Once upon a time the Oilers would spend the first few days of July looking to secure one of the biggest names in the NHL. These were the days of the annual "Big Game Hunt". There was Marian Hossa in 2008 who wound up in Detroit for a single season before packing up and moving to Chicago the following summer. And who can forget the Dany Heatley saga that was July of 2009 when the Oilers tried and tried and tried to get the then Ottawa Senator to agree to a trade to Edmonton in exchange for Dustin Penner, Andrew Cogliano, and Ladislav Smid.
Those were different days back then, before the second version of the rebuild had started and management foolishly believed that the Oilers were just an elite player away from being a contender. In the years since free agency has been much calmer with the Oilers sticking more to trying (and failing) to find useful players to fill support roles and the task of finding elite players has been delegated to the amateur scouts. In the context of the team's decision to go through a slow and steady rebuild this was the right course of action but I do find myself missing the way it used to be.
And that is probably why the rumour that Shea Weber could be available brings all those old feeling right back. The Oilers blue line is a disaster and needs some serious help this summer, this would be a massive move to shore it up. Could it happen? What would it take? What would the result be? There are so many questions to ask. Lucky for you I've gone through all the questions in my head; after the jump I'll give you a glimpse inside my mind.
Could the Predators really be willing to trade Weber? If you're an Oilers fan you know anyone can be traded. (Off topic but I actually think that might be the only thing we can all agree on.) Given the state of their team though, is it something the Predators might be contemplating? As it stands right now I'd say no. And if Ryan Suter decides to re-sign with the Predators the answer will stay no - at least until we know how the new CBA looks - but if Suter take his services to another city then all bets are off. Losing Suter or Weber for nothing is bet that Preds GM David Poile might be willing to make. But losing both for nothing, that I highly doubt he'd be willing to risk that.
Why does the new CBA matter? The new CBA could roll back salaries, alter how the cap floor is calculated, change revenue sharing, and could see limits on the lengths of contracts put in place to protect owners and GMs from themselves. Depending how things happen over the next couple of months during the collective bargaining process Weber could be a lot easier for the Predators to re-sign as a unrestricted free agent next summer. The CBA is a double edged sword though and Weber's agent could just as easily make a leverage play this summer - ten years or there is no chance he re-signs a year from now.
So what would it cost? Weber plays a ton of minutes against the toughest competition the other team can throw at him and comes out smelling like a rose almost every night. The only teams that wouldn't want him are the teams that can't afford him, every other team could use him and would, if their GM has a brain in his head, inquire as to the cost. There would be a very really demand for Weber assuming that he is willing to sign a long term deal. I think if the Oilers were serious about acquiring him they should be prepared to part with one of Chosen Line or Nail Yakupov. This shouldn't (Mr. Tambellini if you're reading this please let me emphasize shouldn't one more time) be the Oilers opening position - obviously parts for Weber is a better deal - but it could well come to that.
If that's the cost would it be worth it? Only if he's willing to sign a long term deal. In that case, yes. Hell yes. F@$% yes. The immediate impact that Weber would have on the Oilers is almost to much to dream about. He's the kind of player that makes every other player on the ice better. There would still be a big question mark between the pipes and if for some reason Nikolai Khabibulin had to be depended on for more than a couple dozen games the Oilers would be in real trouble but if the Oilers could get an average performance from Devan Dubnyk for 60 plus games, Weber would be the kind of player that would put them in the hunt for a playoff spot. After six years on the outside looking in it would be hard to pass that up.
Of the kids who you trade first? Jordan Eberle. Buoyed by a shooting percentage that jumped 7.5% to 18.9% Eberle scored 34 goals last season. His numbers, especially those on the power play, are a good bet to regress next season so trading him now would be a great example of selling high. All signs point to a long productive career in the NHL but I don't think we should expect Eberle to out produce this sophomore season, or even match it on a regular basis going forward. Trading Eberle isn't desirable but with Nail Yakupov and Ales Hemsky available the hole left on right side wouldn't be so large that it could not be filled.
But he's set to be a UFA couldn't we just sign him next season for nothing? Theoretically yes. But 1) There is no guarantee he'd even be available and 2) Justin Schultz aside, Edmonton isn't exactly a preferred destination for free agents and any sort of injury to Dubnyk would almost certainly result in another lottery season which would only serve to further hurt UFA recruitment. I'm a "bird in the hand" kind of guy, so while it's possible that the Oilers could have both Weber and the Fantastic Four next season I'd much rather have Weber on the Oilers today as opposed to waiting and hoping that they might be able to get him down the road for free.
So will it happen? Six questions ago I said Weber probably isn't even available so the smart money is on no. Add in a GM whose evaluation process makes evolution appear to happen in fast forward and no seems like a lock. But every time I think I know what Tamebllini is going to do (screw up the Ryan Smyth trade, trade Hemsky for magic beans, draft Ryan Murray, screw up the Smyth extension) he surprises me. So the best I can say is I hope it'll happen. After the last few seasons hope is about as good as it gets right now.