Free agency approaches ever so quickly; it seems like it was only the other day we were looking at new draft picks… oh, right, of course we were. The NHL has a long slow summer for the most part, but between the draft and UFA season these are hectic times.
Following the jump, a brief summary of who the Oilers stand to lose, what they need to gain, and a survey of the Northwest Division.
Salary cap space: Approximately $10-million
Projected budget: $56.8-million
Key needs: The Oilers have a few. With Dwayne Roloson becoming an unrestricted free agent, a new goaltender (and possibly two) is an essential acquisition, and there are some decent ones out there. Additionally, while the team was happy with its top four defensemen, the forward corps needs substantial upgrading, with a left wing to play with Horcoff and Hemsky being the priority. The team also suffered for not having a legitimate checking centre who could win faceoffs and kill penalties last season, and should look to address that via free agency. Finally, the Oilers may also need a depth defenseman (regardless of whether Jason Strudwick is retained).
What our rivals want: The Flames probably need to add another top-six forward with Todd Bertuzzi and Mike Cammalleri hitting free agency, and their recent trade for Jay Bouwmeester’s rights indicates that they may not be satisfied with their defense corps either. The Canucks are in decent shape if they can re-sign their key free agents (the Sedins, Mattias Ohlund); if not they need to replace those holes with similar players. The Avalanche are in the midst of a rebuild and either need everything or nothing. Minnesota needs scoring and has a few other things on their wishlist as well; their chief target is widely rumoured to he Saku Koivu and he would help in a few areas.
What I’d Bet On: The Oilers will add a goaltender (probably Roloson on a one-year deal) and might do the prudent thing and bring in someone to anchor the third line, and they’ll make noises about signing a star forward before snagging someone out of the bargain bin or bringing back Ales Kotalik – something which may be a blessing in disguise. If they do nab a marquee player, I think it will be through the trade route rather than free agency.