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Oilers get the players they targeted in free agency

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers
Make the plan, work the plan. That’s what Edmonton Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish and his staff did on the opening day of free agency, zeroing in on two main targets and then acquiring those players.

MacTavish says the Oilers went into free agency wanting to add defenceman Mark Fayne and forward Benoit Pouliot above all others. They did just that, adding Fayne on a four-year contract and Pouliot on a five-year deal.

“It was really a collaboration of an effort between management, the coaches and our current players that led us to attract and ultimately sign these players,” MacTavish said. “Those two players right from the outset, right when we were in Philadelphia were the two players that we focused our attention on. We met with their agents in Philadelphia (at the draft) and we made a case for our situation in Edmonton.

“I think it was a compelling story for them as it is for me to tell. The situation is very much improving in spite of the fact that the results have lagged, certainly last year. It was a compelling enough situation that at the end of the day we were able to quickly react to the players. I thank the players and I thank our players and current players who were involved in this recruitment as I do with the coaching staff. I think they’re all going to have great impact on our team.”

From the end of the season, the 6-foot-3, 215 pound Fayne was targeted by the Oilers as a possible solid defensive addition. He has spent the last four seasons with the New Jersey Devils and has played in 242 NHL regular season games, registering 48 points (13-35-48). In 24 playoff games Fayne had three points (0-3-3).

“With Mark Fayne, it brings us a guy that really makes simple plays with the puck but makes them highly effectively,” MacTavish said. “He’s a very good defender. I think he fits into that role.”

Photo by Getty Images.

MacTavish tipped his hand a bit in his end-of-day press conference as to just how interested they were in Pouliot, in addition to Fayne.

“Benoit Pouliot was maybe in our minds our most important add. We needed somebody with speed. We’ve talked about size, we’ve talked about increasing our competitiveness and he’s a guy that tracks the puck really well. He’s a great skater and we really felt as a group that we needed to add that element. He’s added that element.”

Pouliot had 36 points (15-21-36) in 80 games last season. He chipped in 10 points (5-5-10) in 25 games as the New York Rangers made it to the Stanley Cup Final.

The Oilers didn’t fill all of their needs on the first day of free agency. MacTavish says the team would still like to add a centre at some point. But after adding their two main targets, as well as signing big defenceman Keith Aulie to a one-year contract and acquiring big, skilled winger Teddy Purcell and established defenceman Nikita Nikitin via trades, the Oilers are standing a little taller than they were after a disappointing season ended.

“When you look at the makeup of our defence now it looks like an NHL defence, which it didn’t always last year,” MacTavish said of the Nikitin and Fayne additions.

Purcell adds another player that MacTavish has had his eye on.

Teddy Purcell is a guy that I’ve liked for quite sometime. He had an incredible playoff run with Tampa Bay a few years ago. He’s got size, he’s got skill, he can move the puck and I think he’s going to fit in very well with the group that we have.”

Aulie also adds elements that MacTavish felt the Oilers could use and he brings the potential of having a high reward for little risk.

MacTavish wrapped it all by saying that the Oilers still have plenty of room to makeup to be competitive in their conference. But the Oilers took steps toward that future and with the young core currently dressed in the blue and orange, plus the new additions, MacTavish feels like the team continues to have the talent and potential to eventually erase the gap that stands between them an those teams ahead in the standings.

“The potential we have as a group to succeed far and away exceeds the teams that we’re chasing. I am under no illusion that we are not chasing those teams. The hope is that gap ultimately diminishes and then disappears and then emerges again as we pass by.”

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