If we were to draw up what the Oilers look like right now, before the draft and free agency and the trades of summer, what would it look like? What would represent “mission accomplished” for the Oilers’ brain trust?
As It Stands
The following depth charts are meant only to give an idea of depth at each position, not to mimic line combinations. An asterisk indicates a defenceman who can play either side, UFA and RFA indicate that a player’s contract expires this summer, while BO has nothing to do with a lack of deodorant and everything to do with the player being a possible candidate for a compliance buyout.
This is where things get a little more interesting. I have axed what strike me as the likely names at each position, and indicated positions that need to be addressed over the summer in red.
The changes here include the following:
Unrestricted free agents Lennart Petrell, Jerred Smithson, Ryan Jones, Chris VandeVelde, Tanner House and Darcy Hordichuk are all released. Restricted free agent Antti Tyrvainen have also been let go. Eric Belanger is the subject of a compliance buyout. Ales Hemsky is assumed to have been traded elsewhere.
Retained are restricted free agents Magnus Paajarvi, Sam Gagner, Teemu Hartikainen, Philippe Cornet and Mark Arcobello. Buyout candidates Ryan Smyth and Shawn Horcoff are both retained for the major league roster, while Ben Eager remains buried in the minor leagues.
There were a number of coin flip calls made here. Jerred Smithson is a viable candidate for the fifth centre slot on the NHL roster, though I have indicated him walking. Philippe Cornet is a player who may not be re-signed to a deal with an NHL component; I have kept him in the scenario above on the basis of age (23) and a strong second half but it’s entirely possible the Oilers send him down the line or sign him to an AHL-only deal (and if they choose to do so, that will be completely understandable).
Assuming no trades other than Hemsky, the Oilers have four slots to fill on the major league roster. The bottom three should be easy to fill via free agency; a second line winger in a power forward mould is the toughest of these to fill. Additionally, the Oklahoma City Barons employed a pair of veteran forwards (Josh Green and Jonathan Cheechoo) on AHL-only contracts; it seems sensible to assume that the Oilers will want at least one veteran forward with an NHL deal to help mentor and also to serve as a recall option should the need arise (while Anton Lander is a fine first call-up option, injury or uneven performance could rob the Oilers of recallable depth in a hurry).
Total contract count: 28.
Unrestricted free agents Ryan Whitney, Mark Fistric, Nikolai Khabibulin, Yann Danis and Garrett Stafford are all released. Restricted free agents Theo Peckham, Colten Teubert, Alex Plante and Niko Hovinen have also been let go.
The sole remaining free agent in this scenario is restricted free agent Taylor Fedun.
Again, I’ve exercised some discretion here. Mark Fistric and Corey Potter are both fine candidates for the six/seven role, but Potter is under contract at a cheap price-point while Fistric seems to be looking for significant dollars in a weak free agent market; hence I’ve opted to keep Potter. Yann Danis is a legitimate candidate for the number three role but is coming off a difficult season; presumably the Oilers would prefer a European free agent with more potential in that slot. Colten Teubert may yet be retained, but given his struggles to crack the Barons’ defence of late and the incoming class, he seems a good bet for departure. I should also note that RFA’s like Peckham and Teubert may have enough value for a trade at the draft.
The Oilers have three slots to fill on the depth chart above. They need to add a top-four defenceman, ideally a top-pairing defenceman, and that’s going to be very difficult indeed. Additionally, they need to overhaul their goaltending behind Devan Dubnyk. Finally, at the AHL level they have a good group of young defenders that are also legitimate recall candidates (I count Klefbom, Fedun and Marincin) so they may not need another defenceman on a two-way deal, but it seems likely that a veteran on an AHL contract could be brought in to stabilize a young defence corps. Both current UFA Garrett Stafford and Randy Jones (on an AHL contract) might fit the bill there.
Total contract count: 19, meaning that at all positions the Oilers would have used 47 of the 50 slots they have on their reserve list.
Recently around the Nation Network
There are lots of interesting names on Justin Azevedo’s Eastern Conference Compliance Buyout Candidates, including veteran Albertan Scottie Upshall:
Upshall was signed after a 34-point season, so it’s unlikely Dale Tallon had any thoughts that he’d be an "offensive" contributor. Even so, the 10 points he’s put up in Florida since signing there suggests to me that his tenure in Sunrise may be ending. Add to that his less-than-stellar underlying numbers and the Panthers’ need for a top-9 roster spot and I don’t see a way he isn’t a UFA come July 5th.
Click the link above to read the whole piece, or feel free check out some of my other pieces here:
- Report: Ralph Krueger the Oilers’ second choice for head coach – behind Mark Messier
- Oklahoma will receive "more direction" from the Oilers
- Is there a veteran NHL free agent the Oilers should pursue in net?
- Why Columbus is a great trading partner for Edmonton
- San Jose Sharks looking to trade Martin Havlat?
- Follow Jonathan Willis on Twitter!