Kevin Lowe's shopping list is a closely guarded secret.
One thing's for sure, the Edmonton Oilers GM will be hitting the free-agent mall when the doors open for business one week from tomorrow and he will bolt towards two departments.
Down the first aisle, he'll seek out a puck-moving defenceman, and around the corner, Lowe will take a peek at the display case of big, burly centres who have a nose for the net.
Exactly which player he'll choose from each shelf, or for that matter, which of the free agents will want to make a new home in Edmonton, isn't quite clear just yet, but there are some interesting choices out there.
"I'm quite confident we'll be able to grab a couple of guys, but this is all new to us," explained Lowe, who was back home yesterday after visiting New York for his appearance on the Sidney Crosby Lottery Show.
"We have targeted a bunch of guys who might be available.
''We have some great wingers and some good role players, but what we need is someone who can transport and move the puck and make some plays.
"No one is completely sure what the whole market will be like. Maybe every team will be after the same guys - it's tough to assess. In a normal year, there are eight to 10 unrestricted free agents and you have a sense of what the market will be like. This is a different animal."
The Oilers showed more than a passing interest in L.A. Kings centre Jason Allison last summer, and he's back on the radar again if he gets a clean bill of health following a bout of post-concussion syndrome.
"If he's healthy, he's clearly the type of centre we'd like," said Lowe.
Allison appeared in only 26 games for the Kings in the '02-03 campaign but did have a pair of 30-plus goal seasons for Boston. The list of big-name centres up for grabs include Alexei Zhamnov, who split the '03-04 season with stops in Philly and Chicago, the enigmatic Eric Lindros, Pavol Demitra and Mark Messier.
Demitra has some of the best stats of anyone on the market, with 216 goals notched over eight seasons in St. Louis. The 30-year-old spent last season back home in the Czech Republic and racked up 82 points in 54 games for Dukla Trencin. If Messier could provide the offensive spark he once did, his leadership would be invaluable.
"I think he and the combination of another centre and a defenceman would make a nice package," said Lowe. "It's his last year for sure and I think he wants to keep playing to break Gordie Howe's games-played record. But knowing how competitive he is, how players get rejuvenated in a new place and how we have a young, exciting team, it may push him over the top to a pretty decent year."
As for defencemen, Scott Niedermayer would have to be the prize pick, but his skills could still command a dollar figured beyond the Oilers bank-book. Other offensive blue-liners on the unrestricted market are Sergei Zubov from Dallas, Anaheim's Sandis Ozolinsh and New Jersey's Brian Rafalski.
The Oilers did make initial offers to unsigned 2003 draft picks Marc-Antoine Pouliot (first round, 22nd overall), J.F. Jacques (second round, 68th overall) and Troy Bodie (ninth round, 278th overall) yesterday. The trio need to have their names on contracts by Thursday or they'll be back in the draft pack Saturday.
"I talked to all their agents and now I'm just waiting for them to get back to me," said Oilers assistant GM Scott Howson.