Edmonton Oilers: 5 Items the Oilers Need to Address
After 100-plus days of CBA negotiations and a league-imposed lockout, business is finally getting back to usual with a tentative new CBA agreement having been met.
As players slowly begin to take the ice, NHL teams won't have very much time to assess where they stand until the shortened season actually begins.
For a team like the Edmonton Oilers, there are still some major issues that will need to be resolved before the franchise starts climbing up the rankings in the NHL.
Here are five items the Edmonton Oilers need to address.
5: Amnesty Clause Buyouts
A big addition to the proposed new CBA is the awarding of two amnesty clause contract buyouts per team.
This will help teams shed those ridiculous contracts that burden the teams financially and that represent significant portions of the salary cap.
For the Edmonton Oilers, Shawn Horcoff is an instant candidate.
The current Oilers captain has two years remaining on one of the worst contracts in the NHL after the shortened 2012-13 season, and represents a $5.5 million salary cap hit which is far too much to be paying a third-line center who only scored 34 points last season.
The other likely candidate would be Nikolai Khabibulin, 39, who represents a $3.75 million cap hit this season. The difference with Khabibulin is that the aging net minder is a free agent once the abbreviated season is over so it's a toss up as to whether or not the team decides to use a buyout on him.
4: The Arena Debate
It was a good sign that the Edmonton Oilers and the city of Edmonton decided to resume arena negotiations last month, however the debate as to whether or not the proposed downtown arena will ever get completed is far from over.
It is a good sign that both parties agreed to resume talks, as the Oilers are in desperate need of a new facility, but the two sides are still far apart in funding negotiations.
This distraction is something that the Oilers will need to sort out sooner rather than later, especially to prevent owner Daryl Katz from any more misguided adventures.
3: Energy Players
Thus far, the Ben Eager experiment has been a failure in Edmonton, as the gritty forward failed to deliver toughness and offensive production to the young Oilers squad.
This was before Eager was charged with assault during the summer.
Do the Oilers part ways with the the feisty forward, or continue to hope that he can show the form that led the team to sign him to a two-year contract?
Ryan Jones is also one of the key 'role players' or energy guys for the Oilers. With Jones currently on the shelf with an injury, the team will need to address their roster depth and find players that can provide that spark while handling third and fourth line minutes.
2: Defensive Depth
The Oilers lucked out when talented free-agent defenseman Justin Schultz decided to sign with the team.
Schultz provides that offensive defenseman that the Oilers so desperately coveted, but unfortunately the teams' problems on the blue line extend beyond the need for a puck mover.
Ladislav Smid has developed into a fine shutdown defender and Nick Schultz has been a pleasant addition, but other than that, the Oilers are a bit thin on defense.
Ryan Whitney is good—but not great—when healthy, but has lost his role of power play quarterback now that Schultz is in town.
The Oilers still need a legitimate number one or two defender to anchor the defense, and have the assets now upfront (with the addition of Nail Yakupov) to make a trade.
This is the season for Devan Dubnyk to establish himself as a legitimate No. 1 goaltender in the NHL. Unfortunately for the Oilers, if he fails to do so, the team will once again be at the bottom of the standings looking up.
Considering that Dubnyk hadn't really been playing anywhere during the lockout, he performed more than admirably while backstopping the Canadian team to a Spengler Cup championship over the Christmas break.
Though the team was star-studded, Dubnyk more than held is own, which is a good sign for the Edmonton Oilers going into the abbreviated season.
With a proposed 48-game schedule it is likely that Dubnyk will see at least 38 or 40 games in net for the Oilers, with Nikolai Khabibulin serving as backup if healthy.
If Dubnyk begins to falter early, it should come as no surprise if the Oilers look to the trade market to shore up their goaltending situation.