When it comes to trying to predict what trades or draft choices are going to happen in the NHL, you're in tough unless you're a General Manager. It's fun to try and come up with scenarios that could actually happen because we'd all like to feel like we know what's going on. The reality is that no one knows. General Managers typically play things pretty close to the vest, so when you get right down to it, all predictions and forecasting are just dreams. That being the case, here's a look at a dream scenario for the Edmonton Oilers. It's just as likely to happen as anything else (ie: not very likely).
Our first stop is the Stanley Cup Final. After eliminating the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Boston Bruins advance to the Final, only to lose in seven games to San Jose. Why San Jose? Because they're not Vancouver. Feeling the extreme pain of the defeat, and eager to get right back there next year, Boston GM Peter Chiarelli goes into the off-season and the draft with an eye on improving his team for the immediate future.
At the draft the Oilers retain the first overall selection and use it to take Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. RNH couldn't be happier to be joining the Oilers, being a Western-Canadian kid and all. Then, Larsson, Landeskog, Huberdeau, Hamilton, Strome, Murphy and Siemens go in no particular order after Nugent-Hopkins, leaving Couturier on the board at number nine.
The Oilers trade Ales Hemsky, the 31st and 151st picks to Boston for the 9th overall pick and select Sean Couturier in that slot.
Other players are selected from 10 to 18, but Nathan Beaulieu falls to the 19th spot where the Oilers select him. In the other rounds where the Oilers still have picks, Stu MacGregor mines some gems that will take a few years to get to the NHL, but who have a legitimate chance to at least make the Barons one day.
On July 1st, free agency begins. The Oilers extend an offer sheet to defenseman Zach Bogosian in Atlanta. Because the Phoenix Coyotes have been moved to Winnipeg already, the Thrashers are forced to stay in Atlanta with ownership that will not match the offer sheet. Bogosian signs for $4.5 million per season for 5 seasons and couldn't be happier to get out of there.
Also signed is Zenon Konopka for one year at $1 million. Maybe too much money, but he'll be a hot ticket item.
Kurtis Foster is traded back to Tampa Bay for future considerations. Sheldon Souray is traded to the New York Islanders for a large bucket of pucks and a 7th round pick.
The Oilers re-sign Andrew Cogliano and Ryan Jones for $1.3 million apiece for 2 seasons. Peckham, Reddox, Smid and O'Marra are all re-signed, while Stortini and Jacques walk as free agents. Ditto, unfortuntely, for Steve Macintyre, who is a heavy hitter but also pretty much a 'stick optional' player. Jason Strudwick retires and becomes a stand-up comic, Giroux goes to Europe to seek his fortune. Jim Vandermeer decides to retire for a career as a Country/Western superstar singer.
No other moves are made in the off-season. The Oilers have the following lineup on opening day of the 2011-12 season:
Hall - Gagner - Eberle
Paajarvi - Couturier - Omark
Jones - Horcoff - Hartikainen
Reddox - Konopka - Cogliano
Whitney - Bogosian
Gilbert - Smid
Peckham - Petry
Khabibulin gets to stay because it's never a bad thing to have an experienced goalie around to teach a young netminder the mental toughness that it takes to withstand the rigors of an NHL season. Say what you want about Khabibulin (and you do; loudly), but he has managed to take a lot of things in stride over his career. He was a whipping boy in Chicago too, but he got that team to the Conference Finals in the last year of his deal. Speaking of deals, Khabibulin's will be up the same year that the Oilers' rookies need a raise, so he isn't going to handcuff the team in regard to the cap.
Sam Gagner gets to stay too because this could be the year that he finally breaks out. Also, Nugent-Hopkins is sent back to junior after 9 NHL games, which is the other reason that Gagner is retained. The Oilers will be brimming over with centers after next season, with Anton Lander and Nugent-Hopkins ready for the big time. Provided that Gagner doesn't have a horrible season, he could be traded for whatever the team is missing at that time. Probably it will be another defenseman. Keep in mind that Joffrey Lupul was traded for Chris Pronger twice. It wasn't a superstar forward, it was Lupul and picks and prospects that got the deals done. Gagner could be part of a package that lands the Oilers the last piece of the puzzle.
Granted, this scenario is a tad unlikely in places, but if even part of it happens it will be good for the Oilers. Then again, some of these things will happen, so Oiler fan can look forward to a bright future.