Which unrestricted free agents will the Edmonton Oilers retain?

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Decisions have already been made on many of the Edmonton players eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer. Ryan Smyth retired (to deserved fanfare), Ryan Jones declared that he wouldn’t be back, Denis Grebeshkov and Anton Belov headed for the KHL.

But that still leaves five UFA’s unaccounted for. What happens to them?

Ben Eager

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  • The Backstory: Eager was a first-round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes in 2002; a big strong player who was blessed with tremendous speed and might have evolved into a power forward (though the offence wasn’t really there, even in the OHL). Instead, he carved out a career as a pretty good “energy” player, a tough fourth-liner capable of playing a regular shift. He was brought in by Steve Tambellini to add some grit, was waived in his second season and spent almost the entirety of the third in the minors.
  • The Future: I’m inclined to think that we’ve seen the last of Eager in the NHL. At his best he was a good fourth-line player, and the combination of age and injury have eroded him down to something less than that. If he does make a comeback, it likely won’t be in Edmonton.

Taylor Fedun

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  • The Backstory: An undrafted college free agent, Fedun was on the cusp of making the Oilers in the fall of 2012…and then this happened. He missed a full season, worked his way up to the top of the AHL ranks, and was Oklahoma City’s best defenceman (with due respect to Brad Hunt) this season. He’s a highly intelligent defender with puck-moving ability but he’s a little undersized and he doesn’t skate like the wind (though he’s worked hard since suffering that injury).
  • The Future: The Oilers don’t really have faith that Fedun is a major-league defenceman. He’s great in the No. 1 slot in Oklahoma City and Edmonton would doubtless love to have him in a mentorship/steadying role and as a call-up option when injuries hit, but Fedun might be better off chasing bigger dollars in Europe. If he’s willing to take a two-way deal, he should be back, but it seems doubtful that Edmonton is open to a one-way offer.

Mark Fraser

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  • The Backstory: Fraser is a one-dimensional player: a tough, physical defenceman who is a fringe NHL player (or worse) in pretty much every other area. He came up through the Devils system and had his best moments in New Jersey; since then he’s bounced between the minors and majors with teams like Edmonton and Toronto.
  • The Future: The Oilers could plausibly bring Fraser back as their No. 7 defenceman. They shouldn’t do that, because they have AHL options who are better players (including Fedun), but the search for toughness continues and he does have a past with Dallas Eakins.

Steve MacIntyre

  • The Backstory: It’s easy to question the role of professional enforcers, but man-oh-man do they have commitment. MacIntyre fought his way through the WHL, CEHL, UHL (he was briefly a defence partner with current OKC coach Todd Nelson, whose own career was winding down), QSPHL, ECHL:, WHA2 and then finally to the AHL and the NHL. The 33-year-old has played most of his 91 major league games with Edmonton, and spent most of this year in Oklahoma City after being acquired off waivers from Pittsburgh.
  • The Future: It didn’t get a lot of attention in Edmonton, but MacIntyre was given the captaincy in Oklahoma for that team’s season finale, which is also almost certainly his final game in the Oilers organization. It’s not inconceivable he retires in the offseason.

Steve Pinizzotto

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  • The Backstory: The late-blooming Pinizzotto emerged as an exceptional AHL player starting in 2009-10, providing solid defensive play, a physical presence and all of a sudden scoring, too. After two good years with Hershey, he looked set to make his NHL debut with Vancouver in 2011-12 when he suffered a shoulder injury that ended his season before it even began. He got into 12 games with the Canucks in 2012-13, but was struggling in Florida’s AHL organization when the Oilers came calling. Pinizzotto played very well in OKC and earned a late season call-up where he showed strongly in Edmonton.
  • The Future: Realistically, the 30-year-old Pinizzotto is at the “minor-league journeyman” stage of his career, where NHL opportunities are rare, and his best play might be to seek more money in Europe. If he’s still interested in pursuing an NHL job, Edmonton’s probably his best bet – his skillset (toughness, PK, enough offence for a fourth-line role) is a good fit for a team with a weak forward depth chart. He’d certainly be a better fit at RW on a Hendricks-Gordon defensive zone fourth line than a guy like Luke Gazdic would.

