2010 NHL Free Agency: Oilers sign speedy center Andrew Cogliano to one-year, $1M deal

andrewcoglianocelebrates.jpgIt seems like the Edmonton Oilers roster can be split into three general categories: the new young (such as Taylor Hall), the old young (such as Sam Gagner) and … the old and broken (Nikolai Khabibulin). The team signed one of their “old young” today, as they inked speedy center Andrew Cogliano to a one-year, $1 million contract (terms according to Nick Kypreos).

This brings the Oilers overall payroll to about $54.4 million although the team will need to get rid of one lower level player to get to the maximum allowed 23 players (their current CapGeek.com number is based on 24 players).

Cogliano’s mainly known for his skating abilities since he hasn’t exactly taken the league by storm at this point. His productivity actually keeps declining in his last three seasons as he went from 45 to 38 to 28 points.

Oilers blog Copper & Blue wrote this about Cogliano while reviewing the franchise’s best players under the age of 25 (he was ranked No. 7).

So what’s wrong with Cogliano? In my opinion, it’s mostly the situation. He can’t win a faceoff but has played center his entire career. He’s small on a team committed to getting bigger. He hasn’t proven that he’s got the defensive chops to take on a lot of responsibility in the defensive zone or against good players. He belongs on the wing, but with Ales Hemsky, Dustin Penner, Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, Jordan Eberle, and Taylor Hall all in the fold, things are already looking crowded. Especially if he needs some sheltering. Add in Gilbert Brule, Sam Gagner, and Shawn Horcoff, and there’s only one top nine spot left. With so much youth in the lineup, the Oilers need that player to be capable all over the ice. Derek recently talked about what Steve Tambellini has left to do this summer and one of his suggestions was for the Oilers to sign a tough minutes forward. If that happens, someone else gets pushed out. If Linus Omark makes the team, it’s the same thing. If it’s both, two players need to be moved to make room. Maybe that’s Eberle going to Oklahoma, Hall going to Windsor or Paajarvi going to Timra, but maybe it’s Andrew Cogliano going to the fourth line or the press-box. Judging from Steve Tambellini’s desire to rid himself of the guy, I suspect he sees Cogliano as one of the odd men out.

Ouch. Now, the Oilers aren’t spending much on Cogliano so maybe his considerable (but limited) skills will show through.

Edmonton could improve nicely next season with the continued growth of a few veterans (Dustin Penner, Tom Gilbert), the addition of young players (Hall, maybe Jordan Eberle or Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson) and hopefully healthier season for two important individuals (Ales Hemsky and Khabibulin). I don’t think that will be enough to make them a playoff team, but they could be a bit more respectable next season.

Which means this might be a do-or-die campaign for Cogliano.

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”