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Edmonton GM Lowe says expect six to eight new faces on next year's team

Not even close.

"We need, I don't want to say every position, but practically every position," said Lowe, talking with the reporters for the first time since the Oilers beat Calgary 3-2 on Saturday.

With just two wins in their final 20 games (2-17-1) and a record of 32-43-7, Lowe will do more than tinker with a roster that managed just 71 points and was last in the NHL with 216 goals.

"You want to be careful of changing over your whole team. There's a risk with that," he said.

"I would think we could have as many as six to eight new faces on the team next year. We're prepared to do that."

The consensus going into this season was that Lowe needed a puck-moving defenceman to fill the void created when Chris Pronger demanded a trade and was dealt to Anaheim last July.

Lowe never did find the deal for the puck-mover he coveted. Since then, his wish list has grown - notably with the obvious need for a couple of top-six forwards to complement Ales Hemsky.

Lowe said he expects to get the budget from ownership he needs to add the players he requires.

"From our perspective, we've had a re-think in the last couple of months," Lowe said. "It's safe to say we'll make a proposal that will allow us to do what we need to do this off-season."

Plan A, says Lowe, is to be aggressive in pursuing unrestricted free agents after July 1. Failing that, he'll see what's available via trades.

"We'll get involved in free agency and hope that we can be successful," he said. "We'll have more time and have a better look at expectations and what we need going into this free agency.

"If we don't acquire the players we think we need to make our team better, we'll have to revert to Plan B, making deals for restricted free agents and just trying to improve the hockey club."

The inability to replace Pronger, injuries to veterans Ethan Moreau, Steve Staios and Jarret Stoll and sub-par seasons by Raffi Torres, Joffrey Lupul, Shawn Horcoff had the Oilers out of the running by the NHL's trade deadline Feb. 27, when Ryan Smyth was dealt to the New York Islanders.

"Regrets? Yes, a number of them," Lowe said about his performance this season. "I think anytime you have a season like we had this year there are things you'd like to have done differently.

"You've got to learn from your mistakes, make sure you don't do them again and try to improve on it. What stands out most for me is the inability to make a deal that helped the hockey club, like we were able to do last year."

With more liberal unrestricted free agency rules and the dynamics of the salary cap in the new CBA, Lowe sees an opportunity to turn things around as quickly as they went bad.

"We feel we can do what we need to do this off-season to get the team to that level," he said. "If that's not the case, we won't be far off and we'll be poised to do what we need to do in the upcoming year."

Petr Sykora, who earned $2.9 million this season and led the Oilers with 22 goals and 53 points despite scoring just two goals in his final 21 games, is the most significant Oiler who'll be an unrestricted free agent July 1. The others are Toby Petersen, Daniel Tjarnqvist, Jan Hejda and Jussi Markkanen.

Sykora, 30, has repeatedly said he'd like to stay in Edmonton. He reiterated that desire Monday.

"Personally, I've enjoyed having Petr around," Lowe said. "I hope he can play a part in the team next year."



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