JEFF PETRY: WAIT AND SEE

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Heaven knows, the Edmonton Oilers have done much to earn the cynicism of their fans by making so many questionable player personnel decisions in recent seasons, but I don’t see the signing of Jeff Petry to a one-year contract as one of them.

There was much consternation among the fan base today when the Oilers announced the one-year pact, worth $3.075 million, because the deal will take Petry to UFA status but not beyond. Some shouted, “Bad asset management,” assuming Petry will be out the door the second he’s eligible to bolt. Others assume a trade is inevitable. Petry is as good as gone.

I don’t buy the bad asset management bit – it’s an in-vogue buzz-phase that gets thrown around a lot around here, in large part because of the reign of error we saw under Steve Tambellini. It’s premature, to say the least, unless Petry walks at the end of the coming season without any return.

I see the latter, the possibility Petry will be moved along between now and the next trade deadline, as being far more likely — although not necessarily inevitable. I’m OK with that outcome, with the caveat that MacTavish lands something of use, not futures or prospects, if that time arrives.

Bottom line, this is a bridge contract to the deal Petry and the Oilers couldn’t come to terms on this time around. Petry is going to get paid and he’s going to get term in his next contract as a UFA, whether it’s here with the Oilers or with another team. As Jonathan Willis wrote at The Cult of Hockey today, this sets the clock on Petry and the Oilers.

THE ART OF THE DEAL

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“This one-year deal is something both sides felt was best,” Petry told Jason Gregor of TSN 1260 today. That might be spin by Petry, but if both sides believe it really is best to take a longer look before committing because they couldn’t agree on term or dollars now, it’s not a reach.

Petry has been playing first-pairing minutes here, so bargaining for a new deal as a first-pairing defenseman is exactly what you’d expect, especially if the Oilers wanted a year or two or three of his UFA status. Why wouldn’t Petry ask for $4.5 million or more per season over, say, four or five years?

On the Oilers side of the bargaining table, why would MacTavish commit to that kind of money and term if he isn’t sure where Petry fits in the plans? Do you throw $20 million or more at a pending UFA if you’re not confident the contract will make sense a year or two from now just because you’re afraid you night lose him for nothing?

Petry has been pushed into first-pairing minutes because the Oilers don’t have any actual first-pairing defensemen now. Fans have been lamenting that for, what, a season or more? This contract gives the Oilers the opportunity to decide where Petry fits moving forward. Not a bad idea with the additions of Mark Fayne, Nikita Nikitin and Keith Aulie and with Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin and Darnell Nurse on the way.

THE BOTTOM LINE

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Petry draws a lot of criticism for the mistakes he makes and a perceived lack of physicality, much of it earned, but there’s absolutely no questions he’s an NHL defenseman. I don’t think he’ll ever be a first-pairing guy with the vast majority of NHL teams, but that’s a point for debate. The Oilers get another season to draw their conclusions on that point.

If Petry puts together a solid season, he can’t lose. He’ll either get his term and his money from the Oilers or from another team as a UFA. If the Oilers like what they see, MacTavish can open talks about a new contract to lock Petry up in January. Sure, Petry could opt to test the market, but why would he leave if the money is right?

This deal buys time for both sides. Nothing wrong with that.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Oilman

    It looks like MacT wasn’t willing to pay whatever Petry was demanding for the expensive UFA years, so he only bought the one remaining RFA year at $3M. It’s prudent because Petry looks a lot like Tom Gilbert 2.0: a right-handed top pairing D on a bad team but a third pairing D on a playoff team. Remember what happened to Gilbert: Minnesota had to buy him out after realizing that he wasn’t worth half the dollars of his contract.

    Besides, the Oilers can’t risk signing Petry to a 5 year deal at over $4M when they need cap space in future years to resign Nurse, Klefbom and Marincin (if they pan out).

    • Mike Krushelnyski

      I don’t know what constitutes a “hit” in the NHL statistics department but:

      it’s probably safe to say that Petry engages more, way more, than Gilbert:

      2011-12
      Petry games 73, hits 126, NHL Rank(def) 48th
      Gilbert games 67, hits 65, rank 124th

      2012-13
      Petry games 48, hits 112, rank(def) 13th
      Gilbert games 43, hits 24, rank(def) 117th

      2013-14
      Retry games 80, hits 181, rank(def) 17th
      Gilbert games 73, hits 59, rank(def) 144th

    • “Minnesota had to buy him out after realizing that he wasn’t worth half the dollars of his contract.”

