Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Preliminary Look at the 2010/11 Oilers Roster: An Overview and the Defence

One of the benefits to managing a rebuilding team is the lack of immediate expectations. If the team performs poorly, one can suggest that was the plan. If the team surprises and makes the playoffs, even better. Talk about a no-lose situation!

I've mentioned earlier that the Oilers should clear as much cap room as possible in any case. Tambellini has two potential avenues before him. One, he can plan for a longer term rebuild, which would involve positioning the team for another* top 3 pick in the 2011 draft. Two, he can attempt to "reload" and make the playoffs next season. Both plans would likely involve shedding a ton of payroll, if possible, this summer. I like the second alternative, because I think it's possible for the Oilers to make the playoffs, but also because once you've cleared as much salary as possible, if it looks like the UFA markets won't allow you to make the moves you need to be a playoff team, you can always just go with what you've got and say that you're rebuilding.

As for the defence specifically, I think one can make pretty good arguments for dealing any or all of Visnovsky, Souray, and Staios. All three are older, somewhat injury prone, and make a lot of money. Souray and Staios are, IMO, easier to replace than Visnovsky so if the team can start by moving them, that seems like a good idea.

Visnovsky is a valuable player to the Oilers, and on one hand shouldn't be moved if Edmonton is trying to compete over the next season or two. Then again, Visnovsky is somewhat of an injury concern, so keeping him isn't without risk. He has been very good over the last couple of seasons, but those seasons are in the past; I don't think it's unreasonable to ask what your expectations are for him over the next 3 years. I can see both sides when it comes to dealing Visnovsky; it's a move I wouldn't be making until I see what's happened with Souray and Staios barring a great offer at the deadline.

Grebeshkov's situation is vexing for the Oilers. The Oilers management may have to decide if Grebeshkov is a core player this summer, as he's only one year from being a UFA. If he is, and if the Oilers can get him signed to a longer term deal at terms they like, great. If they decide he isn't a guy they want long term, or he is but they can't sign him at terms then view as reasonable, a summer trade is probably the best solution**.In some ways he's a good illustration of why I think teams should generally shy away from drafting defencemen if a similar forward is available.

Gilbert and Smid both seem like players Edmonton should keep. Smid is well priced, and young enough to still be worth developing. Gilbert is signed to a longer term deal that will cover his prime as the now younger forwards mature.

I'm assuming Strudwick is a no-brainer to be let go as a UFA.

Moving 5 defencemen would be a lot, and I certainly don't expect all 5 to be moved. If Edmonton is able to replace Staios, Strudwick and Souray heading into next season, I think that would be a pretty reasonable turnover.

A depth chart of:

new defensive D
veteran D
veteran D

might not be too bad for a rebuilding Oilers club next season. Depending what sort of bargains are available, maybe you lock a guy like Seidenberg or Hamhuis up if the price is right, but if the public is fine with a rebuild you aren't under any pressure to sign a player for more money or term than you consider reasonable. I don't mind the idea of carrying 8 D and 13 F, if a team is planning to carry 23 players. That may be something the Oilers consider for next season, with Peckham as the 8th. He's waiver eligible next season, and over the past couple of years the Oilers haven't seemed interested in risking a guy like him to waivers.

* = assuming they get a top 3 pick in this year's 2010 draft

** = unless, for some reason, Grebeshkov's value is so low on the trade market this summer the team thinks it makes more sense to play his value up and move him at the deadline 2011 as a pending UFA.

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