This day is about finding the right chem for Taylor Hall and the young cluster that now includes Hall, the Nuge, Eberle, Yakupov, Justin Schultz and the kid blue bubbling under.
I begin this day with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. The Edmonton Oilers are one sleep removed from one of their very best days and could emerge from this day as a playoff contender. On the other hand, some of the names we’re hearing as being “in the mix” are curious and troubling. Last year, I thought the additions of Eric Belanger and the other forwards would make the team better, but was worried about how they went about addressing blue. This season? We’re about to find out.
First, a note on Justin Schultz. THAT was a terrific moment yesterday, as the Oilers added a player who could have great value to the gifted cluster and gave up no assets to acquire him. He could end up being this generation’s Huddy or Gregg (not in style but in procurement cost) and great teams always have these kinds of back stories in at least a few places.
Second, a note on Ryan Smyth. I think it’s probably time we accept this isn’t going to work out, and sometimes it is for the better. The player may not have a clear idea about his value at this time, and the team may want to give at-bats to kids and newcomers. Best of luck to both sides.
THE SHOPPING LIST
- A top pairing defenseman capable of delivering big minutes at evens and at least one of PK and PP. 20+ overall. The range of player rumors in this category is vexing. Marc Methot is not going to fill this role, but he is rumored to be the player headed here. Bryan Allen and Mark Streit have also been rumored to Edmonton.
A better Renney.I think yesterday was a very big day for Krueger. Based on reports, the key moments in the Schultz negotiations came when the new coach gave his vision and Schultz plus Hall started riffing on the possibilities. I imagine an Allman Brothers-style jam session that resulted in absolute magic. Can’t wait to see the vision on the ice. Justin Schultz or similar. Huge item for the Oilers. Should he emerge as a top 4, 35+ point defenseman who can handle reasonable opposition and remain in the black, Edmonton’s hard work this past week will sustain them for a decade on the blue. Brilliant.
- An established 2-way winger to mentor the young players who will compete for bottom 6 roles (Lander, Hartikainen, Pitlick, etc). Winnik is my choice here, but the Oilers may have someone else in mind. I always say Pisani but maybe this man is a center.
- Ryan Smyth or similar. Smyth is the best choice in my opinion, but if that doesn’t happen perhaps the Oilers should aim for a “bookend” winger to the Winnik above. Shane Doan may be a target. I’m reading Jagr stuff too, seems impossible
- A reasonable goaltending option for the Khabibulin free fall. I get nervous when we talk about the goalies, seems to me Edmonton should add a capable man whose salary will stop well short of $2M. I worry a little about some of the names out there.
- Get the rfa’s signed. Did a good job qualifying, but the Oilers often trade kids in this situation and Gagner isn’t out of the woods yet. Happy Omark was qualified, doubt he plays as an Oiler again.
- Crust. I added this one because Edmonton clearly plans on upgrading the Eager/Hordichuk group from a year ago. Names I’ve seen are Tootoo and Parros.
Another item involves offloading players. Edmonton has a lot of men under contract for next season, and if they are serious about finding a spot for Hartikainen then moving some wingers is going to happen.
One final note: we know from past history that expecting all of the moves to work out is folly, and that attempting to address six different things in one day means there are too many leaks in the boat. I’m hopeful we end the day with a clear top 4 defenseman, Ryan Smyth, Daniel Winnik and perhaps a reasonably priced goaltender to push the incumbents.
I expect we’ll say goodbye to a couple of players today. I’m hopeful Sam Gagner and Ladislav Smid aren’t among them. Godspeed, Edmonton Oilers. And be careful who leaves the room.