The Edmonton Oilers have a large number of young men ready to graduate. Pro hockey is the next step, they’ve complete their studies and are ready to sign contracts. Next stop? Edmonton, Oklahoma City, Stockton. Or back to junior.
Stu (Magnificent Bastard) MacGregor and the Oiler scouting staff are certainly doing a fine job in the procurement department. It is beginning to create some (welcome) problems for the organization, notably where to put all of these young men who have proven themselves in junior. Below is a list–position by position–of the incumbents and the players who will be pushing them for playing time as early as this fall.
- Oilers: Devan Dubnyk is signed to a reasonable deal for 11-12 and then becomes a restricted free agent. Nikolai Khabibulin’s contract is an albatross from which there is no escape. However, based on his performance this season, NK’s roster spot may not be safe. The Oilers have to pay in full for the contract, but Khabibulin’s 29 losses in 40 starts and his ,892 SP ranks him 67th of 83 NHL goalies this year.
- Barons: Martin Gerber has played very well and is likely to get a more attractive offer than the Oilers are willing to give him. He might be an option for backup to DD but I suspect the team will want a younger player should they decide to go that route. Jeff Deslauriers is also a UFA this summer and there’s every chance he pursues opportunities elsewhere. Dubnyk won the battle for the NHL job, and JDD has not played well in the AHL this season.
- Thunder: Bryan Pitton has struggled with Stockton this season, although his AHL cup of coffee was more impressive. Pitton is an rfa this summer and I think the Oilers may walk away.
- Graduating: QMJHL star Olivier Roy. His .910SP is tied for 5th in the QMJHL and Roy’s resume makes him a no-brainer signing. I don’t know what level he’ll play at in 11-12, but it’s a good bet Roy will spend at least some time in the AHL.
- Current 11-12 depth chart: Dubnyk, NK. Two UFA’s in JDD and Gerber plus RFA Pitton mean heavy turnover possible. Roy certain to sign with the Oilers and begin his pro career.
- Oilers: Whitney and Gilbert are at the top of the depth chart and are signed through 2013 and 2014 respectively. Kurtis Foster has one more year on his deal and Ladislav Smid is an rfa who will be signed over the summer. Kids we can assume will be here to stay in the fall are Theo Peckham and Jeff Petry. Taylor Chorney and Alex Plante are also in the mix, depending on what happens over the summer. The big club will lose Jim Vandermeer and Jason Strudwick to free agency unless signed; I think Vandermeer may return.
- Barons: Richard Petioit is UFA but may re-sign with the Oilers on a 2-way deal. Aside from him some youngsters will get cut from the big club in the fall (among the group that is Peckham, Petry, Chorney and Plante). AHL names include Colten Teubert, Kevin Montgomery and Johan Motin. Barons have Helmer signed for next season and will have a Jake Taylor type (or Taylor himself) back again. If we assume that all of Chorney, Plante, Teubert and Montgomery spend most of the season in OKC with possibly Petioit, Helmer and a Taylor type, there’s not much room left for new hires. A guy like Motin–with a year left on his deal–may be looking Stockton square in the face this fall. Taylor Fedun, the recently signed NCAA grad, will also be a factor.
- Thunder: Jordan Bendfeld is an rfa who has spent time in both OKC and Stockton, one expects he’ll be signed. Motin is also in the mix for Stockton’s blue.
- Graduating: Huge college defender Kyle Bigos is just finishing up his sophomore year with Merrimack. He could turn pro, but has two more years of eligbility in the NCAA. Bigos’ bruising style is likely better suited to the pro game, so it is possible the Oilers will sgn him this summer. Martin Marincin won’t turn 20 until shortly after Valentine’s day 2012, but is eligible to turn pro this fall. Based on his impressive WHL season my guess is the Oilers will sign him and Marincin will play in OKC. Brandon Davidson is winding down another solid year with the Pats, a season which saw him improve in all areas. Guy Flaming mentioned on Nation Radio yesterday he thought Davidson might stay, so there could be a chance he’ll be in the WHL again next year. I don’t believe Jeremie Blain is eligible to turn pro this fall (March 1992 birthday).
- Current 11-12 depth chart: Whitney-Gilbert, Smid-Foster, Peckham-Petry for the Oilers. Chorney-Plante, Teubert-Montgomery, Helmer-Motin for the Barons. Bendfeld for the Thunder. It goes without saying that the free agent signings at the NHL and AHL level will push back the current depth chart before the fall.
From the group eligible to sign with the Oilers this fall, I believe G Olivier Roy, D Martin Marincin and D Brandon Davidson will turn pro. I’m less certain about Bigos, but history tells us that the Oilers will pursue him after his junior season if they believe he’s a player. That was the approach the club took with both Matt Greene and Jeff Petry.
Next up: the forwards.