TL;DR – What Happens?

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Of the forwards, it seems pretty safe to say that Ben Eager and Steve MacIntyre will not be back in the Oilers’ organization next season. Steve Pinizzotto, if he stays in North America, is a good bet for a two-way contract – it’s a good situation for him and a good fit for the team.

The two defencemen are probably coin tosses at this point. In a perfect world, Taylor Fedun re-signs with Edmonton on a two-way deal, but he can make pretty good money over in Europe and his NHL window may well have passed. It’s also possible he goes out in search of a second opinion in North America. Mark Fraser might also plausibly be back, on either a one- or two-way deal; he shouldn’t really be in the plans but the Oilers don’t have a thumper on the back end and whatever else Fraser is he adds toughness.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

      • J.R.

        It’s never too late to start doing smart stuff but yeah not too much faith there.

        I’m a huge fan and totally biased but most of what Mac T is doing I like so far.

        • Spydyr

          Keep the faith in your team even though I have little to no faith in “The Braintrust”. It gets harder every year to put on a brave face and cheer for them.

      • J.R.

        Yes those same people. I will say this. It was a minor deal to bring him in and give him a shot. But after watching him game in game out its up to MacT to make the assessment. Can’t blame the pro scouts if he keeps him. We shall see.

        • Spydyr

          Yes,you can blame the pro scouts.They are among the worst in the NHL.Their record proves it both in the standings and the pro accusations that have been made the last decade or more.

  • Spydyr

    I hope we sign Kulemin and Grabovski to play some softer minutes with Yakupov.

    Kulemin – big body two way winger with an excellent release

    Grabovski – creative, excellent skating centre

    Yakupov could benefit from having those two guys on his line. They had their best seasons together I believe.

    Move gagner for Colin Wilson in Nashville before they find out how good he may be when he doesn’t have trotz as his coach.

    Hall Nuge Eberle

    Wilson Arco Perron

    Kulemin Grabo Yakupov

    Lander Gordon Hendricks

    Ideally we would sign Winnik as well but two forward UFA signings is probably all we will get.

    Send Marincin or Klefbom + 2015 2nd for Phaneuf (1 to 1.5 retained) and sign Gilbert

    Phaneuf Gilbert

    Klef/Marincin Petry

    Ference Schultz

  • hallsyoilerforever5

    If these 5 are the best that we can talk about, then this speaks poorly on the overall state of this organization for player scouting/developoment. What a joke…no wonder we are in 25th to 30th place every year.

  • WeridAl

    Schultz is the handcuff for Fedun. I wonder if Fedun could be our version of Tyler Spurgeon. But we’ll never find out in Edmonton because we don’t have the beef on the right D to mix in Fedun’s smaller size.

  • bwar

    God read Mr. WIllis. I think you hit the nail on the head with each of these players. Personally I would like to see Pinizotto back as callup or 13/14th forward. Fraser I could see the Oilers bringing back but it really depends on what the Oilers roster looks like heading into training camp.

  • WeridAl

    Not having a thumper, what is Musil. They don’t refer to him as Big Musil for nothing in OKC. He’s on the border line to being ready, skates better, and passes better than Fraser, and has a lot more hockey smarts. Yes it maybe too many rookies in the line up, but its a better option than having Fraser.

      • WeridAl

        He’s muched improved with mobility, and compared to Fraser he’s a speed skater. I will agree another year in the AHL would do him good. But if you have problems with mobility, why did the Oilers sign Dillon Simpson?

      • Spydyr

        I saw every game OKC played in Abbotsford this year and I have to say Musil stood out for me in almost every game… Not in a good way. I’m not a scout of any kind but he was getting beat left right and center. I don’t see an NHL player there at all.

    • Although Matt Greene’s been terrible lately for Los Angeles, so much so that waiver wire fodder Jeff Schultz is playing ahead of him in the lineup.

      Greene’s still better than Fraser, but I don’t know that he’s a great fit, particularly since he probably has enough of a reputation to cost more than your typical No. 7.

    • vetinari

      He would certainly fit in better as a rhs defence with Petry and Schultz than Gilbert. Until the injuries to Mitchell and Rhegher he was No. 7 in LA. That would likely put him as 4/5 in Edmonton.

