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There are plenty of hopeful candidates (but very little actual hope) among the outsider defensemen on the Oilers 50-man roster. A summer of signing free agents has effectively pushed back the prospects and made surprises unlikely—but not impossible.


  1. Mark Fayne
  2. Justin Schultz
  3. Jeff Petry
  4. Andrew Ference
  5. Nikita Nikitin

The only possible movement from this list being cast in stone is the Justin Schultz contract negotiations. I don’t see it as being a huge issue (despite the fact it’s taking awhile) and once it’s done these five are locked and loaded for 2014-15.

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  1. Keith Aulie—There’s a 70% chance Aulie makes the team. There’s no doubt in my mind Aulie makes the final roster, I’ve pegged it here for conversation. Dallas Eakins ran Will Acton opening night a year ago and Ryan Hamilton shortly after—Marlies go to the front of the line.
  2. Martin Marincin—Marincin has a 70% chance of making the
    Oilers. I’d like it to be higher, but something tells me the Oilers
    really like Klefbom’s style and Aulie’s size. Marincin’s impressive NHL
    debut should mean he plays an extended period in the NHL in 2014-15, but
    he is not a lock for opening night.
  3. Oscar Klefbom—There’s a 50% chance Klefbom makes the team. I’m factoring in both percentages and chances of injury here, so the % total will be more than 100 for the two remaining positions. I would not be surprised if the Oilers keep Klefbom and send out Marincin—think they like him a lot.
  4. Darnell Nurse—He has a 20% chance to make the team. I think he’d have to do something incredible in a late pre-season contest for Edmonton to keep him. There’s just too much competition, and he would be applying for a feature role. If he makes it, the training camp stories will have a lot of Darnell in them.
  5. Brad Hunt—He has a 10% chance to make the team. Hunt can fill a very specific role—power-play quarterback. If Craig Ramsay sees him good, it could happen. Not a massive opening, but there’s a little daylight.
  6. Brandon Davidson—He has a 5% chance to make the team. Jason Gregor’s recent conversation with Rocky Thompson was very insightful, and about a part of the game we can’t see or measure. Davidson’s progress has impressed some important people. There’s a chance.
  7. David Musil—He has a 3% chance. Jonathan Willis mentioned Musil on the Lowdown today, suggesting foot speed is the only major issue (he’s developing on pace in all other areas).
  8. Martin Gernat—He has a 2% chance. Mobile defenders are more in style than ever, and despite some chaos Gernat can use his speed and wingspan to recover defensively.

There’s a chance an injury will allow Edmonton to keep Marincin and Klefbom, but for me that’s going to be the final cut of training camp. Dallas Eakins will have to choose.

        • Jaxon

          Ference and management have made that pretty difficult. He’s got a slightly too expensive, too long contract (3 years) with a No Movement Clause, he’s the captain, he shows the younger players great work ethic and conditioning, and he’s popular in the community. I think they’re keeping him, maybe even until his contract runs out and they move him into some sort of staff position. I get the feeling he wants to retire in Edmonton. That’s the reality, but, As LT said, I would trade him too.

        • Joy S. Lee

          Ference has been there and done it all, while most of these guys haven’t been anywhere close. His leadership is pretty important for the development of the D group, and it would be a benefit if some of his determination could also rub off on others. I would suggest they are at least a year away from dealing him, unless they tank early, which would constitute change anyhow.

      • Dan 1919

        With the list in front of us we can see that’s a very realistic scenario, but I’d think with a different name than Ference. Ference is consistent defensively, and he’s experienced, a perfect 5/6 guy (probably 3-5 on the Oil)

        There will be a lot of pressure on the two guys who are defence but aren’t very good at defending… Petry and Shultz. For obvious reasons this leaves Petry as the odd man out to be traded.

        I also don’t think we should overrate Shultz’s play last year, if two of Marincin, Klefbom, or Nurse come in and light it up and show there’s really no where else for them to be but the (NHL), not unrealistic for their ages and skill-sets, we could see some interesting things happen with the D line-up.

        I wouldn’t necessarily be worried if I was Shultz, but I’d make damn sure I have a good offseason training and commit to shoring up some of my defensive liabilities.

        It looks like the era of free spots on defence is over, best player wins from here on out.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        What happens in camp means little, if anything. Just ask Jason or Brian.

