Edmonton - June 2, 2014 - The season is drawing near its finale. We now know who will be competing for Lord Stanley’s cup, and with that comes regularity among Oilers fans and media. You see this is the time of the year where suggestions become paper airplanes of advanced statistics, supported metrics and opinion. Right before our eyes, the team is pieced together by armchair GM’s who seem to have a perfect idea of what will give the Oilers the best chance at success. Without a doubt hoping that with that success will be a modicum of relief from the cruel yet benevolent hockey gods, something they haven’t felt in some time.
The common interest is and has been for a while now, to add a number 1 defenseman; someone with veteran ability, leadership and experience with success in the league. The other big ask is that of a big 2nd line center. Coming off of a poor season in which defensive deficiencies were highlighted more than ever, Sam Gagner finds himself on the outside looking in, and Oilers fans have all but said their goodbyes to the former first round pick. There has never been a secret that the Oilers would benefit with some size in the top 6, and the hole that Gagner will likely open up should he be traded prior to July 1st, will be big enough to support such pressing desires.
All throughout Oil Country, there has been a few names thrown around as potential additions that concern me. I have heard names that are unrealistic, inadvisable or just plain delusional. I’m hoping that this post will give volume to some of my reasoning as to why you won’t see these names on the back of an Oilers Jersey in 2014-2015.
One of the names that circulate the Alberta air fairly often is that of Dion Phaneuf. The Toronto Maple Leafs captain is the next potential casualty of one of the most confusing management strategies I have ever seen. Because of this, he has been rumoured as an available commodity. The Edmonton Oilers should take heed when weighing this Edmonton native, though. He has spent his entire career surrounded by controversy. He has been referred to by his teammates as “selfish,” he has been called a “cancer” in the locker room, and his inconsistent play his many wondering if the best years are long behind him.
Now whether or not the Edmonton Oilers need a guy like Phaneuf, who was once regarded as a shut-down defenceman, they don’t need any distractions. Bringing a guy who has spent the last 4 years with a “C” on his jersey and flaunting a hefty new contract that was signed for the HBO cameras, he will probably do more harm than good to a locker room looking for cohesiveness among young players.
The other obvious issue with this idea is that at the cost it would take to get Phaneuf from the team that puts the “fun” in “dysfunctional,” it would come with a pretty large question mark. Will he would take on the form of a number 1 defenceman, or that of a useless pylon. Any time such a question should be asked, I would say it’s best to just move on.
The next name that seems to find it’s name in the conversation is Paul Stastny. The Avalanche’s 6’ tall Centerman is set to reach UFA status on July 1st, and many of the Oilers faithful would love to see MacT and company pursue him as a potential replacement of Sam Gagner on the 2nd line.
There are a few glaring issues with this potential signing. One of the most notable is the fact that at the tall side of 5’11” and 199 pounds,Sam Gagner has the two centerman identical in physique. It has been noted that Stastny has never had a huge issue playing in his own end as Gagner has, but that doesn’t ignore or excuse the facts. If the Oilers are to move on from their top 10 pick of 2007, there should be a desire to address the current size defeciencies in the top 6. Stastny does not do that.
On top of the similarites between what the Oilers have, and what they should look to add, the fact that Stastny just finished a contract that had him close to $6 Million dollars a year, should be a concern for management. Scoring in the NHL is something that almost every team will be looking at this off-season, so you have to assume that a stick like Paul Stastny will be in high demand. As history shows us, when a need is present and the fill is available, teams will stretch to reach an end-pass. At this point, the Oilers with all of their lacking necessities, do not have that luxury.
This one hurts me a little bit. As much as I would love to throw the kitchen sink at this potential Hall Of Famer, it doesn’t look like the signs will point to yes for Jumbo Joe to the Oilers. Were the Oilers to somehow add him to the locker room, he would immediately fill a void at center (whether it is the first or second line) and would make the kids around him better. One of the best assist-men in the history of the league, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and David Perron would find themselves celebrating more goals, but the reality is one of them would probably be replacing Joe on San Jose’s roster if we saw Thornton dawning copper and blue.
The NMC that has Thornton bound to the Sharks for likely the rest of his career can be waived, and if Joe feels that he can win a Stanley cup elsewhere, why wouldn’t he? That being said, if that is in fact the reason he waives his clause, why in the world would he select Edmonton as a landing place? As Oilers fans are sure to see on July 1st, the state of the organization is sure to be a deterrent of massive proportions for players looking for a new home. There will be some time until anyone considers this team a playoff contender, much less a cup contender. Joe Thornton would be no exception.
If Joe is to accept a trade of any kind from his current situation, expect it to be a blast from the past in the form of a trade back to the team that drafted him first overall back in 1997. Either that, or maybe somewhere that could call him a hometwon superstar. Speculations of course, but for Jumbo Joe to move out of San Jose it’s going to take a really enticing offer, and he’s already going to be paid hansomely by the Sharks.
Changing gears a bit, this player is obviously not a potential target of the Oilers, but a current roster player. Marinicin really showed what he was made of as a rookie last season, and showed improvement as the year progressed. He got a chance to learn alongside fellow countryman, Zdeno Chara, in the Socchi winter olympics, as well as some NHL veterans like Andrew Ferrence, and Jeff Petry during his tenure with the Oilers.
There are many teams that would love to upgrade their D-core with a young stud like Marinicin. The Oilers have more than a few defensive prospects who may be ready to take the next step towards the responsibility of playing in the NHL. Until those guys are ready, the Oilers will need to bring in some veteran placeholders, and that may cost them.
If MacTavish can find a dance partner to work with Marincin and send back a long-time successful NHL defender, there should be little hesitation to strike a deal. Martin Marincin will be a top 4 defenceman in the NHL, I have no doubt about that. With the current state of the roster, and with as many holes as there are, there needs to be at least one sacrifice made, and I have long believed that to be the former 2nd round Slovak.
This is another one that stings, but makes a lot of sense. The Oilers would seriously benefit from an elite defenceman like PK Subban. They would likely have a great offensive threat from the blue-line and defensive specialist for the first time since Chris Pronger stabbed the hearts of Oilers fans everywhere. The cost is what concerns me.
Last night, Rob Cooke wrote an excellent piece about the prospect of adding a guy like Subban to the Oilers roster, and he raised a lot of good points. The point where we ultimately disagree is the sacrifice to lock him down with an unmatched offer-sheet. If the Oilers were to qualify Subban with a deal that he would likely accept, and the Canadiens would not be able to, the cost of compensation would be the next 4 first round picks.
That would be a very large wager to place on the shoulders of a single player. If somehow PK Subban wasn’t the same player in Edmonton that he was in Montreal, the team would be out $8 Million a year on a long-term contract as well as 4 potential top-tier players in the form of draft picks. Making that deal one year before the deepest draft in 7 years would be too much of a risk to take. With enough of a negative story resting on the modern legacy of the Oilers, “Oilers sign largest bust in 50 years” is not a headline I would love to see on the Edmonton Journal.
I would just as soon see PK Subban hold out for the 2014-2015 season as the Canadiens cannot sign him by the season start, and sign him as one of the most sought-after free agents of 2015. But I also can’t see that happening. As much as I would like to see PK in an Oilers jersey, I just can’t see it happening any time soon.
Feel free to disagree with me on twitter @Jthompson2380