UFA Options: Nashville Predators

Jonathan Willis
June 15 2009 11:45AM

Steve Sullivan

UFA Options is a continuing series that gives a brief run-down of the unrestricted free agent market this summer, team-by-team. Our next team for consideration is the Nashville Predators.

David Poile’s situation is similar to Bob Gainey’s in that he has a lot of NHL players eligible for free agency this summer. His situation is dissimilar in that, by and large, they’re depth rather than star players.

That said, with eight regulars entering unrestricted free agency, the Predators could look very different next season.

Steve Sullivan

After missing a good portion of 2006-07 and all of 2007-08, diminutive forward Steve Sullivan attempted a comeback last season. It was largely successful; he recorded 11 goals and 32 points in 41 games.

Sullivan was primarily used in a relatively sheltered offensive role; he did see second-level opposition but he got a lot of starts in the offensive zone. I imagine that he’ll return to Nashville but according to reports that’s by no means certain, and he could bring some offensive depth and versatility to any team that doesn’t mind his size.

Radek Bonk

Radek Bonk brings everything any team could want from its third-line centre except for a hitting game. He’s got good size (6’3”, 210lbs), is very smart positionally and a good skater, and he has a bit of a scoring touch (although this year he was killed by the percentages offensively).

He’s one of the better faceoff men in the NHL (59.9% on faceoffs last season) and he’s used to starting a ton of draws in his own end and playing against top opponents.

Vernon Fiddler

The rather unknown Fiddler is a similar player to Bonk, although he plays with more of an edge and probably isn’t quite as polished or talented as Bonk. Like the former, he’s an excellent faceoff man (54.1% last season) and a defensive stalwart. He could play on the third line, but he’s an even better fit for a 4th line role. He isn’t expensive and can easily slide on to the 3rd line if injuries strike.

Scott Nichol

I never would have bet on Scott Nichol to last in the NHL as long as he has; not only is he tiny by the standards of pro hockey (5’8”, 170lbs) but he plays an aggressive style that leaves him prone to injuries. He’s a good faceoff man (54.6% last season) and relishes the fourth line energy role. A very fun player to watch.

Joel Ward

I have to confess that I haven’t seen much of Joel Ward. He played four years of OHL hockey before going to school at the University of Prince Edward Island, and after four years there he entered the Minnesota Wild farm system as a shutdown guy. He was an offensive revelation this season in the NHL; after never topping 45 points in three AHL seasons he scored 35 as an NHL rookie.

He’s 28 years old, stands 6’2” and weighs 205lbs and quietly played tough opposition all season long. It’s difficult to say at this point if he was a complimentary player or not (for those of you who have seen him more than me, please chime in below) but his defensive numbers are exceptional, and I have to admit that I’m intrigued.

Greg DeVries

Greg De Vries, who used to be a half decent defenseman, had a very poor season this last year. He played low-level opposition, didn’t get tossed out for a brutal number of defensive draws, and he’s never really played a physical game. He scored 35 points in 2005-06; he recorded just five this season. At 36, it isn’t hard to picture him out of the league in short order if he can’t rebound.

Greg Zanon

Smallish defenseman Greg Zanon is solidly built and plays a physical game. He led all Nashville defensemen in blocked shots by more than a 2:1 margin (recording 237) and that alone helps offset the fact that there are generally more shots toward his own net than there are going the other way.

Zanon’s reliable in his own end, and probably not going to get a big raise on July 1st. For any team looking to add some defensive presence and a guy who leads by example, Zanon should be a very appealing target.

Ville Koistinen

Koistinen’s an offensive defenseman and something of a powerplay specialist, but the jury is still out on whether he can produce enough offense to compensate for his defensive shortcomings. He had a nice year in a sheltered role, but his numbers were pumped up by both a great on-ice shooting percentage (10.1%) and on-ice save percentage (.933).

He’s a gamble for anyone interested, and I don’t think he’s shown enough offensively to really be worth pursuing.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 BigE57
June 15 2009, 11:58AM
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A guy that can win a faceoff, particularly in your own end, like Bonk might be a good fit on the Oilers third line if he came cheap enough. Assuming the Oilers could unload some of their many other 3rd liners.

And Fiddler actually reminds me a lot of Curtis Glencross, fourth liner who brings a ton of energy and a bit of a touch.

Unfortunatley the Oilers or their fans can't get excited about any of these guys until we someone to move into a first line roll.

