The Edmonton Oilers have signed Colin Fraser to a two-year contract worth $825,000 per season. It's a fantastic signing. After the Oilers acquired Fraser before the draft for a sixth round draft pick, Bruce looked at his numbers in detail. To give that report in brief, Fraser is a solid fourth line center who's pretty good in the faceoff circle and has some experience on the penalty kill - and that's exactly what this contract reflects. But there's also a significant chance that Fraser outperforms this deal. Fraser draws many more penalties than he takes, a skill that tends to be undervalued when it comes time for players to be paid, which means that, even with no improvement, Fraser is likely to provide solid value. And yet, Fraser is still young enough (twenty-five years old) that there's some chance that he's able to improve on his previous performance and play higher in the lineup than the fourth line before this contract is over. What a great deal! After the jump, we'll look at this signing in the context of the whole forward picture. Steve Tambellini has done a good job reshaping the forward group so far and it looks to me like he isn't finished yet.After buying out the contract of Robert Nilsson, trading away Patrick O'Sullivan, losing Ethan Moreau on waivers and making both Marc Pouliot and Ryan Potulny unrestricted free agents by not giving them qualifying offers, the Oilers have trimmed the number of forwards they have under control substantially. Generally speaking, I like to break down spending on forwards as follows:
Top 3 Forwards - 27.5% or $16,335,000
Middle 6 Forwards - 20.0% or $11,880,000
Remaining Forwards - 7.5% or $4,455,000
Here's who the Oilers now have under contract:
Top 3 Forwards - Horcoff, Penner, Hemsky - 23.3% or $13,850,000
Middle 6 Forwards - ???, ???, ???, ???, ???, ??? - 0.0% or $0
Remaining Forwards - Stortini, Jones, Fraser, ???, - 4.3% or $2,550,000
The Oilers have cleaned out the chaff and now sit with a virtually clean slate to form a middle six that can play. They're in fantastic shape to add a couple of nice pieces on mid-term deals since they're underspending the model at both the top and bottom end of the roster. In fact, they should have about $16M to spend on just seven forward spots if they can keep the spending on defense under control.
So what do they have already? Candidates for the remaining seven spots already under contract include Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, Jordan Eberle and Linus Omark. Candidates who are restricted free agents include Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano and Gilbert Brule. And then there's Taylor Hall. That's seven right there but it's incredibly young and unproven. It's not the kind of lineup that's going to have success in the NHL. It seems wise, then, to bring in at least two and maybe three veterans who can help these players along.
Let's see where we're at. I'll estimate high for the purposes of this exercise so that we keep expectations muted. Let's jump in off the hop and say that Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano and Gilbert Brule are all players we'd like to keep. We'll say it costs $4M for Gagner, and $2M each for Cogliano and Brule. I hope those figures are high, but if not, well, at least we know. That leaves $8M for four players. My inclination would be to go for one high-priced winger and one cheap winger, say $3M for Alexander Frolov and $1M for Fernando Pisani, which should keep Ben happy. The next step is to add a veteran center for somewhere between $1M and $2M and there are several options available. That leaves one spot left for all of the kids to fight over (until injuries). If it ends up being Taylor Hall, which is what I'd expect, you have enough space to cover all of his "A" level bonuses. If he hits all of his "B" level bonuses, well, one of those is usually a major award, so count me as the last guy who will complain.
What I'm saying is, taken as a whole, Steve Tambellini has done a very good job so far this summer. While I might say, "Patrick O'Sullivan could rebound!" or "Robert Nilsson could be an effective fourth liner!" or "Marc Pouliot just needs another chance!" or "Ethan Moreau had a solid end to the year!" or "Ryan Potulny was a goal-scorer!" by opening up space on the roster, there's a real opportunity to make this forward group a good one as soon as this October. Looking at the forest instead of the trees shows that Steve Tambellini has been quality over the last month. I just hope he's not done.