GDB -2: THE FINAL CUTS

Yesterday the Oilers sent Antti Tyrvainen, Yann Danis and Colten Teubert to OKC leaving the Oilers with 32 players in camp. With Ryan Whitney likely not ready for opening night, and Sam Gagner highly questionable, Tom Renney will probably only make four or five more cuts after the weekend.

The openings are more for the pressbox than on the ice, but tonight and tomorrow’s games will impact those  staying more in the pocket book than on the ice.

The Oilers have 20 forwards, 10 D-men and 2 goalies still on the roster. Earlier this week Tom Renney stated he planned on taking a few extra guys to Jasper next week so they could bond with their teammates ,because they are likely to be recalled at some point this season.

Renney needs to make seven cuts by this time next week, I say seven because two guys will get a reprieve due to Gagner and Whitney’s injuries.

BUBBLE BOYS 

It isn’t hard to pick out the bubble boys: Anton Lander, Josh Green, Ryan Keller, Lennart Petrell, Ryan O’Marra, Teemu Hartikainen, Taylor Chorney, Taylor Fedun and Corey Potter.

Kevin Lowe and Steve Tambellini both told me that if a player on a one-way contract is clearly worse than a player on a two-way they won’t hesitate to put him on waivers and send him to OKC. I don’t doubt that, but I don’t see that happening next week.

Green, Keller and Fedun are obvious cuts, and likely won’t be going to Jasper. I don’t think Chorney will ever be a regular NHLer, so I’d send him down as well, but he might get a few extra days. i don’t think Lander is ready for the NHL and needs some seasoning, but I have a hunch they want him to get to know the players a bit more so he might be heading to Jasper.

They like Hartikainen’s size and strength and he’ll be part of the future, but he’s in the exact same spot as Omark was last year, and he is better off playing in the AHL than sitting in the pressbox. I think the final forward spot comes down to Petrell and O’Marra. With Gagner’s ankle issue, the Oilers only have four centres, so O’Marra could stick based on position more than skill. Renney really likes Petrell’s size and strength on the boards, and since he was my pre-camp surprise pick I’m going to stick with him making it, until Gagner returns.

The reality is that Petrell and O’Marra are just warming/renting a spot until Gagner returns. Gagner said yesterday that he felt he might be ready for the season opener, but players always think they will recover quickly.

Here’s a quick breakdown about how much of a difference one paycheque would be for these guys if they stick around for a week or two.

Player                  NHL salary                 AHL salary
Green                  $575,000                     $200,000
Keller                   $625,000                     $225,000
Hartikainen        $875,000                      $55,250
Lander                $880,000                      $67,500
Petrell                 $680,000                      $57,375
O’Marra               $735,000                      $70,000
Potter                  $525,000                      $225,000
Chorney             $735,000                      $53,125
Fedun                 $782,500                      $57,375

BIGGER QUESTIONS

The 14th forward spot won’t win or lose the Oilers many games, and I doubt it impacts the development of either O’Marra or Petrell, but the blueline is a different story. If Whitney returns after three or four games, would the Oilers send Petry down to get more seasoning and keep Potter instead? And who will they start in goal?

The Oilers need Petry to develop into more than just a serviceable D-man. They need him to become a top-four, and I wonder if he’d be better off playing 24-27 minutes a night in the AHL and fine tuning his game, rather than playing in the NHL. He hasn’t been great in camp thus far, and last year he was inconsistent like most young D-men. He’s only had one year of pro hockey, so I believe he’d be better served developing in the AHL.

Learning to play defense is much harder than playing forward, and every Oiler fan knows that the blueline needs help. They might be able to trade for a top-four blueliner later this year or next, if they are willing to part with some significant upfront, but that’s a big IF.

David Musil will be solid, but he’s a year or two away. Martin Marincin took a big step back this season, he needs to  get stronger and learn how to play in his own zone, so he’s likely two or three years away, if ever. Alex Plante earned bonus points for competing as hard as he did last year, but he’ll need to refine his game if he’s ever going to play here, and at best he’ll be a 3rd pairing D-man. Oscar Klefbom won’t be here until 2013, and he might be ready to jump directly into the NHL, but likely he’ll need some AHL seasoning.

Right now Petry is the only D-man in the system who has the potential of being a top-four in the next few years, so they need to be smart with him.

I sense the fans want Devan Dubnyk to be the starter, but if Khabibulin plays well this weekend he’ll likely be facing Evgeni Malkin and the Penguins next Sunday. I think Dubnyk is ready to start 45-50 games, and I believe he’ll be the starter by November, maybe sooner, but Renney might give Khabibulin opening night as a sign of respect.

If both play well, I wonder when Renney will make the tough decision and go with Dubnyk. It shouldn’t be that hard from my vantage point, but Renney won’t just hand him the starting job. Dubnyk will start tonight, with Khabibulin going tomorrow in Vancouver.

Will Renney keep the rotation the same and go with the former 14th overall pick in 2004 next Sunday? Their play this weekend will help answer that question.

LINEUP

Most of the boys on the bubble will be front and centre tonight:

Paajarvi – Belanger – Hemsky
Petrell – Lander – Omark,
Hartikainen – Brule – Keller
Hordichuk – O’Marra – Jones

Peckham – Fedun
Chorney – Gilbert
Smid – Petry

Dubnyk

It isn’t listed on the Oilers website, but tonight’s game will be streamed live, and thankfully the last streamed broadcast of the season. Tomorrow’s game v. the Canucks will be on CBC.