      That’s not exactly accurate. Minny bought him out because they had to clear a ton of cap room. Their first choice was Heatley who conveniently came up lame and because of the injury they were not allowed to buy him out. They also shipped Setoguchi out of town too.

      In the end, yes was bought out, but Gilbert’s contract wasn’t horrible. You are correct though in implying that Gilbert could now be had on the open market much cheaper than Petry. I would argue that Petry has a much higher ceiling. To bad he won’t get the support in Edmonton to continue to develop.

  • Oilman

    Balance balance balance… Great point Robin about this buying time for both sides. Don’t care about the term just yet until I see wht happens urging the course of the season.

    Musil and the 1st for Berglund and a 2nd from St Louis would really “balance” this team out….

    Hall Nuge Eberle

    Perron Berg Yak

    Pouliot Arco Purcell

    Hendriks Gordon Lander / Joensuu / Gadzic

    Marincin Petry

    Nikitin Fayne

    Ference Schultz

    Balance, balance, balance….

  • Admiral Ackbar

    Pretty obvious he doesn’t want to play here. He’ll work his butt off for his UFA payday. Pump ‘n dump on the deadline!

    This was inevitable. Dmen like this are always serviceable on deadline day. No big loss for the Oil.

  • Admiral Ackbar

    I would have preferred a two-year pact but I prefer the bridge deal over a long-term deal at this point. Assuming Petry isn’t traded before the season, I am looking forward to seeing what he can do if he is playing the second toughest competition and Fayne is doing the heavy lifting. Petry did alright considering he was asked to play over his head.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Although Craig has held his position for just over a year. He has learned a few things already. He’s seen this scenario play out under Horcoff, Hemsky and Gagner. On all three occasions he let loyalty get in the way of return/ what was best for his hockey club.

    I’d be surprised if he lets this go to the point of receiving a diminished value for Jeff Petry. He’s going to act sooner rather than later on this front. He’s worth more now than he’ll be in March at the deadline.

    Making a tough call on this earlier rather than later could bring a much needed 2nd line center. This team needs to come out of the gate firing on all cylinders, and not wait till they’re in too tough to salvage another season.

    • Dan 1919

      Agreed, and as mentioned, if Petry doesn’t have a career showing to start the season, I think we will see a strong message sent to all the players just how serious MacT is about his commitment to win and to stick to his plan is.

      These other guys were brought in and overpaid because guys like Petry have never quite performed as well as needed thus forcing the organization into this predicament of the Edmonton bonus (along with Tambi, Lowe and many other compounded reasons, but none the less).

      Now these guys that were here like Petry and Shultz appear to be missing that message all together and are wondering where their huge payouts are, when in fact they should be expecting the opposite (Shultz to a far lesser extent.)

      Petry appears to have punched his own ticket, hopefully Schultz doesn’t do the same. Not that I think Shultz is anywhere near the trading block, but I do think the oblivious Tambi days are long gone and MacT fully realizes that just because Shultz was highly touted before ever playing a game in the NHL, doesn’t mean for a second that he is ever guaranteed to be the next Karlsson or anywhere close to it.

      All I’m saying is if Shultz thinks he’s got MacT by the balls, the Oil have plenty of D prospects, and heck, Shultz would fetch a better 2C than Petry on a good day.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    Bottom line: Petry is – or will be next year – overvalued in the open market.

    His UFA status will get him reasonably big money, but his play doesn’t warrant it. The Oilers can’t afford to give out money like that considering we still have to sign Scultz, Yak, and in the future Nurse, Marincin, Klefbom, etc.

    • The Soup Fascist

      Everything you say is correct. The problem is if other teams are willing to pay, is it an “overpay”? Especially if it is a position your team is not strong in.

      What is the succession plan when Petry walks at the end of the year? The Oilers have zero young RH defensemen in the system and only Fayne and Schultz in the bigs.

      MacT had two options in my opinion. Sign Petry for 3 years or trade him for another RD or 2C. Signing Petry for one year was the one thing that did not make sense. This appears to be a panic move. Maybe MacT has something else in the works. It is possible.

      We wait.

      • The Soup Fascist

        The only thing that makes sense to me is that we end up trading him between now and the deadline.

        The only other alternative is if Petry plays lights out to the point where MacT would be willing to give him a long-term big money extension to buy his UFA years, but that of course seems very unlikely.

