonton could offer up a reasonable contract in Jeff Petry along with perhaps prospect Martin Marincin and a 2nd rounder for Green. Two serviceable defenders for Washington (one who is a year away at least from playing in the NHL) a draft choice and cap freedom.

Green does have a modified no-trade clause which would have to be looked at, perhaps the possibility exists.

Washington does present opportunity for the Oilers and if MacTavish is thinking bold, I'm betting he's already made a call and opened an invitation for conversation.

Next up... we'll look at the Flyers.


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Can the Oilers not panic, but also improve this team?

This current road trip and to date the Oilers season has a lot of fans worried. Expectations were that Edmonton would at least be competing for a playoff spot and playing meaningful games in April and May. The way the season has progressed has the appearance that may not happen -- yet again.

Fans and media suggest the Oilers aren't gritty enough, don't have the will and desire, lack experience, are too young, need a better blue-line... you name it and people have suggested these are the problems. All of them may be right.

An area Edmonton wasn't supposed to be lacking in was skill and goal scoring, but they've struggled their too and failed to get shots on the opposing goalies net. Not a good sign.

So, how does GM Steve Tambellini improve this club now, but not panic in the process. Should Tambellini look to make trades, I'm sure many a General Manager would take his calls, but they'd all be asking for the same returns. Hall, Eberle, Yakupov, RNH, Justin Schultz and Klefbom, are likely not going anywhere.

The reality is, Edmonton's best players are young. They're extremely skilled, but they lack the experience and ability on many nights to compete with talent at a level of their opposition in the NHL. They may be able to keep up in terms of pure skill; but get pushed around, out-chanced and often outplayed a lot of the time. That's going to happen with a team this young. A team who's highest on-ice time players are all under 23 years old.

The real problem is that these skilled players need a mix of veteran talent to play with. To have RNH, Eberle and Hall on the ice together consistently looks great on paper, but in reality can be a dangerous game defensively. The Oilers veterans are older, coming to the end of their careers and play on the bottom-six lines where they might have a good shift or two, but don't help the young guys when they make mistakes.

That is the downside to consistently drafting in the top three spots in the draft. You can't not play the kids, but the kids aren't always ready.

Here's a few cast members that could play with these young guys and may be available in the NHL right now.

Ryane Clowe 

Clowe is a bonafide top six forward. He plays big, he can score and he's on a team right now rumored to be heavily involved in the trade market.

Some people may see this and say, "no way, the Sharks won't trade Clowe". But the Sharks do make big trades including Heatley for Havlat, Burns for Setoguchi and so forth. They aren't afraid to make a trade, even if it means they lose it long-term.

Clowe for Hemsky plus a pick? Clowe is a free agent at the end of the season, so that makes his value a bit lower and also a slight risk for Edmonton. Clowe has had a bad year offensively with only six assists and no goals in twenty games, but he's consistently a close to or over twenty goal fifty point player. He's the type of grit Edmonton needs and a change of scenery could be good for him.

Imagine Clowe out there with Yakupov (who would get to move back to RW) and Gagner? That could be a pretty good combination of grit, skill and determination.

John-Michael Liles

He's an experience d-man and just isn't getting the time in Toronto who may look to move him for an asset. I don't think the return would need to be significant and Edmonton shouldn't be looking to collect more draft picks, but move some of what they have for help that can improve this team right now.

Liles has one goal and five assists in fifteen games with the Leafs and he's locked in at a decent and not damaging contract for three more seasons after this one at $3.875 million. By today's NHL standards that's a going rate for a 3rd or 4th pairing guy.

The trick is making sure that Liles is a 3rd or 4th pairing blue-liner and an upgrade over Ryan Whitney who is on his last year at $4 million per.

Paul Stastny

He's a big cap hit and having somewhat of a down year, but he's a perfect second to first line center that can exchange ice time with a player like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. If RNH is hurting or struggling the two can be interchanged easily to keep good skill on both lines.

Stastny has been rumored to be on the market - although I doubt there is a ton a validity to that - and with Colorado now having to pay Ryan O'Reilly big bucks on a matched offer sheet, could be on the move if the Avs can pick up a couple assets in return.

