Hemmer's Triggerman

The difference between this offseason and last has been somewhat Jekyll and Hyde. The 06-07 season could be called nothing less than disastrous, with the team failing to make the playoffs after being in the Stanley Cup on top of trading away the face of the team, Ryan Smyth. This lead into an offseason in which Kevin Lowe claimed to be bring in “six to eight new faces”, a large amount by any means. So insert UFA signings like Mathieu Garon and Sheldon Souray, much talked about RFA signing Dustin Penner, as well as one of the largest youth movements in recent memory. So abracadabra and we are back in the Stanley Cup finals right? Wrong.

The team struggled to find chemistry, and this was most evident on a horrendous power play that lacked imagination. This put the team in the basement of the west for much of the 2007 calendar year and made the playoffs yet another distant dream. But as the New Year rolled forward so did the team. The youth movement started looking good and players like Andrew Cogliano, Sam Gagner, Robert Nilsson, and Denis Grebeshkov started showing why they were put on this team. The team finished strong only to be eliminated from the playoffs in the final days.

Which brings us to ‘Offseason 2008’. Kevin Lowe has gone from man possessed to man relaxed. He has pieces to deal and holes to fill, but nothing major. From all accounts in his quotes and actions he is in no rush to make a trade, at least not in the same fashion as last year. During the draft weekend it was expected something would be done, but the prices were high and Lowe wasn’t buying. The holes this team has are a bit of a grey area as guys like Curtis Glencross, Jarret Stoll are free agents. The one constant is a top line forward that can play with Hemsky. More specifically this team needs a left wing shooter who will finish the passes he receives from Hemmer. This leads us to a list of three candidates I have compiled from around the league. Things I want out of this spot include someone who likes to shoot (and finishes!), has veteran experience to improve on the youngest team in the NHL, and obviously someone who is not only available but affordable. So let’s get into it.

Jason Blake - $4 mill cap hit for four more seasons

Thoughts: It is pretty obvious that Blake is available and I’d assume for not a lot. He was second in the league in shots for LW to Ovechkin, so he’s a shooter for sure. Had a tough year for goals with only 15 but put up 57 points. His shooting % was a awful 4.5 and his career average is not much better at 8. From the stats he looks to be a 25 goal scorer who had one unbelievable 40 goal year with an unsustainable 13% shooting. So maybe he doesn’t offer the finish you’d like, especially for 4 mill but he gets a lot of shots on net and who knows what can happen with a new team. He has been very healthy in his career playing at least 75 games every year and was able to play every game this season even after being diagnosed with cancer.

Eric Cole - $4 mill cap hit for next year then UFA

Thoughts: Cole’s name has come up on numerous occasions and there is a reason for it. He’s the type of player we’re looking for and he fits. He was in the top 20 for LW shooters and scored 22 goals in a sub par year for him. He is a 30 goal scorer with some speed and size which are two qualities that Blake doesn’t offer. He is the youngest of the three that will be listed at 29 but still offers some veteran leadership including a cup win (though only playing two games). He is likely to cost the most in terms of assets but would fit in well on a line with Horcoff and Hemsky. One major issue with Cole is health as he has yet to play a full season.

Marcus NaslundUFA

Thoughts: Naslund is an interesting idea. He is a long time Canuck coming off of a subpar year in which is relationship with the team became clearly strained. There are many things to like about Naslund; he is a veteran leader, was tenth in shooting for LW last year, has been a 40 goal scorer three times, has decent speed, and has been healthy throughout his career. The question marks surrounding him would be obviously his age as he will be 35 this year, as well as his willingness to play in the NHL and for the Oilers. Speculation is that he may want to return to Sweden instead of staying in North America. Finally we would have to know what kind of compensation Naslund is looking for. Coming off of a couple of seasons where he did not meet his career numbers Naslund could be had for an affordable price, assuming he is able to return to old form.

Nevertheless there are some interesting pieces to be had for the Oilers most pressing need. The question remains at what price and is Lowe willing to pay it. It will be interesting to see.


Sean said...

Of the 3 I like the Naslund option. Mostly because he only costs money.

Backhand said...

I have to agree with you. Not only because it doesn't cost assets, but because he does so much more than the other two, just for a shorter term.

His leadership here would go a long long ways.

Rory said...

Naslund would have been a nice addition, but Cole is a great silver medal, a little tougher than Naslund but with Stoll, Torres and Glencross now gone the Oil need some grit, badly. Opposing toughguys will be taking a lot of liberties with our younger players.