Making Space on the Blue Line

Virtually everyone acknowledges that the Oilers need some help on the back end. Fewer are clear on the guys they want to see sent away to make room.

The Oilers have dressed eight defensemen with regularity this year:

  • Ladislav Smid
  • Nick Schultz
  • Jeff Petry
  • Ryan Whitney
  • Andy Sutton
  • Theo Peckham
  • Corey Potter
  • Cam Barker

At least two of these guys, and probably three, shouldn’t start the 2012-13 season in the NHL lineup.  Cam Barker is a restricted free agent; so too is Theo Peckham.  Neither has been an especially effective option for the Oilers this season.  Corey Potter was strong early in the year, and earned a two-season extension at less than one million per season.  He’s struggled mightily since then.

Regardless of what Cam Barker does in his end-of-season cameo with the team, there is absolutely no reason for the Oilers to give him a qualifying offer in the summer.  He should be gone; he simply has not been an effective NHL defensemen this season.  Even league minimum would be too much for him next year.

Theo Peckham may have upside as a third-pairing ruffian, but he’s played with the Oilers for two full seasons now and there are definite questions about whether he can be more than that.  With other options coming up in the system and the fact that Peckham isn’t a vital cog, the Oilers may shop Peckham at this summer’s draft.  With a need to create vacancies on their blue-line, that would seem to be the best course of action.

Corey Potter is a long-time AHL’er who earned a shot under his old coach this year on a decidedly weak Oilers blue line.  For the first few months of the season it looked like the Oilers had snatched a fully functional NHL defensemen out of the minors.  That’s why they opted to give him a two-year contract extension with a $750,000 per season cap hit.  Unfortunately he’s been looking mostly like an AHL defenseman since then.  At this point, it seems unlikely that Potter would earn a one-way deal if the Oilers had to make a decision on him today.

Regardless, the Oilers did offer Potter a two-year extension, and they did it at a low enough dollar figure that it isn’t likely to come back and hurt them even if his early season performance was a mirage.  The Oilers should bring him into camp next season, and give him an honest shot at the seventh defenseman job.  If he’s better than other options – other guys on two way deals, prospects, veterans on professional tryouts, or whoever else the team brings in – then great; the team has a cheap seventh defenseman.  If he isn’t able to win the job, the Oilers can dispatch him to the minors.  Potter may not even get to the minors – many teams experience blue line shortages out of training camp – and if he’s claimed the Oilers won’t have a problem.  If he isn’t claimed then the team will pay a bit too much for a good AHL defenseman, which isn’t ideal but is hardly the end of the world either.

The primary point is that the presence of those three should not prohibit the Oilers from aggressively searching for better blue line options in the summer.  They can cut bait with this trio easily enough.

    • Reg Dunlop

      Sounds like a plan. I think Petry is on his way to being a 1/2 dman and Whit hopefully has a successful offseason of strengthening that bum wheel; still a decent3/4 guy. I like Schultz and Smid has turned into a warrior. Acquiring another top pairing dman will allow derKlefbaum and Ryan Murray more development time before the big cup push in ’13-’14. The Habs need Grig more than us. Shop local.

  • Gitagrip

    Look no farther than the Poll to the right to gauge how the Nation feels. Justin Schultz may not be the answer, but for fox lake don’t let Feaster sign him!!! Just sayin.

  • John Chambers

    Whether you like management or not, they have acknowledged that they’re open to moving our draft pick for NHL-ready talent. The whole world knows that the Oilers boast a meek defense corps, and as ineffective as our management team has been, I’ll guarantee you that they are as aware of it as Madjam is.

    Like Jonathan suggests, it’s a matter of adding quantity – at least two Top-Pair defenseman(s) to push everyone else down the depth chart. I’ll be disappointed if Andy Sutton isn’t our 7th defenseman going into next season, and Corey Potter isn’t waived when we boast a fully healthy d-corps.

    I hope anyway. My judgment of our management team rests on their ability to do the above this summer.

  • Rama Lama

    Potter has been managed ineffectively. You don’t just lose your talent after 40 impressive games.

    Barker has Anson Carter syndrome…….he is basically functioning without a heart.

    No one has been a bigger bust than Eric Belenger and Shawna Horcough. These two clowns have to go……they are so bad that there are no adjectives to describe their general lack of talent.

