The first official day of the NHL’s free-agent frenzy did not disappoint with over 50 players signing new deals and millions of dollars being committed. The Edmonton Oilers were one of the busiest clubs when the period to sign new players opened up and as the day rolled along, big names continued to fall, only not in Edmonton.
The result, the Oilers were able to secure a tough and physical defenseman in Andrew Ference, a checking center in Boyd Gordon and a solid backup netminder in Jason Labarbera. Throw in a few other less household names and Craig MacTavish had himself a busy first day on the open market in his attempt to repair the roster.
But there are holes that still remain in Edmonton and it’s a noticeable one in the toughness they lack up front. David Clarkson, Nathan Horton and Ryane Clowe, all bruising forwards with an offensive upside all signed elsewhere.
Viktor Stalberg, Matt Hendricks and Eric Nystrom were all scooped up by the Nashville Predators who instantly became a much more difficult team to play against. As if their back end won’t be tough enough, they added some grit and role players with their acquisitions on July 5th.
So when Craig MacTavish said he’s not finished tinkering with the roster, that he still needed to address the lack of toughness amongst their forwards, it’s hard to pin point who he might be referring to given the amount of those players that have already been signed. The pickings are slim meaning a trade may be in order if MacTavish wants to hold true to his promise.
A player like Peter Mueller might be worth a shot. Standing in at 6’2″ and 205 pounds, the former Florida Panther has watched his offensive output drop off dramatically since leaving the Arizona desert and a fresh start in a checking role might do him some good. He could likely be had for a 1-year deal worth $2 million.
Mason Raymond, formerly of the Vancouver Canucks is another possibility, albeit a pricier one. With more offensive production in the past couple of years than Mueller, Raymond could command a raise from his last salary of $2.275 million and with a game that is more tailored to finesse than a bang and crash, he may not be exactly what the Oilers are after.
David Steckel could be an option. At 6’6″ and 205 pounds to back him, Steckel would be the ideal fourth liner with the ability to chip in on the third line the occasional night. He could use his frame and power to fill a checking role on likely the fourth line and could be had for likely a 2-year deal worth $3 million max.
Then there are Ryan Jones and Jerred Smithson who suited up for the copper and blue last season. Both know their role and play it well. But they, along with all the other players mentioned aren’t your prototypical “tough” player that MacTavish would be looking to sign. Character players who can contribute offensively sure, but not overly tough.
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