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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
WHO’S BEEN SIGNED SO FAR?
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:
D Danny DeKeyser, Western Michigan: Signed by Detroit March 29th, Oilers were apparently in the mix.
- 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.
R Eriah Hayes, Minnesota State: Signed by San Jose yesterday. Big body, considered a very good NHL prospect.
- 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.
D Nate Schmidt, Minnesota: Signed by Washington. Puck moving defender is with Hershey (AHL).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
WHICH ONES SHOULD BE OILERS?
"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.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
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.
LOWETIDE AT HIGH NOON
Team 1260, noon Edmonton time and your comments and questions are welcome below or @Lowetide_ on twitter. Scheduled to appear:
- Tyler Dellow from mc79hockey.
- Evan Daum from the Edmonton Journal
- Jason Strudwick from Team 1260
- Jim Byers, OKC Barons play by play man
- Corey Pronman from Hockey Prospectus
- Earl Sleek from Battle of California.
We’ll talk Oilers at the deadline, Oil Kings, Barons, 2013 draft and the California trip for the Oilers. Hope you can tune in!