Where are the Oilers now, post-Pronger? Well, one of the guys I'd been hoping Lowe would target was Aaron Ward, but he's apparently now a Ranger along with fellow ex-Hurricane Matt Cullen, so so much for that. Somebody else (Lowetide?) had been mentioning Mike Grier, but he's a Shark now.
Signings so far: Fernando Pisani for 4 years at 10MM. That's a lot of dosh for a guy who scores like he does, but failing to keep Pronger happy means the Oilers are scrambling for a feel-good PR story. He has the abilities to score 20-25, I think - he'll need to make full use of them. History's against him, but then again, it always has been. I'm neutral on this trade; I think Lowe might be regretting the last two years of the deal in 2008, but the jury's still out.
Dwayne Roloson for 3 years at 11MM. Another guy with history against him makes good. If he was a few years younger, I'd be all over this, but he's 37 and coming off a fair-to-middlin knee injury. I think Lowe lost his mind a bit on this deal, but time will tell here too. He could be Marty Brodeur, or he could be Ed Belfour.
By my reckoning, the Oilers have a deep hole to fill on the blueline, regardless of how Smid turns out - he's a top prospect, to be sure, but there's that nasty P word in there. Jeff Woywitka and Doug Lynch were top blueline prospects too, and the one guy regressed to the AHL and the other to the ECHL. If Bergeron doesn't bounce back from what had to be a disappointment in the finals, they're that much worse off again. Right now, Edmonton's looking at Smith, Staios, Smid, Greene, Bergeron, and Syvret, with nobody really ready in the AHL or junior ranks. Lowe needs a UFA here, and Ward - the best of the available guys, I think - is gone.
They're currently very weak up the middle as well, with no genuine NHL guys signed to a contract; Horcoff and Stoll are RFAs, Peca's a UFA, and Rem Murray is likely gonzo, so that takes care of the G7 lineup. Marc-Antoine Pouliot looked decent in his limited games though, and Rob Schremp should be challenging, plus I'm sure Horc and Stoll will re-sign. Lowe might want to consider a UFA here though.
Left wing isn't bad, even with Samsonov likely as good as gone. (Rumours are Toronto: if so, JFJ can hardly screw that up unless he gives SS 5MM a season.) Smyth, Torres, and Moreau are all under contract, with either of the latter two guys capable as a 2nd line LW in a pinch. They're likely on the market for such a guy though, and unless Samsonov's already ruled out returning, Lowe needs to talk to him. JF Jacques might challenge here, and Liam Reddox will hopefully push to make the team, although I see him likely in the AHL next season.
Right wing is looking ok, although a bit Restricted, in the sense that both Hemsky and Lupul are RFAs and I'm not actually entirely certain what Todd Harvey's situation is - TSN has him on the roster but I'd thought the team hadn't picked up his option. Brad Winchester's going to get a long look in training camp, and Zach Stortini's a bit of a wildcard (although I wouldn't bet on him).
Goal is looking good, with Roloson good for at least another year (better be 3!) and Markkanen good for that long at least. Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers is a wildcard here, and Devan Dubnyk ought to get a look as well.
So who should Lowe go after? There's not a lot of high quality guys left on the market, but if I was Lowe I might consider...
LW - Jeff Friesen or Sergei Samsonov. Sounds like money might be a sticking point with Sammy, and I've no idea what Friesen might want as a UFA, but both are good power play guys who ought to be able to light up weaker opposition. Viktor Kozlov's a UFA, and he might do ok as a 2/4 guy, plus he can play centre as well. Oleg Kvasha's a UFA, and while he's no Samsonov or Friesen, he might do. Eric Daze is UFA as well, I didn't notice him my first run-through; considering last season, he may sign for cheap, if he can get medical clearance. He'd likely favour the Hawks though.
C - I wouldn't mind seeing Peca back for 3MM or less; sounds like he's a lot less negative about the team and the city since he figured out where he stood in the latter half of the season and the playoffs. I'd have said 2 million, but I'm sure he'll get bigger offers than that - Toronto's desperate after Sundin. Marty Reasoner's an obvious choice, if he'd re-sign. Randy Robitaille isn't terrible. Really though, Edmonton needs a second line centre in case Stoll can't handle the ES minutes, and there don't appear to be (m)any of those left. Lupul is sometimes listed as a centre though, so maybe that's where Lowe is going to use him.
RW - depends on Harvey's situation. Laraque would likely love to come back, perhaps even at a reduced salary (it'd have to be), although there may be some hard feelings after he basically didn't play the last couple of rounds. Trevor Letowski's maybe an interesting depth guy. Anson Carter's name has been mentioned, but I really doubt it - I'm willing to bet there's hard feelings from the way he left town. If Laraque doesn't return, Vaclav Varada might be ok.
D - apparently Jaroslav Spacek is wanting to explore UFA, and I can't say that I blame him. Lowe needs to make a strong pitch to him though. Apparently Dick Tarnstrom is considering going back home to Sweden - too bad, while he gave me fits during the Cup run he is a great #4/5 guy who can play the PP. Tom Poti? He's UFA. I don't think the Oilers need him with Poti and perhaps Syvret though, and he'd likely be way too expensive for what he brings.
RFAs: they all need to be signed. I figure Lupul will be good for 1.5-1.75MM, Hemsky 2-2.5MM, Horcoff for 3-3.25, and Stoll 1.25-1.75; back of the envelope, Edmonton is right now at 17MM and after RFAs are signed, they're up to 26 million-ish. That leaves a good chunk of change to spend on UFAs: 8-9 million or so will take them up to last year's budget, and after that Cup run, they really need to up that by a couple of million.
Too bad there's few UFAs left, but given the plethora of picks Lowe has with the Pronger deal, maybe he can take a run at somebody else's RFA. In no order other than alphabetical by team, guys Lowe might consider... looking for decent defencemen, 1/2 C's, scoring LW, and RWs who don't suck.
D Vitaly Vishnevski, Toni Lydman, Dmitri Kalinin. Klesla, Bouwmeester, Gleason, Komisarek, and Tyutin are all RFAs as well, but I can't see their teams letting them go, even if the offer's above-market. Trading for Vishnevski's rights may even work, since Anaheim is now pretty stacked at D.
LW Alex Kotalik, Alex Tanguay (wouldn't that piss Sutter off), Ruslan Fedotenko. Fedotenko's particularly intriguing; he's tough, I think, and Tampa Bay's particularly vulnerable to salary escalation. No idea how much Buffalo likes Kotalik.
C Patrice Bergeron, Derek Roy, Matthew Lombardi, Mark Bell, Tuomo Ruutu, Dan Fritsche, Stephen Weiss, Michael Cammalleri, Scott Gomez, Mike York, Jazon Spezza, Marcel Goc
RW Maxim Afinogenov, Erik Cole, Nathan Horton, Martin Havlat. I don't think any of these guys can be had; Carolina will hold on to Cole at almost any cost, I think. Havlat's barely possible; word is he wants to test UFA next season, so offer him three years and see what he says. Horton and Afinogenov are unlikely to go anywhere, unless the offer is insane.
Having said all that, I doubt Lowe dips his hand in the crazy that is RFA offer sheets unless it's a guy like Vishnevky or Fedotenko.
Now that I've said all this, I'm going to swing by the other weblogs and see what they think of the deal.