The Oilers – barring another injury of some sort – face a difficult decision when Ryan Jones returns to the team, something that could happen very quickly. Who goes to make room for him on the roster?
The following chart shows the team’s roster by position. Red indicates a player is on injured reserve, while blue indicates a player would not need to clear waivers (by my calculations) to be re-assigned elsewhere. Players are ranked by order of average time on ice.
Obviously, we can eliminate the possibility of the three first overalls (Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Yakupov) being demoted, and do the same for Justin Schultz. That leaves a few possibilities.
Send Down A Waiver-Eligible Forward
Here, the Oilers would have their choice of Chris VandeVelde, Magnus Paajarvi or Teemu Hartikainen. VandeVelde is the only guy who is a natural fit for centre, so his job should be safe until Shawn Horcoff gets healthy or Steve Tambellini makes a trade/signing/waiver claim.
Both Paajarvi and Hartikainen should be on this roster on merit, to my thinking, but there is a real possibility that one of them – probably Paajarvi – could be sent down to make room for Jones. The Oilers have a track record of demoting superior players to avoid exposing somebody to waivers; they’ve done it with Paajarvi earlier this season and Jeff Petry could tell some stories.
Put Someone on Injured Reserve
Lennart Petrell was hit in the head by a puck during practice before the Colorado game (which resulted in Paajarvi playing, and scoring the game-winner) and at this point sounds like he’s day-to-day with “dizziness.” Head coach Ralph Krueger has indicated that he’s doing better of late:
"He’s not heading towards IR. He’s heading in a positive direction." – Coach Krueger on Petrell (head), likely to skate again Friday
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) February 20, 2013
Head injuries are difficult, so it wouldn’t be a total shock if Petrell were to end up on injured reserve, but at this point it seems unlikely.
Assuming both Petrell and Jones make it back into the lineup before anybody else gets hurt, the Oilers will find themselves with 10 healthy wingers and eight healthy defencemen, making a move on one of those fronts plausible.
Of the wingers, Paajarvi and Hartikainen can both be demoted, so barring a big trade the most likely victims of a move are guys like Petrell, Ben Eager and Jones himself. All three are varying degrees of unlikely, with Petrell the most plausible candidate.
The other choice is to dump one of three defencemen – Theo Peckham, Corey Potter or Ryan Whitney. All three are plausible, but my suspicion is that Whitney is the guy the Oilers want to move and of late efforts to showcase him have been foiled by his poor play/lingering injury issues. And even if one of these guys does get moved, the Oilers will be left with two healthy wingers sitting out every game.
My guess? Paajarvi gets to go back to Oklahoma.
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