With UFA day fast approaching, you can be certain Oiler brass are working diligently to help patch up a line-up that limped to the finish in 08/09. In my mind the team has five major holes to fill:
Top line scorer, either a C or a LW
One more big body in the top 6
Physical defensive dman
Proper 3rd line center
Obviously, with cap restrictions and a simple supply/demand imbalance, the odds of all 5 holes being filled is slim to nill, that said adding two/three bodies that fit the mold above should land the team in a solid (5th to 7th) playoff seed. Possible candidates:
This would be the hardest and most expensive position to fill, given the Oilers track record attracting top end talent on the FA market, I am going in with the mind set that IF we are to add a top end scorer it will be through the trade market. Side benefits of a trade would be:
If more bodies are coming in, bodies need to leave. A trade will accomplish both
Both teams with top end guys rumored to be on the move have lost leverage, meaning acquiring said player will likely cost far less then most would imagine.
This years crop of available goalies is fairly weak, fortunately there are also very few teams in need of a keeper. The Oilers will likely have two options; sign a vetran proven 1 B type guy like Rollie, Biron or Bulin. Or go with a cheaper, younger option that shows potential but hasn't proven he can carry the load over a full season, including guys like Harding, Anderson and Clemson. Another long shot for the Oil would be a trade of a guy like Huet or Vokoun for a team looking to shed salary
All three guys would be welcome additions, adding grit and jam as well as 20 – 30 goals to the line-up… basically giving the team what they thought they had purchased with the Dustin Penner signing. Rumors at the draft had the Sharks shopping Clowe, their has also been rumors that Horton has wanted out of Florida. I haven't heard anything about Hartnell, but with the addition of Pronger, the Flyers are up tight against the cap.
With Vish/Grebs/Gilbert all playing a “paper soft” game on the back end, a little sand paper would be a welcome addition, typically the defensive dman comes at a discount to his offensive brother, but with the Finger contract last year (amongst others) shows that GM's are willing to pony up and “over pay” for defense first as well. Mike K would be an excellent addition for this team, but I'm guessing he'll end up in that “overpaid” bucket when it's all said and done, we could likely get a smaller name for far less (Zanon) or pick up a player sacrificed for salary reasons (Sarich)
Few people foreseen the difficulty the team would have down the middle with the loss of Jarret Stoll and Marty Reasoner, I certainly didn't, compounding the issue was the trade of fourth line center Kyle Brodziak. Again, this is a position where the team should be able to get good “bang for their buck” (fill a major whole without breaking the bank) and would be my #1 priority for the summer.
I'd love to open the vault and welcome JBo/Heatly/Hossa to the fold next year, but realistically that just isn't happening (cap or no cap). Personally I'd be pushing hard to make the following moves if I was GM for a day.
Get that third line center signed. Bring in a Pahlsson or a Betts to shore up the Face offs and the PK, the addition may not be as sexy as a Heatly or a Hossa, but put a true 3rd line center with grit on last years team and I think we'd slid into 8th. My pick: Sammy Pahlsson
Shore up that tending. We know one thing for sure; we don't want to start training camp with a JDD/Dubnyk combo. I like the idea of adding a young guy that looks good, but I can see that blowing up in our face. My pick: Re sign Rollie for 1 year
Add grit to that second line: With Horcoff/Hemsky/O'sully/Gagner/Nilsson/Cogs all average or small, this team needs a serious infusion of size in it's top 6. When Cole was here, it was a want but not a need, sub in O'sully for Cole and it's now a glaring must have. My pick: Nathan Horton
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Written by Scott Brown