Author's Note: I was originally to participate in the GM's Roundtable, but due to illness, couldn't get my contribution in on time. Here it is anyway.
Might as well preface this first by saying that I don't think I've actually watched many Oilers games since the last roundtable. In fact, I'd wager that number's somewhere around two. But that doesn't stop me from offering unsolicited advice to people who get paid to run hockey teams, so let's do this!
First off, for this season, the Oilers need to maintain status quo, which is to say, sink like a submarine with a leaky ballast tank. This team would have to play something like .800 hockey the rest of the way to be a lock for the playoffs, so let's forget about them. Making a late-season charge for the eighth-overall pick is nonsensical, even if it might make a couple of people feel better about themselves. From a pure hockey perspective, it's wiser to pull the chute on Khabi and Horcoff, bring up some kids, and let's see what they've got. Already we're starting to see some potential in a few players Brule, Stone, Potulny), while others (okay, mostly Jacques) are proving to be somewhat less than useful. From here to the rest of the year, I'd love to know which Patty O'Lanterns we're going to get the rest of the way, and I'd also like to see if there's any way to inflate the trade values for Nilsson and Cogliano, since I'm thinking we're going to have to offload at least one, and probably both, in order to make room for the new kids that'll be arriving in the next year or two, as well as any help we might need in general up front. I think we've also confirmed that Deslauriers is who we thought he was: a thoroughly replacable, though not completely horrible, backup.
As for the trade deadline and the offseason, I'd prefer not to trade away Pisani, partially for sentimental reasons, but mostly because we'd get jack shit for him anyway, based on his medical history since 2006. When he's healthy, he's still a quality defensive forward, and can probably had for dirt cheap this summer. Moreau has lost a step, and LT's suggestion that he lost a bit of vision in one eye after that injury a couple of years ago is a good point. He's also overpaid, but he's got the rep that he might get a prospect and/or a pick in the off-season. Ditto Staios: he's been a walking (skating?) disaster for a couple of years now, but he's got sufficient reputation and "leadership" that he might be of value to a contender with a bit of cap space, as someone to fill out a bottom pairing. That being said, I have a feeling that, because of their contracts, they might not be dealable until the off-season. Fortunately, if it comes down to it, both can be bought out for relatively cheap to provide cap relief. The prodigal son, Mike Comrie, has done his bit to redeem himself for past indiscretions, but there never really was room for him on this team, so he doesn't get a new contract from the Doogie-Oilers.
The elephant in the room, of course, is Sheldon Souray. I like Souray. I've always lashed out at those who have insisted that the Oilers have to deal him, because his skillset (double-plus shot, physicality, defensive awareness, destroying Minnesota Wild) isn't fully replicated by any one person on the Oilers' D, and hasn't been since Chris Pronger. That being said, there's no sense in a lottery team being a cap team, and if someone's gotta go, might as well be the guy that's publicly stated his willingness to accept a trade for the good of the team. Besides, Lubo seems to be the defensive version of Instant Chemistry -- his play with Ladislav Smid has been a huge part of the latter's ascent to competence -- and his shot is almost as good as Souray's, when he actually gets a chance to let 'er rip. Tom Gilbert, after some early-year HUAs, seems to be recovering at least by the 5v5 stats: playing the toughest competition, albeit with an easy faceoff load (for the Oilers), and breaking even on +/- and placing 2/7 on relative Corsi. Grebeshkov is interesting, I guess, but it looks like he's getting killed against medium opposition, though it's hard to say how much of that is real and how much of that is getting shuffled around due to injuries, but I probably wouldn't bring him back for more than he's getting now. If he can be had at this rate or cheaper, I guess, I'm fine with that, but I'd bet that doesn't happen, so he goes to another team this summer, either here or in Russia.
