The Edmonton Oilers have announced the demotion of five players on their official website: Gilbert Brule, Josh Green, Teemu Hartikainen, Ryan O’Marra and Ryan Keller. Brule, Green, O’Marra and Keller will need to clear waivers before being assigned to Oklahoma City.
The departures of Green, O’Marra and Keller were widely expected. The demotion of Hartikainen is a little more surprising – he showed well at times in the preseason, after all – but isn’t a shock and won’t keep him from playing for the Oilers’ later in the year.
The decision to waive Gilbert Brule is more surprising. Which is not, of course, to say that it was the wrong decision. After a breakout 2009-10 season (though there were signs, even then), Brule was injured for much of 2010-11 and didn’t play to his previous level when he was in the lineup. His performance in the preseason has been uneven at best, and flat-out bad at worst. Particularly galling was the lack of discipline he showed, something that cost the Oilers’ repeatedly – most recently when Darcy Hordichuk’s third-period goal against Minnesota was waved off after Brule took a penalty well behind the play.
Still, it couldn’t have been an easy decision. Aside from the facts that Brule’s been generous in the community and showed flashes of brilliance during his time with the Oilers, there will be long-term consequences to this decision. Not only must Brule clear waivers on his way down to the minors (something that seems highly probable, given his inflated contract), but if he performs well in the AHL the Oilers must expose him to recall waivers in order to bring him back to the NHL. That will undoubtedly be a factor they consider later on if they wish to recall Brule – unlike other players (O’Marra, for example), Brule would leave a significant cap hit on the Oilers’ books if claimed by another club.
Assuming that the players currently injured (Chorney, Fedun, Gagner, Smid) are not ready to play on opening night, the Oilers roster is now set for the start of the regular season. That means that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Linus Omark, Lennart Petrell, Jeff Petry and Corey Potter have made the club out of camp.