    • pkam

      Matt Greene was making 3.25M this year while Fraser was making 1.275M. Not sure how many team can afford 3.25M for a 6/7 defense.

      I am all for it if Greene is willing to sign for 1.5M as our 5/6D but I doubt it will ever happen.

  • vetinari

    Pinnizzoto and Fedun are about the only two that I would look at, preferably on two-way contracts, mainly for depth and as potential call-up options. Otherwise, there is nothing in this group that can’t be replaced by others already under contract (or likely to be under contract) by fall.

  • vetinari

    Of all the names listed Pinnizotto and Fedun would be the 2 I’d like to see back for Training Camp. MacT seems to have his work cut out for him this summer… Yikes.

  • pkam

    Fedun deserved a real shot, and the Oilers had no reason not to give him one. Instead we saw Philip Larson a bit too much. Fedun will probably never be a NHL regular, but I hope he is hopefully back with the Oilers in a tweener role, and captain in OKC next year.

    • nuge2drai

      C Anton Lander: 23 yrs old, 27 games played, 1 assist = awarded a one way NHL contract

      D Taylor Fedun: 25 yrs old, 4 games played, 2 goals = two way contract or cut loose.

      Does that make a lick of sense to anyone other than delusional fangirls and/or Oiler management?

      • Sorensenator

        Lander will most likely fill the fourth line centre role but will not be guaranteed a roster spot and could still end up in the minors.

        If Lander could play the same way he plays in the AHL he could be a very effective hockey player.

        600 k is peanuts in the NHL

        Yeah Fedun scored 2 goals in four games, but four games is a small sample size. Remember when the flames called up Sven Baertschi and he scored like 3 goals in 2 games and everyone in flames nation thought he was the next Crosby?

        In a nutshell the Oilers know what they have with Fedun, a very good offensive D man in the AHL that lacks size. He will always have a hard time cracking an NHL lineup.

  • Arius Mumin

    I agree with almost everything you wrote except the part about Pinizzotto playing well in OKC… he did play well in the games in which he didn’t lose his temper and cost OKC some valuable points. There were WAY too many 3rd period Game Misconducts, or other stupid penalties that ended up costing a team in desperate need of points for a playoff spot, points… we barely made the playoffs with him, and i feel as though we would have had 10 more points on the season without him…

    the Bad Pini doesn’t make up for the sometimes good Pini

    • WeridAl

      I would disagree about Pino, his play created room for Arco to play and do his magic. Yes he took the odd bad penalty, but the same could be said about Perron. What hurt the Barons was Eager couldn’t keep his mouth shut. Also MacT screwing with the line up at the end with all theses Smurfs.

  • nuge2drai

    We have to replace:

    1. Sam Gagner

    2. Ryan Smyth

    3. Ryan Jones

    4. Nick Shultz

    5. Ladislav Smid

    6. Anton Belov

    7. J Joensuu

    34+ Million in cap space. MacT is in a great spot, but has some work ahead. Needless to say its a big off season for the Oil.

    • I’m not sure where you get 34 mil in capspace. Capgeek has us at 26.4 mil not including the fact that we have to resign Schultz and Petry…. Even that only gives us 5 defensemen.

      oh, and that’s assuming the cap goes up to 71.1 mil which as i understand isn’t guaranteed.

      • nuge2drai

        Oiler Domination To Follow

        In my fantasy trade I had Gagner and Ference going to the Leafs -giving us over 34 million in cap space.

        Kudos to MacT for clearing up a TON of cap space taken up by some useless players left over from the useless Tambellini era.

        Depending on the ufa defenseman he spends Smids cap on will determine how good the trade with Calgary was – jury’s still out.

        • 1. Any deal involving Gagner is likely to involve either money being kept or money coming back. Not likely value contracts either.

          2. Ference has to agree to said trade. Assuming he will be traded is folly.

  • Tikkanese

    Fedun should have received more of a look. Hope he makes it here or elsewhere. Would be a great callup option for the Oilers and should challenge fairly hard for a spot at camp which is always a good thing to have.

