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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Bodies: "I think I broke my Armchair" GM'ing

This is Scottie Upshall. Do you think he could play an Ethan Moreau role? More on him later.

Steve Tambellini has a lot of bodies to get rid of, and a lot of holes to fill. The only problem is, not all those holes can be filled via just the trade or just the UFA route, primarily because:

a) some positions are deep on the UFA front
b) some positions are shallow on the RFA front
c) a lot of talent has already been scooped up on the UFA front

Basically, he'll have to create more holes to fill old ones, but only in the short run. Then, like Brian Burke, he will deal excess bodies to fill those secondary holes. Lastly, he will sign a bunch of reliable AHL and NHL journeyman to two-way contracts who have the capability to fill in when injuries happen. This may include signing our own RFAs or dealing some of them.

Tambellini will have to be crafty to fill his roster holes without upsetting the balance of team chemistry heading into the season. I think this means the Oilers have to identify where they can save money and where they have to spend.

The goaltending issue has already been resolved, but the following issues are still at hand:
  1. 3rd line checking center
  2. top-6 winger
  3. cheap, reliable defenseman (5-8)
Considering the Oilers are spending 2 million and up on Moreau and Staios, I would say the Oilers would look to replacing them first. I wouldn't look to Pisani considering he's a pending UFA and he would only have trade value around the trade deadline in Spring, and also because Pisani is one of our more consistent checking forwards.

Both Moreau and Staios have been warriors for Edmonton. They have bled for the Oilers but I think this past season has shown that their roles on the team are only regressing to the point where they may become expendable. Moreau is a penalty-taking risk every time he's on the ice and Staios, though making D partners like Strudwick look better, is not worth 2.7 million if you consider Denis Grebeshkov is worth 3.3-4 million. It just wouldn't make sense.

Other bodies of interest are Nilsson and Smid. They both have better trade value than Moreau and Staios. Firstly, because they are younger, and secondly, because of all their upside. Moreau and Staios have already hit the ceiling in their careers but Nilsson and Smid may not have.

I think Scottie Upshall, a UFA, could be signed to less than 2 million but more than the $1,250,000 he made last year. Maybe in the 1.5 or 1.6 million range. I also believe he could fill the Moreau role, while Moreau could be traded to a team looking for grit and leadership. I think Phoenix would accept a Moreau for Upshall trade straight-up.

Nilsson would go to a team full of aging veterans in need of a boost of youth, and the Oilers would receive that cheap, reliable defenseman to replace Staios on the bottom pairing (5-8), along with draft picks. Detroit loves young skilled wingers and Nilsson has a great pedigree. Perhaps a Nilsson for Lebda + picks deal would work out fine.

This leaves Staios as the odd man out. Pittsburgh may want him because they lost Scuderi this off season via UFA. What would the Oilers want in return, though? Perhaps another one of the young firebrands the Penguins seem so good at developing (in the mold of Talbot, Stone, and others). Maybe Tyler Kennedy? Tyler Kennedy would not only be a replacement for Liam Reddox, he may be an upgrade.

For me, the only way you trade Smid (as part of a package) is that you get one of the following things in return:
  1. A top-6 forward
  2. A bonafide 3rd line checking center
In my Armchair GM scenario, we're slowly working towards having enough salary to sign Manny Malholtra. So, it would make sense that Smid would have to be part of a package to land a top-6 winger. However, life isn't perfect, so I've considered the available top-6 forwards:
  1. Dany Heatley - he's not coming to Edmonton
  2. Nikolai Zherdev - acquiring this player leaves Cogliano in limbo
  3. Travis Zajac - the Oilers would have to overpay to get him
It may make sense to trade Smid to a team like San Jose, who have an older team with an average age of 29.6 years old, for a proven faceoff guy like Marcel Goc, who was 58.2% on the draws last year.

Certainly, his QUALCOMP was -0.047 but that was already a better rating than the following players:
  1. Daniel Briere (top-6)
  2. Steve Begin (checking center)
  3. Marc-Antoine Pouliot (rating of -0.060)
  4. Kyle Brodziak (rating of -0.068)
And identical to the following players:
  1. Boyd Gordon
  2. Michel Ouellet
  3. Ladislav Smid
Marcel Goc is not Manny Malholtra (QUALCOMP of 0.027 and BTN +/- of 11) but he's a pretty decent alternative, and apparently an improvement on Oilers 3rd and 4th line centers of the past season. Acquiring both would solve even more problems.

For the purposes of the following lineups I will assume Goc will sign for 2 million.


Upshall-Malholtra-Pisani (pending UFA)

Forwards: About 32 million


D-men: About 21 million


Goalies: About 4 million

Total: 57 million

This suggestion was only over the cap because I decided to try to sign both Goc and Malholtra, though we could easily have done with just one of them.

As this stands the Oilers would have to shed some salary and they would have a hard time doing it without moving one of Souray, Gilbert, Grebeshkov, Penner, Cogliano/O'Sullivan or Pisani. Horcoff, Hemsky, Visnovsky, and Gagner are probably the untouchables. I love O'Sullivan but if I had to cast a vote it'd be him.

There is always the size issue with the second line, but that could also be resolved down the line before training camp.

Alternatively ...


Upshall-Goc-Pisani (pending UFA)

Forwards: About 29 million


D-men: About 21 million


Goalies: About 4 million

Total: 54 million


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