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#2 BigE57
June 15 2009, 11:59AM
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BigE57 wrote:

Unfortunatley the Oilers or their fans can’t get excited about any of these guys until we someone to move into a first line roll.

Yikes, that should be role, not to be confused with Dustin Penners mid-section.

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#3 Jonathan Willis
June 15 2009, 12:00PM
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@ BigE57:

For me, a team can have holes on the firstl ine without getting bent out of shape; these guys aren't easy to get, after all.

But there's absolutely no excuse not to have a capable bottom six, other than massive injury problems. There are enough decent, cheap guys out there to fill holes, so there's no reason to run Brodziak/Pouliot down the middle when the GM knows his coach won't play them, and will instead do something crazy (like move Pisani to centre).

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#4 esa tikkanen
June 15 2009, 12:14PM
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i would like both Bonk and Zanon. If Zanon does not get a raise this year he is much better value than Staios

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#5 toprightcorner
June 15 2009, 12:20PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ BigE57: But there’s absolutely no excuse not to have a capable bottom six, other than massive injury problems. There are enough decent, cheap guys out there to fill holes, so there’s no reason to run Brodziak/Pouliot down the middle when the GM knows his coach won’t play them, and will instead do something crazy (like move Pisani to centre).

I couldn't agree with you more. if Maholtra is not available, I would take bonk in a heartbeat. Does he get mych PK time?

Tambo needs to seriously consider anyone who has a 53% or higher FOP and is decent on the PK. After that, he needs to put them in order of preference and start at the top of the list and start makeing offers.

I would be much more upset if he doesn't get that type of player than if he didn't get a 1st line shooter.

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#6 Colin
June 15 2009, 12:58PM
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Zanon would fill out the bottom pair nicely(assuming we're trading a top 4 and Smid moves up to fil a top 4 roll) and make a nice duo with Peckham(he looked good in his stint, he must be close to NHL ready) IMO.

Bonk would be a great addition if the price is right and I'm intrigued by Ward-hadn't heard of him, but it might be worth a gamble to see if he's got more game to show.

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#7 oilerdago
June 15 2009, 01:01PM
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JW: Living in Nashville I get to as many games here as possible. Overall I agree with your assessment of Nashville's UFA's but would add a couple of things:

- Sullivan: Is more than spare parts, but not of interest to Edmonton (too many small guys already). He started to get his scoring touch back though as the season went on and he'll help someone next year.

- Bonk: Great in the face off dot, but a terrible +/- the last two years (-31 and -12). Some of this could be his linemates and the fact that frequently he his matched against better offensive players, but I think he'd be a bad move (get skinned alive by Oiler fandom). He's not the strongest (I like Malhotra better).

- Joel Ward: I liked a lot of what I saw with him - very aggressive on the forecheck and would expect he's a high priority re-sign (along w/Sullivan). Would love to steal him though - great energy player.

- Fiddler: Another good 3rd line option who can give you some offensive and a better contract then a Moreau.

- Zanon: Solid defensive defenseman. Would be great ina bottom pairing.

For what it's worth.

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#8 Steve
June 15 2009, 01:02PM
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I like Joel Ward... he's another one of those passionate players in this league, an i would love to see a hard worker like him on our third line rather than a guy like radek bonk.

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#9 Jonathan Willis
June 15 2009, 01:15PM
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@ oilerdago: @ Steve:

Thanks for the insight on Ward. I've seen him play, but my memory's pretty hazy (it seems like evry Nashville player is a high-energy forchecker) so he didn't stand out.

I take it he played with Legwand for most of the year?

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#10 I'm a Scientist!
June 15 2009, 01:24PM
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I would like Bonk...for the soul purpose of calling him "Ba-donk-a-Bonk" all year long. He may also do a decent job of replacing Cogs on the third line if he is unfortunately traded for Heatley.

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#11 BigE57
June 15 2009, 02:10PM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

Jonathan Willis wrote:

For me, a team can have holes on the firstl ine without getting bent out of shape; these guys aren’t easy to get, after all. But there’s absolutely no excuse not to have a capable bottom six, other than massive injury problems. There are enough decent, cheap guys out there to fill holes, so there’s no reason to run Brodziak/Pouliot down the middle when the GM knows his coach won’t play them, and will instead do something crazy (like move Pisani to centre).

You are right and more often than not many teams juggle their first lines somewhat, usually there is a capable tandem and the third member is just someone who mixes well or fills a role on the line.

