Steve Tambellini talked Gilbert Brule into signing a contract with a $1,850,000 cap hit over the next two years, and in doing so, proved that he's no Kevin Lowe. Lowe's propensity for over-paying everyone that had the word "free agent" mentioned in the same breath left many Oiler fans believing that Tambellini would also overpay his restricted free agents this summer. Though I, and a great many of our regular readers, believe that $1,850,000 is still an overpay, it's not $2,500,000 per year, which is what I thought Brule would walk away with. Adding to the situation was the ridiculous arbitration award given to Clarke MacArthur and the crazy Mason Raymond contract.
I'm sure at some point we'll conduct an in-depth review of Tambellini's off-season, but to this point, he's been quiet, ticking the low-hanging fruit from his to-do list.
He listened to The Copper & Blue at the draft table by taking Tyler Pitlick thirty-first overall and Martin Marincin with the Riley Nash pick. He used some sort of Haitian mind control on Scott Howson and got rid of Ethan Moreau for nothing. He swiped Colin Fraser from the Chicago Blackhawks to fix Kevin Lowe's Kyle Brodziak faux pas. He signed Kurtis Foster. He got useful one-year asset, Jim Vandermeer, for allowing the Phoenix Coyotes to buy out Patrick O'Sullivan.
There are some nice moves here, and there may be a glimmer of hope coming from Rexall, but as I said above, this was all low-hanging fruit. Some difficult decisions loom ahead and Tambellini will show his true skills through August and September. We've already talked about the Sheldon Souray situation, kerfuffle, happening, etc. That situation and Nikolai Khabibulin's September 29th trial, remain the elephants in the dressing room. But there is other work to to be done, after the jump we'll look at what lies ahead for Steve Tambellini and the organization.
- There may be more important players on the team, and there may be more important prospects in the organization, but if Tambellini doesn't come up with a plan for Andrew Cogliano, the Oilers risk turning a bright young prospect into a sideshow. Cogliano has been almost-traded during each of the last two off-seasons and has spent significant time on the 4th line in each of the last two seasons. His playing time over the last twenty-four months seemed wedded to Ethan Moreau, not exactly the type of linemate anyone imagined Cogliano would have to carry early in his career. But Cogliano has been treated to bottom three minutes by two different coaches in the last two seasons, and without absolutely lighting up training camp, seems destined to remain in the bottom six for his Edmonton future. Tambellini needs to move the kid for some return as soon as possible, or maybe pair him with Souray to land something other than a cap dump when the blueliner gets moved.
- There has been absolutely no news on the Sam Gagner negotiations so far during the off-season. Gagner is the second-most important young player on the team, and easily the most important pivot in the entire organization. If Gagner takes a step forward this season, the Oilers are going to be a much more difficult team to play against, and a big season from Gagner will make even the most ardent Tyler Seguin supporters slink into the shadows. We know Tambellini works slowly and methodically, but there have previously been rumors of a one-year contract for Sam. If the rumors have a tinge of truth to them, signing Gagner to a one-year deal could be a massive losing bet if Gagner progresses to outscoring second minutes and gets power play time with Dustin Penner and Ales Hemsky.
- The Oklahoma City Baron still lack a General Manager, and even though the Oilers have been handling all of the AHL signings so far, the Barons need someone in house to start the process of building the rest of the roster. I've noticed Oklahoma City-based reporters like Ryan Aber talking about the wait, and given the delay in announcing the team name, the Oilers should be doing everything they can to create buzz about the new team. Oklahoma City is a great minor league hockey market, but the Oilers run the risk of becoming yesterday's news with these enormous gaps in the news cycle.
- If Sheldon Souray is moving out of Alberta, the Oilers are left with a hole on defense large enough to fly the Canyon Diablo Meteorite through. If a second-pairing defenseman (with penalty killing experience) doesn't come back for Souray or Cogliano, that becomes one of Tambellini's highest priorities. Like B.C.B. from Bringing Back The Glory said: "The Oilers need another NHL Defenseman. This cannot be the line up we enter the season with."
- Last but not least is an oldie but a goodie, a remake that tops the charts every year, an unaddressed deficiency so bad that if it were Vitamin C, everyone associated with Edmonton management would have died of scurvy long ago: the Oilers must sign a tough-minutes center or wing, one with penalty killing expertise. This task needs no explanation, but there are still a bevvy of candidates on the market, and as long as demand is low, Tambellini has reason to wait. The candidates include Jere Lehtinen, Eric Belanger, Dominic Moore, Nigel Dawes, Stephane Veilleux and Richard Park.