Looking at the current contracts and waiver eligibility of the group of players assembled at the Oilers’ training camp, I believe we can say with near certainty (barring a trade or injury) who will be playing with the team to start the season.
Let’s start by considering the locks:
- Shawn Horcoff
- Dustin Penner
- Ales Hemsky
- Patrick O’Sullivan
- Fernando Pisani
- Ethan Moreau
- Sam Gagner
- Andrew Cogliano
- Zack Stortini
That’s a list of nine players who will be with the team. I think we can add five more players with a reasonable degree of certainty:
- Robert Nilsson
- Mike Comrie
- Marc Pouliot
- Gilbert Brule
- Jean-Francois Jacques
There are very few question marks even with those six players. Robert Nilsson is a leading candidate to be dealt based on skill-set and cap space. Some have suggested Marc Pouliot is as well, but at 6’1” he adds some size to the lineup and can play a defensive role – both skills which are in short supply on this roster. Gilbert Brule would need to clear waivers and given the cost to acquire him (Raffi Torres) and his pedigree I think it’s extremely unlikely that the Oilers would risk it.
In reality, the only player whose spot is in any real danger (with the possible exception of Nilsson) is J-F Jacques, but his numbers (6’4”, 217lbs) and the fact that he would need to clear waivers make it extremely unlikely that he’ll lose his job.
All this means that it’s a good bet that Jordan Eberle will be returned to junior, guys like Potulny, Reddox, Minard and Stone will go back to Springfield, and that Rob Schremp will disappear on the waiver wire or join that foursome in the AHL.
Again, let’s start by considering the locks:
- Lubomir Visnovsky
- Sheldon Souray
- Tom Gilbert
- Denis Grebeshkov
- Steve Staios
- Ladislav Smid
Some might argue with the inclusion of Staios, but while his contract is hefty and the returns are diminishing I think there’s very, very little chance he ends up anywhere else on opening night. That leaves Jason Strudwick on the bubble, but given that the player with the best chance of passing him (Theo Peckham) was injured to start camp, I’d say he’s pretty safe too.
Everybody’s a lock here. Nikolai Khabibulin is the team’s designated starter and there isn’t anyone who can challenge him for that role at this point. Meanwhile, Devan Dubnyk can clear wiavers and Jeff Deslauriers can’t. Honestly, Dubnyk probably has as good a shot at any of the guys on the outside of forcing his way on to the roster, since the Oilers need to make a choice on these two before next season, but it remains highly unlikely that he’ll be able to do it out of training camp.
That’s it. The only real mystery that remains is the line combinations.
Oh, and just to forestall the inevitable complaints (why is Hemsky listed third?) the players above are ranked by cap hit.