SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers deal with free agents

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:03 PM ET

Steve Tambellini has a lot on his plate this off-season.

Regardless of whom the Edmonton Oilers take with the first-overall selection in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft, the club’s general manager has a number of options regarding how to surround his young talent.

The Oilers have 10 roster players eligible for free agency on July 1 — four of them unrestricted. They have 23 free agents throughout the organization in total.

“Will we be looking for people to complement through free agency or a trade? Yes,” Tambellini said in his year-end address to the media. “Would we like to increase our ability to win a face-off? Yes. Do we need some help on defence? Do we need some help through some of our forward position? Yes we do.”

Ryan Jones, Steve MacIntyre, Jim Vandermeer and Jason Strudwick all become unrestricted free agents this summer

Jones could be the most pressing need, having had a career year with 18 goals this season and proving to be extremely versatile.

“We’ve had discussions with Ryan Jones,” Tambellini said. “There are a couple of proposals that have gone back and forth. Ryan has expressed an interest to stay in Edmonton and we’d like to have him back.

“We’ll continue with negotiations and see if we can get something worked out from now until then.”

Andrew Cogliano, J.F. Jacques, Liam Reddox, Ladislav Smid, Taylor Chorney and Theo Peckham are all restricted free agents.

Who the Oilers decide to re-sign will depend partly on what they are able to acquire at the draft this June.

Either way, Tambellini has a few more options than he did at this time last year.

“We’ve attained a spot finally in our organization where we have some flexibility,” he said. “It wasn’t too long ago, perhaps a year and a half ago, that we had zero flexibility as far as moving people because of extended contracts.

“We didn’t have the amount of choices needed as far as call-ups, we didn’t have enough people that were fighting for jobs, not only with the Oilers, but with our minor-league team. That is starting to come into place. We’re starting to restore some depth in our organization.”

Last year the Oilers selected 11 players in the draft, helping the club restock their cupboards. This year, they’ll have 10 selections, including two in the first round.

“Unless we have that competition from within, you don’t really have that push to fight for anything,” Tambellini said. “And we’re starting to get that now.”

The Oilers also need to look where Ales Hemsky fits into future plans. The winger has one year left on his contract before becoming an unrestricted free agent.

Injuries have limited Hemsky’s production over the past few seasons, but the club is still convinced the Czech native is capable of blossoming into the star he’s long been pegged to become.

“With Hemsky, the biggest thing is that he feels great about the direction of the hockey club,” Tambellini said. “He thinks things are as good as they’ve ever been as far as order at the dressing room level. I was excited to hear that from him.

“We have not talked about anything further. Right now his whole focus is on rehab and he’s going to stay here, I believe, until the end of May. He’s going to go back home for a month or so, then come back here around prospect camp and meet with the doctors again. But everything is tracking well for him.”

Another order of business is the Sheldon Souray situation.

The defenceman, who was buried in the minors this year, has another year left on his contract that will pay him $4.5 million. The Oilers have attempted to give him away but, even at half price, there were no takers this season.

“As far as Sheldon, we’re see if there is another option at the draft,” Tambellini said. “Other than that, we don’t have any other options.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/DerekVanDiest


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