Sunday, May 27, 2012
Oilers Offseason 2012 Pre-Draft
Another year, another first overall pick. Like the recent past, the Oilers will continue to turnover the team until they get the right mix, hopefully sooner rather than later. Its time to check the offseason, to see who should be coming, who should be going and how those spots will be filled. I'll do another writeup after UFA day as there will changes between now and then.
Here's what I've pieced together at this point:
Gone - Sam Gagner, Theo Peckham, Cam Barker, Darcy Hordichuk, Linus Omark, Lennert Petrell, Corey Potter.
Taylor Hall - Cements himself in the first line LW spot. The only concern is whether he will be ready for the season opener as he is recovering from shoulder surgery. All this talk about Hall moving to center isn't something I would consider for the time being. Hall's speed off the wing is something the Oilers need a lot more of, not less and he's the ace of spades when it comes to bursting off the wing. Hopefully his shoulder injury isn't hampering his ability to work on his core strength.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - RNH has cemented himself as the first line center of this hockey club. He just needs to continue to build on his rookie season. He established himself as a pillar of this hockey club and the Oilers need to construct around him. Hopefully more strength is on the way for him and the others around him.
AAAAAA - This spot needs to be occupied by a power forward type. The more experienced, the better. Someone to ride shotgun with the kids, back them up in physical battles and be reliable in all ends of the ice. Offensive pedigree would be nice. This would allow the other two on the line some time and space, something they'll need to get into that superstardom range.
Ryan Smyth - After looking at the UFA options, the best and most affordable option is Ryan Smyth. I would consider a 1 year deal around 3 mil per year. Give Smyth steady minutes but don't play the crap out of him. Give him either PK or PP time, not both. The Oilers could use a more veteranized 2nd line. Barring that, Teemu Hartikainen might be Plan B, not a terrible Plan B, but one that would most definitely hurt depth. I'd re-sign Smyth to a 1yr/$3 mil deal, if Smyth can handle the pay cut.
Jordan Eberle - The guy on my list that will undergo the most amount of change, but the player, I figure, is the most equipped to handle it. He's my vote to be the player to move to center, reasons being, he's a cerebral player, positionally sound, quick to learn, he's right handed, he gives Hemsky a shooter on his line. Playing center is a different beast in the NHL, but its something I think Eberle would be up for.
Ales Hemsky - I still cringe to see this player on the Oilers. Not because of who he is, but what he represents. He represents "getting your ass kicked over and over" type hockey, and now that he is here, the Oilers have no choice but to build a line to suit him. Eberle seems to have chemistry with everyone because of his versatile game, maybe he can kickstart Hemsky's career back on track.
Ryan Jones - Just keep doing what your doing. Get another kick at playing the toughs and hope to break even, all while chipping in 15+ goals. Jones has been undervalued by a lot of Oiler fans. To me, he has been perfectly fine and to ask for more is asking too much. Perhaps a few more hits wouldn't hurt but all in all, a solid 3rd liner. I expect a big season from him in a contract year.
Shawn Horcoff - Horcoff just flat out needs to be better next year. Cannot hang out in the -20 range, needs to be closer to even while playing the toughs for this team to move forward. Horcoff needs to understand and embrace his role a lot better this season. That keeping the puck out of his own net is more important than putting the puck in the other team's net. Hopefully he can find a balance and chip in 15g, but for now, I just want him to hang out near the even mark of the plus/minus. Like Smyth, he can't play on both sets of special teams, more PK, no PP. If the Oilers can find another home for him, its something that should definitely be looked at.
BBBBBB - Ideally I would like this player to be an above average skater, but more importantly, a player with experience playing on the 3rd line is needed in this slot. PK is an asset needed here along with an ability to help this line overall break even while playing the toughs.
Magnus Paajarvi - The 4th line would be a good spot for Paajarvi to start next season. Limited expectations while having the ability to push those above him on the depth chart. I would teach Paajarvi the finer points of the penalty kill giving him a more versatile game from here on out.
