Oilers Training Camp & FA Outlook

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Training Camp: Why are there so many UFAs not invited to any camp? What should the Oilers do to take advantage of these circumstances?

One look at the current UFA list tells me that salary cap circumstances have undoubtedly left some decent NHL’ers without a job.  One could assume that some of these players probably overvalued themselves early in the summer and took the gamble to see if they could get a longer term contract or more money.  What this proves is that the owners got what they wanted.  At this stage of the 2013-2014 year, this is a Buyer’s market, and the Oilers should be considering how to spend their remaining $2M in available cap room.

The Oilers should be inviting the following players to training camp to see if they outperform the current corps:

1.       David Steckel – Center, Age 31, last team ANA

He will never be better than a 4th line center, but while Nuge is out, the Oilers could move Gagner to 1st, Gordon to 2nd and split Lander and Steckel in the bottom 2.  Steckel is a decent defensive center, his only bad season from a +/- perspective was in 2011 with the horrid Leafs team.  Steckel is 6’6 and not a bad skater, his weight and size and ability to win faceoffs would be assets to this team and gives much needed depth in the center position. Probably would sign for the league minimum.

2.       Jeff Halpern – Center, Age 37, last team MTL

His age is his biggest restriction.  Again, he is known for his defensive hockey and faceoff wins.  His experience playing with elite players and understanding his duties as a 3rd/4th line center make him someone to consider having in the room.  He is an upgrade from Lander in every respect except age. Probably would sign for the league minimum.

3.       Jose Theodore – Goalie, Age 35, last team FLA

Jose has had many successes in the NHL, but in recent years, he has had little to boast about.  He has played a good game, but has not had a great team playing ahead of him consistently, though he has still put up a 0.917 GAA in his last full season.  He has won the Vezina and Hart trophy, gold medals and many other championships in the past 12 years.  He is a competitor and knows how to win games, he would regularly compete for a top goalie position on the Oilers team, something that cannot be said about Labarbera (who, to his credit, is a great back-up goalie but has never been tested as a number one and would therefore not be much of a threat to Dubnyk).

4.       Tim Thomas – Goalie, Age 40, last team BOS

People should not forget Dominik Hasek and his ability to come back to the NHL several times after taking time off.  Why should Timmy be cast out without giving a chance to prove himself at camp.  Tim Thomas brings everything you want to a team when it comes to compete level.  His drawback is his reputation to get a little cooky off-ice.  But who cares? A good quote on Timmy: “Tim wasn’t a bad person. I’m very clear on that,” said coach Claude Julien. “He’s a person that had his views, and was pretty strong in his own views at times. But never a bad person. We didn’t feel he was a distraction. He was just a guy that thought differently. I know a lot of times guys would say, ‘You know what? As long as he stops pucks, we’re OK with it.’ That was the consensus of our players in the dressing room.”

5.       Brad Boyes – RW, Age 31, last team NYI

If you look past some injury issues of his past, this is a head-scratcher.  Boyes is young, he has an offensive touch which he proved again last year with 35 pts in 48 games.  Can a lot of that be attributed to Tavares? Perhaps, but that does not rule out his playing abilities.  The Oilers probably do not have room for him given the RW role being clogged up by: Eberle, Yakupov, Hemsky, Jones, Brown and a few others.  I can understand why the Oilers would probably not reach out to him, but I threw his name in this list because I like him as a player and I feel he is deserving of a contract.

6.       Dan Cleary – LW, Age 34, last team DET

As clogged up as the Oilers RW position is, the LW is missing much needed depth.  Hall, Perron, Joensuu, Eager.  See the drop-off after Perron?  Cleary is competitive and gritty, his first stint with the Oilers did not go as hoped, however he went to Detroit and learned how to become an effective sand-paper player.  The Oilers are always talking about adding experience and sand-paper, it is hard to see them gamble on Joensuu and Eager without at least seeing a few more guys at camp who could come in and provide the shut-down they are looking for from their 3rd/4th lines. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Since re-signed with Detroit)

The Oilers have 8 “NHL caliber” defensemen under contract. While none may be able to be called a legitimate top pairing defenseman, the Oilers probably don’t have room to entertain any more 2nd/3rd pairing defensemen at camp.  These are some notable UFA’s at the moment though:

Ian White – D, Age 29, last team DET (Currently has a PTO with WPG)

Filip Kuba – D, Age 34, last team FLA

Ron Hainsey – D, Age 32, last team WPG

As I finish writing this post, I have received news that Thomas and Boyes have been invited to Florida for camp.  Will the Oilers put in a call to Steckel, Halpern or Theodore?

With Nuge temporarily out, the Oilers line up looks like this:

Perron Hall Eberle

Joensuu Gagner Yakupov

Eager Gordon Hemsky

Smyth Lander Jones/Brown

Schultz Ference

Smid Petry

N. Schultz Grebeshkov

Potter Klefbom

Larsen Belov

Dubnyk

Labarbera

Guest Article Written by Nitin Bhatia

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