Signings for the future

Journeyman defenceman Dean Arsene signed with the Oil.

The Oilers recent signings won’t win them many games next year, but they could pay dividends down the road.

The Oilers signed defenceman Matt Nickerson, chosen 99th in 2003 by the Dallas Stars, to a one-year $500,000 contract. He has a two-way deal and will get $95,000 in the minors.

Nickerson doesn’t bring much offence, but it’s his size, 6’4”, 235 pounds and aggressive nature that they like. Nickerson spent the last two years playing in Finland for Ilves Tampere and had 15 points in 78 games along with 301 PIMs.

Nickerson has had a strange career so far. He spent two years in junior in the NAHL, then spent one year at Clarkson in the NCAA. He went to Victoriaville in the QMJHL then he went to Finland for one year. He spent the 2006/07 season in the Stars system, 13 games in the ECHL and then 40 in the AHL, but then he went back to Finland for two years.

A scout outside the Oilers organization told me that Nickerson didn’t see eye-to-eye with the Stars organization, but in the last two years he has grown up and is looking for a fair shot. Right now there doesn’t seem to be any room for him in Edmonton, but they don’t have much depth on their blueline after Theo Peckham as far as NHL ready D-men, so Nickerson gives the Oilers some much needed depth. (Taylor Chorney is not NHL ready right now.)

The Oilers also signed journeyman forward Chris Minard. Minard epitomizes the guy who won’t give up on the dream, and is one of those guys who could be a real life Rudy. Minard signed a one-year, $500,000 deal, but he has a two-way deal that will pay him a respectable $275,000 in the minors. That amount of dollars proves to me that his value is high because of what he will teach the young guys around him in Springfield.

Rob Schremp and Ryan O’Marra are two players who should watch Minard closely this year.

Minard had stops in Owen Sound, Toronto St. Michael’s and Oshawa in the OHL. He spent 2003 in the ECHL, then 2004 in the CHL, then back to the ECHL for the 2005 season.

In his fourth pro season he became a regular in the AHL. After playing 33 games in the ECHL he got called up to Albany and tallied seven goals and 19 points in 37 games. The 2007 season saw him start and finish in the AHL with Lowell.

Then in his sixth pro season he finally reached the NHL, playing in 15 games for the Penguins. This past year he had 34 goals and 57 points in 54 games in Wilkes Barre and he also played 20 games for the Penguins.

In those 20 games he averaged 9:24 of icetime a game, all of it EV strength except :28 per game on the PP.

The scouting report on Minard is “good vision, hard worker, grittier than Potulny, but really needs to work on his first step.” It is doubtful he plays in Edmonton, but his value will be making Springfield competitive, and ensuring that the young players have a solid role model. Minard can’t take a night off in the AHL or he will never get back to the NHL, and that mentality is what the young Oiler prospects will need to see.

Yesterday on my radio show Kevin Prendergast confirmed they’ve signed journeyman D-man Dean Arsene to two-way deal. And like Minard, Arsene is looked as a solid AHLer based on they two-ay deal that will pay him $500,000 in the show and $170,000 in the AHL.

Arsene has been to three Calder Cup championships in the past four years, and as a member of the Hershey Bears he won two and lost one.

Arsene was an assistant captain this past year, and that was due to his leadership not his point totals. Arsene is a stay-at-home D-man, who kills penalties and blocks shots.

“His best attribute is his leadership and veteran poise on the AHL ice,” said a scout.

Signing Arsene and Minard proves the Oilers want to improve the attitude within their farm system. They needed some proven AHL veterans who could lead what looks to be a very young group again this year.

The biggest hurdle many players never overcome is learning how to be prepared to play every night. Last year in Springfield that was a major problem, and the Oilers are banking on Minard and Arsene to help future Oilers understand that aspect of the pro game.