Last summer I wrote how 2012 was lining up to become a bumper crop of UFA defenseman http://www.coppernblue.com/2011/7/8/2266020/building-a-championship-blueline-an-oilers-management-imperative, but smart GM's have apparently gotten wise to the idea that value is hard to find on July 1 and they're better off keeping what they have - even if they are paying overpaying for the likes of Beauchemin and Liles.
This presents a problem for the Oilers if they want to emancipate themselves from Infinibuild in '12-'13. You can throw away the notion that Steve Tambellini will somehow get Ryan Suter or Matt Carle to sign on a line that is dotted in early July, and not for lack of cunning! The two best available UFA's have U.S. passports and although I hate to break poor fans' hearts, these guys are going to have a hard time convincing their wives, girlfriends, husbands, families, or whowever to visit Northern Alberta, lest this wonderful Global Warming begins to kick in at a greatly accelerated pace.
So if Oiler fans want to taste the NHL playoffs on Rexall ice in 2013, what are some moves that an aggressive GM might make to turn this franchise into a winner?*
*Note, it's okay for fans to begin making other plans
Well, there are still a few options on the blueline. I like Dennis Wideman, but assuming that either Suter or Carle or both get signed prior to July 1, someone idiot GM is going to give lucky Dennis a deal like CBJ gave James Wisniewski. Trust me, we don't want that.
Or do we? Seeing as how Columbus is likely embarking on a firesale, would you trade for the Wis and his $5.5M annual cap hit for cents on the dollar? Scott Howson seems ripe for a fleecing.
What about one of the older UFA's? Surely Michael Roszival or Jaro Spacek represent an upgrade on the current middle-pairing. A stall tactic, if anything.
All the same, these are not as sexy in terms of options as acquiring Shea Weber for Linus Omark and a middle-round pick, and having him and his buddy Ryan both sign here for under $5M apiece because they "love the direction of the team", and are "excited to play such a fast, up-tempo style", and "have their heart race like a teenage girl" when they skate with Taylor Hall. This is why EA sports came out with their NHL series. Easy as pie - and then BAM! Playoffs!
Knowing that Dmen take much longer to develop (Tambellini knows this right? Somebody please confirm this for me), we'll have to entrust sir Steve to swing a deal. Yikes. If we draft this Grigorenko kid we'll have a surplus at C, so maybe (or unfortunately) a package that includes Sam Gagner gets us what we want. Or maybe Sam stays, and RNH goes. Did I just say that? He would fetch a solid return, but that's a hell of a price.
Or lastly, perhaps the Oilers simply continue to stock up at forward, accumulating a surplus of assets to eventually deal for a defenseman when the market softens. If you can get Grabovski - get him. Maybe even Ruutu. Or hell, if talent acquisition / retention is what we're really talking about here, just re-sign Hemsky already.