The Edmonton Oilers are going to be doing some juggling soon, as Oscar Klefbom nears NHL readiness. There’s some pressure for Klefbom to graduate too, as a fairly substantial defensive queue is forming. "Stack ’em and Rack ‘Em" only works for so long, and after that you’ve got to play these kids, and the idea of three rookie blue (Nurse, Klefbom, Marincin) beginning at the same time is not an attractive one. How can Edmonton bring these guys in without going through an extreme period of transition?
(Martin Marincin. All Barons photos by Rob Ferguson, all rights reserved)
Back in September, I posted the top 30 prospects in the organization and noted the plethora of defenders at the top who are close to NHL ready. Looking at the top 5, four are defensemen and three of them (Nurse, Klefbom and Marincin) may be less than one year from being NHL ready.
Nurse was a late cut from Oilers camp, having impressed a great deal and pushing for NHL employment. It isn’t a stretch to believe Nurse could be an NHL defenseman by this time next season. Nurse promised to go back to junior and dominate, and he’s added powerplay impact to his already impressive resume.
- Nurse when he was cut from the Oilers: "I was fuelled by the fact that so many people said I wasn’t good enough to keep up at this level. I proved a few people wrong, but I still have a lot of room to grow as a player and as a person."
If we can agree there’s a chance Nurse makes the big club next September, then graduating Klefbom and Marincin to the NHL should (ideally) be staggered to allow each player a 20 game window before the next rookie blue arrives. For instance, if Klebom is called up after the trade deadline (a time for offloading veterans) that allows the club to graduate Nurse in September and Marincin would still be able to make the NHL grade during his entry level deal (although trades are certainly possible).
This is the easy part. Whenever there’s an imminent graduation from the farm/junior, Oiler fans can easily identify the endangered players. The Oilers will offload:
- Soon to be UFA’s: Nick Schultz, Anton Belov, Denis Grebeshkov, Corey Potter
The club is very likely to sign their two RFA’s (Jeff Petry, Justin Schultz) to lucrative deals and then add Ladislav Smid and Andrew Ference. Anton Belov is playing his way into the future, but after that things are less certain.
The men unlikely to return? It’s perhaps too soon to tell in regard to Grebeshkov, Potter could return as an inexpensive 7D option and Nick Schultz is unlikely to return if we look at the depth chart and the salary cap side by side.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
In writing this, I’m being unfair to men like Taylor Fedun, Brandon Davidson, Martin Gernat, David Musil and even college player Dillon Simpson, all of whom could impact the NHL depth chart in the next 12 months.
However, as I see it there are three arrivals we should be looking for on the blue in the next year: Darnell Nurse September 2014, Martin Marincin later in the 2014-15 season, and Oscar Klefbom some time this season.
Likely after the snow flies.