        • The Soup Fascist

          I agree. But the problem is Petry had greater value on Sunday than he does today. Unless I am mistaken Petry can not be extended until January, so any team trading for him between now and January 2015 is getting a “pig in a poke”. Petry can tell the new team to get stuffed and try free agency. Up until yesterday the team trading for him at least had the opportunity to sign him for a multi-year deal and have some certainty. And if they wait until the deadline and IF the Oilers are within sniffing distance of a playoff spot – the first one in nine years – they cannot trade him.

          I am not saying Petry is the be all and end all, nor should he be paid $5 million a year for long term at this point. He will never be mistaken for a #1 D-man. But IMO, this contract has, to this point, been mis-managed.

          I like MacT and maybe he will pull a rabbit out of his hat. I just think he has tied his own hands here and for no good reason. The season is still 3 months away.

          • The Soup Fascist

            You make a good point. I guess MacT plans on using Petry this year, then dealing him at the deadline.

            If we’re anywhere near the playoffs come deadline time, dealing Petry away won’t be a popular decision.

            What really worries me about this scenario more than anything is that we still don’t have any center depth. But I’m guessing MacT called around offering Petry in a deal for a center but found nothing.

  • Jordan1126

    The worst thing about Petry is that he is best DMAN on the worst D in the league…

    This screws the Oilers because he is likely demanding a first pairing salary whereas if he played for the kings he would be getting bottom 4 money…

    Im glad MAC T didn’t pull another overvalued gagner mistake.

    petry is a serviceable player but not top 2 material

  • Zarny

    It’s rather comical to read comments poo pooing Petry’s 1 year deal after a full season of b*tching that Gagner didn’t live up to his extension.

    Mr. Brownlee is correct; additional years would have come at a price. How close to $4-4.5M are you comfortable paying Petry?

    1 year is not a bad deal. Lots of comments that Petry will get a paid as a UFA. Really? He had 17 pt last year and has topped 20 pt once.

    It really does depend on how the other 29 teams view Petry. Andy MacDonald snagged $5M from Phi but has better offense production. Tom Gilbert on the other hand hit 28 pt last year after a few down years and only got $2.8M. Gilbert’s a few years older but has also produced 31-45 pt. So far Petry could only dream of those numbers.

    • Very true comment…..how many 20pt seasons does Mark Fayne have? Zero….and he got $3.625……..as a UFA Petry probably gets $4.1-4.3M on a multi year deal…..so, technically, yes is getting paaaaaaaiddd……

      all in all, who cares…..new whipping boy for 2014/15 > Jeff Petry

    • The Soup Fascist

      3 years @ $12 – 13 million would have been an acceptable number to settle on IMO.

      The difference with Gagner was virtually everyone knew he was not a viable center in the NHL. Petry is a good RHS NHL defenseman. Will he become a very good defenseman? The jury is out. But that was a contract that would not cripple the Oilers and stabilize a right side that has NO viable replacements in the system. Not one.

      Even if you view Petry strictly as “currency” I see him as devalued with the contract he signed.

      I guess we will see what plays out over the next 12 months. There will be lots of opportunity to scrutinize how this was contract was handled.

      • The Soup Fascist

        Gagner “not a viable center”???

        We all know that Gagner has weaknesses in his game, but a guy who can produce 40+ points s year is viable in the NHL.

        There are a lot of similarities between Gagner and Petry. Both playing bigger roles on a very bad team than they would have on even an average team has likely increased their earning power. A least it sure did for Gagner.

        Gagner is basically a forward who has weaknesses and maybe plays a “Danny Brier” type role if he ever land on a really good team. I see Petry as a 2nd or 3rd pair dman who has weaknesses.

        • The Soup Fascist

          Very viable forward, no argument. But I think many understood that Gagner and his lack of awareness and acumen in his own end was not going to be a 2C or 3C in Edmonton where his supporting cast was not overly, er … supportive.

          What will be interesting is how he plays for Dave Tippett. Tippett for me is an excellent coach and I will be curious to see where he plays Sam. I am a Gagner fan, really I am. If Tippett chooses to try him in the middle and can get him to play an adequete defensive game then Gagner is a steal.

          If Gagner ends up on the wing in Phoenix / Glendale / Arizona or whatever the hell they call themselves, it will be a sign that Gagner as a center was not going to happen – anywhere. Having said all that, not sure we have a better 2C alternative for the upcoming season in good ‘ol our town. More is the pity.