With two weeks till the NHL draft and just over three weeks till the July 1 free-agent frenzy, the Edmonton Oilers puzzle box is about to get a few more pieces.
"It's a fun time of year, it's an exciting time of year," said Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe, whose phone is starting to ring a little more frequently as the two major dates on the off-season schedule draw nearer. "This is the time when teams have a chance to make changes to their hockey team."
And one way or another, there will be changes to the Oilers. Lowe has a whack of options available to him, like swinging a multi-player trade or raiding the free-agent market, and plans to explore both options fully.
"It's a matter of me and the organization trying to do our best to manage the assets, improve the hockey team," said Lowe, who stopped by Edmonton's prospects development camp at Millennium Place. "If that means getting into a situation where we move a couple, maybe three or four assets for one or two coming back, a player and a draft pick or something, that might be a good thing."
Offence and grit are among the high priorities.
"We wouldn't mind trying to get another top-end forward," said Lowe. "If we can add to our team by maybe upgrading our scoring a little bit, adding some toughness, we have the assets to do it. We don't have to rely on free agency to do it."
Even if he wants to stand pat, he can't. With Sheldon Souray, Raffi Torres, Shawn Horcoff and Ethan Moreau coming back from injury, there aren't enough dressing room stalls.
"We have too many bodies right now, especially given the way Marc Pouliot played last year," said Lowe. "We'll try to do something."
If all he can do is move a body or two for picks, he's content to at least start next season with the same group that finished last season.
"If nothing happens we'll go to camp with what we have and the competition will be great and we'll go from there. I don't feel any pressure to do anything ... we like the makeup of our team, we like the way things finished, and getting some of the injured guys back really adds to it."
Whatever he does, there will be considerable pressure to take the next step, getting into the playoffs.
"The expectations are that we're a young team and we came a long way," he said, adding the new CBA and a new owner will finally allow Edmonton to see a plan through. "The difference now is that we can keep our young guys, we don't have to worry about teams stealing players from us. We can compete financially. If the young guys continue to develop, and we have no reason to believe they won't, better times are ahead."
NEED TO KNOW BASIS: THE OILERS ARE NEARING A FORK IN THE ROAD WITH UFA CURTIS GLENCROSS. THE TWO SIDES AREN'T ALL THAT CLOSE IN THEIR NEGOTIATIONS (GLENCROSS IS ASKING FOR SOMETHING CLOSE TO $1.8 MILLION) AND THE OILERS NEED TO KNOW IF HE'S GOING TO BE IN THE FOLD OR NOT BEFORE THEY CONSIDER TRADING THE LIKES OF TORRES.
"I've said it before and I'll say it again, we liked the way Curtis finished the year, we like his enthusiasm, he's a great kid," said Lowe. "But we're piecing the puzzle together. Curtis at some point is going to have to make a decision. If his mindset, or his agent's mindset, is taking a kick at really hitting a (contractual) home run, he's probably going to end up doing it in free agency and not necessarily with us at this point.
"We'll find out in the upcoming weeks if Curtis is going to be here or he's going to be elsewhere."
MARTY MAY RETURN: LOWE SAID THAT UFA MARTY REASONER MIGHT STILL BE IN EDMONTON'S PLANS FOR NEXT SEASON DESPITE THE LOG-JAM OF YOUNGER PLAYERS AT FORWARD, BUT IT DEPENDS ON THE NUMBERS AFTER ALL THE DEALING IS DONE.
"I like Marty Reasoner, he's been a very good player for us and still has a lot of hockey in him," said Lowe. "He provides an element to the team that is certainly valuable and, let's face it, he comes at a reasonable price.
"It's my hope that he's part of our team, but it's not an automatic at this point."