Happy hour?

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

The first week of July is a time that makes people do strange, strange things, like lining up to throw long-term deals, for $6 million, $7 million or even $8 million a year, at guys who scored less than 70 points last season.

Scott Gomez, Chris Drury and Ryan Smyth, bless their bank accounts, are going to strike it rich this morning.

PLAYERS HAVE HAMMER

Sheldon Souray, minus-28 on a team that missed the playoffs last last year, will be beating potential suitors off with an Easton.

No matter what the new CBA says, players will always have the hammer, and they wield them like nuclear weapons when the free-agent bidding wars begin.

GMs, like single dudes a few minutes before last call in a pickup joint, cast aside their better judgement in the mad rush to score some decent talent before it's all gone - only to regret those hasty decisions later on, in the sober light of day.

By then it's too late - they're married, for five years and $35 million, to the Russian winger who won't backcheck.

The Edmonton Oilers, with money to spend and a burning desire to spend it, will be tossing around multi-million dollar pickup lines with the best of them when Happy Hour starts this morning. When you finish 25th overall and win just twice in the last 20 games, it's safe to say you need help. An offensive defenceman, two high-end forwards and some grit, for starters.

"We'll jump in and hope we can do something," said Director of Hockey Operations Kevin Prendergast. "You make your offer and hope they say yes.

"That's all it comes down to. If they don't, then you move on to the next guy.

"We're going to try our best. We have money to spend and we know who we want to spend it on. All they have to do is say yes."

While Edmonton has taken some knocks as a place where UFA's don't want to play, the bottom line in today's world is money, and the Oilers have a whack of it, somewhere in the neighborhood of $12 million once they take care of their RFAs.

That's as much or more than most of the teams they'll be bidding against.

'MOVING TARGET'

"It's a moving target," said governor Cal Nichols, adding the Oilers will go to $45 million to start the season, and then nudge closer to the $50.3 million cap at the trade deadline if it looks like they're a player or two away from a playoff charge.

"We never intended to go right to the cap (by October) because prudence tells you that you should leave something there for the unknown - deals for later in the season or whatever."


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