The World Hockey Championships end today, opening the door for free agent signings. The Edmonton Oilers are reportedly active this spring–good news for Oiler fans.
The Edmonton Oilers pro scouting group have been getting poor reviews of late, but I think it’s probably more a case of team management trying to solve problems by other means. The club used to be known for more subtle moves, like a small deal to acquire Jan Hejda (he cost a 7th rd pick) or minor signings of "unknowns" such as Toby Petersen or Patrick Thoresen. More recently, the club has spent dollars large (Nikolai Khabibulin) and small (Mike Comrie, Kurtis Foster) by casting their line in NHL free agent waters.
There’s evidence today that the Oilers have returned to their roots.
- Fasth and his wife will become parents this summer for the first time and he apparently wants some guarantees of stability in the form of a oneway contract. In the absence of such a surety, he is reportedly ready to stay with AIK Stockholm, his current Elitserien team. As per the NHL agreement with the International Ice Hockey Federation, Fasth has until June 15 to sign with an NHL team.
Seems like there’s some opportunity for the Oilers here. With Mr. Khabibulin’s future somewhat in doubt (there is that Arizona parking ticket still unresolved) and Devan Dubnyk the only other signed option, surely there’s some room for a one-way contract at the position. I’m heartened that the Oilers are interested and hopeful they sign him (or someone similar).
If the Oilers had enjoyed goaltending the calibre of Devan Dubnyk in all of their games last season, the club’s record would very likely have been much better. There was a gap in performance (.916 to .890) a year ago, tightening up that trail number is vital to any improvement.
There are also reports that the Oilers are interested in signing Finnish defender Ville Lajunen from Espoo Blues of the SM-Liiga. He’s 23, 6.0, 185 and is considered a puck mover. The story is here. We don’t really know what he’ll look like as an NHL player, but let’s run him through Gabriel Desjardins’ NHLE to see what it says:
- Age 20 NHLE 82gp, 8-11-19
- Age 21 NHLE 82gp, 4-25-29
- Age 22 NHLE 82gp, 5-13-18
He clearly had one spike season and then looks like there’s some offensive ability in every season. According to elite prospects, he’s "a right-handed defenseman with good hands and hockey sense. Plays an offense-first game and possesses a hard, yet not very accurate, point shot. Is an asset with the man advantage. Needs to improve his defensive-zone coverage and skating ability." Sounds like the modern Risto Siltanen!
The real story isn’t Fasth or Lajunen but that the Oilers are back to looking under every rock and trying to find gems. The last couple of seasons, filled with retreads and also-rans, contributed to the disastrous back-to-back seasons endured by the team and the fanbase. Finding the next Jan Hejda appears to be much wiser than offering dollars to another Kurtis Foster.
Fasth may be superior to Nikolai Khabibulin right now, Lajunen might be capable of stepping in and replacing someone on the current blue depth chart. As far as I know, the same pro scouts who found Jan Hejda walk the halls of the Oilers offices to this day. Let these men do their jobs, and leave the overpaying to New York’s Rangers.
This is a good sign.