Is the lack of UFA signings by the Edmonton Oilers really due to Edmonton being a "Siberia" of the north or just good due dilligence by Kevin Lowe?
Unrestricted Free Agency is a fun time of the year, seeing if our team will "land the big one" but UFA signings have proven time and again to look a lot more sexy in July than when playoff time comes around the next season. Case in point would be the Pittsburgh Penguins loading up for Sidney Crosby's first season only to spectacularly combust during the same season.
The fact is that in a "new NHL" where budget concerns override everything but winning - and sometimes even then - is a UFA signing really something to be happy about? Who was the last significant free agent signing that REALLY helped out the team? I would argue Claude Lemieux signing with the Colorado Avalanche after winning a cup with New Jersey.....and then the Avalanche won the cup that year! Now, while Lemieux was great at this job, I'd put him on my team anyday, he cannot be considered a "premier UFA signing".
Another case in point would be this years LA Kings. After adding Brad Stuart, Ladislav Nagy, Tom Preissing, Michal Handzus, and Kyle Calder are they really contenders or merely pretenders...? All are re-clamation projects for one reason or another! Brad Stuart looked to be a desirable addition for playoff bound teams, but he didn't really help the Calgary Flames all that much. Stuart has great size and loves to use it, and higher-end skills on the back end, but still has yet to put it ALL together for a whole season and the playoffs. Ladislav Nagy is a pouty, high-maintenance enigma who has yet to prove his high end skills are worth putting up with over a long term deal, though it would be difficult to argue he IS talented. Tom Preissing appears to be the best signing of the lot, though somewhat undersized his game from the back-end appears tailored for the "new NHL". Michal Handzus is coming off a season-ending injury and while he's proven he can fill-in first line duties his game is more "reliable" than anything else, but even that comes with a question mark now. Kyle Calder had a year worth forgetting after being aquired by the Flyers in a deal, ironically for Handzus, and hopefully for the LA Kings maybe the two will find some chemistry together.
So after some memorable collapses after a "big UFA signing" what is the mysterious allure that remains? Well...... as the St. Louis Blues showed us last season at the trade deadline you can "rent-a-player" into quite a nice little return a la Bill Guerin and Keith Tkachuk (did anyone not see him re-signing with the Blues?)......or Peter Forsglass...who did show up for the playoffs...
So what keeps Kevin Lowe's hand back from "doing some deals"? Is Alexei Yashin truly that much of a risk at, say, 2.5 mil on a one year deal? With the Oilers expected to be locked in the basement as the copper-and-blue-haired stepchild for this coming season is adding a "name" player really such a bad idea? Even if the connotation is negative? What about Jason Allison? After a decent season with the Toronto Maple Leafs then sitting out (another) season with "personal issues" what's to prevent Lowe from picking up this "slow-footed" big-bodied centreman with proven high end finishing skills? Lowe was actually interested in Allison during the summer he signed with Toronto...so it's not like it would be THAT surprising. Even if Lowe was to parlay Yashin and Allison into trade deadline acquisitions, pre-supposing both had showcased their offensive talents, where's the harm to the Edmonton Oilers?
The Oilers have failed to sign any significant UFA talent for 3 summers straight since the lockout ENDED! They have failed to draft and develop any bonafide superstar talent that's NHL ready TODAY (Cogliano and Schremp may be ready for a big role 2008/09). So where's the harm in trying to boost a fine AHL roster by adding 2 tarnished stars both of who have something to prove and a chip on their shoulder about it???
If anything it'll give Edmonton Oilers fans something to talk about. Now......anybody seen Oleg Kvasha?