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Friday, April 11, 2008

The Oilers Sign Tom Gilbert to Six Year Contract: Who Will Be The Odd Man Out?

The Edmonton Oilers have reportedly signed rookie defenceman Tom Gilbert to a six year contract worth $4 million per season. Gilbert was a restricted free agent and the team would have been liable to lose him to an offer sheet from another club. Gilbert had an excellent 2007-08 campaign, broke the Oilers defenceman rookie record in goals and points, both previously held by Paul Coffey, with 13 goals and 20 assists. He also led all rookie defenceman in blocked shots with 158.

This signing was certainly an expensive one. The Oilers were definitely smart in locking him up before other teams got a chance to, this year's unrestricted free agent market is very weak, and the restricted free agent market is very strong, so I definitely expect a lot of offer sheet to be offered this offseason. Also, considering Gilbert's season, and his potential, the contract certainly seems fair. The Oilers cap figure at the beginning of this season was about $45 million, so with this contract they will have approximately $7 million worth of cap room to play with for next season, assuming the cap for next season is $56 million.

Given the fact that they still have to sign Robert Nilsson, Grebeshkov, Pitkanen, Stoll, Stortini, Reasoner, and Glencross it looks very unlikely that they will be able to bring the entire team back for next year. I would definitely look for Raffi Torres to be moved if they need cap room. He isn't a bona fide scorer, he can be a liability on the defensive end, the play often ends up dying with him, he takes stupid penalties and the Oilers have other players such as Stortini who have become "energy" type players for the team. Plus Torres makes just over $2 million per season, over the next two years.

Also, if they still can't sign everyone, I would expect Pitkanen to be the odd man out. He definitely puts up points, but he can be a defensive liability. He often is caught out of position, usually pinching way up into the offensive zone. Also the organization is extremely deep on defence with top prospects Cody Wild, Taylor Chorney (both offensive defenceman), likely to be competing for roster spots next season. Some people would advocate moving Stoll, and letting go of Reasoner, but Stoll can probably be had for a paycut (by taking him to arbitration) and Reasoner doesn't figure to make much. Plus they both play one of the most important positions in center, they are both great in their own end, they own the faceoff circle and Stoll provides good offence on the powerplay. Good centers are a lot like defenceman, you can never have enough of them.

All in all, the Oilers better hope the cap continues to rise, as they will have to deal with expiring contracts to Horcoff, Garon, Greene, Smid and Brodziak next season, with Cogliano and Gagner following them the next year. They will have soom tough choices to make, luckily they are in a great position to make them.

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