No bargains in free agents

BOB STAUFFER

, Last Updated: 8:01 AM ET

I realize that this might be the last thing most Edmonton Oilers fans want to hear as we head into free agency, but here is hoping Oilers GM Kevin Lowe and company show patience and restraint tomorrow when the silly season begins.

This is not the year to blow a ton of cash on the unrestricted free agent market because, frankly, this year's so-called high-end pool is severely lacking.

With all due respect to Daniel Briere, Chris Drury, Scott Gomez and blue-collar hero Ryan Smyth, none are worth the $6 - to $7.5-million US per season that they are likely to get.

The same can be said for a good but not great crop of defencemen like Sheldon Souray, Brad Stuart and Scott Hannan, who could be in the $5 - to $6.5-million per season range.

Lowe stepped up to the plate when the Oilers did the trade for Chris Pronger and attempted to buck up for Zdeno Chara. Those moves made sense, as Pronger and Chara are two of the top five defencemen in the league. You pay for superstars, but you don't want to overpay for players that are just really good. And there is a difference, which seems lost on the Ryan Smyth fans out there!

Next year's potential free agent class could dwarf this off-season's, as there is a possibility that superstar forwards like Jarome Iginla, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley and Marian Hossa could be in play. All of these guys would qualify as legitimate stars that are worth shelling out for.

There is also another even more intriguing group of players potentially in play next off-season: superstar restricted free agents like Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, and emerging stud defencemen like Dion Phaneuf, Jay Bouwmeester, Brent Seabrooke or Matt Carle.

Just for the sake of argument, what if you could make a play for Ovechkin, would you want to be out of the running because you have too much cash tied up in a Scott Gomez?

I know which way I would be leaning.

The Oilers, though, do have to do something in the next couple of weeks to upgrade their roster. A guy like Paul Kariya at around $5 million or Ladislav Nagy at $4 million could be useful second-tier signings who would likely carry their currency without becoming an albatross down the road.

Lowe also has depth in terms of prospects and picks, and this could come into play trade-wise as Boston (Glen Murray) and Nashville (Marek Zidlicky) are unstable and Tampa Bay is one crappy start away from dumping one of its big three up front.

So don't freak out if the Oilers aren't banging the drum tomorrow, because the real big noise should be made down the road.

Oil Kings made an interesting choice

I was a little surprised when I heard through coaching circles about a month ago that Steve Pleau was the frontrunner to become head coach of the the Edmonton Oil Kings, but after further review it looks like a pretty good hire.

Pleau may not have had extensive head coaching or Western Hockey League experience, but he was respected by his peers in the American League and he has what I think is a key to dealing with young athletes today: positive energy!

This is a different generation of kids, and frankly they have been raised not to take as much crap and ask more questions then their parents. The days of yelling and screaming at young athletes and attempting to break them down and then build them up are becoming obsolete.

Pleau's reputation is that he works with players rather then against them, a recipe that Scott Edwards, Alberta Pandas basketball coach, employed with great success this past season.

Pleau's hire, combined with having two of the best talent scouts in the WHL in Bob Green as GM and Randy Hansch as director of player personnel, puts the Oil Kings in good shape.


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