Personally, anyone who can competently replace the Brodziak, Pouliot combination would be a huge improvement, I just have a hard time getting excited about these role players when the Oilers desperately need a goal scorer. That being said seeing the Oilers pk and faceoff percentages improve is going to go along way toward improving bottom line results.

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#12 I'm a Scientist!
June 15 2009, 02:50PM
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I'm a Scientist! wrote:

I would like Bonk…for the soul purpose of calling him “Ba-donk-a-Bonk” all year long. He may also do a decent job of replacing Cogs on the third line if he is unfortunately traded for Heatley.

Whoops... jumped the gun. According to the story on the Sportsnet site, Heatly doesn't want to come to Edmonton. Suprise suprise. I guess we get to keep Cogs, which is good!

Sigh, oh to be living in California and have any player in the league to choose from, cheap beer, cheap tickets, cheap parking, cheap housing, cheap floozies... What the hell am i doing here? That's it! I waive my no trade clause...

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#13 Ogden Brother
June 15 2009, 02:55PM
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BigE57 wrote:

@ Jonathan Willis: Jonathan Willis wrote: For me, a team can have holes on the firstl ine without getting bent out of shape; these guys aren’t easy to get, after all. But there’s absolutely no excuse not to have a capable bottom six, other than massive injury problems. There are enough decent, cheap guys out there to fill holes, so there’s no reason to run Brodziak/Pouliot down the middle when the GM knows his coach won’t play them, and will instead do something crazy (like move Pisani to centre). You are right and more often than not many teams juggle their first lines somewhat, usually there is a capable tandem and the third member is just someone who mixes well or fills a role on the line. Personally, anyone who can competently replace the Brodziak, Pouliot combination would be a huge improvement, I just have a hard time getting excited about these role players when the Oilers desperately need a goal scorer. That being said seeing the Oilers pk and faceoff percentages improve is going to go along way toward improving bottom line results.

You know the teams scoring totals have actually been average or better, it's the GA that needs the work.

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#14 Antony Ta
June 15 2009, 03:07PM
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I would love Fiddler, who's from Edmonton.

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#15 Jonathan Willis
June 15 2009, 03:19PM
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I'm a Scientist! wrote:

Whoops… jumped the gun. According to the story on the Sportsnet site, Heatly doesn’t want to come to Edmonton. Suprise suprise. I guess we get to keep Cogs, which is good!

Sportsnet just took a paragraph out of Bruce Garrioch;s latest article. The long version of why that's just guesswork and means nothing is here, but the short version goes something like: "Garrioch guessing = not worth worrying about".

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#16 Mike Krushelnyski
June 15 2009, 03:49PM
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@ I'm a Scientist!:

The article basically says "the Oilers put together a package for Heatley, but Heatley can squash the deal if he doesn't want to go." So Garrioch has done some sleuthing and discovered that Heatley does indeed have a NTC. Well done, The Sun, keep churning out that top-notch journalism.

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#17 I'm a Scientist!
June 15 2009, 03:51PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: *watches as lightning hits the exact same spot twice*

Speculation in hockey rumors? Weird.

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#18 I'm a Scientist!
June 15 2009, 03:55PM
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@ Mike Krushelnyski: B...b....b...but, if it is in the Sun, it HAS to be true, right?

*tremble as he prepares for the earth shattering truth*

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#19 Word
June 15 2009, 04:02PM
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Radek Bonk's draft year mullet is the stuff of legends. It almost rivals Jags' mullet... mostly because it was so heavily jelled that it could double as armour and protect him from Vampire sneak attacks.

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#20 Jonathan Willis
June 15 2009, 04:11PM
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@ Word:

And the best part about the mullet is that it protects against attacks from behind. According to expert Dwight K. Schrute, 7 out of 10 attacks occur from the rear.

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#21 scorecoff hemmercules
June 15 2009, 04:11PM
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Whats drawing star players to Edmonton these days?? Nothing, thats what. What gives anyone the idea that Heatly would want to play here anyway?? All this talk about packages we can put together for him and everyone seems to forget that he won't want to play here anyway, and he can shoot down any trade possibilty Murray puts together. I would venture to say we are closer to the bottom of his list of destinations than the top. He's going to Cali or a contender, bet on it.

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#22 scorecoff hemmercules
June 15 2009, 04:13PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Word: And the best part about the mullet is that it protects against attacks from behind. According to expert Dwight K. Schrute, 7 out of 10 attacks occur from the rear.

