While I may be a Flyers fan, the Oilers will always be my 2nd favorite team, and they have been since the day I was born. I've decided to mix it up and write a blog for a different team.
Today I will sum up the Oilers offseason to date. That includes everything from the Draft, Free Agent signings, re-signings, trades, and management changes.
This past offseason, the Oilers cleaned out some of their front office, firing their GM and Head Coach. The first move came on April 15th when the Oilers fired their GM Steve Tambellini, and named former Oilers FW and Head Coach Craig MacTavish their GM. Many Oiler fans were happy that Tambellini was finally gone, after a relatively abysmal 5 years, missing the playoffs all 5 of those years.
While many fans were happy that Tambellini was gone, many more were unsure of MacTavish. How would he do as a rookie GM? Would he improve the team? Is he really suited for the general manager’s role? Lots of uncertainties came with MacTavish. Also the fact that the Oilers seemingly like to recycle old players in the organization scared some due to the fact that this way hasn't worked out so well to date.
If you ask me, I think MacTavish has done a fine job to date. I'll explain later on why.
The 2nd management move came on June 8th, where the Oilers fired Ralph Krueger after just ONE half season and replaced him with Dallas Eakins. Eakins will be the Oilers 5th coach in the past 6 seasons. Eakins was interviewed by many teams including Dallas & Vancouver, but then Edmonton jumped in and shocked everyone, stealing the most sought-out coach on the market. Eakins had been the Toronto Marlies coach for 4 years, coaching them to a record of 157-114-41. Hopefully this will finally be the year that an Oilers coach can lead them to the playoffs.
The 2013 draft was very key to the Edmonton Oilers franchise. After picking a FW year after year when the fan base, and well the team overall needed D, the Oilers drafted a defenseman with their 7th overall pick, and made EVERYONE happy!
They drafted the big offensive defenseman in Darnell Nurse out of Sault Ste. Marie of the OHL 7th overall. Nurse was known as one of the rawest prospects in the entire draft. He could end up being a #1 defenseman, or he could end up being a #4 guy. This was a gamble the Oilers had the take. He is a very big defenseman at 6'4, 185 pounds, and he plays very physical. I think he will blossom into a very nice #2 defenseman as long as Edmonton doesn't rush him.
I don't have the insight as scouts obviously but one name that steps out for me is Anton Slepyshev, another big potential guy. He could be a solid 2nd line sniper or he could be a total bust ala Nikita Filatov or Nik Zherdev.
The Oilers only made 2 offseason re-signings, re-signing their 2nd line center Sam Gagner to a 3 year, 4.8M/year deal, and 3rd/4th line winger Ryan Jones to a 1 year contract worth 1.5M. I feel like these were 2 great re-signings by MacTavish, bringing back Gagner at a very fine 4.8M over the next 3 years, and re-signing a well liked guy Ryan Flow Jones. Now onto UFA signings, who's in and who's out!
UFA: Who's in & Who's out
1. Boyd Gordon: 3 years at 3M/year
2. Jesse Joensuu: 2 years at 950k/year
3. Andrew Ference: 4 years at 3.25M/year
4. Jason Labarbera: 1 year at 1M
5. Richard Bachman: 1 year at 625k
1. Ryan Whitney: Unsigned
2. Mark Fistric: Unsigned
3. Lennart Petrell: Swiss league
4. Jerred Smithson: Unsigned
5. Eric Belanger: Bought out (Amnesty)
6. Nikolai Khabibulin: Signed with Chicago
7. Theo Peckham: Signed with Chicago
8. Darcy Hordichuk: Unsigned
9. Andy Sutton: Unsigned
Looking at the skaters who left, there really isn't any big names that left... Ryan Whitney was rather bad these past 2 seasons in Edmonton, Mark Fistric was in the Edmonton organization for a few months, and is nothing more than a bottom pairing tough defenseman, Nikolai Khabibulin was replaced with Jason Labarbera, and the rest were 4th liners. The UFA's they gained over the players they lost make the Oilers a better team
Andrew Ference was one of the better UFA defensemen on the market this past offseason, with him being a solid 2nd pairing, stay at home guy, he is EXACTLY what the Oilers needed. They also got Ference at an extremely good price. One of the better signings the entire offseason if you ask me. Can't wait to see him give the finger to Canucks fans! (sarcasm, sort of...)
The Boyd Gordon signing i am extremely iffy on... he's the 3rd line center that Edmonton needed, exactly what they needed but at 3M/year? He's 1M/year overpaid! However they moved out Horcoff's contract (which will be discussed here soon) so i guess you can say they saved 2M/season on a 3rd line center?
The rest of the signings won't have that much of an impact as Bachman will be the AHL starter, Labarbera will be the backup and Joensuu will be a 4th line player. I expect these players to play their roles and fill in those spots!
In the final piece of the blog, what every hockey fan loves: TRADES!
The Oilers made 2 sizeable deals this offseason that would re-shape their FW core. They traded away the "untradeable" contract of C Shawn Horcoff to Dallas for D Philip Larsen and a 2016 7th round pick. I know most fans would've been happy just getting that 2016 7th for his contract, and the fact that they got a #7-8 young defenseman in Larsen just sweetened that deal even more!
There is one void that Horcoff will leave: Leadership. Even though he was a severely overpaid 3rd line center, he was still a great leader and a great overall guy to be around. Hopefully vets like Labarbera, Gordon, Smyth, Ference can step it up in the locker room and lead this young group.
The other trade was a big one. Edmonton traded W Magnus Paajarvi and a 2014 2nd round pick to St. Louis for W David Perron. There was a lot of split opinions on this trade. Oilers fans seemed to like Paajarvi's upside, then Edmonton added in a 2014 2nd and people didn't like that. In my own honest opinion, I think this is a great deal for the Oilers. Perron is MILES better than Paajarvi is right now. Yes he has had concussion issues, but when he's healthy he's a very solid 2nd line winger. Edmonton got a PROVEN solid 2nd line player. This is exactly what they needed. Perron will fit in perfectly with the Oilers. He also plays a rugged game, even though size is a little issue for him.
Overall, I grade this offseason for the Oilers an A-. I grade MacTavish an A as a rookie GM for what he's done to improve this team so far. He didnt blow it up, because he didn't need to. He's made solid UFA signings, re-signed his RFA's, and has made the Oilers a better team! They got better, and that's exactly what they did. They needed to get grittier, they did that as well.
My prediction? The Edmonton Oilers make the 7th or 8th seed in the West this year, and make the playoffs for the first time since the 2005-2006 NHL Season!
Thanks for writing and PLEASE post comments below!