Training Camp Rosters Offer Surprises

This is Tim Thomas. He was at training camp for the Edmonton Oilers 1998 fall. Every NHL team loses quality talent for little or nothing over the years, but the bygone training camp roster serves as "God’s flashlight" and the names can be eye-popping years later. We can also see some wise moves by the organization years before the player arrives in the NHL, and also get some insight into this fall’s invite list. Here are some interesting items 98-07:

  • Fall 1998: Let’s be clear: Tim Thomas wasn’t the same goalie ten years ago and in fact his career didn’t get established until 2005. The Oilers signed him as a free agent in 1998 and he played a few games for them in Hamilton, but by season’s end Thomas was in Finland trying to regain his career. I think Thomas serves as fair warning that goalies don’t develop in a straight line, so a wise team should monitor developing goaltenders in Europe and the AHL closely. A current name we might try to remember is Nathan Lawson, who has been building a nice resume in the minor leagues.
  • Fall 1998: Eric Perrin had completed one season of pro (IHL) when he arrived in Oiler camp in 1998. The small forward would kick around for almost a decade before having a brief NHL career with Tampa Bay and Atlanta after the lockout. Guys like Perrin are always available, and we should look for his type (undersized 2-way player from the Toby Petersen tree) of player in the "training camp invite" list the Oilers will release in the next few days.
  • Fall 1999: Esa Tikkanen played for two NHL teams the previous season and was looking for one more chance at the show. I listed him not so much as a "miss" by the Oilers but as a reminder that sometimes veterans do return for a last chance Texaco with a team that remembers them well. Anson Carter would be a more recent example. Possible invites for the Oilers this fall from this category include Janne Niinimaa, Georges Laraque and Mike York. I kid. Or do I? 🙂
  • Fall 2000Matthew Lombardi attended training camp with the Oilers and was sent back to junior for the 00-01 season. The Oilers didn’t get him signed and he re-entered the draft, and it is painfully obvious they should have signed him. Edmonton was still on the cheap in this era; the new group had some issues with Riley Nash but did get an asset in return. Rem Murray would be an example of a "reverse Lombardi" for the Oilers, in that the Kings drafted him but the Oilers signed the player after his amateur career was over.
  • Fall 2001Marc-Andre Bergeron passed through the draft and was signed three months shy of his 21st birthday. He’s on the list because the Oilers should be more active in this area but have gone away from signing some of the junior kids in the past few seasons. I’m sure teams like the Burke Leafs have driven up the price, but that’s an area of procurement Edmonton needs to improve.
  • Fall 2003Steve Valiquette’s career path had a lot of ricochet in 2003. The Oilers signed him as a minor league free agent in August, but didn’t have room to protect him in that fall’s waiver draft. He was plucked by Florida, who then lost him back to waivers when the Oilers reclaimed him just 6 days later. His travel continued later that season, as Edmonton dealt him to the Rangers for Nedved and Markkanen. I’ve listed Valiquette here because his wonky October those years ago might be the route for either Deslauriers or Dubnyk this fall.
  • Fall 2006Toby Petersen was signed as a free agent in the summer of 2004. Since there was no NHL that fall, Petersen played that season (and the next one) in the minor league system. Petersen found a home in the NHL in the fall of 2006 when coach Craig MacTavish found the other candidates (two-way role players, PK men) less than attractive. I mention his name because the current roster is very similar in this area. The obvious candidate for the Petersen role is Liam Reddox, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Oilers invite a player of this type to training camp. Perhaps Jared Aulin can fill this role.
  • Fall 2006Patrick Thoresen was all around the NHL long before he arrived. A pre-draft Q&A with Redline Report’s Kyle Woodlief went like this: Downingtown, PA: Where do you expect to see two non-CSB rated players, Patrick Thoresen and Jimmy Cuddihy, go in the draft? Kyle Woodlief: At Red Line we have both ranked as second-rounders. I expect Thoresen to go late in the second round. Cuddihy may slide to the third or fourth round, but would be a steal at that level. Thoresen was never drafted and Cuddihy went on to form Blue Rodeo. Anyway, this was 2002 or so, and Thoresen bounced around a while (Bruins TC in 2003) before Edmonton signed him summer 2006. One of 5 men from Norway to play in the NHL, he had an excellent season in the KHL this past season and I’d love to see him in an Oiler uniform again. I mention him here because "coming out of nowhere" doesn’t really happen in hockey at the NHL level. Thoresen was a known item when he signed with the Oilers.
  • Fall 2007Allan Rourke was "only a pawn their game." In July of 2007 Kevin Lowe (Tambellini would be hired a year and a month later) sent a 2nd round pick (originally Anaheim’s) to the Islanders for Rourke and a 3rd round pick (which originally belonged to the Oilers–they sent it away in the MA Bergeron trade the previous deadline). The 2nd rounder the Islanders received turned into Travis Hamonic and the 3rd round pick the Oilers got went to selecting Kirill Petrov. The reason Edmonton had to make this trade? Signing Dustin Penner to the offer sheet. A tangled transaction.
  • Fall 2007: Anson Carter had a small part in the Oilers 07-08 season, beginning September 16 when he signed a tryout contract and ending October 1st when he was released with only a headache to show for two weeks work. He would sign HC Lugano (Swiss League) on November 5, 2007. With so many free agents out there I think there’s a good chance one or more would accept a training camp offer from the Oilers. The question is: will the Oilers extend an offer? With Souray’s status up in the air I can’t imagine the Oilers turning down a chance to improve the blueline depth.

