Looming overhead this entire season for the Oilers has been the contract status of Jeff Petry. As he was signed to a one year deal this past summer he was not eligible for contract negotiations until January 1st of this year. Despite the fact that the team can now negotiate with their top defenseman a source close to the situation has informed me that no such contract discussions have actually occurred.
Not all that long ago I wrote this article in which I said that Jeff Petry should embrace his UFA status and leave the Oilers. Unrestricted Free Agency is rare. Rarer still while a professional athlete is at the height of his abilities. It seems as though the franchise has made the decision to leave for him and has not even considered making Petry an offer. One cannot refuse a contract and force a move if no contract is ever offered.
Jim Matheson of the Journal wrote in his Monday article here that “The puck is very much in Petry’s bag, though; only he knows if he’s tired of all these Oilers rebuilds and the mounting mountain of losses after being the team’s top pick (second round) in 2006.” Our source tells us that Petry very much does want to remain a part of the organization that drafted him almost 9 years ago. He has been affiliated with Edmonton for a long time and wanted to see it through to better days. As exciting as it is to become a UFA, there’s a certain amount of loyalty that comes with belonging to an organization for almost a decade.
No doubt wanting to remain an Oiler while also not throwing away an opportunity to maximize earning potential in a profession where injury can take away your career in an instant is a complicated task. However, as per our source close to situation, when Petry’s agent contacted the Oilers to discuss possible negotiations he was told that the club was trying to move him. No contract talks of any nature have happened.
The puck, it would appear, is not in Jeff Petry’s bag at all.
As each day passes without any contract discussion between the two sides the odds of Edmonton and Jeff Petry coming to an agreement on a new deal look worse and worse. During this process Petry has been described as “Perplexed” by the route the Oilers have taken with him.
It appears as though the Oilers came to the conclusion that the team cannot afford both Jeff Petry and Justin Schultz next year and that the team has chosen Schultz. There is some slight awkwardness to that situation as both Petry and Schultz are represented by the Newport Sports Agency.
And so, to reiterate, the Oilers have not yet offered Petry a new contract, nor have they had any meaningful discussions that could lead to a new contract even two weeks past the point where they could have started to do so.
For those holding out hope that the Oilers will come to their senses and keep their best defenseman, this comes as a great disappointment.
If Jeff Petry is at all interested in remaining an Oiler then I think it is the responsibility of the team to explore what it would take to make that happen. All parties might still come to the conclusion that it is time to move on, but don’t the Oilers have to at least make Petry’s camp an offer they can turn down before they move him as a rental at the deadline?
There’s no question that if the team moves him they will get a relatively weak return compared to the value held by having a 27 year old right-shooting Defensman who can play 20+ minutes a night against tough competition. On the other hand, the team will have nothing if they don’t move him and he walks away in July.
The writing on the wall is that the Oil value Justin Schulz ahead of Jeff Petry. That was most certainly the case this past summer when Schultz was given the larger contract and subsequently played the most minutes until he had proven to everybody that he couldn’t handle them. Now, more than ever, the team has hard-matched Petry against the toughs and his status on the top of the blue isn’t really questioned.
We can only guess if the Oilers recognize their error now and that the decision to stick with Schultz is more related to the fact that he remains under club control as an RFA versus Petry who is a UFA.
As to where he’ll go, there are no shortage of teams who would take Jeff Petry on their team. He drives possession, is a smooth skater, makes good defensive decisions, and is relatively inexpensive. Even with a cap hit of 3.075M there are a few teams that wouldn’t be able to pick him up until the deadline, though.
The LA Kings have been a favored trade partner of the Oilers for several years and they have been dealing with the Voynov situation (read: Voynov is allegedly scum, allegedly) all year. Surely they would be interested in Petry. However, in order to get Jeff Petry other moves or bodies they might not be comfortable moving would have to go first.
The obvious landing spot for Petry has, and will always remain, Detroit, for obvious reasons but they have even less cap space than the Kings. It might require Edmonton taking back something pretty undesirable to get Jeff Petry into a Red Wing uniform.
Many other organizations are in the exact same boat as the Kings and the Red Wings. So for now Jeff Petry remains an Oiler but it looks like the club has already decided to move him along.