Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Spacek-ed Out

Jaroslav Spacek isn't going to be an Oiler. The story doesn't say where he's going, but unless it's Calgary, it's pretty much irrelevant for my purposes. Actually, even then, it's irrelevant, that would just be kind of aggravating (the Flames signed Jeff Friesen, by the way, because evidently you can't have too many underachieving forwards).

So, yeah, that leaves the UFA defenceman pool horrificy thin. The available desirables, barely edited for quality, are Brian Leetch, Glen Wesley, Radoslav Suchy, Tricky Dick Tarnstrom, Igor "I heart" Ulanov (mostly on here for the Prez, and because he used to play for us), Nathan Dempsey, Daniel Tjarnqvist, Danny Markov and Eric Desjardins. Exactly none of those are what I would call ideal, though at this point I'd be willing to give Markov $2.5-$3mil for a few years, assuming both that we need him and that not playing with Chris Pronger could remind us how much Jason Smith's wheels have kind of fallen off, meaning a multi-year deal wouldn't hurt us much.

The other thing I find fairly intriguing is Leetch, who was Boston's third-ish defenceman (23:30 per game), and still a capable powerplay quarterback at this point (32pts, 17 on the PP). Whether he'd want to come finish his career in Edmonton is beyond me (reasonable guess: no), but maybe if we overpay a touch for one year, he'd be willing? Signing him for anything more than two years at about $2mil would be folly, but if he's affordable, a 24-minute, 30-point defenceman looks very, very appealing at this point.

Going away from UFAs, but keeping realistic, New Jersey's Paul Martin looks like a very good option. He's an RFA who only made $500k last year, but his performance is basically identical to Leetch's (37pts, 23:30 per game), meaning he's probably looking to triple that. Fortunately for us, as Grabia points out, the Devils have no cap space whatsoever, and even $1.5-$2mil a year would probably mean they let him walk (or are fiscally unable to keep him), and would only cost us a first- and second- or third-round draft choice. If that's too steep (a little), or we don't want to be underhanded, we could probably flip New Jersey a minimum-wage young defenceman (or a fourth-round pick) for his rights and sign him 3-4 years at $2mil a year (and tell him he'll be a number-two defenceman), meaning we wouldn't lose him as a UFA in a year's time (although, hell, even if we did, for a fourth-round pick, who cares?).
You always hear New Jersey mentioned in trade talks with the Oil (a lot of stuff last year about Kozlov, among others), which assumes Lowe and Lamoriello at least have an open dialogue, which one assumes helps grease the wheels of salary dumps like this would be, but the fact they've never actually pulled a deal makes me slightly suspicious. Still, though, I consider this an entirely reasonable scenario. If, then, we take a flyer on Markov, and if we re-sign Tarnstrom as well (EDITED: I forgot about Smid, so maybe we don't even need to re-sign Tarnstrom if this doesn't work out, though if he's cheap, it couldn't hurt), as Tychkowski implies we're looking to do, our defence is:

Markov-Smith
Martin-Staios
Bergeron-Tarnstrom
Greene, Smid

Servicable, maybe too defensive-heavy on top and defensively-lax on bottom, but comparable to Carolina or Buffalo, whose 05/06 defence strategy is pretty much a best-case scenario for us right now. Markov, Smith and Staios are your go-to guys for shutting people down, Martin, Bergeron and Tarnstrom provide capable if unspectacular powerplay point-working (Matt Greene subs in as needed to make the corps a little more snarly).

There are, of course, plenty of other scenarios, even with New Jersey (Brian Rafalski makes $4.2mil, though I see the Devils dumping second-tier guys before first-tier), but in this one we keep our forwards more or less intact (hopefully, as I said before, we add another through signing; oh, on that note, Spector says Samsonov is close to signing with someone else, but there's still a few other good options, like Sykora) and still have some wiggle room to pick up a big-name free agent next year, or trade for a need throughout the season. This still, I suppose, is Cosh's dreaded not-$40mil team, but I don't understand why it matters how much we're spending if we're competitive. None of the UFAs are worth big money, and trading for big salaries might only weaken us further, so if we can build a playoff-capable team for $34-$35mil, I don't see reason for complaint. Is this team playoff-capable? About as close as we can get it without massive revamping.

20 comments:

Matt Barr said...

Buffalo.

Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

So add Buffalo to the list of teams which will likely need to move someone.

Too many RFAs - not enough money to pay them all- I think they now have 5 guys signed total.

Dan-O-Mite said...

Was Leetch actually ever good? He's just been on bad teams and old for so long I can't remember anymore.

Pleasure Motors said...

Yeah, but Buffalo doesn't really have what we need. Kalinin scored 34 points two seasons ago, but he was injured last year, and that year could have been an anamoly. Tallinder is less offensively inclined. There's Campbell, who would be a pretty good fit, though his -14 scares me a lot, and I also don't see why Buffalo would sign a player 4 years older for probably $2mil more than they could have got Campbell for when they could have just signed Campbell, so I doubt they'll let him go. Besides, their forwards are deeper than their defence, so I'd assume if they're going to get rid of anything, it's one of them.