    • No, you don’t come into the league at age 27 after being an AHLer your whole career and magically become and NHLer, our managment jumped on this one a bit early I think.

      It’s time to stop adding 5/6/7 guys and add to the top, pushing the depth down.

      As for Horcoff, check the zone start and qual comp, there is a mountain there.

  • I don’t know if the situation with these three D speaks more to their ability or the lack of same or does it speak to the inability of Oiler management in judging the value and potential of hockey flesh so to speak.

    I don’t see any on-going risk in taking a pass on Barker but these are the same noises people were making about Smid and Petry just 6 months ago. What a mistake that would have been to give up on them.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    If we could eliminate the last three amigos from that D list and add Justin Schultz and Shea Weber over the next 12 months, that top 7 would be much better short and long term.

    Take Grigorenko and then start dealing draft picks in 2013 to fill areas of weakness.

  • 24% body fat

    Assuming we draft Murray this year, and he steps right in to play next year, we really only have to fill 1 top 6 d-man spot.

    Smid, Whitney, Petry, Shultz, Murray, ?, Sutton, Potter.

    If we can somehow get a good one, then our top 6 is looking half-decent for once.

  • 24% body fat

    Draft Murray, fit him in the top four. Get Shea Weber drunk, tell him hes signing a contract with the Detroit Redwings, just cover up the part that really says the Oilers. Dump Barker, put Whitney in the third pairing, and we got a defence.

    Realistically, maybe sign Garrison outta Florida or Wideman. Draft Murray, move out Barker, sign Teddy Peckman for depth.

  • A-Mc

    I can’t even pretend i know the best course of action for Oilers Management but i really do hope they do SOMETHING about the blue line this summer.

    I’ll be happy enough with adding 1 N.Schultz/R.Whitney level player.

  • paul wodehouse

    …Smokey…like the drunken Weber thing but even that’ll never get him here imo… Garrison is a find but he’s gonna cost waay too much …Who’s the GM gonna be at the draft table…our lame duck GM sans contract ? or will Kevin jettison him finally, step in and get Murray…sign J.Shultz…

    • I can live with that. You should be the Oilers GM and maybe I can be your assistant.

      Ill get Weber drunk, cause I’m good at that, but you have to get his John Hancock on the contract.

      My concern with Shultz is he going to be another Chorney or Petry, and I think the Oilers should sign him. However if hes not ready is he willing to play in the minors.

  • 24% body fat

    Okay lets get hypothetical. Omark, next years first, whitney and peckham to nashville for a Weber. Sign Suter in the off season and draft murray. D looks like this next year.

    Weber, Suter, Smid, Petry, Schultz, Murray, Sutton.

    Up front. Hall, Gagner, Hemsky, – Paajarvi, RNH, Eberle, – Smyth, Horcoff, Jones, – Petrell, Belanger, Hartikainen – Eager

    Just need Tambo to have some charm and Dubnyk to play the way he is and we would be a legitimate playoff team.

    Sorry, I just woke up and my bed is wet.

    • paul wodehouse

      I wouldn’t do that trade. If he was under contract then it would be good but as a RFA no way. What if he goes all Kyle Turris on us and refuses to sign a contract. And I don’t think there is going to be any possible way of getting both not to mention the amount you would have to pay them could seriously handcuff the team in the future.

      • 24% body fat

        RFA, you qualify him and he has no option. A qualified RFA is 95% a signed one.

        And 13 Mill on those two D is better than 8 – 9 on gilbert and whitney.

        This is the same argument you can use about drafting grigorenko. How you going to pay all these top stars.

  • paul wodehouse

    Ya I think all three should go. Tuebert is the same type of player as Peckham with possibly more upside. Even if the team does draft Murray, I wouldn’t count on him producing at the NHL level right away. Not saying that he can’t, I’m just saying that only a stupid GM would make a trade not knowing whos part of it if you get my meaning. So I would still plan on Signing two dmen. The best you can find at a resonable price. If you can land a Weber then do so.

    Now putting the two goals aside did anyone else really like the look of Harti on that top line last night? I think as he gets more comfortable there he will only be that much better. Laying some big hits and working the zone. He may not high really good straight away speed but working in the offensive zone he bust out of the corner or around the net as fast as anyone. Harti for top 6 all the way.