Anton Lander - From here on out, I think Paajarvi and Lander should be joined at the hip. Forging 2/3rds of an eventual 3rd line going forward, maybe even a 2nd line. One day Lander will be the go to PKer on the Oilers, so keep grooming him for that role. If the Oilers are truly about rebuilding then he should be playing over Belanger if all things are equal.
Ben Eager - Many people clamouring for Eager to be gone this offseason. I think the Oilers need him more than ever. He does need to up his hit total and become more engaged into the game more often. If Tom Renney mismanaged two players on the Oilers, it was Magnus Paajarvi and Ben Eager. Paajarvi, for tying him to the boat anchor in Belanger and Eager for not throwing him a carrot and play him with the young guns more often to create space and get him engaged. Eager needs to do more, but the Oilers need to do more for Eager. The 4th line gets bumped up to about 10 minutes a game, most of it 5v5.
Eric Belanger - I'd turn Belanger into a jack of trades type forwards, play him at center, play him on the wing, play him wherever a hole needs to be filled or someone is slumping. Belanger needs to buy into this role as an extra forward, otherwise I'd find another home for him. The vets need to buy in, its the biggest thing holding the rebuild back.
CCCCCC - Essentially the same type of player Belanger, verstatile player, maybe with a little more umph to his game, and someone who would be happy being in the NHL earning an NHL paycheque. Someone who shoots right preferrably, to give the lineup some balance.
Ryan Whitney - Ryan Whitney enters his contract year. What he will give the Oilers is anyone's guess. I think the key with Whitney is to just let him go play and let him give what he will give and re-evaluate at the end of next year. If Whitney can get back to last year's form, great, if not, start moving him down the depth chart. The Oilers need to keep their options open here. He's been a good soldier in his time here.
DDDDDD - The better this player is, the better the Oilers will be for it. This player could be any number of types. Could be a young grade A prospect ready to make an impact, or a grizzled old vet, who's legs might be going, but his expeience makes him better than most. This spot along with 1st line RW are vital spots that need to be filled. Offensive minded definitely needed here.
Ladislav Smid - Smid just needs to continue to be what he was this past season. Hit giving, shot blocking machine. Breaking even on the plus/minus ledger while playing the toughs is also something that is needed from him. Improvements from everyone else but a regression from him, would likely keep the team from moving forward. That's how important his role is to this team.
Jeff Petry - Another player that took a big step in solidifying his NHL career. The next stage for Petry is trying to add more to his offensive dimension without taking away from the defensive side. Petry should be given the opportunity to grow and receive significant minutes next season. I'd re-sign Petry 4yr/$3.5 mil/yr deal.
Ryan Murray - My choice for the 1st overall pick. Him breaking in on the bottom pairing, paired with a veteran Dman is good way for him to kick off his NHL career. Give him 2nd unit PP and PK time. Work him in slowly but make sure he is getting the right education to become an NHL defenseman.
Nick Schultz - Nick Schultz will be the security blanket for Ryan Murray. They will rely on Schultz to keep his own end clean while helping out with the transition game. He and Murray should become a solid puck possession combo.
Andy Sutton - Should be able to settle into the 7th Dman role, getting games in against more aggressive teams. He and Murray should be subbing for each other when everyone is healthy. Sutton gives the defense some much added bite that it would be otherwise lacking without him.
Devan Dubnyk - Dubnyk is prime to get 40-60 games in this upcoming season. It would be better if Dubnyk had someone other than Khabibulin pushing him as the backup but that remains to be seen what happens there. Dubnyk has derserved the opportunity to run with the ball to start next season. I'd re-sign Dubnyk to a 2yr/$2 mil/yr deal.
Nikolai Khabibulin - Here's where we will find out how much Mr. Katz values his money. If he has grown tired of wasting money on inept free agents, Khabibulin will be back as the backup next year. If Katz has money to burn, he'll place Khabibulin on some European club and bring another goaltender. I think Khabibulin will be back next year, but thats just me.
