You´re right. Exchange has always been overpriced but you can still find some good nomal priced items...for example common MK XI gear.
Better gear drops you can get from the fleet actions for fed side (the daily from Admiral Yanishev - just mail them to your Klink alt) or at Ker'rat system in the Eta Eridani sector.
As for the season 2 missions you can trigger them like that:
“Bringing Down the House” J'mpok
“The House Always Wins” Sirella
“Second Star to the Right, Straight on 'til Morning” J'mpok
“Keep Your Enemies Closer” J'mpok
“Blood of the Empire” J'mpok
“The Gates of Gre'thor” J'mpok
there are also patrol missions too. once you do the first ep skirmish, you can then get access to 3 missions that are repeatable.
one is given by drake/k'men. the other two need to be found. one is by a freighter near the bottom of the map, and one is on the planet north of drozona station. that mission also lets you collect data cores. once you have 10 hail drake/k'men and you get a forth patrol mission.
There are also three Dailiy missions now in Eta Eridani - one of them you get from K'Men/Drake, but the other two require flying to specific locations. But dang, I forget the names of the planets where you should look around.