UFA Options: Edmonton Oilers


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 Edmonton Oilers.

It could be called stability. With only four unrestricted free agents to make decisions on, Steve Tambellini has a relatively easy summer on that front; aside from goaltender Dwayne Roloson, the only players in need of contracts were either rentals (Ales Kotalik), spare parts (Jason Strudwick) or guys he didn’t want in the first place (Dany Sabourin).

It could also be called inflexibility. Between now and the Pending Demise of All Franchises Near The Salary Cap™(2010-11), only two other players in addition to those who qualify this summer will reach unrestricted free agency. That’s bad for a few reasons: the Oilers don’t have much cap space, there are some very expensive restricted free agents whose contracts are coming up in the next two years (Gagner, Cogliano and Grebeshkov, among others. But the biggest reason for concern is that the Oilers finished well back of the playoffs with a team that was scraping against the salary cap ceiling. It would be one thing if this rather expensive roster had gotten results, but unfortunately Kevin Lowe’s spending spree over the past few years hasn’t led to proportionate on-ice results.

Ales Kotalik

Kotalik’s a fantastic player in a very specific role. He racks up powerplay points at a very good, if not elite, pace; he has a heavy one-timer that makes him ideal for duty on the point. He’s also one of the very best shootout talents in the entire league, and has been since the inception of the tie-breaking event.

He isn’t a complete player though; he has size that he rarely uses, he isn’t a consistent (and here I mean “consistent” in its true sense) producer, he doesn’t bring much away from the puck and to quote McKeen’s he “tends to get lazy and suffers lapses in focus and intensity”. I’m very much a fan of bringing him back in a specific role if one of the current powerplay defenseman (Souray, Visnovsky, Gilbert, Grebeshkov) is sent away and some of the logjam up front is cleared out. He isn’t a first-line player, and his role at even-strength should be limited to some degree, although he may be a fit on a more sheltered scoring line.

Jason Strudwick

Jason Strudwick has been much applauded in certain places for his character in the dressing room, toughness, and versatility. I liked him at LW in a crash and bang role, but he wasn’t a capable fill-in on defense. Allowing for empty-net goals and on-ice save percentage, we see that he was near the bottom of the team in plus/minus and that’s despite playing the worst possible opposition and getting more shifts in the offensive zone than in the defensive zone.

He’ll get another job in the NHL and since he’s cheap and brings intangibles, and he’s probably a fine option for an end of the roster reserve spot since he can play either forward or defense. If not for J-F Jacques, he might even be worth bringing back as an Oiler.

Dwayne Roloson

Roloson had a great bounce-back season, stealing the starter’s job from Mathieu Garon and single-handedly keeping the Oilers in the game on many nights. Portions of the fanbase have inexplicably soured on him, but he performed beyond expectations this past season.

He’s getting older and his side to side movement isn’t what it used to be, leaving the Oilers with a difficult decision. Roloson apparently wants a multi-year contract, but the Oilers would prefer to only re-sign him to one season as he isn’t a long-term solution. At this point he’s a good 1A option for most any team.

Dany Sabourin

Sabourin, who was unable to hold on to the Penguins starting job when Marc-Andre Fleury went down a year ago (Ty Conklin jumped past him on the depth chart) proved unable to even hold down the backup job this year. Pittsburgh sent a 4th round draft pick and some AHL depth (Ryan Stone) to Edmonton to make upgrade to Mathieu Garon (although in a brief showing Garon didn’t inspire confidence either).

Upon arriving in Edmonton Sabourin was sent to the minors and assigned to the AHL where he was just OK. If he’s lucky he’ll land a backup job somewhere; if not, he’ll end up as some team’s reserve goaltender.

  • I say keep Kotalik, provided that the price tag is not too high. He can play the point on the PP and if he parks himself in the slot regularly, the shot could hurt some people. Rool the dice and take your chances.

    I think the d-man to go would be Gilbert. He is a young guy with offensive/puck moving ability that will garner interest from other teams. Packaged with the right forward, prospect(s) and/or picks, we could land a 1st line LW to play with Hemsky. Maybe we can pry Gagne out of Philly? Who knows.

  • @ dyckster:
    Yeah, as much as I love Souray, and as much as I will miss his insanely strong pimp (read crosscheck) hand, maybe we fire him off for a nice 1st/2nd liner and keep Kotalik for the PP/ soft minutes. Then let Peckham step up and replace the grit that we lost with Souray. Judging solely on the raging boner i got when he beat the crap out of lemieux and then laughed in his face afterwards: I think Peckham could be a real good guy at clearing the net and getting under some skin.

  • IMO, if I were the Oil, I would look to move out some of the vets in an effort to continue to change the culture. Guys like Moreau, Pisani and Staios could be moved for draft picks. I would look to bring in a new veteran core that is younger. Players of interest to me – Pahlsson, Malhotra, Betts, Fiddler, Moen, Samuelsson, Reinprecht, Reasoner and Colby Armstrong (RFA). Thoughts on getting Jason Chimera back for the 3rd line LW?

  • I think a more pressing issue is our restricted free agents.
    Souray should NOT go anywhere, please 'o' please keep him.
    Kotalik…meh. Struds….meh.
    Rollie, one year @ 2-3mill and one @ 1-2 would be okay by me.
    Still like the idea of prying Josh Harding out of Minny. Would be a risk, but I'll be Jiggy could be had for close to nothing.

  • I wouldn't resign any one of these guys. Tambo should forget about the present and start looking towards the future. Get Gagner, Grebber and Cogs to extentions and look to clear some spots. The Oil can't continue to run in circles. Its time to move forward and resigning these UFA losers is not the way to go.

  • Good call on Kotalik, I say keep him only if there's a chance we lose Souray, those two would be reasonably equitible. I.E. Souray is a PP specialist, his defensive game however…. The only other thing you lose with Sheldon is his ability to be a massive on ice a-hole (I mean that in a good way). Kotalik however can't replace the other three as overall they have a lot more to add to our D. We've seen the best of Rollie I fear, time for him to move on. PLEASE don't succumb to the pressure and sign him to more than a year if at all.