Should the Oilers pursue Guillaume Latendresse?

Jonathan Willis
June 09 2012 04:04PM

One of the Oilers’ top perceived needs is a big power forward who can play on a skill line while adding size and some crash and bang. In a perfect world, that player would be young enough to fit in with the team’s current core of young players, and not cost an arm and a leg to acquire.

It’s a tall order. And that’s exactly what makes Guillaume Latendresse so appealing.

Latendresse is listed at 6’2” and 230 lbs. He just turned 25 in May. In his last full NHL season he scored 27 goals in 78 games. For good measure, he added 157 hits. He hits a lot of the descriptors that the Oilers are looking for. It even seems possible that he’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

There’s just one problem. His last full season was 2009-10.

According to Latendresse, after two seasons with a total of 27 games played, he’s finally back to where he needs to be to stay in the lineup. In a piece by the Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo, Latendresse said this:

It's like I never had any concussion. I feel 100 percent. I'm doing training like before. I have nothing. I can't even remember when my last headache was.

Given his age and NHL experience, normally Latendresse would be a restricted free agent; however, the player does not expect the Wild to make a qualifying offer (equal to his current base salary of $2.6 million) to retain his rights:

I know I won't get a qualifying offer. I'm 100 percent sure about that. It's pretty obvious with my last two years.

According to Russo’s piece, Latendresse is still in talks with the Wild. Agent Pat Brisson met with Wild G.M. Chuck Fletcher, and the two have plans to meet again. Latendresse will return to Minnesota later in the month to be cleared by team doctors. Russo suggests that the Wild have a pair of options:

The Wild will likely do one of two things: Cut Latendresse loose, which would allow him to become an unrestricted free agent July 1; or sign him to a one-year contract that includes games played and performance bonuses [because of his time on injured reserve, Latendresse meets the requirements for an incentive-laden contract].

If the Wild do the former, the Oilers will have an opportunity to add Latendresse, and that’s exactly what they should do.

Unlike previous players they’ve taken a flyer on – Cam Barker comes to mind – Latendresse has been a good player in the past at even-strength. In 2009-10, despite seeing more time in the defensive zone than the offensive zone, he had solid possession numbers – the Wild were outshot to a far greater extent with him off the ice than they were with him on it. The same was true in 2008-09 with the Montreal Canadiens.

He’s not a perfect player. Injuries are a definite concern. In Russo’s piece, Chuck Fletcher note that Latendresse is an excellent player when he’s healthy and he’s motivated, and that those were his two concerns. Fitness has occasionally been an issue in the past. McKeen’s Hockey notes the following about his physical game:

[E]ffective when using his superior size and strength to lay out big hits and drive for the net .. still an erratic physical presence who doesn’t always bring the required belligerence or intensity .. oscillates between the extremes sometimes on the same shift .. provided a needed big-body presence in the top six here – creating possession down low and making hard plays to the crease…

The concerns outlined above are real and valid – especially with respect to his health. The Wild may decide Latendresse is worth the gamble, or Latendresse and his agent may opt to see if they can get more money via free agency.

If the latter happens, the Oilers are in a unique position to make an offer. 2012-13 is the last season where cap space is unlikely to be a significant concern (the deals of Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle expire at the end of the season), so it’s the ideal year to take a chance on someone like Latendresse. He’s young, big, often physical, and more importantly he’s a pretty good possession player who has consistently been a high-percentage goal-scorer over his NHL career (on 568 career shots, Latendresse is a 14.3% shooter; he’s never been below 12.0% in a single NHL season). He fits team need perfectly.

The opportunity may not come up, but if it does the Oilers should make sure that they take advantage of it.

P.S. To get a feeling for Latendresse’s character and personality, I highly recommend the French-language interview translated here at Hockey Wilderness:

This week by Jonathan Willis

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 book¡e
June 10 2012, 08:25AM
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No, they should not. ON posters struggle to spell Gegner correctly, what would they do with Gillyam Lateundress?

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#2 Matt Henderson
June 09 2012, 07:17PM
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I hope they sign this guy, but only because subconciously I associate his name with Marshmallows due to the French word Guimauve. I really want to start a tradition where we throw Marshmallows on the ice when he scores.

