I’ve always thought the best time to show Edmonton to a stranger is summer. Deep blue sky, outdoor music, festivals every weekend, and the female population–always lovely–choose the colors and styles of the summer. It is easy to imagination the combination being irresistible to a young man seeking his fortune. Winter? Not so much.

Justin Schultz did this city’s team and collective ego a major solid by signing as a free agent after wrapping up an outstanding NCAA career at Wisconsin. Edmonton’s blueline looks so much stronger with Schultz the younger, but adding another outstanding college free agent is unlikely any time soon. Why?

  1. There are no college free agents this spring equal to Schultz in ability. He was a very uncommon UFA, drafted by another NHL team and allowed to slip through the cracks via loophole.
  2. The Oilers may not be a good landing ground for a college UFA. A lot of the NHL jobs in Edmonton belong to young players, meaning upward movement is unlikely based on position.
  3. The Oilers are at 50 contracts, meaning free agents would be unable to sign and burn off a season of their entry level deal this year. That’s an option elsewhere. The Oilers being at the limit means other clubs can jump right in–and they are doing just that this week (more later).

Where could Edmonton add a free agent who had a reasonable chance to advance? I believe the answers are goaltending and center.


In late March I posted 10 names that represented the top end of this year’s NCAA players who were undrafted and turning pro. Let’s see who has signed where:

  1. D Danny DeKeyser, Western Michigan: Signed by Detroit March 29th, Oilers were apparently in the mix.
  2. C-R Antoine Laganiere, Yale: Yale made it to the frozen 4 tournament so there will be a delay in signing this player. Edmonton is considered to be a contender, and the delay of the tournament gives them a chance to be on equal footing with other teams. He does play some center so there may be an employmenet opportunity.
  3. R Eriah Hayes, Minnesota State: Signed by San Jose yesterday. Big body, considered a very good NHL prospect.
  4. L Ryan Walters, Nebraska-Omaha: Impressive season (22-30-52) from junior forward has NHL teams very interested in him. Very good skater. Has not signed yet.
  5. D Nate Schmidt, Minnesota: Signed by Washington. Puck moving defender is with Hershey (AHL).
  6. C Drew Leblanc, St. Cloud State. Leads NCAA with 37 assists this season, playmaking center has a nice range of skills and as an older player (24 this summer) may be able to step right in and play for some teams. Leblanc is still playing, as his team is one of the frozen four.
  7. G Eric Hartzell, Quinnipiac: Hobey top 10 finalist and a .935SP have scouts taking notice. 6.04 G was also named the ECAC Hockey Player of the Year and Goalie of the Year on the eve of the ECAC Hockey Championship weekend. Quinnipiac is also in the frozen four.
  8. D Mike Boivin, Colorado College: Another puck mover, he’s tough and has decent size for the NHL game. Boivin is available and is waiting by the phone.
  9. F Rylan Schwartz, Colorado College: Signed by San Jose today. Brother of St. Louis forward Jaden Schwartz, an offensive player of some ability, he is considered more of a playmaker than scorer.
  10. F Alex Krushelnyski, Colorado College: He isn’t big (5.11, 173) and he doesn’t fight but he’s an even strength dynamo, is part of the penalty kill and at age 22 is probably ready to step right into AHL level pro hockey. He’s a winger, goes to Colorado College and majors in Economics. Mike’s boy. He could also return to college for his senior year.


"Your friendly city" has some depth issues at center and in goal. I believe Laganiere and Hartzell are the logical prospects to join Edmonton, but am also certain the other 29 teams have their own ideas.


