Team's a changin'

Fernando Pisani's playoff heroics mean he will likely command a big raise. (Edmonton Sun/Darryl...

Fernando Pisani's playoff heroics mean he will likely command a big raise. (Edmonton Sun/Darryl Dyck)

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

RALEIGH -- Change is good.

The Edmonton Oilers will meet this week for a team photo in what'll be a snapshot of a group of players who grabbed a city, maybe a country, by the heartstrings and didn't let go until a 3-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.

Get a copy of it for old time's sake, if you can. With the hockey business being what it is, the names and faces won't be the same when the puck drops for the 2006-07 season just five months from now. The team that filed off the ice at the RBC Center, the group of players who beat the odds and energized our town, is no more.

With a long list of unrestricted free agents - Michael Peca, Dwayne Roloson, Sergei Samsonov, Jaroslav Spacek, Dick Tarnstrom, Radek Dvorak, Georges Laraque, Igor Ulanov, Fernando Pisani and Rem Murray - as of July 1 and several youngsters on the way, GM Kevin Lowe is already weighing his options. They are many.

Change will come.

"Yes and no," Lowe said, asked if he intends to keep this team intact. "Certainly, in our minds, we know who we want back. Would we take them all back at our prices? Probably not. You have to have turnover. You have to have the next wave coming in. You have to start developing the next Raffi Torres and Jarret Stoll."

While Lowe declined to name who exactly he wants back, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to make an educated guess at who gets a contract pitch and who gets a handshake.

BIG RAISES

The no-brainers at the top of Lowe's list to sign is short: Roloson, Pisani, who'll command a big raise, and Spacek.

The guys Lowe will try to keep if the price is right are Peca, at a significant cut on the $3.99 million salary he made this season, Samsonov, who will get interest from the Detroit Red Wings, among other teams, and Laraque.

The handshakes? With a salary cap projected at $44 million, that would be Tarnstrom, Dvorak, Ulanov and Murray. You can add Ty Conklin's name to that list. The Oilers have a team option on him.

There's no guarantee, of course, Lowe will be able to keep the players he covets. Roloson will be in considerable demand. Peca would prefer to play in the Eastern Conference. Likewise, Samsonov.

On the flipside, Lowe will have options in an expanded free agent market and have, you'd think, a little extra money to spend after all those home dates in the playoffs.

"No question," said Lowe, asked if the Oilers' success this season makes it easier to retain and attract players on the open market. "Then again, I can't put myself in their heads right now.

"If I was a player and you liked the coach, that would be a big thing. If you liked the environment, that would be a big thing. Not at a trade-off, at a huge discount, but you factor in all things."

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

As for restricted free agents, they are straightforward: Shawn Horcoff will get a new deal and a significant raise. Ales Hemsky and Stoll also need to be inked.

As for the "next wave" Lowe talks about, think Marc-Antoine Pouliot, J.F. Jacques, Danny Syvret, Kyle Brodziak and Robbie Schremp.

"Schremp, of course. He's the wildcard," smiles Lowe.

"The knock on him was he wasn't strong enough and big enough. He's getting stronger. He's got world-class skills, so ..."

Add it all up, and many of the players who helped will this team to within a win of a Stanley Cup have played their last game in Oilers silks, making this team photo thanks-for-the-memories stuff.

"What's good now is I think teams can re-tool and reload now quicker than they could previously, which is good for the game," Lowe said. "You could, conceivably, miss the playoffs by a lot like, say, Chicago this year. With a few right moves, you could be in the playoffs and challenging, as opposed to the way it was previously. That's good."

That's business.


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