        As for near lotto picks, one of the Oilers top two blue liners at camp last fall. A solid camp meant diddly squat for Darnell Nurse. An impressive camp did nothing for him on a squad that finished 28th place without him.

        Training camp is just a gong show. Nothing on the line and most if not all veterans playing at 75%/just trying to stay healthy.

        Trading Ference so soon after the Oilers begged him to come in and play role model for the youngsters wouldn’t pass the smell test. It would however conform with the gong show style leadership in management though, so it may not be much of a stretch at all for this organization.

        An NHL Training camp is nothing but an illusion, and a waste of time for nearly 50% of the kids attending them. A terrible waste of two valuable weeks if you ask me.

        • Craig1981

          Some of what you say I agree with. Camp means little for roster sports for the majority of players. There are some exceptions though.

          Nurse was not a top 2 blueliner in the preseason. He played very well, but not a top 2. The Oilers have proven if you are in the top roster spots they will start the clock on your ELC.

          What you say “playing at 75%/just to stay healthy”, perhaps it is playing at 75% because their timing is not there yet and that is why preseason is needed…(though I agree if I was a veteran, blocking shots with my face may not be my top priority).

          Trading Ference is illogical I agree. He filled his the role he was asked to by management…..just not what some fans day dreamed about

          You really don’t believe playing with NHL veterans for a few weeks is a waste of time? In the very least it is a career highlight potentially a critical learning block.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            Most of those impressionable younger players are all rub-a-dubs. Do you want these alsorans running at your best players/veterans?

            These types should be contained in a (10 day’ish) rookie camp, where they can’t hurt established players. Take the best 4 or 6 from rookie camp to the main camp. What ever became of that kid than ran Ben Eager, set him back to a less than stellar beginnings as an Oiler? Imagine that, a training camp with 50% fewer injuries.

            Make them earn it, don’t hand it to them on a silver platter every September. Teams won’t admit it, but based on existing contracts, there’s really only one or two spots per team up for grabs. Why bring in nearly 35 extra players for that?

            • Craig1981

              I honestly believe any player that is drafted is a solid hockey player. Most of them are drafted on skill, and NHL players can handle the young ‘heavies’. If they can handle the NHL John Scott’s they can handle some 19 year old CHL player.

              Eager did not get hurt in a preseason game by Kirill Tulupov as Tulupov was trying out for the Oilers. How did you arrive at 50% less injuries as a number????? Or do you have zero facts to support that number?

              There are around 2000 CHL players and about 100 of them get drafted a year. I wouldn’t say they get a silver platter, I would say they earned 1-3 weeks with the best.

              You bring in your prospects for development. So they see what it takes, get motivation to come back and be part of the NHL, see their flaws that get exposed, and get trained by the best.

            • Quicksilver ballet

              Where in any of my statements did I claim Tulupov took Eager out in an NHL pre-season game? He’s just another shining example of a rub-a-dub player on your training camp roster taking out one of your NHL regulars.(The basis of my point).

              50% fewer players at camp usually equates to 50% fewer injuries. Only common sense, no?

              Jason Gregor did a study last year that helped arrive at the fact that 93% of players drafted fail to have a resemblance of an NHL career. Call those 93 “solid hockey players” anything you want. Oilers should get rid of them/the rif raf and get to the task at hand. 70+ player T/C’s are a terrible waste of two weeks.

    • geoilersgist

      Given that we’re likely to pick #15 or later, I’d suggest the Oilers pick a dman in the next draft. We’ve got dmen in the system like crazy right now, but given that it’ll take 3 – 4 years from today before the next one we pick is in the NHL, I’d say we’d have either employed this group in the NHL, flushed them from the system, or even maybe traded them by the time the next one is ready. Let’s keep this depth on an ongoing basis is essentially what I’m suggesting.

      • Craig1981

        First of all the Oiler’s have not picked between 15-30th with their own draft pick since 2000 besides the lockout lottery!! Yup, its a fact (though they did trade down from 17th to 22 in 2003) It wouldn’t bet the trend changes this year.

        In a draft year that is on of the strongest of all time take TBPA!!! Beggers shouldn’t be choosers.

      • Lowetide

        Not that I’m LT, but go look at how many points Gordon put up given he had the second most difficult ice time in the league, then compare that to how many Sutter had in more games, and it doesn’t make a very good case for Sutter.

