There are plenty of current Oilers on the 50-man list who are going to be set free next spring and summer–maybe a few before then. It’s time to put up or shut up for several prospects and NHL players, here’s a look at the group and what they’ll have to accomplish this coming season.
GONE BABY GONE
- Ales Hemsky: Even a strong season wouldn’t be enough in my opinion, he’s well outside the cluster in terms of age, and the club has RW’s of the future everywhere.
- Nick Schultz: His ticket out of town was punched the moment Andrew Ference signed in Edmonton.
- Ryan Smyth: I’m not certain he’ll make it through the season, but believe he has enough to make this final year in Edmonton something to admire. The ideal way to exit is helping the Oilers make the playoffs, here’s hoping.
- Cameron Abney: Extremely doubtful he remains on the 50 man list beyond the expiration of his entry deal.
SHOW ME STATE
- Anton Belov: An unknown at this point beyond reputation, I think he has a very good chance to make the team and earn a second contract.
- Denis Grebeshkov: This is a more delicate item, Grebeshkov is coming off an uneven KHL season. He’ll have to show well in training camp in order to earn the season.
- Ryan Jones: This is a story to follow during the winter. Here’s a guy who had a dreadful fright last winter and was looking at professional extinction. New GM comes in, Jones waited much of the summer for the contract and it finally falls into place. Motivated? Hell yes. And I’m reminded of Marty Reasoner, who emerged from a similar hockey situation (he passed through the waiver wire) and became a quality 2-way player. He’s still going!
- Jason LaBarbera: Lots of potential here, LaBarbera has been kicking around for a long while but has found concistency in the desert. Can he parlay that into regular employment?
- Philip Larsen: Like Grebeshkov, Larsen seems to have taken a backward step last season (this is from a distance). I think he’ll have to impress early in order to stay off the waiver wire.
- Anton Lander: His career in North America hasn’t been ideal, but I’m not certain anyone can point the finger at him. Showed very well in OKC during the final stretch and then playoff, if he can add some offense and effective play at 5×5 to his growing reputation as a useful penalty killer, the Oilers may have something here.
- Corey Potter: Man, what a tough summer, and he didn’t do a thing wrong. Jason Strudwick told me the other day the only thing Potter can do is work hard, come to camp prepared and work for a job. It may not be in Edmonton, but he’s build a pretty nice resume.
- Mike Brown: I think he’s stepped in and done well with the Oilers, but a new GM and Coach may feel a need for a different player type in this role.
- Ben Eager: His hard work and good attitude when sent down last year impressed MacTavish, and he’s going to get a good chance to show something at training camp. Health is the issue, concussions the worry.
- Andrew Miller: A giant opportunity for him, as the new GM brought him in and will be part of the decision making process for the final roster. If he has an ounce of 2-way skill, then he should at least spend some time in the NHL this coming season.
- Tyler Pitlick: He’s had all kinds of issues, but everyone I’ve talked to says Pitlick looks like a player. The offense is an issue, but I think he’ll get an extended opportunity this year.
- Curtis Hamilton: I love his skill set–2way player with enough offense to pop double digit GF–but he hasn’t been able to settle in and spend a healthy season on a consistent line.
- Ryan Martindale: He’s shown signs but not enough of them, and at this point there’s likely to be an early push for minutes but that could be it. Huge season for the big C.
- Olivier Roy: Showed reasonably well this past season, but you get the feeling new management is going to take a huge machete (Edmonton style) to the position and there could be some exits to match the entries. Roy has earned a chance based on his work in pro hockey.
- Taylor Fedun: The minor league version of Potter, with a twist. Like Potter, he’s been buried under an avalanche of procurement and development by prospects. Unlike Potter, Fedun’s time was two training camps ago, but Eric Nystrom robbed him of an NHL opportunity.
- Richard Bachman: A solid 3rd G for the NHL team and starter for the Barons. Bachman might get an NHL chance, but probably waits for an injury.
- Mark Arcobello: A great chance to make the big club this fall, Arcobello offers some offense and has been around pro hockey long enough to know what to do without the puck.
KEEP DOING WHAT YOU’RE DOING
- Devan Dubnyk: He’ll need another contract after this season, at this point I believe they’d sign him to a similar number and term. However, there’s no doubt the organization is looking for more at the positon, so this is a pivotal season for the big man.
- Toni Rajala: He’s going to need to wait his turn, but if he keeps posted those exceptional AHL numbers in OKC, there will be no way for the Oilers to ignore him.
CERTAIN SIGNING, $’S ONLY QUESTION
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: We could hear something about a contract any time, although the Oilers don’t appear to be in a hurry. A big piece of the future, kind of a tricky signing due to injury this past season (what’s he worth?) but remains a key part of the young cluster.
- Justin Schultz: Oilers will have to pay for the free agent seasons and it’s going to be dear. One of the reasons I think Edmonton is unlikely to get involved in Grabbo talks is that they will be long term and the club hasn’t signed their young impact keepers long term yet.
- Jeff Petry: Is going to get a sweet raise should he continue on this way. Crazy good for the seasons he’s been in the NHL, he backed off a little but remains the Oilers best option available.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
It’s kind of shocking, but more than half of the Oilers roster is up for renewal (RFA or UFA) next summer. The UFA’s are Hemsky, Smyth, Jones, Brown, N Schultz, Belov, Grebeshkov, Potter, Dubnyk, LaBarbera. That’s a lot of guys playing for their next contract–or their hockey careers.
The rfa’s are mostly in the minors (there are 10 OKC RFA"s, potentially) and history tells us much of the turnover will come from this area of the 50-man list. Names include Anton Lander, Tyler Pitlick, Curtis Hamilton, Ryan Martindale, Andrew Miller, Toni Rajala, Olivier Roy, Taylor Fedun, Richard Bachman, Mark Arcobello and Cameron Abney.
I expect the 50-man list won’t resemble the current look 12 months from now.
(Curtis Hamilton photo by Rob Ferguson, all rights reserved).