Players That I Feel Will Be Moved Along:
- Sam Gagner - Some are still holding out a flame for him. Others can't wait to get rid of him. For myself, its kind of bittersweet as he was the first poster child of the initial rebuild. Hoping he would flourish into the first line center everyone would hope he would be. But the team has gone into a different direction and the focus on bigger players means Sam Gagner gets cut out of the picture. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the new, improved version making Gagner redundant. If the Oilers had taken Sean Couturier like I recommended, maybe Sam Gagner may still have a place. The Oilers long term are likely better off for Gagner moving along.
- Theo Peckham - Peckham is coming off a setback year where he didn't play with as much toughness as he once did and the Oilers decided to keep Andy Sutton around for one more year, likely meaning the end of the tenure for Theo Peckham. Peckham can play in the NHL on most clubs as long as he gets back to playing the game with an edge and a hard aggressiveness. But with the Oilers needing more offense and puckmoving ability on the backend, Peckham should be a casualty of this.
- Cam Barker - Was a gamble that didn't pan out. For all of those telling us that Barker was a terrible signing, well duh, yeah it was. But its not like there was a variety of options to choose from. Barker was the best gamble. It didn't work out, but it was a gamble that was worth the risk of a one year deal. Time to upgrade on Barker.
- Darcy Hordichuk - Hordichuk was a great soldier in his time here. But what the Oilers need now are more versatile pieces to push everyone up and down the lineup. No one's spot should feel safe and production in terms of pucks in and pucks out are the only things that should matter. Hordichuk is short in hockey ability but seems like one heckuva teammate.
- Linus Omark - Simply no room for him one this club and everyone knows it. Omark wants to play in the NHL and I think he should be given that opportunity to play in another organization. Omark's time with this club has been interesting to say the least.
- Lennert Petrell - Petrell is a 50/50 proposition. He's versatile enough to be the 14th forward on the club but I'm hoping for someone with a little more speed and a little more of an agitator. The fact that he shoots left doesn't help him either. If the Oilers brought him back as the 4th forward, I wouldn't complain. Essentially I'm hoping for a right handed version of him.
- Corey Potter - The Oilers gave Potter a 2 year deal and now I can't even see him breaking camp with the big club next year. He still might if the Oilers can't find a suitable player to fill in the DDDDDD spot. Potter lost his biggest advocate in Tom Renney, so the door is wide open for anything to happen here. Potter is going to have to legitimately play well to make the club next season, otherwise he could be a waiver wire casualty.
1) Shane Doan (2yr/5.5mil/yr) - Shane Doan would be ideal but unlikely candidate. Big robust winger that will put up 20+ goals and and 150+ hits, to go with that he will stick up for the kids. He's been a lifer with the Phoenix/Winnipeg franchise, so its unlikely to see him moving.
2) Steve Bernier (2yr/1.5mil/yr) - Would be an interesting case study as a UFA. Bernier looked like he was going to emerge as a stud power forward when he was in San Jose. Fell off the map in his time in Vancouver and in Florida, had a subpar season in New Jersey but has made a contribution during New Jersey's playoff run. I could see Bernier as a solid 3rd cog with Hall and RNH, but he will have to toughen up a bit.
3) David Moss (2yr/2.5mil/yr) - Moss is coming off an injury plagued season with the Flames. Doesn't hit enough for my liking but does have some offensive dimension. It will be interesting to see if he tests the market or not.
4) David Jones (3yr/3.5mil/yr) - Jones is much like Moss in that he doesn't hit much but does have offensive dimension. Problem is, he is coming off a good year and will likely get paid for it. Jones would be better than nothing, but could tie up a spot on the books if something better comes along.
5) Mike Knuble (1yr/1mil) - Knuble is a last ditch effort to fill that spot. He'll be 40 in July and will likely have his tires worn down to the nub. Even if you give him a contract offer like that, he'll likely retire anyway. Coming off a year with low goal total and an ugly +/-.
1) Jordin Tootoo (3yr/1.8mil/yr) - Tootoo isn't an ideal 3rd liner but it gives that line some bite and overall gives the team another bullet to put over the boards. Tootoo would have to find another gear in his goal totals as a 3rd liner he would have to find the 15 goal range when his career high is 11. Would cure a lot of things that ail the Oilers.