That comment is pure awesomeness!

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#23 OvenChicken8
June 15 2009, 04:16PM
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@ scorecoff hemmercules: ~It's that kind of negativity that drives players away from here~

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#24 The Menace
June 15 2009, 04:30PM
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scorecoff hemmercules wrote:

Whats drawing star players to Edmonton these days?? Nothing, thats what. What gives anyone the idea that Heatly would want to play here anyway?? All this talk about packages we can put together for him and everyone seems to forget that he won’t want to play here anyway, and he can shoot down any trade possibilty Murray puts together. I would venture to say we are closer to the bottom of his list of destinations than the top. He’s going to Cali or a contender, bet on it.

Sometimes I feel like it might have been premature to order my Heatley Oilers jersey.

*puts jersey in pile with Nylander, Hossa and Jagr jerseys

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#25 GSC
June 15 2009, 04:52PM
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Vernon Fiddler should be a priority for the Oilers to sign. This team desperately needs a bottom six centre who can win draws and plays with the edge. Vern fits both of those needs, and is an Edmonton native to boot.

Joel Ward and Greg Zanon would also be beauty additions, especially the latter as a shut-down defenceman.

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#26 toprightcorner
June 15 2009, 04:54PM
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Word wrote:

Radek Bonk’s draft year mullet is the stuff of legends. It almost rivals Jags’ mullet… mostly because it was so heavily jelled that it could double as armour and protect him from Vampire sneak attacks.

If we get Hartnel, Bonk and Jagr, we could have the best hair in history!!! Smyth can still stay on Col.

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#27 toprightcorner
June 15 2009, 05:00PM
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@ scorecoff hemmercules:

You say we can't lure guys (FA's specifically), I also think Mac T and his defensive style could have had a bit to do with it. Quinn is a guy that many players would like to play for so that could be a plus.

Is there any way that Katz can buy a FA a house and a couple cars and not have them count towards the cap? IF perks like these can be added without a cap hit, that may help since Katz definitly has the money.

Just a thought.

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#28 smytty777
June 15 2009, 05:12PM
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toprightcorner wrote:

Is there any way that Katz can buy a FA a house and a couple cars and not have them count towards the cap?

This is not allowed under the CBA.

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#29 Ogden Brother
June 15 2009, 05:53PM
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toprightcorner wrote:

@ scorecoff hemmercules: You say we can’t lure guys (FA’s specifically), I also think Mac T and his defensive style could have had a bit to do with it. Quinn is a guy that many players would like to play for so that could be a plus. Is there any way that Katz can buy a FA a house and a couple cars and not have them count towards the cap? IF perks like these can be added without a cap hit, that may help since Katz definitly has the money. Just a thought.

What players have we heard of picking a team for it's coach?

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#30 misfit
June 15 2009, 05:57PM
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Trading Staios and signing Zanon would be a good way to get basically the same result on the ice with less of a cap hit, while getting a little younger in the process, but it's just not a move I see Tambellini, or any other GM, making.

That said, I could see a situation where one of our top 4 D are moved in a deal for a forward, Staios or Smid is moved up the depth chart to replace him, and a guy like Zanon is signed to fill out the defense.

Bonk is up there on my list of players I'd like to see brought in to adress our center depth. A defensive LH centerman who can win more faceoffs than he loses and kill penalties is a big need. Probably the biggest after we figure out who's going to stop pucks for us.

Steve Sullivan would be redundant on our team in that he's a similar type of player as many of the guys in the system, but he's also an upgrade over pretty much all of them. Still, it's probably a good idea to pass since he's sure to command a bigger salary than the guys he'd likely replace.

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#31 misfit
June 15 2009, 06:01PM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

What players have we heard of picking a team for it’s coach?

I can't think of many off the top of my head, but I know Mike Peca said it was a big factor in deciding to sign with Columbus. That said, I find it hard to believe the idea of having MacT as a coach was scaring off too many players. I mean, he's no more defensive than Hitchcock, and he's the only example of a player chosing a team because of it's coach I can think of.

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#32 RossCreek
June 15 2009, 07:10PM
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Getting mixed messages on the Ballsillie/Hamilton bid, but TSN is reporting the Judge has rejected the bid.

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#33 Antony Ta
June 15 2009, 07:40PM
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A checking line of Fiddler-Betts-Pisani would be the all-Edmonton line... and they could all take faceoffs should one of them get waved out of the circle!

