The Oilers can’t officially re-sign Jeff Petry until January, 2015, but when you look at the lineup, organizational depth and the potential free agent market it is obvious they must sign their 2nd round pick from 2006.
After a slow start, likely due to not playing any preseason games, Petry is playing is most consistent hockey in two years. He’s been assertive with the puck, solid defensively and he has been using his skating ability to get involved in the rush.
The Oilers do not have a better right shot defencemen right now, and they have none in the system who could replace him. Justin Schultz has better offensive instincts, but his overall game is not as developed as Petry’s.
The Oilers can’t afford to trade Petry for picks for prospects at the deadline, or lose him to free agency in the summer. Like most young defenders he has had some tough moments in his first 253 games, but Petry is now a solid, consistent NHL top-four D-man and the Oilers simply don’t have enough of them.
The Oilers have spent five years developing him. Trading or losing him now would be, to put it politely, idiotic.
Petry is an excellent skater with a hard shot, when he uses it, a good stick and he is emerging as a more consistent defender under Craig Ramsay’s guidance.
“He’s taught me to protect the middle of the ice. On a 3-on-2 rush for instance, don’t get so focused on the puck carrier on the outside because he is the least dangerous player. He is an excellent teacher,” said Petry.
Ramsay’s coaching experience was a welcome addition to the Oilers, but Petry is also more experienced and he is just coming into his prime. The majority of D-men don’t develop consistency in their overall game until they are 26 or 27. Petry turns 27 on December 9th, and I believe he is maturing into a very steady defender.
I don’t see any reason why the Oilers wouldn’t try hard to sign Petry to a five-year contract. If you compare recent free-agent D-men who are similar to Petry, a five-year $20 million deal is very reasonable. If they have to go as high as Stralman’s deal that would be reasonable as well.
Anton Stralman signed for $4.5 mill/year for five years with the Lightning last summer. Stralman was 27 years old when he signed the deal, and he was not an offensive D-man. He only had 13 points in 81 games with the Rangers, but he was a very good puck distributor/transporter and he had very good possession numbers. ( I didn’t use Niskanen’s $5.75 mill/year deal because Petry doesn’t have the offensive totals like him.)
The Oilers need Petry.
If they don’t sign him who will they replace him with? Schultz is not ready to play tougher competition. Moving Nikita Nikitin to the right side so Martin Marincin, Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse can play on the left side next season is an option, but Nikitin is not as good as Petry.
WHAT ABOUT FREE AGENTS?
The best right shot defenders are Johnny Boychuk, Mike Green and Zbynek Michalek. Boychuk is clearly the best of the bunch, but he will command close to $6 million on the free agent market, and the Islanders are already making a strong push to re-sign him.
Green is too similar to Schultz. They don’t need both of them on the roster.
Michalek is a solid defender, but there is no guarantee he’d sign here. He is also five years older than Petry and in two or three years when the Oilers are hoping to be a serious contender will he be as effective as a 29 year old Petry? I doubt it.
The Oilers had to endure the difficult years of his development, and it would make no sense for Craig MacTavish to let him walk away now.
Unless MacTavish can get a good enough return at the trade deadline to break even in a trade, I see no reason to consider moving him.
WILL HE STAY?
When I asked Petry if he’d sign an extension he gave the standard response, “My agent deals with that. I’m just focusing on having a good season.”
I’d understand why he’d want to test free agency. He’d be the best 27 year old D-man available on the market. He likely would have more competitive teams courting him, but will a team offer him more than they offered Stralman? I’d be surprised. There is no reason the Oilers should be outbid for his services even if he elects to test free agency.
The other issue is how the Oilers handled Ladislav Smid. Smid signed a four-year deal to stay in Edmonton and bypass free agency, but then he was dealt six months later.
The Oilers will likely have to give Petry a limited no-movement clause so he feels that he has some control over where he goes, if the Oilers decide they want to trade him after he signs a contract.
If the Oilers plan on becoming a playoff contender in the future they need to retain proven NHL players, and Petry is that. He is just entering his prime, after a few inconsistent seasons of developing, and his next five seasons will be much better than his previous five.
If this organization wants to improve they must re-sign Petry.
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