So, then, now that I've gotten rid of half the D and a bunch of forwards, what've we got? In no particular order:
Who gets brought in? Given how this season played out, I think it's a very good idea to go after someone like Martin Biron. He should come cheap, given how things have gone this year on Long Island: his SV% has been a bit uninspiring this year (.900), but he's also had no goal support at all -- only one of his eleven losses this year saw the Isles score as many as three goals -- and his career numbers are still good enough that he should be much more capable of stepping in for an extended period with Khabibulin down than our man Jeffrey. I suspect Jordan Eberle has pencilled in for next year's squad to join the Killer Smurfs. He's shown well in camp and the AHL, and has pretty well dominated his peer group, so it's time for him to take a step up somewhere. I'd personally give him a half-year in Oklahoma, and if he continues to put up numbers against men as he did in his small nine-game sample last year, deal Lanterns and bring him up in the new year. The same could theoretically go for Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, should he come to North America next year. As for the third line, I'd sign a couple of cheap vets with a clue and feed them to the wolves so Horpensky (or Gagpensky, whatever) can be more offensively focused. With special attention to the centres, I'm looking at the faceoff stats, and Gagner and Brule are both doing fine, while Cogliano remains terrible, and Zach Stortini has been surprisingly unhorrible. Hopefully, a healthy Marc-Antoine Pouliot is everything Ben, LT, Dennis, and Mrs. Pouliot think he is, but in theory, we might not need to sign one. That being said, if a veteran defensive centre can be found at a reasonable rate, by all means.
The D is the real pain, but it depends on what we get back for Cogs, Mini Magic, and Souray: surely the latter should bring back some sort of blue-chip defensive prospect for the future. For the sake of argument, I'm going to use a theoretical deal with LA, of Souray and Nilsson for Wayne Simmonds, Colton Teubert, and picks. Cogliano goes for a random prospect or, if we're lucky, cheap vet to be named later -- I dunno. After that, again with the cheap vets, a couple of $2Mish guys who know what the fuck to do, will smack some guys around, and will make it easier on poor old coach Quinn's heart. Think vintage Jason Smith in theory, though maybe one of them should be able to shoot or pass the puck sufficiently to play on the 2PP. Also, Just Say No to Jason Strudwick: not to parrot LT again, but he beat me to the thought -- Dean Arsene is just as qualified to be a 7D, all things being equal, and he saves you a couple hundred grand in cap space.
Assuming reasonable RFA raises, where does that leave us?
Penner (4.25)-Horcoff (5.5)-Hemsky (4.1)
Brule (1.5*)-Gagner (3.0*)-Lanterns/Eberle/"Simmonds" (2.925/1.188/0.822)
Cheap Vet (1.25*)-Cheap Vet/Pouliot (1.25*/0.825)-Pisani (1.0*)
Stone (0.8*)-Stortini (0.7)-Potulny (0.8*)
MPS/Eberle/Omark waiting in the wings
Visnovsky (5.6)-Smid (1.3)
Gilbert (4.0)-Cheap Vet (2.0*)
Cheap Vet (2.0*)-"Teubert"/Peckham (0.975/0.6)
"Teubert"/Peckham/Motin available to call up
Total: $46.4-49.05M, plus optional Staios/Moreau buyouts -- $1.57M, assuming it's a simple buyout and not some wacky math from the CBA I don't understand. Asterisks denote new contracts. There's even room to go a bit higher on the imported vets (Zbynek Michalek and Dan Hamhuis came up in the other thread, and I endorse those ideas, in principle), or give out slightly larger RFA raises, and stay near the midpoint, especially if Lanterns is out of the picture.
Obviously, there's a bunch of things I haven't considered -- where the young Europeans fit (not just MPS and Omark, but Hartikainen, Lander, etc.), where Reddox fits, who comes back for Lanters if we deal him, whether the Killer Smurfs would even fit together, who the hell plays point on the 2PP -- but in principle, I think the idea of getting rid of expensive veteran contracts and stockpiling picks (there will be a bunch out of Souray alone), replacing them with cheap but competent players on the defensive side of the puck, and giving the kids another season to grow is the way to go. Will that team above make the playoffs? Maybe, maybe not: not entirely relevant. It's a much more competitive roster, I think, and it isn't laden with first-year pros, unlike previous iterations. And hey, it could do something interesting given the right circumstances.