July 07 2014 04:45PM
Heaven knows, the Edmonton Oilers have done much to earn the cynicism of their fans by making so many questionable player personnel decisions in recent seasons, but I don't see the signing of Jeff Petry to a one-year contract as one of them.
There was much consternation among the fan base today when the Oilers announced the one-year pact, worth $3.075 million, because the deal will take Petry to UFA status but not beyond. Some shouted, "Bad asset management," assuming Petry will be out the door the second he's eligible to bolt. Others assume a trade is inevitable. Petry is as good as gone.
I don't buy the bad asset management bit – it's an in-vogue buzz-phase that gets thrown around a lot around here, in large part because of the reign of error we saw under Steve Tambellini. It's premature, to say the least, unless Petry walks at the end of the coming season without any return.
I see the latter, the possibility Petry will be moved along between now and the next trade deadline, as being far more likely -- although not necessarily inevitable. I'm OK with that outcome, with the caveat that MacTavish lands something of use, not futures or prospects, if that time arrives.
Bottom line, this is a bridge contract to the deal Petry and the Oilers couldn’t come to terms on this time around. Petry is going to get paid and he's going to get term in his next contract as a UFA, whether it's here with the Oilers or with another team. As Jonathan Willis wrote at The Cult of Hockey today, this sets the clock on Petry and the Oilers.
THE ART OF THE DEAL
"This one-year deal is something both sides felt was best," Petry told Jason Gregor of TSN 1260 today. That might be spin by Petry, but if both sides believe it really is best to take a longer look before committing because they couldn't agree on term or dollars now, it's not a reach.
Petry has been playing first-pairing minutes here, so bargaining for a new deal as a first-pairing defenseman is exactly what you'd expect, especially if the Oilers wanted a year or two or three of his UFA status. Why wouldn’t Petry ask for $4.5 million or more per season over, say, four or five years?
On the Oilers side of the bargaining table, why would MacTavish commit to that kind of money and term if he isn’t sure where Petry fits in the plans? Do you throw $20 million or more at a pending UFA if you're not confident the contract will make sense a year or two from now just because you're afraid you night lose him for nothing?
Petry has been pushed into first-pairing minutes because the Oilers don't have any actual first-pairing defensemen now. Fans have been lamenting that for, what, a season or more? This contract gives the Oilers the opportunity to decide where Petry fits moving forward. Not a bad idea with the additions of Mark Fayne, Nikita Nikitin and Keith Aulie and with Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin and Darnell Nurse on the way.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Petry draws a lot of criticism for the mistakes he makes and a perceived lack of physicality, much of it earned, but there's absolutely no questions he's an NHL defenseman. I don't think he'll ever be a first-pairing guy with the vast majority of NHL teams, but that's a point for debate. The Oilers get another season to draw their conclusions on that point.
If Petry puts together a solid season, he can't lose. He'll either get his term and his money from the Oilers or from another team as a UFA. If the Oilers like what they see, MacTavish can open talks about a new contract to lock Petry up in January. Sure, Petry could opt to test the market, but why would he leave if the money is right?
This deal buys time for both sides. Nothing wrong with that.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.