  • paul wodehouse

    What is happening…not nearly enough for Weber…bad wheels Whitney? ‘bonehead’ Peckham? and a smurf? and 2013 first?

    Weber is going to be a HOFer…he’s the franchise!

    I’m not sure this team has enough to get Weber…

    i know… how ’bout 14 as a throw in !

  • Minyon

    Barker??? Gone.

    Peckham??? Best of luck in future endeavors.

    Potter…I wouldn’t be so quick to hit the eject button JW.

    Yes, he has struggled somewhat in the second half, but who are you replacing him with? Potter is a serviceable sixth or seventh defenceman that can play on the powerplay and limited 5vs5 minutes.

    He’s cheap, can handle the puck, and has a good shot. Keep him around, unless a much better option is made available, otherwise you might see a playoff team pluck him off the scrap heap with a “thank-you very much” right before the Oil suffer a couple of injuries on the backend.

    Getting rid of players is fine, as long as you have something better to replace them with. Same reason why Ales Hemsky is still an Oiler.

    • If I were in charge, I’d be replacing Corey Potter with Andy Sutton. I’d love to see Sutton as the team’s seventh-best defenseman, Ryan Whitney on the third pairing, and Schultz, Petry and Smid in three of the top four slots.

      That leaves one spot open for a top-four guy, one spot open for a bottom-pairing guy (perhaps Justin Schultz, if he is in fact interested in Edmonton) and Andy Sutton as the first guy to step into the breach when there’s an injury or ineffective play.

      That way, you’re not gambling on Whitney’s health either.

      • Time Travelling Sean

        Lets be honest we have 1 potential #2 in Petry. Smid as good as his been is really a 3-4 and Shultz & Whitney are no more than 3=4 “D” men . All the rest Sutton , Potter & Peckham are at best 6-7 so you only need one of them . They need to Trade this years pick say with 1 of the bottom 3 just mentioned for aplayer . Tuytin , Schenn. Myers Suban . I’m not the expert but at least a potential 1-2-3 who will play . Quit waiting for “D” draft picks to make it .

        • D-Man

          They don’t NEED to trade their first pick – especially for the defensemen you’ve mentioned… Luke Schenn isn’t worth a 2nd overall pick, neither is Fedor Tuytin… PK Subban won’t be a #1 defensemen (although he’ll be a very good #2-#3) and Myers has taken a step back this year…

          The Oilers do need to make a splash and get that stud d-man, but at what cost?? RNH?? Hall?? Eberle?? No one is going to give us a sure thing for a draft pick… I don’t think we need to ‘wait’ as you suggest – but if Murray is as good as projected or if Klefbom continues to improve – would it hurt to have either of them as a #5-6 for one season in the NHL to allow them to develop??

  • Love it how fans think the solution to Oilers D man problems will be rectified by acquiring at top notch top pairing defensemen either through trade or UFA signing.

    that solution only exists in your latest EA Sports rendition of NHL Hockey

    unless you are willing to part with Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle or Ryan Nugent Hopkins…none of the other sub par roster players or a package of them will get you that D man messiah.

    GM’s with gonads are few and far between. A impressive GM would take the temperature of his team, analyze what is desperately needed and shake the roster as he sees fit for the betterment of the franchise even if he looks crazy doing it. How many people ripping Holmgren now when he trades Carter and Richards for prospects??? Simmonds has 27 Goals, Voracek and Shenn have been useful pieces to the roster.

    Think BOLD so Bold not even the most loudest protesting Oiler Fan demanding change and a competitive team now would think of doing.

    Trade Hall

    The kid will be a beast for sure, he is a competitor through and through… but at 29th pick – Oilers likely to draft another super skilled forward, so the impact will not be that severe.

    Hall for Drew Doughty straight up?
    Hall for Subban and Mtl’s 1st round pick?

    that would give the Oilers two lottery picks this year!

    You want to speed up the process then be bold. If you just going to tinker ..then be patient, watch the growing pains and just wait – and it may be a while for Klefbom, Marinicn, Musil and Petry to pan out.

    • I think Carter and Richards were traded for dressing room reasons as much as on ice stuff, and their play this year indicates Holmgren knew about a downside that other GMs weren’t privy to. From what we outsiders can see, Hall is evolving into a Messier type leader, is popular with his team, and IMHO, absolutely intouchable. Subban is a hothead, unpopular with his mates (at least i would think from all the practice punchups he ends up in) and not the leader I see in Hall. Wouldn’t do it. Would consider moving this years number one if it turns out to be 3rd or lower, though.