Make it so, Tambi.

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#3 Wax Man Riley
June 10 2012, 01:06AM
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Matt Henderson wrote:

I hope they sign this guy, but only because subconciously I associate his name with Marshmallows due to the French word Guimauve. I really want to start a tradition where we throw Marshmallows on the ice when he scores.

Make it so, Tambi.

And see Arch, I like him for a similar reason, but for me it is his last name.

Latendresse sounds like "let's undress"

We could start a tradition when he scores...*

*When I say "we," what I really I mean is "The Octane."

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#4 todie in a coma
June 09 2012, 04:13PM
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Ha! Fist time poster long thime reader!

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#5 Bucknuck
June 09 2012, 04:25PM
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27 goals, crash and banger, 25 years old, injury concerns.

High risk, high reward. But if they reduce the risk then it looks like a good idea for sure. No long term contracts. He has a much bigger upside than Eager, and he can swear at the opposition in French. Sounds like a win.

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#7 oilredemption
June 09 2012, 05:49PM
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JW for GM & Coach!!!!! Those forward lines look amazing to me minus belanger... he doesnt want to be here so lets dump him and try lander or VV in the 4th C now

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#8 BlacqueJacque
June 09 2012, 06:24PM
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I'm really enjoying this latest series of articles from Willis.

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#10 Dutchscooter
June 09 2012, 09:25PM
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@Jonathan Willis

'Smyth - Horcoff - Hemsky as the "third" line, getting D-zone minutes and good opposition.'

Most-expensive-third-line-EVER....

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#11 michael
June 09 2012, 10:34PM
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Belanger and Eager. Buy high sell low. get what we can and be happy. I'll take KFC and a case of beer. Jones. I think that Tambo cashes RJ in for a guy like GL. A little more grit and heavier on the puck. What is a guy like GL worth on the open market? 1.5-1.7. The Oilers need more jam/grit in thier bottomm 6. I also believe that Ryan Smyth and the Oilers are not going to agree to a contract. I think Ryan goes to FA and gets 3.0 million from a team like the Predators or the Rangers. I see MP or TH on the first line and perhaps we'll see Hemsky moved at the draft also. How many top 6 forwards are out there on July 1st? I think we'll see Carolina make a move to aquire Hemsky.IMO which is worth a copper or 2.

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#12 Pouzar99
June 09 2012, 11:20PM
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First of all we should wait until training camp and exhibition games (assuming there's no work stoppage) before saying who goes down to OK City, although I agree with JW that Lander would have been better off last season playing big minutes in the AHL from the beginning. We should wait and see if TH and PM earn a spot before shipping them south. GL does sound like a good fit for a 2 year deal but I have a feeling the Wild may yet qualify him. If he does become a free agent the Oilers should give him a medical and also offer him an incentive-laced deal. It would be a strange coincidence if last year we signed Barker, a guy the Wild bought out and this year we signed an RFA they declined to qualify. As for Smytty, watch out for Calgary. He might help them make the playoffs and it may be the only other location where he will play. If his family hated LA and they will really hate NYC. Take a tip from a lad who grew up a few miles away on the Jersey side.

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#13 The Oilers Shot Clock
June 10 2012, 03:49AM
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So many teams are in add grit/toughness mode that id be surprised if he's that easy to acquire. For the right price go for it. Good locker room guy, with size and skill?....we've signed worse reclamation projects.

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#14 FastOil
June 10 2012, 09:00AM
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My take is that GL is a better version of Jones - defensively, physically and likely offensively.

Moves like this allow the GM with vision to improve the club without losing a player type (my assumption being the Oilers see Jones as a power forward).

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#15 Stack Pad Save
June 10 2012, 09:58AM
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Matt Henderson wrote:

I hope they sign this guy, but only because subconciously I associate his name with Marshmallows due to the French word Guimauve. I really want to start a tradition where we throw Marshmallows on the ice when he scores.

Make it so, Tambi.