2) Jamie Langenbrunner (1yr/1.5mil) - Langenbrunner is coming off an off year where he only tallied 6 times but still managed to finish +7 on the Blues. Langenbrunner is turning 37 this summer, so he is diminshing returns at this point but would stabilize the third line. Not sure Langenbrunner would come here at that price, but you at least have to make the phone call on that one. No longer hits as much as he once did.
3) Lee Stempniak (1yr/1.5mil) - Stempniak has been a 3rd liner most of his career so he knows his role. He scores enough to fit the bill but doesn't hit enough, at least he didn't last year. Stempniak is versatile enough to play all over the lineup, so may be a good fit for a young Oilers team.
4) Scott Parse (1yr/1mil) - Parse would be a bit of a gamble coming off a year where he missed most of it due to a hip injury. While I think he would be defensively responsible enough, whether he would hit enough or score enough would remain to be seen. A low risk gamble.
5) J.T. Wyman (1yr/750K) - Built to play a 3rd line role. Responsible defensively but doesn't score nor hit enough to fit the bill. This player is much like Parse in that he is a low end risk, but requires a lot of work to get to the needed level.
1) Adam Burish (2yr/1.2mil/yr) - Burish is a perfect 14th forward to have. plays wing or center, brings intensity, pushes others to get better, can PK, and chips in where needed. The biggest thing with Burish is he'll make sure Eager stays sharp. Could also potentially fit in the BBBBBB spot, but fits in better here.
2) Joey Crabb (2yr/800K/yr) - Enjoyed a semi breakout year by putting up 11 goals and over 100 hits this past season with the Leafs. Another hard working, honest effort type. Someone might pay him more, but I wouldn't go much more than this. Underrated role player. Could also fit in the BBBBBB spot.
3) Byron Bitz (1yr/750K) - Big bodied winger who isn't afraid to take the body. Has had injury issues the past couple season, but is a game player when in the lineup. Limited to a bottom six player although played well with the Sedins in a short stint with them. Bitz has some untapped ability in his game.
4) Brendan Yip (1yr/750K) - A player that I was hoping the Oilers would claim on waivers last season. A thick bodied winger that play up and down the lineup. I wish he would hit more, but like Bitz has some untapped ability in his game.
5) Tim Wallace (600K/1yr) - Wallace is an honest up and down winger who has spent most of his time in the AHL. Debatable if he'd be an upgrade on Teemu Hartikainen at this point. Goals have not come easily for him in the NHL.
1) Justin Schultz (900K/2yr) - Is one of the prized soon to be UFAs on the market. Over the next month, this player should create a lot of drama on who will get his services. A puckrusher extraordinaire that test other teams defenses over and over. A real offensive weapon from the backend that isn't too shabby at defending either. An ideal solution to what ails the Oilers.
2) Sami Salo (1yr/2.5mil) - Salo is a Plan B that really doesn't exist. He's been with Vancouver for quite some time and they both seem faithful to each other. If he goes to free agency, you have to at least put in a phone call.
3) Matt Gilroy (1yr/1mil) - Gilroy is a player that is trying to establish himself in the NHL after a strong collegiate career. Gilroy at this point is a long way from the Schultz, in terms of effectiveness and potential. Settling on Gilroy would be disappointing to say the least.
4) Joe Corvo (1yr/2mil) - Corvo is nothing more than a rusted out old cannon at this point in his career. Limited mobility and limited defensive awareness. All of his value would be in his shot and effectiveness on the powerplay. If he's playing in the top 4, the Oilers are in trouble.
5) Dennis Wideman (3yr/5.25mil) - Wideman is still effective at this point in his career but after coming off a solid offensive year, will likely get paid in full. I'm not sure the Oilers want to pony up for this when a more effective option may not be that far away. Wideman could end up being "fools gold".
Those are my long winded thoughts on things. The Oilers are inching closer and closer to a finished product. Depending on what kind of impact moves are made will determine how far away the playoffs are. I will update this once again after the draft and UFA season. Hopefully the team takes on a slightly bigger and more physically intimidating version.
Until the next time...