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The Oilers are coming off their worst season in franchise history. Some of the work Tambellini has accomplished this offseason has been a staggering over haul, but mostly on the front end. The forwards are looking promising for the future, but how about the defense?
Name - age - term left on contract - cap hit
1. Tom Gilbert - 27 - 4 years - 4 million
2. Ryan Whitney - 27 - 3 years - 4 million
3. Jim Vandermeer - 30 - 1 year - 2.3 million
4. Kurtis Foster - 28 - 2 years - 1.8 million
5. Ladislav Smid - 24 - 1 year - 1.3 million
6. Jason Strudwick - 34 - 1 year - 0.725 million
7. Sheldon Souray - 33 - 2 years - 5.4 million (availability questionable)
8. Taylor Chorney - 23 - 1 year - 0.775
9. Theo Peckham - 22 - 1 year - N/A
10. Shawn Belle - 25 - 1 year - N/A
Tom Gilbert and Ryan Whitney showed great chemistry at the tail end of the season. Gilbert went on a major point scoring streak, and Whitney went on a mean streak - something that has been absent for the majority of his career. Ryan Whitney has battled with feet problem for many years; it's something that he's taken care of the past two summers by under going surgery. The surgery went well and has apparently eliminated the discomfort. You can also expect Tom Gilbert to quietly put up the points, as he has done for the past couple of years. This should be a good tandem this season.
Jim Vandermeer is a gritty 5th or 6th defensemen. Nothing substantial, but he adds a physical element to the Oilers back end, an area where they Oilers lack strength.
Kurtis Foster was a pickup which was likely a replacement for Sheldon Souray. He brings a big shot and will find time on the power play. Other then that, he was never relied upon in any other aspect before. He doesn't have much penalty killing experience, and he isn't know to be defensively sound.
Ladislav Smid is a player who is improving. He's a big body at 6'3'' and 226 Ibs and has started to utilize his size. Smid has taken on the role as a physical defensive defense-men, but is also a solid skater and has proven he is capable of moving the puck. He's still young for a defense-men, and I'm sure his best years are still well ahead of him.
It was well documented that the Oilers of 2009-10 were a team with a poisonous atmosphere; they rid themselves of many of the problems and they felt it necessary to keep some of the good guys. Jason Strudwick was signed as a morale booster. He's known to get along with everyone, rookies to veterans, and has the ability to bring a dressing room together. Strudwick on the ice doesn't bring much to be applaud about but it's apparent management is concerned about the team environment and felt it necessary to have one of the good guys return.
Taylor Chorney hasn't yet proven he is an NHL caliber player. Heck, he hasn't proven he's an AHL caliber player either. This is a player who may be on his last showing, he needs a good training camp.
Theo Peckham is a good bet to see some more playing time in the NHL. He's a brute to be reckoned with and will play an enforcer role when called upon. He's still in development stages and will benefit with more seasoning in OKC.
Shawn Belle was a pickup by the Oilers to further advance their farm system. The Edmonton native brings good size at 6 feet and 235 Ibs and was once a highly touted prospect when he went 30th overall in 2003. Belle will get a good look at during training camp and should find himself in the NHL on a call up basis.
Now where do the Leafs come in? As you know, Burke has been on a spree signing defense-men this summer. He also tried unloading Tomas Kaberle for a top 6 forward without success. With the time period Burke had to make a move, it doesn't look like Kaberle will fetch Burke the player on his radar. It also won't help that Kaberle most recently had his father speak for him calling out management and declaring his son doesn't want to play for Ron Wilson. This has put pressure on Burke to make a deal, and he may just have to swallow his pride and take the best package available.
Having said that, let us look at the defensive core on the Leafs:
Name - age - term left on contract - cap hit
1. Dion Phaneuf - 25 - 4 years - 6.5 million
2. Mike Komisarek - 28 - 4 years - 4.5 million
3. Tomas Kaberle - 32 - 1 year - 4.25 million
4. Francois Beauchemin - 30 - 2 years - 3.8 million
5. Jeff Finger - 30 - 2 years - 3.5 million
6. Luke Schenn - 20 - 1 year - 2.975 million
7. Brett Lebda - 28 - 2 years - 1.45 million
8. Carl Gunnarsson - 23 - 1 year - 0.8 million
9. Matt Lashoff - 23 - 1 year - 0.55 million
That's a deep line up on the back end. One of the best in the league in my opinion; but that line up has a cap hit of 28.325 million. It's likely Lashoff was an AHL signing from the get go, Carl Gunnarsson may start in the AHL as well and Burke will likely bury Jeff Finger's 3.5 million cap hit in the minors. That leaves the Leafs with 6 proven quality defense-men, and no room for their upcoming prospects.
Rumours have also developed that another defense-men may be in play, where Luke Schenn could be a possible player on the move in order to bring in a top 6 forward for the Leafs. With these speculations, I couldn't help but wonder what the Oilers may be willing to do in order to acquire a much needed defense-men in the name of Luke Schenn. Steve Tambellini has said numerous times that the Oilers have too many forwards. This has resulted in passing over of Mike Comrie and obviously the robust, and now annoying, rumours that Cogliano will be traded.
I'm not one to speculate the basis of a trade, I will leave that up to the readers. But it is interesting to note that there is potential between these two teams. It's been a slow summer, the Oilers still need to do some fine tweaking - this is a good starting point.
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