AHHAHAHAHAHAHah ... make it so .... *wipes tears from my eyes* ....Picard would make it so

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#16 Bucknuck
June 10 2012, 10:18AM
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oilredemption wrote:

JW for GM & Coach!!!!! Those forward lines look amazing to me minus belanger... he doesnt want to be here so lets dump him and try lander or VV in the 4th C now

I would definitely prefer JW for the Oilers GM to Pretty much anyone I know. Too bad it's not an election.

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#17 Mason Storm
June 09 2012, 04:13PM
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Fist off, no don't sign him. I've never "seen him good" but I've seen him bad.

*FAIL*

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#18 Terran
June 09 2012, 04:21PM
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He sounds a lot like Dustin Penner 2.0, but with injury concerns. I'm a big Penner fan, so that doesn't bother me as much, but if with his injury history, if he's only here for half the season and sleepwalks through half of that...

But you don't win by not taking chances. I'd be down with offering him a contract.

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#19 The Real Scuba Steve
June 09 2012, 04:26PM
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Do it, they need all the help they can get.

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#20 Stack Pad Save
June 09 2012, 04:32PM
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@Mason Storm

I seem to remember Guillaume lighting up the Oilers a time or two, in fact I think he is a ppg player against edmonton, but so are a lot of other players. I think he is what the Oilers need up front along with a big good center. He is also a left winger, how would that affect the draft and are abundance of wingers? Would signing Guillaume spell the end for Smyth or Paajarvi?

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#21 Bucknuck
June 09 2012, 04:36PM
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Just think, in a year they will have all that money they were paying Khabibulin to spend on Free agents... maybe a two year deal wouldn't be all that bad.

Be a heck of a lot better spent on a maybe, than on a goalkeeper who si guaranteed to under-perform his contract.

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#22 Toro
June 09 2012, 04:58PM
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Sounds like a good pickup but where does he fit in? Top 6? Top 9? The way I see it theres not much room for him in the Top 6 unless someone is moved and there isn't room for him in the Top 9 if Smyth is resigned.

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#23 Quicksilver ballet
June 09 2012, 05:07PM
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Meh, right winger. We're getting crowded on the right side now.

If he was free and played the left side then i would say yes. What would the Oilers have to lose.

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#24 Bucknuck
June 09 2012, 05:10PM
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Toro wrote:

Sounds like a good pickup but where does he fit in? Top 6? Top 9? The way I see it theres not much room for him in the Top 6 unless someone is moved and there isn't room for him in the Top 9 if Smyth is resigned.

Sounds like Smyth is playing hardball, and if so then perhaps he can go. He sure talks the talk about being an Oiler, but when money is involved we see some different stripes. I am beginning to understand why he was traded to NYI.

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#26 Wanyes bastard child
June 09 2012, 05:15PM
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Toro wrote:

Sounds like a good pickup but where does he fit in? Top 6? Top 9? The way I see it theres not much room for him in the Top 6 unless someone is moved and there isn't room for him in the Top 9 if Smyth is resigned.

I say HELZ YES! Who cares where he is going to fit, let the new coach sort that out. You don't pass on good players when you are the worst team in the league by worrying what line they will be on eh.

Get as many good players as you can and let the coach sort it out :)

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#28 Walter Sobchak
June 09 2012, 05:18PM
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Not if Sutter's the coach!

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#29 Walter Sobchak
June 09 2012, 05:20PM
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I should clarify that. Sutter hate's Latendresse

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#30 jake
June 09 2012, 05:53PM
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JW,

Much of your article is what, in my mind should constitute a Pro scouting report on a player. Print it, mail it to that Gare fellow at Oilers HQ.

And where do you have Lander next year if Latendresse in the line-up? Assume OKC?

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#31 Kevin
June 09 2012, 05:55PM
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Good call Johnathan, absolutely he is exactly what we need. In this case a pipe dream because Lowe and Tambellini have no clue what we need and how to build a winning team. I'll eat my words if they can prove me wrong but I have zero faith in this duo to steer the ship in the right direction. Quite honestly everything they do makes me nervous.

