The top three lines seem to be set and should look something like this:
1 Hall Horcoff Eberle
2 Paajarvi Gagner Hemsky
3 Omark Cogliano Brule
Cogliano is an RFA but Tambellini should have no problem resigning him as well as Jones
Line four should be centered by Fraser who is very good defensively and is excellent on the PK and Jones brings a lot of energy to the fourth line and quite frankly earned the job last season having a career year (18 goals 25 points) This leaves only 1 vacant fourth line spot to fill. Most of the prospects in the system (Pitlick, Lander, Marincin, Hamilton) are very young and would develop better playing in the AHL or CHL and dominating.
The defense was quite simply awful last year. Injury played a part in that but this is the area that needs improvement.Whitney is the only top 2 option they have. Foster can play a top four role and his booming slap shot lead to 14 PP points. Tom Gilbert was bust last year. Look for Edmonton to try to move him. He comes with a $4 cap hit so it may be difficult, not to mention his +/- -14 and career worst 26 point total.
Petry and Peckham were given chances and played very well. i believe they are both a lock to make the team.
RFA Smid should also be back as the teams shut down man. If Gilbert is unloaded that leaves 1 spot. Colten Teubert acquired from LA in the Penner deal is exactly what Edmonton needs on the blue line. He is big, tough and nasty smooth skating shut down D man who would pair perfectly with Smid. Teubedrt may not be ready for the NHL however.
Goal tending is also inadequate. Khabibulin and Dubnyk are arguably the worst tandem in the NHL and both under contract for next season. I believe The Oil may attempt to move Khabibulin. He has 2 years left at $3.750. Finding a trade partner may be difficult given his age. Other options may be waivers, buyout or exile to KHL
The two biggest needs for Edmonton to address are a franchise defense man and a franchise goalie. With 2 picks in the first round this year (first overall and LA's pick) they may attempt to fill those needs at this years draft. They have players available on the roster who may be trade bait to fill these needs as well in Hemsky and Gilbert.
The top rated players for the draft are Larsson (potential franchise D man) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (consensus best player) The temptation to pick Larsson will be tempting. Or trade down giving up Hopkins to pick Larsson with the second or third pick could be even more tempting. The best player is Hopkins. Having him center Hall and Eberle for years to come should be the most tempting option available and the way Edmonton goes.
So what about defense and goal? Perhaps Schneider could be picked up from Vancouver. There is a connection with Tambellini already and Canucks have Luongo. He will not be cheap and Canucks cap limits make any Schneider deal difficult. No doubt Gillis would want picks and prospects in return. perhaps L.A.'s first pick and a top prospect like Lander or Pitlick? Other young targets for Tambellini to go after are Jake Allen Stl, Braden Holtby Was, Bernier L.A., Jack Campbell Dal. A very long shot may be Tuukka Rask. Tim Thomas is the clear #1 after another Vezina nomination and is currently leading Boston to the cup final.
A short term fix may be found on the UFA market by signing Josh Harding.
If Hemsky can remain healthy he may be trade bait for a #1 D man. RFA Zach Bogosian has been rumored to be available. A Hemsky + prospect package may be enough to make this happen. Nashville GM David Poile said in a news conference post elimination from the playoffs candidly stated they will be looking to address offensive short comings and would use their depth at defense to fill that need. Ellis and Blum jump to mind and this deal works very well for both teams.
The bottom line. Stick to the plan. Continue to fill the stable with horses. Be patient, don't rush young players and in 2 or 3 years reap the benefit and be class of the NHL. Top priorities are add franchise defense man, goalie and center.
The Oilers next moves, Draft Nugent-Hopkins to be franchise center. Trade Hemsky, Gilbert other picks and prospects and leverage cap space to acquire franchise defense and goalie. Be patient, then enjoy a long run of playoff berths and championships.