Others: Foster, Petry, Vandermeer
This is the teams greatest area of need, and where Steve Tambellini should focus most of his efforts on July 1.
The Oilers need one or more top four defencemen. They need a guy who can play first pairing minutes against tough competition while starting primarily in the defensive zone, and also able to play on the PK. Having one of these guys to pair with Gilbert will allow Ryan Whitney to play on the second pairing and focus on scoring at both even strength and on the PP.
The problem is that these players don't exactly grow on trees, and the teams that have them aren't super keen on letting them get away.
The guy that could have filled this void, Kevin Bieksa, is staying in Vancouver, so options are limited. A trade rather than a signing is a definite option here.
Tambellini could overpay for Ed Jovanovski (that guy's always overpaid) or Tomas Kaberle, or maybe gamble that Roman Hamrlik has one more good season left in him. I'd prefer to see them go less pricey routes, however.
Jan Hejda is a guy the Oilers never should have let get away.
Over the past few seasons in Columbus his OZone% (percentage of shifts starting in the offensive zone) has averaged 44.3 percent. This means that he has been playing primarily in the defensive zone and he has been doing it against tough competition. He is a shutdown defenceman and at 33 is young enough that he should have at least one more good year left in him.
James Wisniewski is another guy the Oilers should be targeting. He has faced tough competition in the past and provides more offense than Hejda. He can also play on the PP.
A trade target is Nick Schultz. He is a better, younger version of Jan Hejda.
A depth defenceman to play with Peckham on the third pairing is also needed.
Kurtis Foster should be used as trade bait, and Jim Vandermeer should be an absolute last resort if Tambo strikes out on the FA and trade market.
Jeff Petry is a wildcard. He was a very good player in his stint with the team, and I want to see him get icetime to help his development. But I also want the Oilers to win more games.
If Tambellini is only able to get one top four guy, then Petry could slide in alongside Whitney and push Smid down to the third pairing with Peckham. However, Smid and Peckham were terrible together last season, so I actually don't like that idea at all.
If Tambellini signs two or more capable NHL defencemen who push Petry out of the lineup and force him to start the year in the AHL, well then so be it.
Targets: Nick Schultz (trade), Jan Hejda, James Wisniewski, Ed Jovanovski, Brent Sopel, Craig Rivet, Steve Montador