Oilers GM sticking to plans

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:06 PM ET

Don’t expect to be watching this year’s Taylor Hall next year. And don’t expect the Edmonton Oilers to use all that extra salary cap room to now load up the lineup with expensive free agent talent now that they have back-to-back No. 1 picks in the draft.

General manager Steve Tambellini didn’t say you could expect to see him in one of the five chairs at the NHL Draft Lottery again next year but he made sure Edmonton was clear that the Oilers aren’t going to detour from the big picture plan at his annual post-season press conference Wednesday.

It’ll be develop, develop, develop.

The lineup of next year’s Oiler team won’t include a significant number of different players from the ones you watched finish 30th this year.

“I’m not approaching this draft that these people have to be in the Oilers lineup next year,” he said of his top-three picks in the first 31 selections, including No. 1 overall.

Tambellini indicated the possibility of picking, say, a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins first and sending him back to the Red Deer Rebels to grow his six-foot, 165-pound frame and play in the World Juniors in Edmonton, or to pick six-foot-three, 220-pound defenceman Adam Larsson and leave him to play one more season in the Swedish Elite League.

“We don’t need to introduce more into the mix next year.

“If some players come out to training camp and they’re ready, then great, they’ll make the team. But we have enough young players that we’ve introduced to the Oilers lineup. They’re all capable, as you’ve seen.

“I’ve watched Taylor take over some hockey games.

“To see where (Magnus) Paajarvi has come … and Jordan (Eberle) is just consistent.”

As for the idea that now that he has another No. 1, Tambellini will go out and start spending money to add primary pieces to put the team in the playoffs, that’s not the way it’s going to work.

“The one thing I want to be clear about is that this organization is not ready to be looking at the free agent that is a $10-million player,” he said.

“We’re going to stick with the plan.

“Developing from within. Drafting. Making people better who are here and within the organization.

“Will we be able to complement through free agency or a trade? Yes. Would we like to increase our ability to win a faceoff? Yes. Do we need some help on defence? Yes we do.

“But we’ve attained a spot, finally, in our organization where we have flexibility.

“It wasn’t too long ago, a year and a half ago, that we had zero flexibility as far as moving people because of extended contracts. We didn’t really have the amount of choices needed as far as call-ups for the Oilers. We didn’t have enough people who were fighting for jobs, not only with the Oilers but within our minor-league team.

“That is now starting to come in place.

“You are starting to see people like Teemu Hartikainen, or a (Linus) Omark or a (Jeff) Petry who can come up and show that they can play in the National Hockey League.

“Over these two years we are starting to restore some depth in this organization. We had 11 draft picks last year. We have 10 this year.”

Translation: winning a second-straight No. 1 pick doesn’t represent the end of the blowing-up of the Oilers and starting again. It’s still the beginning. Or at least, no further than the middle.

“When you have the opportunity to select first overall, this is the time to do it. In this window here, within a couple years, it fits in to exactly what we need as far as the age group that’s here right now.

“These players we are going to select in June are players who are going to play for the Oilers and be a big part of it. If the developing side of that isn’t there, then you can waste this opportunity.”

So it’s develop, develop, develop.

“The people we have in place now and the developing we have in place now, I feel so excited that it’s actually happening now, that these players are coming in and that you can actually see them,” said Tambellini.

“I know from underneath what’s coming and that we’re moving in the right direction. I’m totally confident with that. You can see what’s coming here.”

Don’t stop now, not when you’re just getting started.

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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