If we look back in Oilers history, most of the free agent signings that worked out were junior and college kids turning pro as opposed to the famous, big contracts:

  • Fall 1979: Charlie Huddy turns pro
  • Fall 1980: Matti Hagman signs as an NHL free agent
  • Fall 1982: Randy Gregg signs as a free agent
  • Feb 1985: Craig MacTavish signs as an NHL free agent
  • March 1994: Greg DeVried turns pro
  • Fall 1995: Rem Murray signs as a free agent
  • Oct 1997: Ray Whitney signs as an NHL free agent
  • April 2001: Ty Conklin turns pro
  • May 2001: Marc-Andre Bergeron turns pro
  • August 2001: Steve Staios signs as an NHL free agent
  • July 2007: Sheldon Souray signs as an NHL free agent
  • August 2007: Dustin Penner signs an offer sheet
  • July 2009: Nikolai Khabibulin signs as an NHL free agent
  • June 2012: Justin Schultz turns pro

The Oilers own history tells them signing junior, college and Euro free agents offers far more value.


Team 1260, noon Edmonton time and your comments and questions are welcome below or @Lowetide_ on twitter. Scheduled to appear:

We’ll talk Oilers at the deadline, Oil Kings, Barons, 2013 draft and the California trip for the Oilers. Hope you can tune in!

    • The Soup Fascist

      So what happened to pi$$ Schultz off so much that he really never intended to sign with the team that drafted him? I am guessing that Anaheim offered him the same ELC that virtually every other team did after he put up those crazy numbers, so why did it come off the rails so badly?

      Seems like a quiet unassuming kid and not a trouble maker. No idea about the MO of his representation. Just seems funny that the Ducks were never on his radar screen. Of course you would never be lucky enough in Anaheim to have snow for a solid 7 month stretch like we are likely to have this winter ……

      • Quicksilver ballet

        The Ducks probably offered him a pittance compared to going the route he chose. 2nd rounder 43rd overalls usually don’t fetch a lot when it comes to signing an NHL contract. The Ducks had Justin between a rock and a hard place with where he was drafted. The kid believed in himself and found a loophole. Now he comes into the league making nearly 4 times what the Ducks probably offered him.

    • Certain fans drive me crazy as all they do is bash the Oilers every chance they get. We saw how the Oilers got bashed after the Brown trade and recently the Smithson trade.

      Oilers get bashed for everything they do.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Thanks LT

    I’ve been pestering you to update these College kids… and here it is!

    Amazing the way Wilson is working. Dump aging, bigger contracts, exploit college kids on the cheap who arrive older and battle tested.


    how about that other C on the list Leblanc? why not target him too?

    @ soup fascist.

    I don’t think there was any animus in Schultz — or if there was he hid it really well…

    the situation was more one of preference (he wanted to play in Canada with a young team on the rise) and luck of the loophole.

    sucks for ANA… but he didn’t show any ill-will toward them.

    • The Soup Fascist

      …. he wanted to play in Canada with a young team on the rise …….

      So why did he not choose the Flames ???

      Wow, I crack myself up. Thanks RA, I always thought what the Oilers could offer was ample ice time which he has gotten, but so could other teams. Kind of missed or forgot the Canadian angle, so thanks for that. Despite some defensive struggles the kid has shown a lot of poise with the puck and will only get better.

      • Romulus' Apotheosis

        Ice time too…

        but he’d get NHL minutes on any team this year.

        definitely, however, in EDM he’s getting more than he probably would anywhere else. I’m sure that sold him too.

        but the decision to pick EDM came after the decision to leave ANA. that first decision was (one assumes) motivated by more general factors than team specific ones.

        • The Soup Fascist

          Right. But I guess that was where my original question was based. I was never close to being a good enough hockey player to be drafted into the NHL but I would think my mindset would be to show some loyalty to the team that showed enough faith in me to draft me. At least to listen to an equivalent offer.

          I mean Anaheim has not been a terrible organization, have good players, climate is likely the best in the league ( if you like sun). But Anaheim just NEVER seemed to be in the mix. Might be as simple as you say and he decided to wait for the loophole. It has happened before, certainly.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            well. one day he’ll tell us, or someone else will, or they won’t.

            but again. I don’t see any reason to assume animus. disloyalty perhaps. but even there, he’s never gotten anything but good reviews from his other teams.

            i suspect he didn’t know about the loophole until later in this college career and it probably never crossed his mind. he was set on staying in college and presumably ANA wanted him there for his own development.