The back pages do give us some indication about the future. I think the Oilers may end up calling an Enver Lisin or a Mark Popovic and inviting them to camp. Failing that, it is probably a good idea to watch the waiver wire closely this fall, as they  might be able to pick up a useful player that way. I’ll be paying close attention to defensemen who fall through the cracks, Edmonton needs some help there. Picking up an able player might allow them to deal Souray for a pick and a dead contract.

    • book¡e

      Yeah Great – let us know when you have done the ‘Reverse Lombardi’ and then you have a cherry popping to brag about.

      LT did his first Reverse Lombardi before you were even born, and in those days, that type of behaviour was frowned upon in most circles.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    kinda glad we didnt keep thomas; overrated over paid back up

    should bring in laraque on a invite tho just too push the likes of SMAC and Huggy Bear, probly wont happen but thats just my opinion

    • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

      ~Yeah. We sure dodged a bullet on that one. I’m glad we’re in a position where we have three tried/tested/true NHL starters in the prime of their respective careers signed to reasonable, long-term contracts.~

      • a lg dubl dubl

        LOL sure our goaltending situation is abit obscure right now but Id rather have JD, DD and Khabibulin (if healthy and SOBER)this year than Thomas IMO. FYI dosnt Thomas make more than Khabby anyway, a drunk or not id take NK over timid thomas anyday

    • Woogie

      Lilja has only played 80 games due to concussions in the past 2 seasons. He is also 34.

      This might be a very risky pick up for a guy who has played less than 500 NHL games.

  • Lowetide

    I think the Oilers might pursue some of the younger free agents. If they can grab a useful 24-year old maybe that player hangs around for years as a piece of the puzzle.

  • Ducey

    I’ll be paying close attention to defensemen who fall through the cracks, Edmonton needs some help there

    Couldn’t agree more. I count 47 contracts including Cogs at Capgeek. Its real important they keep a few spots open. Its tough to know who will have to clear waivers, who will actually be put on waivers, but one of the benefits of being last is that you get first kick at the waiver wire and you can afford to try out a player.

    I am guessing but I think Matt Pelech from Calgary might be one of these guys. He is 23, a former 1st rounder in ’05. At 6’4″ 220 with a mean streak and apparently decent in his own end he might fit in nice.

    Others? (again I don’t know if their will be available or even have to go on waivers)
    Clayton Stoner, Minni
    Ryan O’Byrne, Montreal
    Teemu Laakso, Nashville
    David Schlemko, Phoenix

    • I don’t think the Flames will chance passing Pelech thru waivers. As you said, he’s a former 1st rounder – for that reason alone, I don’t see them doing it. If they had to, I think they’d keep the former 1st round pick ahead of a free agent signing like Adam Pardy, just to save face. Pardy might be better today, but Pelech likely has a higher ceiling & definitely a better pedigree. Wouldn’t want to make the scouts look bad, lol. Having said that, Pardy could be a decent addition here, if it came down to that.

  • PabstBR55

    Going a little further back in history, I think Ray Whitney played his brief stint here in ’97 after being invited to camp. Maybe he was signed, I’m not sure, but he did split the previous season between the AHL and IHL’s Utah Grizzlies.

    In any event, after his 9 games (1-3-4) of obscurity here, he waivered, picked up and given powerplay minutes in Florida, went on to pump over 30 goals that season.

    I guess our second line was already too crowded with Czerkawski and Satan as wingers … two more guys who walked for nothing.