    • Time Travelling Sean

      If you want to speed up the process? That makes no sense whatsoever. Trade a Hall, a previous first overall, whose been developing for 2 years now, for another lottery pick??????????who might just turn out to be Bogosian or something?

      I still think Holmgren is dumb for trading Richards. Simmonds is playing with Giroux? Not taking anything away from him though, Schenn has 10 goals in 50 games and has had concussion problems, he was supposed to be NHL ready like Landeskog, and Richards is having a really bad year in a depressing system. He’ll get better and find his game.

      Carter deal is looking good though.

  • Is there any advanced stats on last nights game. I half assed watched last nights game, and Teubert looked ok to me last night. Wanted to know if my eyes were decieving me.

    Gotta say I loved the physicality of Barker and Teubert last night. Barkers hit before the scrap was a beauty. I also thought young Teubert held in there ok in his fight after taking a few early. Teubert needs about 10 more pounds of mean on his frame, but it seems like hes progressing.

  • Bob Cobb

    We have just as many problems at center as we have on defence.

    Just look at last two games.Against bigger teams Sam is invisible.Horcoff is hurt and showing his age,Belanger is rather buttery ,old and coming from Phoenix used to young guys waiting their turn.

    Two years from now we will have Nuge the wonderful and invisible Sam.doesn’t sound like we are ready to start a dynasty.

    On the other hand on defense we have waiting in the wings Klefbom,Musil,Gernat and Marcinin..You could argue that Klefbom and Musil are already better and more ready to play than the highest rated draft prospect Murray.

    What do we have waiting at center?Well we have Lander.I suppose you could say Pitlick but he has played mostly wing in junior until being force fed at center in OK.I would say both these guys are looking like fourth line players.

    This is probably our last high pick for hopefully a few years so do your job Oilers and find gold between Grigorinko and Galynchuk.Excuse my spelling those Russian names drive me nuts.

    • Reg Dunlop

      I couldn’t agree more. If we squeeze into the post season in a year or two we may be physically dominated down the middle. One centre in this years draft that may be a solution down the road and may be there in round 2… Zemgus Girgenson. Not making this up, check him out.

  • Reg Dunlop

    JW – Thanks for the reply. I respect your work and your willingness to speak with those who bother to post a valid comment on the blog.

    Unfortunately your wish to see Sutton as the seventh defenseman is dependent on the Oilers being able to acquire two defensemen that are better than Sutton.

    Justin Schultz is not exactly a lock to come to Edmonton, and even if he does, there are no guarantees with a rookie.

    Finding another, legitimate, top-four defenseman is a tall order for every club in the NHL. Ryan Murray could perhaps fill the role, but again, you are placing a lot of faith in a rookie.

    Replacing Barker and Peckham with a similar player can be done with relatively ease (one could argue Colton Teubert is a step up from Peckham). The offensive side of the game that Potter brings, however, is a little tougher to find, and shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. He can still be a depth defensemen (six, seven or eight), but injuries to those playing ahead of him will eventually happen. Having a guy who can step in a play the power-play with some success is worth keeping around.

  • Bob Cobb

    What would it take to get Price out of Montreal? Would a starting point of Edmontons 1st rounder and Dubnyk be an overpayment? Not enough?

    My thinkng is that if we don’t get a top 2 pick we should trade it for a player that can help now and I think Price is better than Dubnyk. Plus with Khabby coming of the books next year, we would have the cap room to pay Price. Montreal would get 2 top 5 picks and a starting goalie on the verge of being ready who is cheaper than Price.

    Tonights game is a mean nothing game and thus the reason I asked the question.

    • Time Travelling Sean

      The Habs GM would get death threats trading Price. No GM is doing that deal unless hes St. Patrick and hes got king size balls that dangle between his toes. Dubby is doing fine. The guys becoming a goalie who steals games. Id rather the Oilers found a guy who can tandom with him nd provide the Oilers a good second option.

  • Time Travelling Sean

    @reg Dunlop

    I like Girgenson but at his draft position the Oil won’t take him.They don’t seem to scout that league too much.
    If he falls it would be between he and Samuelson in the second for me