            my guess is that happenstance offered him the opportunity and he took it, ie. he found out about the loophole and said… “hey, i can go wherever? sure”

            i don’t see a need to make it more complicated.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    I think we should be more worried about bringing in proven NHL players. A top six UFA will not come to Edmonton unless we overpay for
    him so we have to trade for them. Unfortunitely we have one problem. Management refuses to make a tough decision and trade a skilled player for what we need so we can move forward. Improving our bottom six is not a priority. A Skilled top two defenseman or grit with scoring ability in our top six is what we need. Don’t hold ur breath fans cuz management will keep relying on the draft and the scouting staff. The magnificent bastard has built this team by himself and his staff. The fans have been held hostage by poor management. I’m not expecting the world out of management when it comes to improving this team. However they have done nothing. The fans and players have done there part. It’s time for management to quit making excuses why they can’t improve this team and make a tough decision.

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      Hear hear!!!

      No one in the modern FA era has built their top six through the draft and aquiring prospects alone and succeeded. Mgmt has to act – has to trade quality 1/2 line talent- to get the same but different in return. KL&T seem incapable or paralyzed in this regard.

      • The Soup Fascist

        Not to support management inaction, but seems to me that at the core of the Blackhawks and Penguins are a lot of draft picks and acquisition of then unproven talent. I realize pieces were added here and there but it would be disingenuous to say the bulk of the core was not “home grown”.

        Edit: Bruins top six looks pretty snazzy too.

        • Never said “bulk of”.

          We have four of or long term top six already: hall, nuge, eberle, yak. All I’m eking is that we move other good talent to get good talent back that fills the need.

    • Reason UFAs don’t sign in Edmonton is the fans. When Oilers wanted to sign Ray Whitney years ago, he wouldn’t sign. He said reason he didn’t sign is because of the fans. Fans in Edmonton run players out of town. We saw that with Poti, Stoll to name a few. Fans are not upset Hemsky wasn’t traded. They want Whitney gone.

      If you’re a player and you read that Oilers fans run players out of town, would you sign in Edmonton. I sure wouldn’t.

  • John Chambers

    LT’s free agent and trade list from the past year or so:

    G Ben Bishop – performed excellently since joining the Sens, was traded for a top offensive prospect, and will become Tampa’s #1.

    G Viktor Fasth – outstanding European goalie having a standout season (nearly Vezina-calibre) in his first NA season with the high-flying Ducks.

    D Justin Schultz – a better return than what even the optimists expected

    D Fedor Tyutin – leads CLB D in scoring and ice-time at over 24 mins / game

    So basically Alan Mitchell could step in as GM and we’d turn into the Red Wings. Katz, you paying attention?

  • geeker99

    I understand what Soup is getting at, what if it was the other way? I know we were due for a break but damn that would of hurt if we lost a player like that to a “loophole”. Just sayin

  • geeker99

    Why do the fans think Katz will poke his nose into hockey operations. Katz is a businessman. He is best friends with Lowe and trusts him to rebuild this club. There is no urgency on management. We have seen progress with the team, constant sellouts and the team is making money. Expect status quo.

    • Lowetide

      You know, I would have agreed with that for most of the time I’ve been paying attention to hockey, but imo Mike Illitch changed it. He’s been very involved in acquiring free agents–college and NHL–for decades now.

      I believe that’s part of the Oilers template now, Katz was involved with Schultz and DeKeyser from what we read.

      • Reg Dunlop

        Schultz decided to come to Edmonton cuz he wanted to play with our highend talent. He would have recieved the same contract with other clubs and Katz can’t promise ice time.

        • Romulus' Apotheosis

          all the same he made the call. and presumably he can say he’s committed to paying for a good team.


          He spends a lot of time in Van. apparently.

          I don’t know how many games he attends.

      • John Chambers

        If Illitch is actively involved in selecting players……..and it seems Katz is trying to do the same, exactly what role does Mac T and Tamby play?

        I worry about management by committee because what invariably happens, is everyone waiting around for someone else to do something. In my opinion, Katz would be doing more good than harm if he is actively involved. We already have a “reluctant GM”, who looks like he has no plan outside of ” draft and development”. At some point you have to be willing to make a substantial deal, to push your team over the top. Sather was famous for pulling off deals no one saw coming.