    • a lg dubl dubl

      Whitney was playing centre at the time, the Oilers excuse was that Weight & Arnott were both ahead of him, and they didn’t have room for a small offensive 3rd line centre.

      Ironically enough Arnott was trade for Guerin a r.w & Zelapuckin l.w 2 months later.

      Kind of reminds me of whats going on with Cog’s.

      • book¡e

        Sather was keen on Whitney, but Ron Low would not play him.

        I started the online “I hate (fanhate, not real hate) Ron Low” Fanclub. Nobody but me and Al Gore were online in those days though so it was a pretty lonely club. I did have a protest at the Coliseum, but only 3 people showed up.

        • a lg dubl dubl

          He didn’t beleive in Satan either, what used to drive me crazy was when Bucky would replace Satan on Doug Weight’s wing.

          Bucky and Low are now customers of mine(Great Guys). Low has told me some great stories about his time in N.Y and Ottawa ( Emery,Lindros).

          Back in those days they couldn’t afford the pateints that Mr. Katz’s has. At least this time around we have the right owner.

  • PabstBR55

    Of course MADJAM suggested a while back that teams should be allowed to carry an active 28-man roster, including 8 d-men, a carousel of goaltenders, and a 5th, yes a 5th line.

    This, my friends, is the soluion to ensuring that a team never lose talent to the waiver wire.

  • Maggie the Monkey

    I know that he wasn’t a training camp invite and so his story is not really relevant to this article, but this list of names made me think of Jiri Dopita for the first time in ages. Amongst that string of players who came in during the early oughties that were over-hyped by the local MSM, including Oates and Mike York, and he was the most disappointing to me. I still think it’s too bad that he didn’t come over at least five years earlier in his career as he could have been a serviceable centre had he arrived at a young enough age to adjust.

    After a quick glace at Wikipedia, he’s still playing in the Czech league at the tender age of 41! Maybe he could be added to LT’s list of potential invites to play on a line with Hemsky…

  • Spartacus

    Jarret Stoll is another of these “reverse Lombardi’s”. Calgary drafted him and didn’t sign him, same draft year as Lombardi, I think. Edmonton and Calgary essentially traded prospects… in a roundabout way.

    I chuckled at the Cuddy/Blue Rodeo reference, LT.

  • Beer + Wings

    The problem with the waiver wire solution is that generally younger guys aren’t waiver eligible, and the ones that are eligible and are still tracking well stay with the team as a value contract and as part of their development.

    Mid aged Dmen, 25-30, can be had right now as FAs without any need to risk them going to another team and then hoping they play bad enough they’re waived (egs. Schubert, Popovic, there are others).

    The end of TC waiver solution is not a very good one. And besides wouldn’t the Oil prefer to give those at bats to Peckham anyways? Is someone who’s better than Peckham, and in his age cadre, going to get waived?

    And anyone picked up will have to be guaranteed a spot on the roster for the remainder of the season.

    Sure, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the waiver wire, who knows what may shake out. But the gems there will be in older-players-with-awkward-contracts aisle.

    If Management perceives there is still a depth issue on D, and desire something under 30, then they should be proactive and resolve it now.

  • Jerk Store

    Agreed Spoiler. You better be damn sure the guy you are picking up is going to be better than Peckham because Theo may not clear waivers on the way down. I don’t see him as more than a bottom pairing guy right now but he is young, tough, willing and I believe lives here year round (assuming this means he likes it here). One thing the oil lacked over the past few years is toughness and for lack of a better word, “bitchy-ness”. Adding Vandermeer and playing Peckham more makes for a 3rd pairing that while not spectacular will be hellish to play against.

  • Jerk Store

    Janne Niinimaa? Wow, that would be interesting. I was a huge Niinimaa fan back in the day and unless he has improved his skating and his defensive zone coverage this would be a waste of time. Niinimaa was expendable in the NHL after 2007 because he couldn’t adapt his defensive game to the new rules. I know he’s put up impressive numbers overseas in the Swedish and Swiss Elite leagues the last three seasons, but I don’t know. Laraque, that would be a waste of time. He’s slow and doesn’t want to fight either. York, uh no. Now Esa Tikkanen, he’s exactly what the Oilers need only if we can put him in a time machine and bring back the Esa Tikkanen from 1988.

  • RPG

    Good read LT, thought Jarret Stoll would make the list on the opposite end of the Lombardi. Drafted by Calgary In 2000, re-entered in 2002 after Calgary couldn’t sign him. Wish we still had him, hated that trade from day one!