Fans won over by potential

DEREK VAN DIEST

, Last Updated: 7:24 AM ET

In general, the outlook was positive.

The Edmonton Oilers late-season surge, bolstered by their youth, has fans optimistic for next season.

We asked for your opinion as to who the Oilers should keep, turf or which contracts they should extend.

We also asked which prospect was ready for the big time, which restricted free agent the Oilers should work hardest to re-sign, which unrestricted free agent should they go after this summer and what major trade would you like to see made.

Shortly after the season ended, the Oilers re-signed Tom Gilbert, Denis Grebeshkov and Robert Nilsson.

A majority of responses considered defenceman Joni Pitkanen the restricted free agent they should work hardest to re-sign. Incidentally he could be the toughest as the two sides appear to be far apart on the worth of the smooth-skating native of Oulu, Finland, who recently pulled out of the world hockey championships citing a knee injury.

SECOND IN D SCORING

His eight goals and 18 assists put Pitkanen second in blue-line scoring this season behind Gilbert and 51st among D-men in the NHL.

When in the lineup, Pitkanen was vital to the Oilers' success. Even when he wasn't collecting points, his ability to jump into the rush freed up space for the forwards to operate.

How valuable the Oilers considered that ability will depend on how much they are willing to spend on him.

Other restricted free agents include Jarret Stoll, Marc Pouliot and Zack Stortini. They were also mentioned as players the Oilers should work to re-sign.

Stoll had a tough campaign. He struggled coming back from a season-ending concussion the previous year.

The Oilers centre finished with 36 points in 81 games, three points less than he collected the previous season in 51 games.

Yet the Oilers are still big on the Melville, Sask., native and believe he can bounce back next season. Due to his struggles, however, they may be able to get him at a bargain price if another GM - most notably sworn enemy Brian Burke in Anaheim - doesn't sign him to an offer sheet.

That was a distinct possibility at the start of the season and if Stoll would have had a good year, he could have been in line to get the type of raise Dustin Penner got when he was lured away from the Ducks.

Pouliot spent most of the year in the minors and despite playing with the Oilers late in the season, he has not become the player the team envisioned when they selected him with their first choice - 22nd overall - in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. They may have run out of patience with the native of Quebec City and might just cut him loose.

Stortini developed into a solid fourth liner. He had the tough chore of taking over the enforcer's role from Georges Laraque. He did an honourable job as the season progressed and became a dependable role player.

Curtis Glencross, who was a big part of the Oilers late-season surge, was hands down considered the unrestricted free agent the Oilers should go after. Glencross, 25, came over in trade from the Columbus Blue Jackets and had 13 points in 26 games for the Oilers.

He was an important part of the puzzle late in the season, wants to stay in Edmonton and is valued by the club. Look for the two sides to hammer out a deal.

Other notable unrestricted free agents fans suggested the Oilers should try and sign included Marian Hossa, Markus Naslund, Brian Campbell and Mats Sundin.

Hossa will probably be out of the Oilers' price range, especially if he goes on to have a strong playoff and win a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburg Penguins.

It'll also be tough enticing him to come play in Edmonton after playing with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and company.

Naslund seems to have lost his game and it's unlike the Oilers to have any interest in bringing him to Edmonton.

Campbell is expected to re-sign with Sharks due to his friendship with Joe Thornton and the appeal of playing in California. He's probably had his fill of long winters having played in Buffalo.

Last year, the Oilers were able to land defenceman Sheldon Souray in the free agency market. However, he was limited to 26 games due to a shoulder injury.

LEERY TO OFFER BIG CASH?

That may make them leery of offering big cash to a big name this summer, unless it's someone who can score a lot of goals and wants to play with Ales Hemsky.

As far as trades go, the general "You Be The Boss" consensus was to package players for a physical winger or a puck-moving defenceman. Raffi Torres, Stoll, and goaltender Dwayne Roloson were mentioned as possible trade candidates.

If they could get Crosby for Mathieu Roy and Denis Grebeshkov, as one reader suggested, they would do it in a heartbeat. But that's not going to happen.

Torres was limited to 32 games this year due to a knee injury. He has the potential to be the big, physical winger that scores 30 goals a season for the Oilers. Yet they may be getting tired of waiting for him to develop into that player.

Roloson, 38, was displaced as the Oilers starter by Mathieu Garon. The veteran has one year left on his contract where he'll make $3-million. He'll be difficult to move and won't net the Oilers a first-round pick, as suggested by a couple of responses.

Regardless, with the Oilers only shelling out $4-million for their goaltending next season, they'll be comfortable keeping both.

Keeping both of them happy with enough playing time, however, may present a challenge.


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