The most recent Oil Change episode is short on entry draft info (Oilers appeared to have something going with Toronto late in the first round) but had a few interesting scenes from the July 1 free agent action. Steve Tambellini didn’t like the idea of one free agent (it was kind of funny) around the kids; I know it wasn’t Sheldon Souray they were talking about but that’s the only name I could think of when viewing the scene.
I know it’s much too early to properly evaluate any of the July 1st moves, but let’s review them anyway and see if any of them are trending up or down.
The Oilers entered draft week with the following shopping list:
A veteran winger who could help improve the team at evens and special teams.
- A veteran NHL defensemen.
- A faceoff man to help with PK and to balance the C position.
- A legit option for the moment when goaltending becomes an issue
I crossed off need #1 because the Ryan Smyth draft week trade addressed all of those things. We knew it at the time and #94 has delivered and more; the only thing we didn’t know draft day that is now making the rounds is that ST may not have been involved in the transaction.
July 1 moves
- Oilers sign L Ben Eager. The signing addressed the truculence item and since Eager was effectively replacing JF Jacques I think it was a clear upgrade. Eager can take and make a pass. His concussion has had an impact on availability, but I’m generally happy with the signing and the size of role coach Renney has given him. Currently Eager is 4, 0-0-0 and playing 5 minutes and change a night, which is about where we slotted him in the RE series in the summer. Renney is not exposing him too much (a great idea) although I think Eager might find some time on a line up the ladder as the season rolls. Bet you a 2-4 Renney does it when Eager settles in, especially if the PK remains quality.
- Oilers sign D Cam Barker. I suggested July 1 this was a massive risk, and that’s about where we are right now. Barker’s numbers (7, 0-0-0 +1, 20:35) look fine, but he spends a lot of time resembling John Entwistle during play. The offense has not come on the PP, although he does seem to have an impressive shot from the point. I spent quite a bit of time talking about him on this blog over the summer, suggesting he was an unlikely top 4 solution based on his history. So far that seems to be holding.
- Oilers sign L Darcy Hordichuk. I remain very happy with this signing. Coach Renney wanted an enforcer and Hordichuk is a perfect one, playing in 3 games and averaging just over a minute and a half of icetime. Hordichuk has done less damage to the Oilers than Steve MacIntyre would have, and is an upgrade over Zack Stortini. Hordichuk’s injury has allowed players like Petrell to gain a foothold, making him even more valuable.
- Oilers trade for D Andy Sutton. He’s exactly what we thought he’d be, depth defender who can calm the waters, block out the sun and penalty kill. He’s never going to win a foot race and Theo Peckham should take his job (and hasn’t), but 7, 0-0-0 -1 in 16 minutes a night is just fine. I would hope he sits a spell at some point, Oilers tend to rely on the Strudwick man too much, but then again most coaches like safe players.
- Oilers sign C Eric Belanger. Most of us had been calling for this kind of player since about 2007, so when it happened there was much job. So far (7, 0-1-1 -3 in 15:48 a night) Belanger has done well on the PK and given the team strength and experience down the middle. His offense is a concern, and I would think Gagner may be moved to the middle (with Belanger playing 4C) if the popgun offense continues.
- Oilers sign D Corey Potter. As often happens, the pebble signing becomes a rock when it matters. He’s 5, 1-2-3 E in 20 minutes a game. A sign that the Oilers are thinking would be a contract extension at reasonable dollars. One way, less than a mil–that kind of thing.
Let’s look at that list and cross off the good work.
Tambellini got lucky because Ryan Smyth is aggressive on and off the ice, and fortunate because Tom Renney remembered Corey Potter fondly and wanted a center badly (the Oil Change scene where Lowe tells ST that Tom “doesn’t want to get shut out” of the centermen who can win a faceoff is pure comedy).
And the whole damn bunch of them have to be in a run of pure good luck based on Khabibulin’s early performance. These are high times for the Oilers and they do have a nice group of veterans to go with the wunderkinds. July 1st helped in a big way, but early signs suggest the help came from areas that would not have been considered major.
Corey freaking Potter. Who knew?