I'm not an advocate of moving Sam Gagner as I believe he's finally coming into his own in the NHL, but if you're going to, and the Oilers always seem to be rumored to, Edmonton needs to maintain a strong one-two punch and a bonafide center coming back is an absolute must.

Wayne Simmonds

I know, I know... I wouldn't move him either, but the Flyers may not have a choice. Their cap situation is going to cause them huge problems in the next couple of years. I would have said Jakub Voracek would have been the obvious move, but not after the year he's putting together. I don't see Voracek getting traded and the Flyers can't move Hartnell or Briere without their ok.

Yes, Gagne, Fedotenko and Jody Shelley come off the books, but that's not going to do much to help the Flyers long term who may be close to or over the new cap that kicks in next season. Simmonds has a new contract worth almost $4 million per starting next season and The Flyers could use picks, Edmonton can spare them. Would a package of Paajarvi, Marincin, 1st round pick and conditional 3rd rounder could get it done?

Edmonton could move an Ales Hemsky and Ryan Smyth to clear space to another team or on waivers (in Smyth's case) to make room for another right winger and I would do that if I'm the Oilers GM to get a guy like Simmonds who has skill and plays with the grit Edmonton is missing.

These guys are hard to get from other teams and despite the Flyers cap trouble, won't let him leave without a good to great return. He's young enough and locked up long term too so any team receiving him knows what they're getting for a long time.

If I had my wish, Edmonton's team would look something like:

Hall / Eberle / RNH

J. Schultz / N. Schultz


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Roman Hamrlik on Waivers. Should Oilers Consider It?

Roman Hamrlik was placed on waivers today by the Washington Capitals. A healthy scratch more than not this season, Hamrlik has played in only four games, has one assist and is a plus-minus -1.

Hamrlik is no stranger to the Oilers, having played here three seasons starting in '97 and was a respectable blue-liner for the club. That said he's 38 now and definitely on the down-side of his career. He's also been the topic of some off-ice news when he made public comments about the NHLPA and wanting to get back to playing while the players were sitting out. He may have been a bit of an outsider on his own team thanks to those comments.

Should Edmonton consider Hamrlik as an option? He is in the final year of a $3.5 million dollar per year contract. Pro-rated over the next couple months, it's a small price to pay doesn't really hurt the Oilers cap and while older, might be an improvement over a Cory Potter or Theo Peckham.

The question is, is Hamrlik a better option than Ryan Whitney?

It appears as though Whitney is being shopped by Edmonton. If so, he might only get the Oilers a 3rd round pick. So essentially, one would be trading Whitney for a 3rd, Hamrlik and a bit of cap space. The age difference is a factor, but apparently so is Whitney's ability to keep up with the speed of today's NHL and the requests being made by current Oilers coaching staff.

Or, do you demote a Theo Peckham and keep Whitney if you choose to, adding Hamrlik to your defence corp which would the consist of N. Schultz, J. Schultz, Smid, Petry, Potter and Fistric? Potter and Fistric are both out of the line-up with injuries.

Hamrlik is a bit long in the tooth, but could be a stability that Edmonton needs while not sure what to do with Whitney and nursing a few injuries. He's a big body, not easily pushed around and on the short-term, which his contract is, couldn't be worse than a Cam Barker or Kurtis Foster, which the Oilers have unsuccessfully tried to implement into their roster.

His ticket may scare a few teams off, but who knows. Hamrlik might be worth one last look.


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Oilers Add Sorely Needed Grit in Mike Brown Trade

It was pretty obvious that Edmonton was lacking heart in their losses to St. Louis and Minnesota. Only four times in franchise history did the Oilers fail to register a shot on net in a period of play. Sundays loss to the Wild made for five.

For most teams, when they lack that level of compete, teams call upon that one player who will make an attempt to jump start play with a big hit, a fight or a gritty shift. Edmonton didn't have that player, so they took steps to rectify the situation.

Enter Mike Brown, a character player for the Leafs who was on the wrong end of a numbers game. Toronto had an over abundance of tough guys, so Brown, who is third in the NHL in penalty minutes and not shy about dropping the mitts with anyone, became an Oiler for a conditional fourth round draft pick.

Leafs fans and players took to Twitter with a myriad of emotion. From disappointment that Brown was leaving to well wishes, it was clear the Leafs thought they were losing someone truly meaningful to their team. This is the type of player Edmonton needs and according to manager Steve Tambellini, someone Edmonton has had their eye on for a while.