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#32 Oiler Al
June 09 2012, 05:58PM
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Certainly fills the Req.sheet.Also couple of key questions... Health and effort. I think for a brief time he played ahead of Paceority? Dont recal how his skating was, as he'll need that coming to the OIlers.No sure why Wild would not have him back.? His current Salary is $2.6 mil. Really Eager should be the guy, but we all know the story on him.. good skater, but thats about it. PS> I would like to see Oilers putting their energy and resources in trying to acquire Staal, in dire need of big center.Maybe thats another deal.

Good idea Willis ! Often wonder how many of these ideas come up in Tambelinis office.

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#33 Walter Sobchak
June 09 2012, 06:29PM
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I like the article JW.

I just don’t think this is a great idea. I agree we need a Latendresse type player that can play, but this cat has too many red flag’s, some of them are his and some are Oilers.

Injuries especially with the head are so hard to predict. Good one day horrible for the rest of the year. Can the Oilers afford that?

The Oilers have been down this road before with Khabibulin, Hemsky, Souray, Whitney,Horcoff…..Can the Oilers risk taking a chance on a player that has played only 30 or so games the last 2 years?

Not to mention this same player was benched by Sutter during the WJC and Sutter basically called him out for being lazy and an individual, not much of a team player.

Also, you don’t put Hemsky on the checking line or “third” line, which just won’t jive.

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#34 @Oilanderp
June 09 2012, 06:55PM
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I'd like to see Lander/Harski/Paajarvi all in the AHL hopefully for the entire year next year. Let them force the Oil to call them up by excelling, not get a place on the big club because, well, uhhh, there's noone else.

Good find, J.W.. Signing the Wild's castoffs really hasn't worked for us so far, but if the new coach says go for it (sign a coach jeeez) then do it. Keep the young talent down until they force management's hand. Sign good-bet FAs. Low term, low risk.

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#36 Clarence Oveur
June 09 2012, 08:34PM
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Absolutely.

Been a fan of his for a while...love his style and the numbers JW posted above seem to back up the assumption that he's a safe bet.

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#37 stevezie
June 09 2012, 10:23PM
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I've wanted this guy on the Oilers since he was in Montreal. If we agree the team needs a guy like this then we've got to try and get him, don't we?

Sure he has risk, but this team can afford to bury a three million dollar (which I would say is his far, far outer marker) contract in the minors a lot more easily than they can afford to spend another year wishing for this type of player and wondering where to find one.

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#38 PerryK
June 10 2012, 12:03AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Assuming that Smyth re-signs, here's how I would see the Oilers lineup if they added Latendresse:

Hall - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle as the top line, getting O-zone minutes and top opposition.

Smyth - Horcoff - Hemsky as the "third" line, getting D-zone minutes and good opposition.

Latendresse - Gagner - Yakupov as the "second" line, getting O-zone minutes and weaker opponents.

Eager - Belanger - Jones as the fourth line (assuming none of the the three are traded).

Paajarvi and Hartikainen would both start in the AHL, and be call-ups as soon as injury hit (which, given that we're talking about the Oilers, it eventually would). If Smyth were not to re-sign, Paajarvi gets a top-nine spot and Hartikainen is first call-up.

As for power play time, use the kids as the top unit with a fourth forward (maybe with Horcoff, as in 2011-12, maybe with Smyth) and then the "second" line as unit #2, along with Hemsky as the fourth forward.

I don't think that Latendresse is fast enough to keep up with the YAK. However, if we did one ratchet turn on the 123LW, it may work just fine.

Try Smyth with RNH & Ebs (more balance). Hall with Yak (Speed kills!), and Latendresse with Horc & Hemmer. From what I remember, Latendresse plays reasonable defensively and he gets a chance to cash those sweet saucers from Hemsky.

Anyhow, good thinking outside the box, JW!

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#39 db7db7db7
June 10 2012, 12:13AM
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Dutchscooter wrote:

'Smyth - Horcoff - Hemsky as the "third" line, getting D-zone minutes and good opposition.'

Most-expensive-third-line-EVER....

I'll give it to Tamblowe. They sure know how to build a powerhouse third line.