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#34 Ogden Brother
June 15 2009, 08:25PM
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misfit wrote:

Ogden Brother wrote: What players have we heard of picking a team for it’s coach? I can’t think of many off the top of my head, but I know Mike Peca said it was a big factor in deciding to sign with Columbus. That said, I find it hard to believe the idea of having MacT as a coach was scaring off too many players. I mean, he’s no more defensive than Hitchcock, and he’s the only example of a player chosing a team because of it’s coach I can think of.

Ya I'm sure it plays a role in the players decision, some guys far more then others. It seems like that's the new pipe dream Oiler nation is clinging onto though.

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#35 Archaeologuy
June 15 2009, 09:42PM
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I'm a Scientist! wrote:

Sigh, oh to be living in California and have any player in the league to choose from, cheap beer, cheap tickets, cheap parking, cheap housing, cheap floozies… What the hell am i doing here? That’s it! I waive my no trade clause…

Dont forget a wicked great selection of cheap Mexican restaurants that dont microwave their beef, Disneyland, The Sandiego Zoo, Ron Burgandy, and much better opportunity to sleep with a C list celebrity who wants to go slumming.

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#36 oilerdago
June 15 2009, 10:02PM
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@JW:

Ward played lot's w/Legwand (and talk about an overpay - he's getting something like $5.5 mil+ for 5 years and he only put up 42 points in what was one of his best seasons). Call it paying for draft pedigree (#2 overall in 1998). The two really clicked on the 2nd line as Ward got the soft line minutes and did a good job.

From what I hear, Ward wants to stay in Nashville (no pressure of expectations) but you never know because if Nashville re-signs Sullivan they're going to run out of money fast as they are always way below the cap.

Fiddler was matched w/Bonk on the 3rd line but is a much better defensive forward. He's got good wheels and gets in on the forecheck faster than Bonk and stays with his man. Even though his +/- is as bad (-12) I'd take him over thecaptainethanmoreau because he does not take the dumb penalties but plays within his game.

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#37 scorecoff hemmercules
June 16 2009, 08:49AM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

misfit wrote: Ogden Brother wrote: What players have we heard of picking a team for it’s coach? I can’t think of many off the top of my head, but I know Mike Peca said it was a big factor in deciding to sign with Columbus. That said, I find it hard to believe the idea of having MacT as a coach was scaring off too many players. I mean, he’s no more defensive than Hitchcock, and he’s the only example of a player chosing a team because of it’s coach I can think of. Ya I’m sure it plays a role in the players decision, some guys far more then others. It seems like that’s the new pipe dream Oiler nation is clinging onto though.

I agree, its a pipe dream that a coach will draw players in. I guess it helps to have a respected coach and I'm sure it plays a small factor but I don't think the coach would be a deal breaker unless the player absolutely hated the guy for past reasons. The oilers have the appearance of being in a constant rebuild, I just don't see anything drawing a star player the desire to move here. The only thing thats pretty much set on the oilers is the defense (minus a good shut down guy) and were practically trying to dump half of it because of money. I'm starting to think Jagr is the best we can possibly do as far as a star player and he's not even a star anymore. Either that or trade for a star that doesn't have a NMC and hope and pray he will want to stay for longer than 1 or 2 seasons. I don't mean to be a downer but this team over the past few season hasn't really impressed me in the open market.

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#38 Colin
June 16 2009, 09:25AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

I’m a Scientist! wrote: Sigh, oh to be living in California and have any player in the league to choose from, cheap beer, cheap tickets, cheap parking, cheap housing, cheap floozies… What the hell am i doing here? That’s it! I waive my no trade clause… Dont forget a much better opportunity to sleep with a C list celebrity who wants to go slumming.

I can see the reality show now: "My life F-ing the E List"

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#39 predswilrule
June 16 2009, 06:06PM
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ward was fantastic. the question is was it a one time thing. we need him back partly because as you stated he has good size and plays strong in front of the net and in the corners. we have very little of that here. he also should be cheap, even with a decent raise, which unfortunately always is an issue for us.

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#40 predswilrule
June 16 2009, 06:13PM
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@ oilerdago: hey... we only payed 4.5 mil for that lousy year

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#41 Archaeologuy
June 16 2009, 10:12PM
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@ Colin: just get your penicilin once a week and youre good to go.

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