Jeff Petry would be a fool to re-sign with the Edmonton Oilers.
I understand that sounds harsh and I know full well that the Oil really need him, but it doesn’t make it any less true. There is absolutely no reason that Jeff Petry should play for this team next year. But let’s take a look at the journey that took us here.
The Long And Winding Road
Before the Draft in 2006 Jeff Petry was thought of as a potential sleeper pick out of the USHL. The NHL Central Scouting Service ranked him 36th for North American skaters. He was two spots ahead of some kid named Claude Giroux. Now, you might recall being focused on something other than the Draft that Spring so I don’t expect you remember caring one way or the other whose name was picked 45th in June. A few days after that a certain Oiler defenseman would demand a trade out of town and the focus would shift sharply to him and the bounty the club received.
Jeff Petry was allowed to fly under the radar. He was a notable prospect at the time of his draft and continued to progress but he came into the organization at a very eventful time and was never under the spotlight that recent 2nd round picks have had. There has been considerably more pressure and expectation heaped upon Lander and Pitlick than there was on a young Jeff Petry. Part of that was because he was left to develop in the USHL and the US College Hockey system, away from constant attention.
In his 2nd and final USHL season he won Defenseman of the Year honours with Des Moines before moving on to the Michigan State Spartans. He stayed with the Spartans for 3 seasons and in that time he made it to an All-Rookie team and was an All-Star during his final year. He had played 4 seasons post-Draft before he turned pro. It definitely feels like a long time in the wake of the Oilers pressuring Khaira and Pitlick out of the US College system and into the WHL and eventually the AHL rather quickly.
In 2010-2011, the same year that Hall made his debut, Jeff Petry joined the OKC Barons and would only spend half the season there. He joined the Oilers right after Christmas that season and has been an NHLer ever since aside from joining the Barons in the Playoffs that 1st year.
Reception In The NHL
As with a lot of Rookie defenders there are mistakes. The learning curve in the NHL is steep and he became an Oiler right when this team was transitioning into being one of the worst clubs in the entire league. There were plenty of errors. That said, early on there was a lot of good buzz for Petry. He had NHL size and a brain in his head that could process the game fairly well.
I will now fully admit that after his rookie season I was as frustrated with the progress he would make over the next few year as a lot of onlookers. He struggled with his physicality very much. At 6’3″ and NHL weight he had the body-type to be physical but would go long stretches where he wasn’t getting involved in the game that way. He was getting a reputation for being soft. Offensively, he never produced more than in his 1st full season (2-23-25). Overall it was obvious that Petry was an NHL player but he wasn’t yet ready, in my opinion, for the role that he had to assume on the Oilers.
Even last year, in my assessment (for whatever that’s worth) Jeff Petry was at best a number 4 who was playing well over his head. That shouldn’t really have been a knock on Petry. It isn’t his fault that the franchise jettisoned every good defenseman they ever had under the watchful eyes of Lowe and Tambellini. The list of Oiler blueliners from 2010-Present Day is a sad and pathetic list that reeks now of regret and desperation. There are exactly 2 decent NHL players among them. One is Tom Gilbert, the other is Jeff Petry. Everyone else was on the last legs of their NHL career or they were just starting out.
As much as his deficiencies were publicly noted, his accomplishments were overlooked. Maybe that’s because the metrics that he seems to excel in are new and the loudest proponents of them were prickly. I don’t really know. The established voices in Edmonton Hockey media have openly mocked metrics like Corsi and Fenwick so when one says “Jeff Petry is Edmonton’s best possession defender” it rolls off them like water on a duck’s back.
Whatever the reason might be or might have been, Petry hasn’t gotten much love from the fans, the media, or the organization. He became an RFA at the same time as Justin Schultz and negotiated a new 1 year deal just like Justin Schultz. But the Devil is in the details.
Schultz was gifted a 3.675M dollar contract that mirrored what he was making after his ELC ended (remembering that he signed a massive rookie deal full of bonuses). This despite the fact that Justin Schultz had regressed significantly from his rookie campaign. When Craig MacTavish spoke about Jultz he spoke about a future Norris Trophy winner who needed to establish himself. The contract would take the more offensively minded Schultz into another RFA season. Edmonton could have hammered him because he was under club control but they didn’t go that route.
Petry’s deal was for less than Jultz, a modest 3.075M deal. That deal would take him to unrestricted status. The team was reportedly willing to do a longer deal, but that one year figure tells you what level they thought he was at. MacTavish referred to Petry as “a high level asset” at the time. Not the team’s best defenseman. Certainly not a future Norris winner. Just a good asset.
Fly, You Fools!
Jeff Petry is set to become an Unrestricted Free Agent at a great time in his career. He has developed as slow and ploddingly as one expects from a defenseman and now he’s finally realizing his potential. He is the Oilers’ best blueliner and he has been for a couple years now. We no longer hear a lot of complaints about his physical play either. He has mastered the art of taking a hit to make a play and can skate the puck out of danger with relative ease.
There is absolutely no reason for him to sign a sweetheart deal with Edmonton and denying himself the opportunity to hit the open market is nothing short of insane. Petry will be one of the youngest D-men on the market on July 1st and the more attractive ones always tend to be extended before we ever get to Canada Day. The facts are plain, Petry will probably make a lot of money on this next contract in either annual salary or with the length of the deal.
If that’s the case, that he’s getting paid no matter where he goes, then what are the draws to staying in Edmonton? The media spotlight has never really portrayed him in a positive light. The management has been luke-warm to committing to him. He had to claw for every penny he’s earned under club control while others on the team are just handed piles of cash freely and praised as the “Next Ones”. He’s had three coaches in five years and the team is about ready to look for number four. And maybe most importantly, this team is a loser. They’ve lost so many games and there’s no end in sight.
Other than sentimentality or Stockholm Syndrome there’s no reason why Jeff Petry should sign a new contract with the Oilers. I cheer for this team and it would be fantastic if he did, but if Jeff Petry was my son or my friend, I would tell him to hit the open market.
The ability to become an Unrestricted Free Agent while at the top of your game is rare even in this day and age of the NHL. If after he hits the open market he still wants to be an Oiler then bless his broken soul, but he should steer clear of any contract that MacTavish wants to put in front of him.
If the Oilers don’t like that bit of advice, they only have themselves to blame. It’s their poor talent evaluation that’s at fault here.