The Edmonton Oilers issued qualifying offers to their restricted free agents on Monday, and for the most part they stayed the course. Every single RFA received a contract, with one exception: defenceman Taylor Fedun.
Oilers qualify everyone but Fedun… Hamilton, Miller and Pitlick all qualified…
— Jason Gregor (@JasonGregor) June 30, 2014
#Oilers issue qualifying offers to the following players: Bachman, Gazdic, Hamilton, Horak, Larsen, Miller, Pitlick, Petry and Schultz.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) June 30, 2014
We can break these players into categories.
In the “no surprise” department we find Justin Schultz and Jeff Petry, bona fide NHL defenders who were not going to be given a shot at free agency. We can toss Luke Gazdic into this group too, because while his value to the team is somewhat debatable there was never any question that the Oilers were going to opt to keep him.
A couple of players are “can’t hurt” qualifying decisions. The choice to issue offers to Philip Larsen and Roman Horak falls under that category. Both players are heading to the KHL for 2014-15, so they won’t take a spot on the Oilers’ 50-man list and this decision simply ensures that Edmonton retains their rights.
Richard Bachman fills a role as the Oilers’ No. 3 goalie. Nobody in the system is close to replacing him and he’s a nice fit in that slot, so it makes sense to keep him. Andrew Miller had an uneven first pro campaign but showed some signs along the way. Tyler Pitlick has struggled with injuries but looks close to NHL-ready. These are all players it makes sense to re-sign.
Curtis Hamilton is in the same group, but the rationale for signing him is a little more questionable. He’s had injury problems, but even when healthy he hasn’t been all that good. He didn’t even flirt with call-up status last season; he was outperformed by a long list of Barons. The Oilers clearly don’t want to give up on him, but he hasn’t shown a thing as a professional and the team has been waiting three years; players like this get cut loose all the time.
There simply wasn’t a belief in the Oilers’ organization that Fedun was an NHL player.
The feeling was that while Fedun’s smarts were NHL-calibre, there wasn’t a future for a small defenceman with mediocre foot speed at the major league level.
It’s an understandable assessment. I think it’s an unfortunate one because Fedun excelled in the AHL and didn’t get the kind of NHL opportunity afforded to less deserving players (Philip Larsen got a long look after it was clear he wasn’t helping; Mark Fraser later in the year) and there was some possibility that he could have been a cheap ‘tweener defenceman.
But, it’s also hard to be overly critical of the Oilers here. Even if all went well, Fedun wasn’t going to be a top-four defender, so Edmonton’s not making a huge mistake here even if Fedun emerges as an NHL player.
With that said: It’s a shame the Oilers didn’t give him a longer look last season.
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