The Edmonton Oilers were extremely busy on the first day of free agency. Especially when compared to past years. The Oilers made trades, signings and were listed among several rumours throughout the day. When the sun set on the end of the first day of free agency there were still several holes in the organization, mainly the goaltending issue for the Oklahoma City Barons, but also the potential log jam at several positions in the Oilers lineup. If nothing else was apparent, it was that Oilers' GM Steve Tambellini is not done with moves yet, there is more to come.
The first signing of the day was former San Jose Sharks' left winger Ben Eager to a three year deal. This signing was seen as a toughness addition, and the first sign that winger and tough guy Steve MacIntyre has surely played his last game as an Oiler.
Next, Oilers signed recently bought out Minnesota Wild defenseman Cam Barker to a one year deal. This was announced at roughly the same time as the signing of another left winger in Darcy Hordichuk.
After a couple of signings, there was of course news of the Oilers trade with the Anaheim Ducks. The Oilers were able to trade Kurtis Foster, but before we get too excited the return was Andy Sutton.
The next news was Sheldon Souray signing with the Dallas Stars. The news that Souray had been bought out was extremely quiet. In fact, it never made the news, except to say that Souray had been placed on unconditional waivers for the purpose of buy out on Thursday. The news that Souray had signed with the Stars was the first reminder of the defenseman that many Oilers brass had tried to forget for so long.
Former Phoenix Coyotes centreman Éric Bélanger signed with the Oilers to a three year contract as the TSN panelists looked to be packing up to go home. Bélanger's signing will if nothing else, help to bring up the average age on the Oilers team next year.
Shortly after defenseman Corey Potter of the Pittsburgh Penguins signed with the Oilers, and Colin MacDonald signed with the Pittsbugh Penguins. Potter will likely spend most of his games in Oklahoma City with the Barons.
The Edmonton Oilers also signed defenseman Ladislav Smid to a two year contract in a signing that has divided many Oilers fans. Here is where I am torn. I want to know what people think about this deal, but I also want to hear what you think about the Oilers, or Steve Tambellini's performance during free agency frenzy. So, hopefully people can retain their anger or pleasure at the Smid signing for a poll next week.
In case you need a giggle, I hope you can find a little humour in part two of the Ryan vs Ryan saga that has transpired as part of the NHL awards show. This was not as good as part one, but was easily the best part of the event, well beside the image of Steve Tambellini appearing during the announcement of GM of the year. Good times!
Qualifying offers were extended to Taylor Chorney and Ryan O`Marra but not to Zack Sortini. So, Stortini has joined the ranks of NHL UFAs. Although he has not signed on the first day, or as I write this, Bruce McCurdy will be the first to tell you that he will sign with another team before the end of the summer and I agree with him.
The Edmonton Oil Kings via the CHL import draft have signed Oilers' prospect Martin Gernat. This is an interesting situation, and it leads many to believe that the Oilers are using the Oil Kings to help them develop their prospects and keep their prospects close, somewhere where they will be more easily observed. This idea of course makes sense and would be an excellent idea. Why not use all of the tools available right?
Former Oiler Todd Marchant has hung up his skates in his NHL career. After 1,195 NHL games, 186 goals and in 17 seasons, Marchant has joined the Ducks as their director of player development. Marchant played many games for the Oilers, just shy of the numbers played by Craig MacTavish and Wayne Gretzky. Most notably Marchant scored the overtime series winning goal of the 1996 playoffs against the Dallas Stars.
Former Edmonton Oiler Jim Vandermeer has signed with the San Jose Sharks after just one short year with the Oilers. Many fans will not be sad to see him leave, but Vandermeer was one of the tougher Oilers on the team, ranking sixth this year, with four fights during the regular season and one in the pre-season. There isn't room for everyone and it was clear that the Oilers would not be re-signing the veteran so it is good that he found another team early in the summer.
The Oilers have made available several videos and audio interviews with the new Oilers' signings.
As mentioned earlier, it is a certainty that the Oilers are not done making moves this summer. The longer the wait for the Oilers to make an OKC goaltender signing, the more many of us hope that that hole may be filled by Nikolai Khabibulin and another NHL goaltender signing or trade will be made for the Oilers. After the Souray situation, it is uncertain that the Oilers will be ready to hide another contract in the minors, but anything is possible.