      • Lowetide

        No. I don’t think that’s a trade Edmonton dare makes. Value isn’t close to equal.

        I do think they’ll trade Petry, though. Maybe in TC, maybe at the deadline.

      • 916oiler

        That would be bad unless you got a long term solution (at center) in return…which would not happen without another valuable asset going the other way as well.

        Plus, we already have our long term 2C solution in the form of a huge German.

        • Joy S. Lee

          So, you don’t even state who that long term solution at center might be, but you insist that he will be similarly youthful, and that it would take more than a Klefbom or Marincin to acquire him? (And everyone cheers. Well, allow me to upset the apple cart.)

          For an example, is Grigorenko more valuable than Marincin? Yeah, to this team he might be, but Marincin is the more valuable commodity at this stage. Buffalo doesn’t need young defensemen, though. However, the presumption that we’d have to throw in more than Marincin for Grigorenko is preposterous. I would expect it the other way around.

          Oiler fans (and I’m one) seem to have this misconception of either extreme over-valuing or under-valuing what players they have.

          These kids (Marincin and Klefbom) are good, folks, and they’re kids, so they have long-term value. If I were dealing one of them (not named Klefbom!), I’d expect someone pretty damned good in return, period, without anything else thrown in. Not that I wouldn’t, depending on the player, but those details are what would make the deal happen or not. I don’t think we need to assume that our players are somehow less valuable than a center (any center), simply because of the position. It’s a weakness on this team at this time, but somebody else has a weakness on defence that makes them look vulnerable, too. It’s about perspective, and I think MacT is done dealing from one of weakness. He will expect full value in return, and not just take whatever he can get for a good, young player, regardless of position.

      • Craig1981

        I think the need at center is temporary if Draistal proves to be as good as we hoped for…….therefor trading young players for a lineup hole only here for a season or 2 on a team that finished 28th last year is a mistake IMO……though apparently if you are Garth Snow, it is a great idea.

        • camdog

          Temporary…Boyd Gordon is only a temporary fixture on this team. He’s ageing. If he’s expected to play all of the tough minutes this season, he won’t have much in the tank in 2-3 seasons. And with Arcobello being a wild card I question how anybody could possibly think that the need for centre help is temporary? RNH and Draistal can’t be your teams only centers and with injuries, holly smokes the entire season could implode if we don’t add some depth in this position.

          Going into this season with the depth we have at centre might not be a Garth Snow move, but it is definitely a Edmonton Oliers fall for MaDavid move.

          • Craig1981

            I believe this because IF Acro proves to be a 3rd line center, our top 3 lines are set. If Lander can prove to replace Gordon, the starting lineup at center is set.

            I know this is rosy, and I am almost certain their will be need and center could be a massive problem. But here are the question marks this season:

            -Will our unproven NHL starting goalies work out

            -Will the defensive corps work out without a stud d-man.

            -Will our 2nd line center play like a 2nd line center and will our 3rd play like a 3rd?


            -The new accusations of Purcell and Poloit.

            Thats FIVE big question marks. You can’t address them all. If you are the Bruins or Kings, and have one question mark fix it, but as a bottom tier team (I have accepted this fact) You need to roll the dice and fix what you know is broken midway through the season…….If you try and fix the center and it turns out goaltending was the flaw, you have no assets left to fix it.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            After the top 2 centres not a ton of teams have high end depth anywhere in the league. Sanjose has Thorton, Cotuier, and Hertl. LA has Kopitar, Carter, Richards, and Stoll. Detroit has Weiss, Alferdson, Datsyuk, and Zetterburgh. Colorado has Duchene, O’Reily, and Mckinnon. And finally St. Louis now has Steen, Stasny, and Burglund. And these are all really good teams. But other teams like the Islanders and the Preds have a lot of centres, but not many that can play in the top two slots. Look at a team like the NYR. If Stepan or Brassard goes down, can someone else really step up and shoulder that load?

            The Pens have a similar problem in that after Crosby or Malkin, Suter is not up to the task.

            So, in a year or so, our centre depth will be Nuge, Draisaitl, Gordon, and one of Yakimov or Jujhar. That is pretty decent centre depth.

