The Edmonton Oilers placed defencemen Corey Potter and Denis Grebeshkov on waivers earlier today.
The Depth Chart Today
With the moves (and assuming both players are either demoted or claimed), the Oilers’ current healthy NHL roster looks something like this:
In the loss to Toronto last night, Edmonton dressed 11 forwards and seven defencemen because David Perron was unable to go. They have a few days before Saturday’s game against Detroit, but they’re even more vulnerable to a sudden illness right now, with no spare forwards and no spare defencemen.
Grebeshkov’s $1.5 million cap hit is going to be a hard one for any team to pick up. He’s played three games, averaging 11:36 per night, and barely been given a chance to show whether he’s still up to NHL standards or not.
And that makes little sense. General manager Craig MacTavish added Grebeshkov over the summer to bolster the Oilers’ defensive depth. Edmonton could certainly use another option on the blueline; Justin Schultz has been terrible, Nick Schultz hasn’t been much better, Ladislav Smid and Andrew Ference have had their struggles and on a good NHL team a player like Anton Belov would have to fight for playing time. Schultz the elder has been given a few nights off, but Schultz the younger remains bulletproof for no apparent reason.
Yes, Grebeshkov’s pre-season injury put him behind the eight ball. Yes, maybe he’s a less than ideal option. But he hasn’t been bad in spot duty and a little internal competition wouldn’t hurt. It was one of the things Dallas Eakins emphasized at his first press conference as the Oilers’ head coach:
Foremost, the number one thing we are going to be committed to is competition. This team is going to compete. If you’re going to play for the Edmonton Oilers you are going to compete no matter if you’re a first-line guy, the sixth defenceman, the 23rd man on the roster, a player playing in the minors you are going to compete to play on this hockey team. That’s how you win hockey games in the NHL right now. It’s how you get your organization better. That is my commitment to this organization: to make that happen.
Denis Grebeshkov was once a pretty decent NHL defenceman. Maybe he still is, maybe he isn’t, but on a team with defencemen begging through their play to sit out a night or two, the coaches never bothered to find out. And unless Grebeshkov is still struggling with injury that’s inexplicable.
This move actually makes a good deal of sense, based on what we know today. Potter’s just back from injury and based on Jim Matheson’s comments a few days ago he needs a bit more time to ease his way back into the lineup. The Oilers could have left him in Oklahoma on a conditioning stint, but two things make a waiver placement a little more sensible:
- 1. In the likely event that Potter clears, the Oilers can let him work his way back without him taking up an NHL roster spot.
- 2. If Potter’s claimed, the Oilers have a very reasonable alternative on the farm in Philip Larsen.
If Potter were fully healthy, I would think his $775,000 cap hit might make him appealing to another NHL team; as it stands though he hasn’t played this season and would be a gamble.
The Other Possibility
It’s always possible that the Potter and Grebeshkov moves were mere preliminaries to a bigger transaction. Waiving the duo clears roughly $1.7 million in cap space, as well as opening up two roster spots (one or more of which might be claimed by one of the currently injured forwards coming off IR).
Around the Nation
Just a reminder to sign up for StreakCred. With October almost over (and the monthly prize of a signed NHL jersey and cash almost won), a new monthly prize is available in November. Sign up here to compete for it.
Also, feel free to check out some of my recent articles: