Well, it's been a little over two weeks since K-Lowe put on his extra-fancy RFA-huntin' cap and bagged us a Dustin Penner, and aside from Monday's addition of a new assistant coach in Rob Daum, there hasn't been so much of a peep since then about the Oilers in terms of trades or signings that may yet be in the works.
With the UFA crop dwindling and GMs standing pat until training camp settles things down, the consensus is that the Oilers are done dealing. So with camp just a few weeks away, let's take some stock and see where we're at.
According to nhlnumbers.com, the Oilers have so far taken on $45,144,ooo in player salaries, spending to 89.7% of the cap. They have $5,156,ooo in cap space still available. Spending breaks down as such: Forwards, $24.862M; Defence, $15.515M; Goaltending, $4.767M.
Barring any training camp holdovers or unforseen moves, opening night lineup most likely looks something like this:
So? Like one of those magic eye paintings, if you stare at that list long enough, it actually starts to look like a legitimate NHL lineup. Our goaltending tandem is the strongest I've seen on the Oilers since... oh man, when was the last time we even had a good goaltending tandem? Joseph-Essensa in 97-98? Salo-Markkanen in 01-02? Anyhow, Roloson is still enough of a difference-maker to win more than half the games he plays, and Garon is an upgrade on backup in both the short- and long-term — and at a combined price tag of less than $5-million, they're a good value, too. I'm happy.
In terms of the defence, the additions of Souray, Pitkanen and Grebeshkov certainly make this one of the most purely talented blue line corps the Oilers have seen in a long while. But as many have pointed out, there is a marked lack of actual defensive prowess in the lineup, and we probably could have done with one less lefty puckmover — say, oh, Tarnstrom — as only Staios, Greene and Gilbert bring a right-handed shot, and Gilbert will unfortunately spend most of this season staring down the barrel of Grebeshkov's one-way contract and probably shouldn't be counted. Still, despite its clear tendency towards the offensive end of things, this is a defence that I'm actually comfortable rolling with. Maybe it's because it kind of looks like a lineup I'd put together in EA's NHL 2007. I pretty much win all the time at that game.
Ah, and we arrive at the forwards. The first thing that pops into my mind looking at this lineup is "Where are all the goals?" I see just two forwards here who even come close to 30+ goal potential (Penner, Torres), four who could reasonably be expected to score 20-25 (Hemsky, Horcoff, Stoll, Pisani), and three who will probably score in the neighbourhood of 15-20 (Moreau, Pouliot, Sanderson). Reasoner and Thoresen will likely come in under 10 apiece. Nilsson could end up playing anywhere from 2-line to 4 and is an unknown quantity at this point, but I have a bad feeling about the guy nonetheless. I wouldn't be surprised if his season mirrors Lupul's Oiler year, right down to the fewer than 30 points, minus-29 and a quietly disgraceful trade out of town.
Nilsson aside, I could trick myself into thinking this was actually a pretty good forward lineup. Offence is a glaring soft spot and we most certainly need a scoring RW and maybe even a LW with playmaking skills to boost Stoll's even-strength numbers. Penner's obviously a scorer but won't come close to replacing Smyth's offence, though his impressive size and strength will change the face of the first line, and I'm keen to see how Hemsky and Horcoff use the extra room. Going down the depth chart, there's a lot of speed, grit and defensive accountability — MacT types, as they say over at Lowetide — from the 2-line on. We may not score so much, but at least we look like a tough team to play against. A return to an 03-04 shutdown style of play would be more than welcome.
Anyhow, not much more to say. We've got a defence that's short on defence but long on offence, an offence that short on offence but long on defence, goaltending that looks about as strong as it's ever been and a power play that may turn out to be awesome enough to bail us out of this whole mess. Maybe not a playoff team, but not destined for the lottery either.
We'll be doing more in-depth analysis as we get closer to opening night, but I'm interested to hear what everyone thinks at this point. Looking good? Looking bad? Are there any FAs that could still help?