    • vetinari

      I have a feeling that at least two of the “bubble” defencemen will be cashed in at some point this season for some other roster players (a centre?)– we have a wealth of entry level and bargain value contracts on young defencemen that cap ceiling teams would love to get their hands on. Would Chicago, Philly or Boston be potential trade partners given their current cap limitations?

      My prediction on the players listed:

      Aulie & Marincin make it to the 23 man roster

      Klefbom, Hunt and Davidson start in OKC (first call up option would be Klefbom)

      Nurse goes back to the CHL for another year of seasoning

      Musil & Gernat go to the AHL but get used as trade bait. Petry won’t be an Oiler by the day after the trade deadline.

      If a blue chip defenceman or a top 2 centre comes available, anyone other than Nurse and Klefbom could be up for grabs in the right deal

    • Spoils

      I had the classic Kool-Aid moment looking at this list until I started to wonder – is there a player on the list that would be in the top 3D of a top contender?

      Long term yes, but for next year?

      Then when you include the incredible weakness of our forwards on D and our questionable goaltending and coaching…

      we are going to need every last one of our recently projected goals!

    • Spoils

      Logically Nurse and Ristolainen stand an 80% chance of cracking their teams this year . The upside of Nurse reaches far beyond Marincin and Klefbom . I suspect it’ll be tough for any of our defence to beat him out by end of season . The kid looks ready with additional weight and commitment . I put Nurse on top 6 and see if any can knock him down ! You don’t get professional experience going back to junior . Delay him again and you may have to do a third year in OKC for some pro experience , which only delays the inevitable pro experience . That’s fine for likes of lower draftees like Klefbom , Marincin and others not so highly drafted , but Nurse is a special high draft talent .

      • HardBoiledOil 1.0

        They don’t have to beat Nurse out at the end of the season because he only has ten games to beat them out. If he isn’t ready and you’re worried that he may need a year pro in the AHL next year then isn’t that better than having him stuck in the NHL this year and not ready? Also, Klefbom was taken 19th overall. Since when is that a low draft pick?

        I like Nurse a lot and I hope he can make it but I think Klefbom will be the one of those three to start the year here.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      Without a trade to get a 2nd line centre for at least the next two campaigns and stabilize the ‘D’ then I predict a 0 per cent chance of coming anywhere close to a playoff birth. I really hope Mact gets it done. The Oil always seem to stop one move short when it comes to making that clincher of a move.

      I’m hearing Pitt wants Yak or Perron for a soon to be free-agent, Sutter? Give me a break.

    • misfit

      Got to say when Ference was out for awhile last year our defence looked better. I think should be traded. If you are a great leader but can’t make a team better become a coach.

    • Spoils

      Hmmmm. Too many potentially good defencemen.

      Now that’s a different problem than the Oilers have had for a while.

      I’m counting the days till training camp opens and giggling like a 12 year old girl at a slumber party.

    • misfit

      Zero percent for Simpson? I agree it’s unlikely, but I can’t imagine his chances are much less than Gernat’s.

      I would actually bump Musil a little if I were to do my own such list mainly because it sounds like he’s played quite a bit at RD with the Barons. A training camp injury to one of Fayne/Petry/Schultz and we could see him jump the queue a bit.

      • HardBoiledOil 1.0

        we might be able to trade for him now, but expensive and long contract without production last season might mean that if the Leafs did trade him, they might not get full value?

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      I really like the idea of moving Shultz and/or Petry for a Center.

      Why not trade those 2 and sign Del Zotto. He is only 24 and has a lot of experience. Not very long ago he was seen as having a very high ceiling.

      The difference between those 2 and Del Zotto is less of a drop off than getting another center compared to our current separation in C.

      Hunt is also there for puck moving.

      Then we also dont have to worry about what we do with Nurse, Klefbom and Marincin as another spot will open up.

      I think it is something the Oiler brass should look at.

      2 cents.

      • HardBoiledOil 1.0

        The problem with Del Zotto is that he’s a lefty. The Free-agent article over at SNet says that if he were a RD, he’d have been signed on July 1. We can’t really trade ALL of our right-handed D away!

      • Joy S. Lee

        You got lots of trashes, but between you and me, I think you’re on the right track. I’d hesitate to deal Schult’z potential, though, and MacT has clearly stated his desire to keep that player.