    Pinizzotto looked decent in Edmonton. However, he is a “dime a dozen” type that is easily replaceable if he signs elsewhere. Worth a 2-way minimum dollars offer as he provides a tough veteran presence in OKC and a depth callup option.

    Eager’s concussions killed his willingness to hit and mix it up and thusly his career. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a tryout somewhere or a KHL offer.

  • WeridAl

    If I could trade for Phaneuf by losing only an asset and a pick agreeing to take a high cap hit I do so. At 29, he still has valuable years and while he gets beat up around here a lot, I like that he has attributes the current Oilers don’t.

    I also make a pitch for Dan Boyle on a one year high dollar contract.

    Gives:

    Phaneuf/Petry
    Schultz/Boyle
    Marincin/Ference
    Klefbom

    Nurse is your call up.

    Boyle out in 2015/2016, but can mentor the young guys as can Phaneuf and Ference. Ference gone upon expiring contract, but the kids will have matured by then. When kids are ready, Phaneuf is still only 32/33 years old.

    Forwards…

    Nuge/Hall/Eberle
    ?/Yak/Perron
    Arcobello/Hendricks/UFA
    Gordon/Gazdic/Pinizzotto

    Scrivens/Fasth

    I assume Gagner goes in the Phaneuf trade. Thus, I make a pitch for Stastny from the Avs.

    Not sure the cap situation with this roster but seems to appear from first glance like it might work dollars wise. If they land Statsny it gets super tight.

  • WeridAl

    I remember hearing on 1260 several weeks ago(on the morning show, I think) that McIntyre had announced his retirement.

    I was just fishing around google to see if there was a confirmatory story published anywhere, and I couldn’t find anything. It might just be my imagination / confabulation.

    In any event, I agree that his pro hockey career is likely over. Seemed like a decent guy by all accounts, so I hope he saved a nest egg and has a comfortable retirement.

    • Thumby

      I hope he’s stashed a few bucks away as well but there is nothing wrong with having to work after you finish playing hockey in your 30’s…besides that is way too young to do nothing but golf & go hunting!

      Bah, who am I kidding…I’d love to retire and golf and hunt the rest of my days!

  • WeridAl

    Fedun and Pinizotto. Fedun>Fraser in everything. Fedun can operate the PP and play some of Ference’s special team minutes to relieve him. Fedun is a pretty hard worker too, you don’t see that too often in the Oilers organization. Fedun could definitely battle for the 7th spot or even work the 3rd line

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler a Domination To Follow

    If we spent Horcoffs,Hemskys,Smids, and N Shultzs cap on….

    Statsny, Niskanen, Downie, Stempniak….

    We would be much better off…

  • Spydyr

    From what I can see, the Oilers will be short of NHL caliber players for next season. MacT will find himself in a bind, as the limited free agent market will demand sky high asking prices.

    The start of next season will feature a young, inexperienced lineup. I predict another tough year for the Oil.

    • J.R.

      Tough season indeed!

      And MacT not only is in a bind with a shortage of NHLers but put his job on the line sticking with the present coaching staff. May be best for Katz to go over MacT’s head to pick up a real NHL coach with competent assistant coaches seeing there are some out there?

  • Spydyr

    Let’s face it, as long as media types are writing these kind of blogs and oil faithful/suffers have these sorts of ugly debates to ponder- just nicely into another woafull off season. Does one really wonder why we are in the shape we are in when the free agents list looks like that ??. It’s like- what color lip stick do you put on a pig ? no matter what, it’s still ugly and with that list of free agents combines with the rest under contract and those untradeable contracts and well, may as well through in the lack of blue chip prospects, she really is ugly and sadly bleak.
    Pick your lip stick folks- it’s not going to matter !

  • Spydyr

    Have the feeling Oilers will go after D. Boyle , seeing as he will be a UFA and Sharks not interested in resigning him . Oilers might even work a small deal to take Havlat off Sharks hand as well . Both could be short term upgrades while youth develops .

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    makes me laugh to hear Ryan Jones announce….during the season as it was ending! that he wasn’t coming back like he was Marion Hossa. Jones is the last person who should be playing ANYWHERE in the NHL right now based on yet another season of suck.