Brown coming in creates a few questions on the current Oilers roster. Who goes down to make room for the grit? Paajarvi has had strong performances despite being a healthy scratch. His numbers and eligibility to go down to Oklahoma make him the odds on favorite. Petrell has had a rough go and while he's useful on the penalty kill, Brown is known widely for his ability to not only fight, but be reliable when a man down.

The question becomes, how willing will coach Ralph Krueger be to play him? Krueger has been reluctant to play toughness for the sake of playing a tough guy. Thankfully, and for Brown sake who has been a scratch in some of Toronto's games, Krueger was more upset in the Oilers last contest than at any other time in the season.

This may be the opportunity Mike Brown needs to make an impact and impact is exactly why Edmonton wanted him in the first place.


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Oil vs The Wild

Going In

Tonight at 6pm, the Oilers take on the Wild in what will be deemed a must win. Really, isn't every game on this road trip a must win? Perhaps not, but while the Oilers sit outside the cut-line looking in, all of these games are of critical importance if Edmonton wants not to slip too far away from recovery. The Oilers have three of a possible six points on this road trip. Five of eight is much much better than three of eight points.

Who's In and Who's Out?

Taylor Hall will not play. As Krueger explains it, "Taylor's still feeling a strain in his leg that we want to err on the cautious side of with this type of injury. It's day-to-day where we expect him back really soon."

As a result, the top lines for Edmonton will see the Nuge with Hemsky and Yakupov, while Gagner will centre Eberle and Paajarvi. Paajarvi is rested and looking to get into a more offensive role with Edmonton. I see him having a big game and being a force with his speed all night.

Potter and Fistric still look to be out so Ryan Whitney will get a chance to reprise his strong performance against St. Louis and for a regular top minutes man in Nick Schultz, this will be the first time the Oilers assistant captain returns to Minnesota to play his former team. He's looking forward to it. Schultz spent ten years with the Wild and still leads them in all times games played.

Dubnyk will get the start as will Backstrom for the Wild. If Edmonton hopes to beat Minnesota, they're going to need to get more shots to the net. Their display against St. Louis was a big step down from their road win in Dallas and the Oilers will need to return to that type of play to have any success against a team that traditionally has Edmonton's number. Minnesota is 6-3-1 in their last ten, so they host the Oil as the hotter of the two teams.

Big Game Players

I have my eyes on three Oilers tonight.

First is Jordan Eberle. He's been quiet in the last few and hasn't had much chemistry with his usual mates. He needs a jump-start and perhaps moving down a line and playing with Gagner and Paajarvi might be good for him. He needs to shoot more and not every play needs to be a TSN highlight of the night. If he can keep himself playing a simple game, he should have a good outing.

As mentioned before, I see Paajarvi playing well. He'll get good linemates five-on-five and play some short-handed minutes.

I also see Yakupov trying to do the most with his first line time promotion. He wants to shoot and if he's playing with Hemsky and Nugent-Hopkins, two pass first type players, he's likely got the green light to shoot and shoot often.

On Deck

If Edmonton can come out of Minnesota with a win, they get the Blue Jackets next in a game they should win. Most people didn't give the Oilers a chance to make nine or ten points on this nine-game road trip. If they can get two tonight, that gives them seven. A win against Columbus would put them at nine and make the rest of the road trip points that should move them up the standings.


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Yak and 5 on 3

The Oilers won a hard fought contest against the Dallas Stars on Thursday. For the team, it was a coming out of sorts in 5-on-5 play -- an area the Oilers were awful and dead last in the NHL.

In the first 18 games of the season, the Oilers had something like sixteen 5-on-5 goals. In the last two games - Dallas and St. Louis, the Oilers have six 5-on-5 goals in four periods. A welcome change.

Yet, in the process of increasing production at even-strength, the Oilers power play, 6th in the league as of last nights game versus St. Louis, has been dreadful. Edmonton had three two-man advantage opportunities in Dallas and failed to score on any of them. They went zero for three on the power play in St. Louis as well.

With a team so loaded in skill, the power play, especially when two players up should be an area almost guaranteed a goal for the club. That is, unless you put the wrong people on the ice.

