The year Edmonton made it to within 60 minutes of the Stanley featured a tremendous number of players who covered their contract and then some. I wrote about it here.
Among the reasons that beauty team could go so long (and deep) into the spring was depth and those underpriced players were the key. Horcoff, Hemsky, Pisani, Torres, Bergeron and Stoll were all at $1M or less and that folks is a helluva group of hockey players for less than $6M total.
Who do the Oilers have for next season that we could reasonably place in the same position? Certainly Kyle Brodziak ($497,000), Mathieu Garon ($1.1M), Denis Grebeshkov ($1.5M), Andrew Cogliano ($1.133M) and Sam Gagner ($1.625M) are candidates, but asking a 19-year old second year NHLer to cover off $1.625M is not something a team can count on. Gagner’s offensive ability isn’t in doubt, but his ability as an outscorer is certainly in question. He’s quality, but he’s young.
The Oilers have some nice things. If a player like Robert Nilsson could take one more step forward and one of the two depth defenders (Greene, Smid) took charge and became a player they could count on, we could start talking about a team that had a chance to go deep into the second season.
However, they look for all the world like a team that is one year away. And next year Garon won’t be a bargain, Shawn Horcoff will be a free agent, Brodziak will be more expensive and that young blueline will be asking for cash money.
The heart of this team is Ales Hemsky. He’s still too young to pull this team into the final 4, so it’s important to add pieces that have value for 09-10 when the club goes free agent shopping.