Training camp is nearing rapidly, which makes this an exciting time of the year for teams, signed players and fans. It’s more bittersweet for the unsigned NHL’ers out there; resolution is coming one way or the other but it very well might take the form of a tryout deal.
Are there any players out there who the Oilers should be interested in taking a look at?
One of the problems is that some of the most interesting players are at positions where Edmonton is fully-stocked. A goalie like Tomas Vokoun might be better than either of the guys the Oilers have under contract, but there’s no sense looking at goaltenders when both Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth have contracts too rich to bury.
We can say the same thing about the skilled positions at wing; the Oilers have five highly-paid (and bona fide) NHL’ers and Nail Yakupov. That makes a tryout deal for a Dustin Penner or Ray Whitney (assuming either would be open to one) a pretty tough thing to offer.
There’s an argument that the same is true on defence, though that’s a little more arguable; despite the prospects coming up the team looks a little weak on the left side and Aulie’s contract can be buried if it comes to that. Plus, it’s hard to have too many defencemen around.
- F Ryan Carter. He’s expected at Devils camp, though he doesn’t have a contract. He’s versatile enough to play any forward position, reasonably big (6’1”, 205 lbs) and reasonably physical, plus he has experience killing penalties.
- RW Radek Dvorak. Dvorak played on a defensive line alongside Manny Malhotra in Carolina last year, and the unit did pretty well; he’s also an experienced penalty killer. Oilers fans will remember him from the 2006 run; he’s played for six different NHL teams since then.
- C Michal Handzus. No.
- C Saku Koivu. He’ll turn 40 in November, and he looks a lot like a guy who has taken a serious step back. He’s still a good faceoff man, his leadership skills likely haven’t gotten any worse with age, and he can play both special teams. In his defence: he had tough zonestarts and tough quality of competition last year.
- C Andrei Loktionov. I’ve talked about Loktionov in the past, so I won’t belabor the point; he’s an interesting guy and on a tryout deal (assuming he’s healthy enough to play in some exhibition games) there’s no reason not to take a look – as long as he’s willing.
- D Derek Morris. Morris was the No. 4 defenceman in Phoenix last season; he’s an Edmonton native with a range of skills and would make things interesting.
- D Sami Salo. Salo was the No. 4 defenceman for a playoff-bound Tampa Bay team last season; his minutes included both special teams and he had a pretty hefty quality of competition rating. Yes, he’s old enough to tell stories about playing against Eddie Shore.
The pickings are pretty slim at centre and on defence, which is where the Oilers have needs. Koivu or Loktionov would be interesting tryout options, with either justifiable in my view. On defence, I wonder about Morris because despite the logjam Edmonton’s left side isn’t loaded with established, high-end NHL’ers; it’s kids and guys like Nikitin. The beauty of a tryout offer is that if he comes to camp and looks legitimate he can be signed, but if he’s competing with Keith Aulie and Oscar Klefbom he can be cut loose.
For the most part, though, it’s abundantly clear why these players don’t have contracts yet.
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