GM Craig MacTavish announces the #Oilers have agreed to terms with defenceman Denis Grebeshkov on a one-year contract.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) July 18, 2013
The dollar figures have not officially been announced yet but Bob Stauffer suggests Grebeshkov’s deal is likely in the $1.5 million range (and given that Stauffer has been hinting at this for months, albeit without specifically using Grebeshkov’s name, he likely knows of what he speaks).
The signing of Grebeshkov brings the Oilers to a grand total of 10 defencemen who wouldn’t look out of place on the NHL roster, and that’s before getting into ‘training camp surprise’ types like Taylor Fedun and Martin Marincin. Oscar Klefbom, who got significant praise from MacTavish earlier this summer and who impressed at the Oilers’ rookie camp, faces a tough battle to make the team, and even veteran NHL’ers are going to be fighting for minutes.
Of the following list of players, at least two and possibly three won’t make the team out of training camp:
- Jeff Petry (RD)
- Justin Schultz (RD)
- Andrew Ference (LD/RD)
- Ladislav Smid (LD)
- Nick Schultz (LD/RD)
- Denis Grebeshkov (LD)
- Anton Belov* (LD)
- Phillip Larsen (RD)
- Corey Potter (RD)
- Oscar Klefbom* (LD)
Players with an asterisk above are on a two-way contract.
Edmonton may not have a number one defender, but in terms of depth right now they can compete with basically any team in the league. The addition of Grebeshkov makes for a crowded blue line but it also gives the Oilers significant quality in the five through eight slots. Grebeshkov, despite some chaos to his game (there’s a reason he was occasionally known as Marc-Andre Grebeshkov), was an awfully good defenceman under MacTavish and at the age of 29 he isn’t exactly over the hill, either. Nick Schultz played top-four minutes a year ago. Anton Belov was a number one defenceman in the second-best league on Earth and brings size and a range of skills; it’s not outside the realm of possibility that he can play top-four minutes in the here and now. Larsen is 23 years old and already has nearly 100 NHL games under his belt. Corey Potter, who I have outside the top-eight, was arguably the team’s fifth-best defenceman a year ago.
In Belov, (Nick) Schultz and Grebeshkov, MacTavish has provided head coach Dallas Eakins with three plausible alternatives for top-four work, should individuals struggle out of the gate. A year ago, the Oilers’ second pairing of Schultz and Schultz went into the tank for weeks at a time but kept getting minutes because there weren’t plausible alternatives on the roster; this year, there are. Forcing Oscar Klefbom to either win a job through an exceptional training camp performance or start his North American career in the minors is another positive.
It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see the Oilers make a trade – looking at the depth chart, both Ladislav Smid (who should have high value) and Nick Schultz (more a case of a player getting more money than his role would seem to dictate) seem prime candidates for a move. But that may not happen; it may well be that MacTavish plans to use eight defencemen, wants Klefbom in the minors and doesn’t mind dumping a guy like Corey Potter on waivers at the start of the year – if he clears, his contract dollars are low enough it doesn’t really matter; if he doesn’t it’s not a great loss.
Recently around the Nation Network
How well did the Calgary’s first round go this summer? At Flames Nation, Justin Azevedo generates a list of comparables for the three players they selected:
All three players are above average when compared to those drafted around them year to year, which is a good thing. For the most part, all three lists have a large amount of NHL talent. It’s unrealistic to expect that the Flames just drafted Couture, Bolland and O’Reiliy – but it’s a pretty safe bet that at least one of these guys turns out to be a decent player.
Click the link to read more, or alternately, feel free check out some of my other pieces here: