Kevin Lowe addressed the most pressing issues facing the Oilers in his post-season press conference yesterday. I’m going to quote the Edmonton Journal article “Lowe likes what he sees” which hit my front porch this morning.
“Am I concerned about our RFAs? Not one bit. We have lots of cap room and we know the players we like, so we’d match the offer if we chose to. If we think it’s too high, we’ll take the picks. We’re in a great position. We have lots of depth in the organization. Having said that, we have had some positive contract negotiations, so I don’t think it will even get there, but we will deal with it if we have to.”
Pitkanen, Grebeshkov, Gilbert, Stoll and Nilsson are all rfa’s and all but Stoll are looking at nice raises. The 3 defensemen on that list are a big part of the future and represent half of the top 6 on the blueline. Nilsson had a breakout season this year and Stoll is an important part of the club if healthy. There are rumors Pitkanen may be dealt and that Stoll might be taken to arbitration. My own feeling is that it would be foolish to deal Pitkanen and they lack the depth to force anything with Stoll. Grebeshkov, Gilbert and Nilsson are no-brainers unless another team makes a silly RFA offer.
MY GUESS: They all sign and the D get more money than anyone thought they would. Stoll going to arbitration is a long shot I think, the Oilers probably get it done moments before the hearing (although they have a helluva case). Nilsson gets a nice contract.
“Prior to the last six weeks, I was anticipating we’d be in that (big money zone for an offensive free agent). Whether we got him or not remained to be seen. And not that we won’t look and try to be active but we won’t go into free agency like we did last year. We don’t have to bring players in. We will if we can.”
It was an amazing 6 weeks but the Oilers roster could still use a shooter. The team leader this season in shots was Dustin Penner (201) followed by Stoll (187) and Hemsky (184). No other Oiler topped 140. Penner ranked 71st overall, Stoll 86th and Hemsky 92nd, so although the Oilers had 3 shooters near the top 90 (which would be league average) all of them are in the bottom 30 of that group.
MY GUESS: Lowe trades for a sniper this summer.
“We have to make some changes. We didn’t make the playoffs. In terms of the overall outlook of the team, we have a lot of forwards and we’re going to have some tough decisions. Jarret’s going to be in that category. Raffi had an off year. We’re going to have to spend a lot of time deciding who’s going to be in our top 12. We have a lot of options.”
Stoll has the confidence of the coach and that trumps all in my opinion. MacT would probably be most comfortable starting next season with 5 centers (Horcoff, Cogliano, Stoll, Brodziak, Reasoner) and so Raffi is probably the odd man out.
MY GUESS: Torres, a young D and Schremp for a marksman.