As for Leetch, so long as he doesn't get injured, he's been good for 50+ points for pretty much every season of his career (he did only play 61 games last year, which I totally didn't realize until now)--actually, he's never scored at a rate less than one point every two games, which is a fairly impressive feat for a defenceman. He was probably one of the best six defencemen in the league in the 90s. Given his age and injury, it would probably be a bit of a stretch to expect more than 40-ish points from him even on a good team, but he looks perfectly capable of being on the top half of any team in the league, and would probably be a legitimate if indicative number one here.

Steve said...

Didn't the Oilers technically have Leetch's rights once right before he became a UFA, or something? Or was that only Mike Richter? Or am I completely on crack?

Steve said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Doogie2K said...

I thought we had Leetch for an hour or something during the deadline, when he went to Toronto.

RiversQ said...

Man, Leetch posted a pedestrian (trying to be kind here) 3.0 PPP/hr in 335 minutes of PP time last year. Boston did have the 27th ranked PP by PP GD/hr so perhaps Leetch was being dragged down. However, the guy is 38yrs old so he's not getting any better and the fact that he has played his entire career in the EC isn't going to help the Oilers' chances.

Tarnstrom's a way better choice at this point in their respective careers. Assuming he isn't already pulling a rodentian cannonball off the poop deck of the S.S. Oil.

RiversQ said...

Man, Leetch posted a pedestrian (trying to be kind here) 3.0 PPP/hr in 335 minutes of PP time last year. Boston did have the 27th ranked PP by PP GD/hr so perhaps Leetch was being dragged down. However, the guy is 38yrs old so he's not getting any better and the fact that he has played his entire career in the EC isn't going to help the Oilers' chances.

Tarnstrom's a way better choice at this point in their respective careers. Assuming he isn't already pulling a rodentian cannonball off the poop deck of the S.S. Oil.

Anonymous said...

Dan-O-Mite said...
Was Leetch actually ever good? He's just been on bad teams and old for so long I can't remember anymore.


I don't know, I remember him being pretty damned good that year you traded him to me in our Yahoo hockey pool for Pierre Turgeon. What was that, 2003?

But yes. Tarnstrom is, nonetheless, definitely preferable to Leetch for the Oilers at this junction. He's just too old.

Garnet said...

Spacek's departure makes me flinch for two reasons. First, he picked the one destination whose reputation is even less glamorous than E-town's. (Okay, there's Columbus too.) Second, I'm guessing he went there -- assuming we were willing to pay the same $10m/3 years Buffalo gave -- because he likes their team and thinks they can win it all. He looks at our club post-Pronger and can't say that about the Oil. So the one guy who left for reasons nothing to do with the team cost us a guy who was probably looking only at the team. As they used to say in Ball Four, aw shitfuck.

Dan-O-Mite said...

I don't know, I remember him being pretty damned good that year you traded him to me in our Yahoo hockey pool for Pierre Turgeon. What was that, 2003?

Ah, yes, now I remember why I don't like him, the regrettable hockey pool trade. Same reason I hate St. Louis.

Anonymous said...

off to buffalo

http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/news_story/?ID=170576&hubname=nhl

Chris said...

Sounds like he figured for the same money he might as well get another shot or two at the cup. Given that Pronger is gone its probably not a bad bet to say buffalo has superior chances at the trophy than we do.

Scott Hennig said...

Didn't the Oilers technically have Leetch's rights once right before he became a UFA, or something? Or was that only Mike Richter? Or am I completely on crack?

If my memory serves, yes we did have Leech. It was a sweetheart deal between K-Lowe and Sather.

Something along the lines of: if Toronto signed him as a UFA from the Rangers, the Rangers got nothing in return. Yet if the Oilers held his rights, Toronto would have to give us a draft pick as "compensation."

So Sather did us a favour and screwed Toronto in the process.

Dennis said...

Jaro left because of his outlook on the team's chances. and that's even worse than leaving because you don't like edm.

One thing has to do with something Lowe can't change and the other has to do with something he can

Coluch said...

A team makes it to game 7 of the Cup final, and their chances don't look so good? Will the underdog Oil EVER regain a solid reputation? Anyway, if that's true, it makes me wonder what went on behind the scenes this past year to make someone that actually played for the team feel so strongly that their chances are low...

Anonymous said...

One question I have - or one issue that I haven't seen discussed (or have glossed over) is whether signing an RFA would really mess Lowe up league-wide. Realistically, this is a team that is going to have to leverage some younger players and some picks to pick up some salaray cap casualties - but if Lowe were to try to pick of Madden (or someone like that) and then New Jersey were able to match (some how) wouldn't that make it less likely that New Jersey would be a trading partner in the future (I guess this would stand even if NJ were unable to match). Anyway, the point I'm making, is that while there is a high cost in terms of picks to sign an RFA - wouldn't there also be an extensive political cost, one that the Oilers might not be able to bear? (And thus all of this talk about RFA's, while interesting and certainly fostering a sense of hope in what has been a depressing off-season really is unlikely to come together to be anything at all?)

Anonymous said...

Wesley re-upped with Carolina.

Dano said...

I read somewhere that Spacek wasn't adverse to re-upping here. The deciding factor wasn't salary but rather was travel. I think people underestimate incredible travel teams like the Oilers face. Guys accustomed to Eastern Conference travel have to make a big adjustment (something Peca mentioned).