        I think that we totally missed the boat at trade deadline……..should have traded for picks, or brought in a player of substance. We did neither and it’s looking like we will not make the playoffs, or get a good chance to get a top draft choice.

        Pathetic management that needs to be replaced.

        • Wouldn’t you be reluctant to do something when every move you make, Oilers fans bash the move. It’s been happening since 2000. When Lowe was hired, fans bashed the first trade Lowe makes and it’s getting worse every year.

          • Agreed you make a good point. I am more inclined to bash on the principle of ” doing nothing”, and somehow expecting things to improve.

            Listen, I know we have won five games in a row ( good for the team) and somehow this is cause for celebration? Nothing was changed with the team in a substantial way, so expecting to make the playoffs is delusional in my way of thinking. We have been told to be patient and things are going to be done through the draft……..but we sit by and let the trade deadline come and go and do nothing. We have players waiting to play ( Harti, Lander, PRV, Eager,) but they never get a chance to play. Instead we play players that clearly do not have a long-term future with this team.

            Had Tamby acquired a couple of draft picks for this year’s draft, I could understand the re-building process. Hanging on and playing over-rated vets who do not have a future with the club is most confounding.

        • Rex Libris had an interesting take on the draft over on FN. Despite all claims by hopeful Flames fans that this is “the deepest draft since 2003″, the consensus of GMs is that the top ten are stellar, but the drop off is steep, and past about 20 or so it is actually pretty shallow. Which is why late first round picks were traded, and second and later rounders were”tossed around like croutons on a salad.” Meaning off loading currently useful players (assuming they could which is a big assumption) in the middle of a playoff run (and I know pessimism abounds amongst fans traumatized by the past 5 years, and they can’t bring themselves to believe Oilers have a chance) for meaningless picks would have been waaay more pathetic than what management did.

          Sather was always in a better position at the deadline to pull off deals. Plus there was always a boatload of GMs back in the day who were easily duped.Much more difficult in this day and age to pull a fast one- everybody knows everything about everyone. Do you really think other GMs arent aware of Ryan Whitneys struggles? Feaster announced a week before the deadline that Babchuk and Sarich were available. No biters. And after watching them a few times this week I know why.

          By the way for a hilarious read, check out Prophecies of an Anonymous Oilers Fan on Flames Nation.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    50 contracts. 2 buyouts. What is the rule regarding “when” you can buy someone out? Is it limited to before or after the season or could the Oiler’s decide to use one of their buyouts on Eager right now to free up a contract spot? Exactly what is deal with the buy out clause?

    The Oilers drafted two Finnish goalies in recent years. How are they doing?

    Omark last I looked had like 66 points in 40 odd games with Zug. He was built for the large ice in Europe. That is his forte. Glad he has embraced his destiny. The NHl is not for all.

    Funny couple of days in the NHL. Dallas vs Anaheim last night. You’d have bet the house on Anaheim last night and lost. Dallas 3-1? Wow. And Detroit? They lose to Phoenix and scrape by Colorado? Is there a team with more downward arrows other than the Calgary Flames? Detroit is on the same precipice as we were 5 years ago. Holding onto past glory. Might be time to cash out on some of their older players this off season. Zetterberg,Cleary.Detroit surely must see the writing on the wall?

  • geeker99

    Hey Lowtide, I don’t go to many games at Rexhall as I live in Calgary. Does Katz attend any games live? Can’t recall any camera shots of him on the tellie.

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      for a contract starting next year. like Ewanyk’s for example

      that’s why LT mentioned the attractive option of signing with a team without this problem… a player can burn a year off their ELC by only being under contract for a few weeks.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Watched DEKeyser with Wings , last night. Didnt look out of place, big guy with great wheels. Did a bit or running around, but his first game in the NHL. Too bad, Oilers, were on the right track. I guess you can get them all.

    Gardiner[ Leafs ], sitting in the press box, after coming back from being with the Marlies most of the season… Who would have taught.