SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers defence dwindling

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:26 AM ET

EDMONTON - With Zack Stortini and JF Jacques gone, and Steve MacIntyre and Jim Vandermeer no longer under contract, the Edmonton Oilers would be virtually defenceless if the season began tomorrow.

Good thing, then, said GM Steve Tambellini, that the season doesn’t begin tomorrow.

He’s well aware that Edmonton needs a serious grit transplant before training camp and will begin addressing that need as quickly as possible.

“We’ve got till September,” said Tambellini. “We’re just starting. We know there are some areas that need attention, but it’s possible we can get them filled through young guys, trades or free agency. We’ll have it done by the time we start the regular season.”

Jacques and Stortini, both drafted in 2003, seemed like perfect book ends for a functional fourth line, but they never managed to truly grasp those roles and neither restricted free agent received a qualifying offer from the team. Now they’re both UFAs.

Stortini, who spent the last two months of last season in AHL Oklahoma after falling out of favour, played 256 games for the Oilers. Jacques, plagued by injury and a perceived lack of passion, had 185 PIMs and 17 points in 160 NHL games.

“The situation with both is you can only have so many one-way contracts,” said Tambellini, who wants to clear room on the roster for change. “I wanted to open up these other areas for young players or new players to come into this, so that’s what we had to do. But they’ve both been very good people for us.”

• Though head coach Tom Renney appeared to have zero confidence in Steve MacIntyre, playing him one or two shifts a game, even when the games didn’t matter down the stretch, Edmonton hasn’t closed the book on him yet.

“We’ve had some discussions with Mac,” said Tambellini. “We’ll see where that goes.”

The Oilers would love someone like Islanders UFA Zenon Konopka, who fights and wins faceoffs, two elements they desperately need.

• Tambellini says he’s working on an exit strategy for Sheldon Souray. The trade front isn’t working (they tried at last year’s deadline and this year’s draft), so a buyout seems likely. He has one year left on his contract at $4.5 million, payable at two-third over two years.

“I haven’t finalized that yet,” said Tambellini. “But obviously we have to make some decisions soon.”

The Oilers did qualify Ladislav Smid, Andrew Cogliano, Theo Peckham, Taylor Chorney and Ryan O’Marra.

Aside from MacIntyre and Vandermeer, other Oilers heading to unrestricted free-agency include Jeff Deslauriers, Martin Gerber and Jason Strudwick.

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@Sunmedia.ca

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