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Tencer's Blog: Forecasting the Frenzy

by Dan Tencer / Edmonton Oilers
On Friday morning at 10am local time, the Free Agent Frenzy begins! This year's class is, from a top end standpoint, seriously underwhelming. Not that it matters to Edmonton, who aren't looking to go big game hunting just yet, anyways. After Brad Richards at forward, Christian Ehrhoff on defense and Tomas Vokoun in goal, there's a pretty significant drop at each position when it comes to players who could be long-term elite players for a franchise.

Zenon Konopka scored 2 goals & 9 points, along with 307 penalty minutes in 2010-11 (Photo by Getty Images).
As it relates to the Oilers, though, it's actually a pretty good crop to choose from based on what they're looking for. Assuming the team would like to add a veteran centerman who can kill penalties and win draws, and a veteran defenseman who can play somewhere in the 3-5 spot, the team has some options.

Now, I'm not saying the team WILL add these players or WILL NOT add something else...I'm just saying that, based on the depth chart, those are the two glaring areas for me. The other factor, of course, is that the team could fill these or other spots via trade, in which case, an entirely new set of names comes flooding in.

For today, however, I've broken down the current list of pending unrestricted free agent players and identified six potential targets for the team. Three forwards, two defensemen and a goaltender.

The choices have been made based on factors like: specific need of the team, age of the player, projected salary etc. Given that the team isn't "big game hunting" yet, the list is essentially comprised of relatively inexpensive role players.

F - Zenon Konopka

A lethal weapon with his fists and in the face off dot, Konopka could address a couple of needs for this young team. First, if the team decided to navigate away from UFA Steve MacIntyre, Konopka and his 307 PIM in 2010-11 could replace the enforcer element. Second, Konopka was a phenomenal 57.7% in the dot last season. He could see duty on the penalty kill, but probably as a third unit guy. He won't score, but would provide the team an upgrade in a couple of key areas.

F - Vernon Fiddler

An Edmonton native, the 31-year-old Fiddler is a top flight face off man and penalty killer. Last year in Phoenix, Fiddler was 54% in the dot and a top unit penalty kill forward, who also posted 22 points in 71 games. Fiddler is a more well-rounded player than someone like Konopka, capable of playing more minutes and more on the penalty kill. He certainly would not provide the same enforcer element, however.

F - Maxime Talbot

Talbot would be, by far, the most expensive of the three forwards on this list. He's also the best all-around player and would, arguably, provide an energy or spark that the other two might lack the ability to duplicate. A centerman who can also play on the wing, Talbot would be a superb edition to an energy line. A feisty player, Talbot would contribute probably 7-13 goals and be an excellent penalty killer for the team. The 27-year-old former Stanley Cup Champion would also be capable of spot duty higher in the lineup if necessary.
  • Honorable mention to big man Joel Ward, who had a fantastic playoffs for Nashville.
D - Andy Greene

I know it might sound crazy when you Google this player and see a -23 year with New Jersey in 2010-11, but I like this player. He's 28 years old with just under 300 NHL games under his belt, following a 4 year career with the Miami University Redhawks in the NCAA. I see him as a very complete player. He's got a very good first pass, skates well and is a strong positional player in the defensive zone. One obvious knock: he doesn't have size and won't make a physical impact.

D - Jan Hejda

A defenseman capable of handling his own zone and contributing big on the penalty kill, Hejda spent one season in Edmonton before departing to Columbus for the last three. His last couple of seasons haven't been anything to write home about, but he's a solid veteran presence that can take care of things in his own zone and provide a handful of points.
  • Honorable mention to Jonathan Ericsson if Detroit somehow lets him get to July 1st.
G - Curtis Sanford

The 31-year-old, formerly of the St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks, has spent the last two years as one half of the goaltending tandem for the Hamilton Bulldogs in the AHL. In 2010-11, Sanford posted a record of 22-13-2 with a 1.93 GAA and a 0.930 SV%. in the regular season. A veteran of the AHL, Sanford has exactly 100 games of post-lockout NHL experience as well.

With the projected departures of Martin Gerber and Jeff Deslauriers, the Oilers are in need of a veteran goalie to mentor pro rookie Olivier Roy in Oklahoma City. With his past NHL experience, Sanford is also a reasonable short term insurance policy if a minor injury affects the goaltending depth chart for the Oilers at the NHL level.
  • Honorable mention to Drew MacIntyre, who split last season in the AHL between Chicago and Hamilton.
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