        So, you keep Petry in there, and add Marincin to really sweeten the pot. Two young defensemen with really good upside for a young, high-end quality center, and maybe a throw-in mid pick. And it opens up the D for those upcoming youngsters, as you suggested. Seems like the most logical move to me.

    • The Last Big Bear

      I’m not sure how people here are gauging Petry’s trade value, but as a comparable, a slightly older, slightly bigger, slightly better Andrej Meszaros on an expiring $4m contract was moved at the deadline this year for a conditional 3rd rounder.

      That’s about where id peg Petry’s trade value right now. He’s a perfectly adequate player, and his salary isn’t bad, but he’s a pending UFA. I don’t see too many teams throwing 2nd line centers at you just to get a few of months of Jeff Petry.

      If you could trade Petry for a 25 year old Sutter, a centreman with 400+ games of NHL experience, who consistently scores at a 15 goal pace, plays brutal minutes, and is an RFA coming off a $2m deal, you take that and run, and don’t answer your phone for a week after.

      Sutter is comparably good to Petry, but is younger, cheaper, and an RFA.

      • Joy S. Lee

        You are significantly undervaluing Jeff Petry and the tools he brings. In fact, I expect this will be his breakout year. More than anyone, he has gone through the toughest transition period with this team in learning his position. Which would be a good indicator of what will happen when he “gets it.”

        I would still trade him… but I’d want plenty back. A 3rd rounder? Not a frigging chance. Thanks, but if that’s all anyone will give you for the guy, then keep him, and let him continue his developmental curve here. He has a tremendous upside of unrealized potential. If Petry himself, or this organization, ever gets around to having him fulfill it, we’ve got ourselves a gem. Don’t kid yourself, other teams like his upside, too, but they won’t say so until they have him for the pittance guys like you are willing to get in return. Personally, while I would deal him in the RIGHT trade to fill a need, I hope he comes in and shows his full potential this year, and it just might happen. If it does, our D grading goes from a D where the season ended, and from the C it climbed to with summer acquisitions, to a B overnight. And then we await Klefbom and Nurse to heavily influence the grade once more.

    • Serious Gord

      “…Marlies go to the front of the line…”

      Nauseating but true. Just more evidence that this organization doe not make winning the first (and only) priority.

      Don’t blame Eakins. Blame MacT and a Klowe and Katz for tolerating such a practice and in fact they are the role models for him.

    • Craig1981

      OFF AND RUNNING : OILERS have a very good schedule to start first two months of season . 8 of first 11 games are at home taking us to Nov.1 . Then we have a 5 game Eastern swing followed by another 5 game home stand taking us to Nov. 22 . 13 games at home and only 8 away . That’s 21 games or 1/4 of the season . If we are bottom after that stretch something is terribly wrong .

        • Quicksilver ballet

          He will probably not be the only one. MacT. Lowe , etc. will immediately may be replaced with Nicholson and a new crew . Suspect if Eakins goes so does MacT .. Kreuger ( Still paid for this year I believe ) could be bought back in return/interim to see if youth can get going in forward progression again under his system . If not still advancing, then blowup of youth might be in order . I suspect Katz bought in Nicholson in case he wants to change direction of club if it still remains a cellar dweller . Katz has certainly given more than ample/ patient time to turn this club around . Wonder what it would cost to acquire Nill on executive to work with Nicholson ? Well that’s maybe a worse case scenario for management if they continue to under achieve . Speculative only if results are very poor once again .

          • Lowetide

            You are either dreaming or completely crazy if you think Lowe and MacT are going anywhere anytime soon. Both are very good friends of Katz and Katz has already shown that poor results is not going to trump that. Nicholson is also a great friend of Lowe and has been brought in to help, not to replace. Wishful thinking is one thing but try to keep your head in reality man.

            As for Eakins being replaced by Kreuger…why would anyone want him back? We were terrible with him as a coach. What purpose would it serve to fire a coach and bring back another coach who also led you to last place?

          • Serious Gord

            I don’t think Katz brought Nicholson in for that purpose at all. He wants all of his old boys together. Nicholson and Lowe are very tight. I think players and coaches will be removed and Klowe will not be fired – rather be given a chance to resign (again). But that would be a disaster scenario – a ruining of Katz’ dream and he could just abandon the whole project and be a detached owner living in van and la and raking in the revenues regardless of how the team does.