It’s still early, but a few Oilers players with expiring contracts this summer are already giving us a good indication of how the organization might deal with them when the season comes to a close.
Jim Vandermeer – $2.3 million, UFA. I’ve come around on Vandermeer after some initial scepticism, because his play has improved from the start of the season. Lowetide pointed out this morning that Vandermeer’s best stretch this season came right before his latest injury, but those injuries are a major concern. More concerning for Vandermeer is the fact that the Oilers have some pressure building up within the system – Jeff Petry, Taylor Chorney and Alex Plante could all legitimately contend for an NHL job next season. If Vandermeer comes cheaply enough there’s a chance he could fit into the Jason Strudwick role (I’d be a fan of that, myself) but I suspect he’ll get squeezed out.
Ladislav Smid – $1.3 million, RFA. I like Smid. The Oilers rushed him into the NHL too early, but he’s developed the last few years and I’m confident there’s a second-pairing NHL defenceman in there. The only question is when that player is going to show himself; Smid’s been passed in terms of even-strength ice-time this season by Theo Peckham and that simply shouldn’t be happening. Do the Oilers bet on his potential or give him another short, low-money deal? Either could happen.
Jeff Deslauriers – $1.05 million, UFA. After years of investment in Deslauriers, he’s fallen well behind Devan Dubnyk in terms of performance, and he can’t keep up with Martin Gerber in Oklahoma City (0.916 SV% vs. 0.888 SV%). After fearing to risk him on the waiver wire early in the year, I doubt the Oilers will even offer him a contract this summer.
Andrew Cogliano – $1.0 million, RFA. I was optimistic coming into this season that Andrew Cogliano would find a role under Tom Renney after being lost under Pat Quinn. With just eight points in 31 games despite frequent stretches with top-six ice-time, that optimism is gone. Cogliano’s always been a streaky player, and at some point he’ll start scoring for a while, but he can’t seem to do it on a steady basis and four seasons into his NHL career his defensive game is still chaos. If the Oilers do re-sign him, it will be on a dirt-cheap contract, but I think it’s more likely that he’ll be sent out the door, barring a miraculous turnaround.
Ryan Jones – $975,000, UFA. After barely surviving training camp, Jones has looked like one of the few solid pieces in the Oilers’ bottom-six. I don’t think he’s worth seven figures but at the right price there’s no reason he shouldn’t be back.
Taylor Chorney – $941,667, RFA. This is the last year in Chorney’s entry-level contract. At every stage, he’s been put in the deep end – forced to play AHL minutes he couldn’t handle, and then elevated to the NHL out of need. It’s no surprised that his plus/minus over the last few years has looked like a golfer’s wet dream. Now, at 23, he’s putting in solid minutes in the AHL. I don’t know if he has an NHL future, but I think he’s worth at least a two-way contract, and he’s still young enough to surprise.
Jason Strudwick – $725,000, UFA. He’s done.
Zack Stortini – $700,000, RFA. I’ve turned into a fan of Stortini after initially disliking his play, but Tom Renney clearly doesn’t have the same feelings. Stortini only plays in two-thirds of games, and when he does play his minutes are carefully limited. He has just two assists through 21 games so far. I’d like to see him back on another low-dollars contract, but I’m forced to wonder if he’s in trouble here.
Ryan O’Marra – $700,000, RFA. O’Marra’s having easily his most successful AHL season, and does fit need for the Edmonton Oilers. I imagine he’ll get a two-way contract this summer.
Jean-Francois Jacques – $615,000, RFA. Have the Oilers finally lost patience with “Crazy Train?” His scoring touch, which made him a relatively attractive prospect at certain points in his career, has disappeared entirely, and he seems like one of those guys who is going to have serious injury concerns every season. I think he gets let go this summer.
Theo Peckham – $550,000, RFA. Teddy Peckman needed to make a statement this season or risk getting lost in the crowd of emerging young Oilers’ defencemen. He’s done it, and he’s now at the point where he’s playing top-four minutes for the Oilers. He must be in the plans.
Liam Reddox – $550,000, RFA. ‘Tweener is putting in a solid performance in the AHL; he’s exactly the kind of call-up option that every team needs.