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#40 The Soup Fascist
June 10 2012, 12:56AM
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Pouzar99 wrote:

First of all we should wait until training camp and exhibition games (assuming there's no work stoppage) before saying who goes down to OK City, although I agree with JW that Lander would have been better off last season playing big minutes in the AHL from the beginning. We should wait and see if TH and PM earn a spot before shipping them south. GL does sound like a good fit for a 2 year deal but I have a feeling the Wild may yet qualify him. If he does become a free agent the Oilers should give him a medical and also offer him an incentive-laced deal. It would be a strange coincidence if last year we signed Barker, a guy the Wild bought out and this year we signed an RFA they declined to qualify. As for Smytty, watch out for Calgary. He might help them make the playoffs and it may be the only other location where he will play. If his family hated LA and they will really hate NYC. Take a tip from a lad who grew up a few miles away on the Jersey side.

Smyth played for the Islanders. Probably has some idea about what New York City is all about.

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#41 The Oilers Shot Clock
June 10 2012, 03:55AM
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We need more size in the top 9. If we added Latendresse, eventually one of him,Pitlick,PRV or Hartikainen will stick. Cant have enough of these guys because we need atleast one or two to pan out.

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#42 OICPRV2OKC
June 10 2012, 04:56AM
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I really like that shooting percentage and I think it's a reasonable bet. If only dithers could read.

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#43 sizedoesmatter
June 10 2012, 05:48AM
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I think the Wild would re-sign him If he was good enough.I dont think the team is bad enough anymore to have to go with any more "projects"

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#44 revingev
June 10 2012, 09:01AM
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Very interesting thought in this posting Willis. I like the idea, but would Oil Country go nuts if he was injured and then rip Tamby for such a bad signing when he is injury prone as some people say?

This is a rebuild, so to me, Paajarvi or Hartikainen step right up instantly, it's a no-brainer anyway. I really want both those 2 players here with Oil however they do NEED to earn it. We need players to FORCE their way onto this team.

In spite of all this, with Paajarvi's playoff run, he started taking the body more and started learning more about what kind of game he is going to have to play to be in the NHL regularly and be successful. His off season is vital and something tells me he will be exciting some folks in Edmonton this next season.

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#45 Zed
June 10 2012, 09:18AM
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It is thinking-outside-of-the-box deals that changes a GM's status to:

a) Genius

b) Fired

So far, the deals the Oilers GM has executed has given him neither of these statuses.

I bet you Tambo is satisfied with that.

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#46 madjam
June 10 2012, 09:42AM
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The new CBA will have a profound influence on which way the Oilers might move forward . Will they open up the skill and offence like they try to do in regular season, but revert back to the old way in playoffs ? I suspect they will , as this years final two are boring the bejebbers out of hockey fans ! End this unentertaining tug of war ! If league is going forward to make offensive game more entertaining then Latendresse might not be such a priority to begin with . Latendresse also is a physical player that has injury problems playing that way and thus may not fill his role for long .

Contemplation of the new CBA might also be quite influential on whom we might draft as well . In which case , R.Murrays stock may rise above Yakupov's . Paajarvi likely to make team and stick this season for starters . O'Mark's value vastly overrated , while Gagner is still the big question . Move Horcoff and i think our club will start to perform/compete better .

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#47 nunyour
June 10 2012, 11:14AM
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this ripping on tambo is getting old,just who is he suppose to trade? the young kids-no,the old vets-can't,to expensive and to many injuries,package two or three forth liners for someone good,dream on.free agents aren't lining up to come to edmonton,sad but true.

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#48 Gret99zky
June 10 2012, 12:09PM
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I hope they never play Hemsky with Horcoff again. For Hemsky's sake and sanity. How many times has he busted his ass to get a pass to Horcoff only to watch him wiff it?

Bury Horcoff on the 3rd and 4th lines but move Hemsky up to where the real players are.

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#49 Mike Modano's Dog
June 12 2012, 12:23AM
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Stack Pad Save wrote:

AHHAHAHAHAHAHah ... make it so .... *wipes tears from my eyes* ....Picard would make it so

Had to lol at this one!

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#50 TrentonL
June 12 2012, 10:44AM
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Signing Latendresse would be a stellar move. The guy takes on solid competition with difficult zone starts, and delivers solid 2 way play with quality offense and physicality.

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