When it comes right down to it, being an NHL General Manager amounts to making a bunch of bets that you hope don’t turn on you. This summer, Craig MacTavish made one dozen bets. Are they good?
- May 30th: Signed Russian D Anton Belov. A free agent signing, the likely best defender in the KHL, a puck moving D signed to a reasonable 1-year deal with the only risk being he performs well and costs more next season? That’s a win.
- June 10th: Teemu Hartikainen signs with UFA (KHL). A curious item at the time, it remains an unusual decision. The one positive? Oilers retain his rights, he would have been exposed to waivers this fall if he didn’t make the hockey club. I don’t know that he’ll be back (he’s already covered his draft number, but I honestly thought there was a player here) but hope we see Harski again. No win, no loss, maybe a shrug? A tie.
- June 30th: A risk averse draft. I like their decision making up and down the line at this year’s draft. Lots of solid bets and then a few complete fliers late–that’s a solid template. The big defenseman taken #7 overall has a lot of good arrows and should see a spike in his boxcars this season. The Marco Roy pick is advanced-stats-endorsed. A clear win.
- July 4: Buy out Eric Belanger. Something happened, likely caused by ineffective play during his contract years. I don’t think it does any good to bury people once they’re gone, and I don’t really know what happened beyond it didn’t work out. Not a positive, not a negative.
- July 5: Oilers trade Shawn Horcoff to Dallas for D Philip Larsen and a 7th rd pick. I think MacT got good value (the club didn’t have to take back any money from the Horcoff deal) and MacT eventually grabbed a 3line C in Gordon to replace him. Still, this deal weakened the middle (at center) so for me it’s a net negative. A loss.
- July 5: Oilers sign D Andrew Ference to a 4-year, $3.25M/year contract. I like this deal despite the length of the contract which is no doubt a negative. Ference offers the Oilers something they’ve been lacking for years–a second pairing veteran who can play the game any way required. Tough, can move the puck, mentor or step up if required. Health is a concern, but I believe Oiler fans will love his play. A win.
- July 5: Oilers sign G Jason LaBarbera to a 1-year, $1M deal. Perfect. Gets the cap for G in line, gives Dubnyk a guy he can work with and absolutely sets the pecking order for the position. Another win.
- July 5: Oilers sign C Boyd Gordon to a 3-year, $3M/year contract. That’s a lot of money for this player, but the Oilers had an enormous need and he was the only guy on the board who could fill the role. Actually, that’s not strong enough, he was/is a ‘perfect fit’ for the group, and now that Hemsky is staying the remnants of a third line are coming together. A clear win despite the Elizabeth’s.
- July 5: Oilers sign W Jesse Joensu to a 2-year, $950,000/year contract. This–to my eye–could be viewed as a trade for Teemu Hartikainen, or at least an exchange. Joensuu appears to be more physical, more likely to engage, bigger and with more experience. I believe he’ll get the Petrell 4line role to begin the season but has an excellent chance to win the 3line L role if Jones and Smyth are unable to fill it. I’ll call this a win, hoping the pro scouts got it right.
- July 5: Oilers sign C Will Acton to a 2-year, 2-way contract. Veteran AHL center offers depth and could win some NHL time if injuries occur. I’ll call this a draw, as Chris VandeVelde was the go-to guy a year ago and Acton seems to be a similar player. Win, minor division.
- July 5: Oilers sign L Ryan Hamilton to a 2-year, 2-way contract. Hamilton has a real shot here, the Oilers want size and truculence. When we begin to break out the depth charts for the RE series, I can see him being the first callup from OKC or the last guy to make the roster when the team heads north. Win, minor division but could be bigger depending on how things work out.
- July 6: Oilers sign G Richard Bachman to a 1-year, 2-way contract. A solid backup goalie. Terrific signing. Win. Full stop. Backup goalies are more important the backup-AHL players because if you need them then you really need them.
- July 6: Oilers sign R-L Ryan Jones to a 1-year, $1.5M contract. Massive opportunity for Jones this coming winter. He has a clean shot at a top 9 role unless the Oilers plan to use Ryan Smyth, and even if they do I’m not sure if he can keep it. I don’t think this is a win, because the Oilers know Jones and the challenges that might face a Gordon-Hemsky line. I count this as a tie, based on role needed at that spot. I have no quarrel with him as a 4line option.
- July 7: Oilers sign D Brad Hunt to a 1-year, 2-way contract. This was an under the radar signing but something to keep an eye on. He’s a helluva puck moving defenseman and although this counts as a minor win.
- July 10: Oilers trade W Magnus Paajarvi and a 2014 2nd rd pick to St. Louis for L David Perron. This is the big one, and it’s pretty huge. Edmonton paid in full on this deal, but getting Perron could be a key element. A combination of change in strategy (Dellow), style (Perron has more grit and I think is more of a shooter) and experience tells me this is a win despite giving up real quality.
8 wins, 1 loss and 3 ties
Also, 3 minor wins as noted above.
The Oilers still have some ways to go, including:
- Sam Gagner’s contract
- Ales Hemsky’s situation (they aren’t done, if they can’t trade him do they use the buy out window that comes after arbitration?)
- Improving the bottom 6F’s, specifically center depth
- Figuring out the defense, which may or may not include another trade.
Is it possible they stay the course? Possible, but unlikely.