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The Edmonton Oilers and the UFA Market
By Benjamin Botterill

The Edmonton Oilers and the UFA Market
There is no question the Edmonton Oilers will do their very best to become a major player during this year's free agency period. While general manager Craig MacTavish will likely try his very best to try and acquire a big name free agent, he may have to settle for that secondary free agent to help improve his roster in the short-term.

Edmonton - June 19, 2014 - With the Los Angeles Kings getting the chance to hoist Lords Stanly Cup for the 2nd time in three years, it has now set the stage for all thirty National Hockey League general managers to start shaping their rosters for the immediate future.

For the last three to four years, Edmonton has been a hot bed of activity during the off season. With a terribly thin roster in experience and as many glaring holes as Edmonton has pot holes in the spring, the City of Champs is always buzzing come the draft and free agency.

Edmonton takes a beating when it comes to free agency. “It’s to cold”…“His family would never move there”…“Travel would be atrocious”. Those are just three of the countless excuses the media uses when ripping apart the Alberta capital and why no top flight free agent wants to sign on the dotted line with the copper and blue.

But in the end, does it not come down to wins and losses? Whether you’re a contender or a bottom feeder? Playing time and role? Certainly these have to factor into a free agents decision.

The Oilers have alienated themselves from the free agent market for one major reason. Not because of their geological location, and surely not because of our winters, their not that bad. No, the one major reason this young Oiler squad is left standing alone at the end of the free agent frenzy is because of their position in the standings. The number of losses far out weigh the wins, and until this lineup can learn how to win on a regular basis and tilt the scale back in their favor, their freshmen GM will be forced to overpay, be it in term and/or dollars, when he hits the open market with his shopping list.

It is not all doom and gloom for the fans and their beloved Oilers as there are some pros when comes to attracting future free agents. A state of the art downtown arena is on the immediate horizon. A player named Taylor Hall and a plethora of young raw talent are also positives from a player’s perspective when it comes to checking off boxes on their personal checklist.

The National Hockey League brought a five day interview period for teams to wine and dine potential free agents last season and it doesn’t look to be going anywhere in the near future. A chance for teams to fly the candidate into their city and let them see the ins and outs of what they have to offer is another positive for the Oilers, as winter is nowhere to be seen in late June.

In Craig MacTavish’s year end press conference, he pushed the point that he needed to improve his top six and more specifically his 2nd line. While he made Doug Armstrong look like a modern day Mike Milbury in stealing David Perron from right under his nose, MacT needs to now surround Perron and the rest of his top six with some much needed size and experience.

The 2014 free agent class lacks the sexiness and sizzle of recent years and I feel painfully sorry for TSN and their crew that will have to try and string together an 8 hour free agent frenzy special for this year’s crop. Players who would be classed as tier two free agents, will now be front and centre for a large pay day and one has to wonder if the Oilers will be in many of these conversations. With the amount of holes this team needs to fill, how many could the club realistically be expected to fill in one summer?

A veteran player like Milan Michalek, I think, would be an ideal fit on the 2nd line. Standing at 6-2, 217lbs. the Czech winger brings the size and experience this Oiler squad desperately needs. Does a player like Michalek want to come into a situation like Edmonton on the heels of his thirtieth birthday? I highly doubt it but that doesn’t mean MacTavish shouldn’t be kicking tires and look at swallowing another year or two on term to land the veteran in forward.

Devin Setoguchi, another name that keeps popping up in the Oiler’s rumor mill. The one time 30 goal scorer would come at a much cheaper price point then Michalek and would still have a good chance of producing on the right side in Edmonton’s top six. At 6-1, 202lbs. Setoguchi brings size but lacks the bite in his game that this team is looking for. I think there is a fit here for both sides, and there could be a real chance that the Taber, Alberta native could find himself in Oiler silks come July 1st.

I do not envy Craig MacTavish’s job as the General Manager of the Edmonton Oilers. Fans have now sat through eight consecutive springs without playoff hockey and patience is wearing thin. Tough decisions have to be made; “bold” moves need to take place for this team to take the next step and become a respectable market free agents are willing to come too.

Till that day comes, Oilers fans can expect more of the Andrew Ference and Boyd Gordon type of deals…too much money for too many years.

Thanks for reading, follow me on Twitter @botterillben

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