Picking over the Bones (Pt 2)

I’ve been following the NHL draft closely since 1973. One of the “draft trends” I pay close attention to is real improvement in the 17-year old season for these kids. For that reason and others, my choice for #1 overall would be Tyler Seguin from the Plymouth Whalers. I’d be willing to move down to #2 overall (to Boston, should they prefer Hall) in exchange for the chance at picking up D Dylan McIlrath as the Oilers second pick.

The Oilers have to improve up the middle. I’m fine with Shawn Horcoff and Sam Gagner at center, but with a potentially elite talent like Seguin coming in the club should be set for many years. A 1-2 combination of Seguin-Gagner should allow the Oilers to have (among) the deepest talent at C into the future. Getting Seguin sets up the position for a long time. Note: I understand this is a split vote, and would also be just fine with Taylor Hall.

Next up, the blue. I mentioned in the previous thread that the Whitney-Gilbert pairing is fine, but the club could really improve if there was another pairing of close to equal quality. Ladislav Smid is the strongest candidate left on the roster for the second pairing and we have Sheldon Souray as an asset who can be moved.

I’m not certain how many teams will be interested in Souray. Sather is a complete loose cannon so including the Rangers is easy, but after that the General Managers seem less crazy. So we’ll deal with the Rangers since it makes so much sense and Michal Rozsival isn’t the worst option for a Smid partner. He has two years left at $5M, which means the Oilers save $400,000 each of the next two seasons.

This makes my top 4D Whitney-Gilbert and Smid-Rozsival. After that we have Peckham and the kids below him, so this would be a time to talk about bargain level free agents. I’d try to sign Freddy Meyer from the Islanders. He’s 29, coming off a season in which his numbers are excellent compared to team (especially Zone Start vs. Corsi) and isn’t likely to cost much more than $1M a year. Remember, we’re not in the Hamhuis/Michalek sweepstakes here, we’re just trying to back up the depth chart and make sure the kids earn NHL jobs. I’d also sign Aaron Johnson as a depth defender, allowing the coach (probably Renney) to choose between Peckham and Johnson on nights when everyone is healthy. I’ll add up the numbers later, but for now it is a top 7D of Gilbert-Whitney; Smid-Rozsival; Peckham-Meyer and Johnson.

Now, to the goalie. I target Ottawa, for several reasons. First, they have dire cap problems and even though the Oilers are close to the cap we’ve already established a willingness to send as much as 7M to the minors if required. The Senators would like to bring Volchenkov back and may also pursue Z Michalek from the Coyotes. So, they need money. They also have a goaltender in the doghouse (Leclaire 3.8M, UFA next summer) so might be convinced to take on Khabibulin’s contract in exchange if they can gain some cap room. Plus, we know they liked Cogliano a year ago so there might be a deal to make.

Would Murray make a Khabibulin/Cogliano for LeClaire/2nd rd pick deal? I think he would. Cogliano could grab one of the wing spots, perhaps replacing Cullen’s 16 goals next season for 1.45M (my estimate). Now, we’ve added a draft pick, gotten rid of Khabibulin’s contract and can send LeClaire’s 3.8M contract to the minors for next season. Ottawa takes on Khabibulin’s contract but they also get a solid young forward whose motor never quits. Are we okay with this? If we’re overpaying but the Sens are taking on the extra years of Habby’s contract. If we’re underpaying lets make it a 3rd rd pick this year or a 2 next summer. Good?

Now the G depth chart is JDD/DD, but I’m not at all happy with it. Although the Oilers aren’t going to contend for the Stanley any time soon, nothing cripples a hockey team like a crappy goaltender. If your young defenseman are playing without confidence because the G isn’t very good, pretty soon your young defensemen aren’t very good either. It’s like being a position player in baseball, playing your ass off all day and then watching the closer come in and blow up the game on you.

So, I solve the goalie situation by trading for (drum roll please) Jason LaBarbara. He’s signed for $1M and can stop pucks (.928 in Phoenix) for a team with a mammoth number of free agents at D and F. I’ll offer JDD or Nilsson, and lets say the Coyotes decide on Nilsson (hey, he’s a backup goalie folks). We then send JDD somewhere for a mid-round pick (we’ll say a late 3rd). Or, if you’re not satisfied we’ve given up enough I could be talked into including a draft pick outside the first three rounds. Note: I’ve been following LaBarbara since Tyler mentioned him and at this point I don’t know why he hasn’t gotten a chance to start. He looks like this generation’s Thomas/Roloson, no?

Now: center. I’ve already told you that my team is selecting Seguin, and now I’ll tell you we’re sending him back to junior. I think Seguin is more like Trottier or Sakic, a player who could use another season in junior to dominate the competition. So we’re going to address center once again through free agency, this time signing Jim Slater from Atlanta. He’s in his late 20′s, doesn’t make a whole bunch and is good in the faceoff circle. He’s also a solid PK option as well.

I try to deal Moreau and O’Sullivan but there are no takers. So, my roster is complete. Here are my moves:

  1. Drafted Seguin and McIlrath
  2. Traded Souray to the crazy old man for Rozsival
  3. Signed Freddy Meyer (1M) and Aaron Johnson (.700M)
  4. Traded Khabibulin and Cogliano to OTT for LeClaire and a 2nd rd pick in 2010
  5. Traded Nilsson to PHX for LaBarbara.
  6. Traded JDD for a late 3rd rd pick.
  7. Sign C Jim Slater for 1M times 2 years.

Here’s my roster:

  • G: LaBarbara (1M); Dubnyk (.800M)
  • D: Rozsival (5M); Gilbert (4M); Whitney (4M); Smid (1.3M); Meyer (1M); A Johnson (.700M); Peckham (.700M)
  • C: Horcoff (5.5M); Gagner (3M); Slater (1M); Pouliot (.850M)
  • L: Penner (4.25M); O’Sullivan (2.925M); Jones (.975M); Comrie (1.1M); Potulny (1M)
  • R: Hemsky (4.1M); Brule (2.25M); Stone (.900M); Eberle (1.187M); Stortini (.700M)
  • Total Players: 23
  • Cap Hit: $48,237,00 (I counted it twice).

This represents a big change up the middle and the turnover would be rapid beginning the following season. Seguin should be ready 2011 summer, and some of those AHL defenders would get on the job training in 2010-11. Add McIlrath to that group and the blue is beginning to look like it’ll be a strength down the line. Goaltending isn’t addressed this summer, but we’re burning off salary in the minors and are out from under the NK contract. Here’s the Okla City roster:

  • G: LeClaire (3.8M)
  • D: Alex Plante (1.075M); Jeff Petry (1M); Taylor Chorney (.942M); Johan Motin (.875M)
  • C: Chris Vande Velde (.850M), Milan Kytnar (.563M)
  • L: Linus Omark (.875M); Moreau (2M)

We also have our signed kids (MPS, Hartikainen, Cornet) and hopefully Pisani comes to camp and forces his way onto the roster one more time. Maybe MPS surprises and forces a TC move (O’Sullivan to the Thrashers!!). We’re a long way from home, but we’re going the right way.

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