The last few years Oilers fans have had some experience with the 50-contract limit. According to the CBA, any team in the NHL may have no more than fifty players signed to an NHL contract at any one time. This has been a problem for Kevin Lowe-run teams, which frequently flitted about at 48 or 49 players under contract.
The second line in the sand is the 23-man limit. An NHL team can't have more than 23 players on it's roster at any one time.
Both of these lines have caused some confusion this summer. Steve Tambellini has made comments about how bodies must go out if bodies are coming in. Many fans have agreed, citing one of the above two reasons. I really don't think that's a reasonable point of view to hold.
The 50-Man Limit
According to CapGeek.com (an increasingly indispensable resource for people like me) the Oilers have a combined total of 47 players either under contract or as RFA's whose rights are held by the Oilers. That list includes Josef Hrabal, who according to Guy Flaming has been bought out. It also includes Toni Rajala and Jordan Eberle - players who will not be counted against the 50-man limit if they are returned to junior.
In other words, come this winter the Oilers are probably looking at having 44 NHL contracts - including recently signed AHL'ers like Dean Arsene and Matt Nickerson. This limit clearly poses no problems - and if it did, these were problems created this summer.
The 23-Man Limit
This is a more plausible problem, although the Oilers have already sent away players (Ales Kotalik, Kyle Brodziak) without bringing in replacements. Let's look at the presumptive roster.
- Forwards (14): Gilbert Brule, Andrew Cogliano, Sam Gagner, Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff, Jean-Francois Jacques, Steve MacIntyre, Ethan Moreau, Robert Nilsson, Patrick O'Sullivan, Dustin Penner, Fernando Pisani, Marc Pouliot, Zack Stortini
- Defensemen (7): Tom Gilbert, Denis Grebeshkov, Ladislav Smid, Sheldon Souray, Steve Staios, Jason Strudwick, Lubomir Visnovsky
- Goaltenders (2): Nikolai Khabibulin, Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers
Also needing to clear waivers is Rob Schremp. It's probably worth noting that Quinn is against fighters with no other discernible talents.
Where I'm going with this is probably obvious. The only way that the Oilers can claim they have too many bodies to add a free agent or two is by arguing that Gilbert Brule, J-F Jacques, Steve MacIntyre, Robert Nilsson and Marc Pouliot are the stumbling blocks. In other words: there isn't any reason (other than salary concerns) for the Oilers to pass on a free agent unless he's an inferior player to every one of the four guys listed above.
It also seems clear to me that at least one spot (MacIntyre) and more probably two (Nilsson) are easy to open if the right player came along - say a third line forward like Manny Malhotra or Radek Bonk - or even a better than average fourth liner/penalty-killer like Andy Hilbert.