First off today, allow me to comment on the alleged potential deal between Ottawa/San Jose and Los Angeles involving Dany Heatley: Who comes up with this stuff?
Alright, settle down…Of course I am being facetious. The truth is, there has to be at least a little something to this rumor. Maybe a team official was heard in the back of one of the NHL rinks during his smoke break saying, “now if we could only move Marleau to LA as part of a Heatley deal…” That’s how rumors start, friends; random words twisting in the wind from invisible people. Sometimes the bloggers get it wrong, and sometimes, a rumor actually happens, and the bloggers look like geniuses.
Speaking of the accuracy of blog writers, I noticed a little grumping from a few readers regarding my apparent change of position on the Mike Comrie situation. Oiler fans will tell you that Mike and Kevin Lowe had a very ugly public spat when Comrie was on his way out of Edmonton. Suggesting he would be back in copper and blue seemed about as likely to everyone in the hockey world as suggesting Lowe and Brian Burke will be spotted kissing in a tree. The NHL is going through an evolution right now, and no one could foresee is just how much the economic downturn and the salary cap would affect the behaviour of players and team management.
Mike Comrie signed in Edmonton on Thursday for less money than he is worth, because very few teams had the ability or willingness to offer him a better contract. He might not be the perfect player, but his deal with Edmonton underpays him by about $750k this season.
The Oilers have been pounding the phone most of the off-season looking for deals to bring in some scoring. The bait they’ve been using is young, talented but still unproven forwards and defenseman. Teams with proven scorers are just not biting, and/or players with No Movement Clauses have been vetoing deals to Edmonton. Steve Tambellini knows the Oilers need to have more scoring from the forward lines, and Comrie, at this point, was the best option that presented itself. Was this move predictable? No. Was it a good one? Time will tell, but at least the Oilers are trying to do something.
Next question: Assuming adding Comrie is the only move the Oilers make prior to the start of the season, what could the forward lines look like?
Nilsson – Horcoff – Hemsky
Gagner – Comrie – O’Sullivan
Penner – Cogliano – Pisani
Moreau – Brule – Stortini
The obvious issue with this line-up is size. There is good news though – It’s a fast team that could find scoring from three lines; four if Moreau and Brule are on their games.
All of this being said, I still think that there has to be another deal in the works, and the Comrie signing is a precursor to something bigger. While adding Comrie improves Edmonton, especially considering how cheaply they signed him for, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense for a team with too many forwards going into camp to sign any UFA without making room first.
What is altogether possible is that Oilers management has been working the phone, and they know there is some interest in certain forwards on their roster. Conventional wisdom would suggest that with Comrie, Gagner, and Cogliano all being small, offensively minded centers, someone is on their way out of Dodge. I rather doubt Comrie would be moved, or he would have signed with someone else for more money. Gagner is the new “Face of the Franchise,” so he isn’t going anywhere. Cogliano is highly thought of in the NHL, and could be packaged to bring the Oilers a forward of significance. Penner, Nilsson, Schremp, and Brule, along with almost any of defenseman on the team, could be on the move before the first game of the season against the Flames.
While there has been constant mention of teams like Ottawa, Boston and San Jose potentially making a deal with Edmonton, it is more likely that a dance partner would be a team that still has cap space and would benefit from adding young talent. Atlanta, Buffalo, Columbus, Colorado, Dallas, Florida, Nashville, NYI, Phoenix, and St. Louis are all more likely dance partners with Edmonton. While dreaming about the Kessels and Heatleys of this world playing for the Oilers is fun, the reality is that very few teams have the capacity to add players and net salary from a trade, and still fit under the cap. Could the Oilers send Cogliano, Penner and an overpaid forward like Fernando Pisani to Dallas for the overpaid but solid two-way center Brad Richards? Would the Oilers be willing to move Cogliano, Penner, Smid, and a prospect to Buffalo for Thomas Vanek? Or could Jason Arnott from Nashville end up being an Oiler again? Let a new batch of rumors commence!