Nail Yakupov, Edmonton's number one draft pick and super-rookie, has excelled on the man-advantage. Of his six goals, four have been on the power play; but in the last couple games, Yakupov has seen very little time when a man up.

Not too many can or should argue with Ralph Krueger's stance of moving Yakupov up and down the line-up, switching him back and forth between the second and fourth lines throughout his short career as an NHL'er. However, it's shocking to see a player with such offensive talent, and one willing to shoot the puck, sitting when the Oilers aren't in a defensive situation that could see the opposition come back and either tie or win a game against Edmonton.

In Dallas, the Oilers were up by three and four goals, yet Yakupov was on the bench. If the Oilers got the set-up they wanted, the team appeared to settle for passing the puck, getting very little going. However, the culprits stayed on the ice for most of the 5 on 3 time and Yakupov, who when given a chance just a bit later, hit the post on a shot which eventually led to an Ales Hemsky goal, had to ride it out.

I'm wondering, why is Yakupov not being given a chance?

Yakupov has been prone to some untimely turn-overs. Rookie mistakes come with the territory, but when 5 on 5 and in a shortened season, mistakes like these are not the kind of plays a coach wants or likes to see. To Yakupov's credit, he has busted his butt to get back in the play when he makes a mistake, but Krueger must feel it's a risk he's not willing to take.

This may be a situation where the coach feels it's necessary to teach the rookie a lesson. That defensive smarts will get him offensive opportunities. If that's what's happening here, I understand the rationale, but as a fan, I can't stand not seeing the best offensive players on the ice when a real opportunity for the Oilers presents itself to score a goal.

All that said, Yakupov has a great amount of respect and liking for his coach. In an article with Andrey Osadchenko, Nail Yakupov covered a lot of topics some of which revolved around his power-play time and his coach.

"Besides, we have got an excellent coach. He's great not only as a coach but on a personal level too. I have never met a coach like him. He's always there for us. You want to go out there and win games just because of him."  says Yakupov. 

Here's to hoping with the change in limited ice-time and less power play opportunities, Krueger continues to keep a good relationship with his team including Yakupov. I believe Yakupov to be a true talent, but an interesting personality -- one that could quickly change the way it feels about any given situation.


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Oilers Lose a Stinker to the Blues

From one extreme to another.

The Edmonton Oilers played a wonderful road game against the Dallas Stars to snap a very long and glaring losing streak on Thursday; only to come back and be embarrassed by the Blues on Friday.

Needing two points, that could have moved the Oilers back into a playoff spot in the Western Conference, the Oilers fell flat, were outplayed and simply didn't show up ready to play. Perhaps it was the score at the end of the first when the Oilers led 2-0 on goals by Taylor Hall and the re-inserted Ryan Whitney that made Edmonton believe things were on their way to sunnier days, but the Oilers were lucky to have that lead and didn't realize it.

St. Louis was the tougher team, the faster team and the play was heavily in the Oilers zone for all sixty minutes of play. The Oilers powerplay was again woeful and the penalty kill couldn't save them as St. Louis capitalized on their chances.

So, the Oilers sit 12th in the West and on the outside looking in. Worse, yet, Taylor Hall went down to injury in the second period with what the team is calling a leg concern that they want to watch for precautionary reasons. They expect him to be back in the line-up Sunday against Minnesota, but things didn't sound too concrete after their match-up against the Blues.

Taylor Hall blocked a shot with his arm and then not a couple plays later, went awkwardly into the end boards after losing his balance. Whether Edmonton knew the game was out of reach of just felt Hall's injury too much to chance, Edmonton's most effective forward left and didn't return to the game.


The sky isn't falling however. The Oilers have 3 of a possible 5 points already earned on this road trip. They've earned these points in games few expected them to walk away with anything and as a result, while not in the playoff spot, they sit only two points out and four points away from division leaders Vancouver for third in the West. Vancouver just so happens to be on a bit of a skid, having lost two in a row and set to take on the red-hot Kings tonight on CBC.

The Oilers will face the Wild on Sunday in a game they need to win. If Edmonton doesn't leave this season-long nine game road trip with at least ten or eleven points, the shortened season may be too little too late for the Oilers to salvage.


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