Edmonton Oilers re-sign Anton Lander

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The Edmonton Oilers announced on Thursday that centre Anton Lander had signed a two-year extension with the club. The 2009 second-round pick cleared waivers at the start of the season, but joined the team partway through the year and seems to have found his place as a full-time NHL forward. 

It’s not an exaggeration to call Lander’s performance this season a true breakthrough. In just 33 games, he has more than doubled his career scoring numbers posted over 94 previous contests:

  • 2011-12: 56 games, two goals, six points
  • 2012-13: 11 games, zero goals, one point
  • 2013-14: 27 games, zero goals, one point
  • 2014-15: 33 games, six goals, 17 points

It took Lander a while to find the range at the NHL level, but he’s been an elite AHL centre going back to late in 2012-13, when he turned the corner at that level. He’s been the Oklahoma City Barons’ top pivot at even-strength, the power play and the penalty kill; he’s also served as team captain. 

His breakthrough came alongside interim Oilers head coach Todd Nelson, who seemingly helped Lander clear what seemed like a mental hurdle. When I talked to Lander after a disappointing cameo in Edmonton last year, he talked about the need to play a safe game in the NHL, limiting turnovers and not taking chances for fear of making a mistake. He’s not making many mistakes now, but he is taking some chances and as a result his offensive game has started translating.  

At his best, Lander brings a fierce intelligence, defensive dependability, skill with the puck and a surprisingly physical game for a forward listed at just 6′, 186 pounds. He’s also a team-first, character guy; it was no fluke that he ended up captain of the Barons .

The Oilers didn’t see fit to announce terms of the contract; I would guess the dollars fall somewhere in the range of $1.5 million per season. This deal will cover the fifth and sixth years of Lander’s North American career, meaning that he’ll still be a restricted free agent for one more season when the contract expires. We may not know the money, but the length of the deal is pretty much just right, giving the Oilers the chance to see him on a (presumably cheap) bridge deal without taking him to his walk year. 

Update 

The Oilers had leverage on a restricted free agent with 30-odd solid NHL games and they used it. Strong work by the team on this deal. 

Stauffer asked Lander how he turned things around after being the forgotten man in training camp. 

“You will never give up,” Lander said. “It doesn’t matter what you do, you can’t give up. It was tough there when I got sent down. I was mad about myself, my own game. I didn’t have a good camp, but I wanted to get back. I didn’t want to give up. It’s been hard work and I’m happy where I am right now but I still want to get better.”

He also cited Nelson’s belief in his ability as a significant part of his improvement.   

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • El Pindo

    Where’s the catch? C’mon there’s gotta be a caveat somewhere! This move was way to obvious and made way too much sense for these guys to make it…But in all seriousness great job by Lander to push his way into the NHL and man am I glad to see he won’t be walking or plucked off the waiver wire, been rooting for him good to see him make the most of his opportunity!

  • BobbyCanuck

    So happy to hear this. Value deal. The guy deserves it, and now he can move forward. Who knows, maybe his top potential is like a 2nd line centre??? Here’s hoping. In the mean time, I love him as a 3rd or 4th line centre. Does anyone else think he’s very complimentary to Hall’s game? That line will push the river every time, no matter who is RW (although I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Miller).

  • PSinghBSc

    Ever since he was drafted and thrust into a horrible role then up and down up and down … you have to cheer for this guy. I love his attitude and he does look slick at times on the ice. Hard work and determination. Finally, a winning combination!

    Good on Lander and, I never thought I’d be saying this, praise management for a smart move.

    I get the feeling he will definitely impress, especially with Nelson at the helm.

    Good on you Lander.

    Finally a good day to be an Oiler fan.

    Cheers.

  • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

    Sweet! Now we just need to sign Carl Soderberg in the off season. They play a similar style. Both can play C/wing. That would be 2/3 of a really good third line.

  • pkam

    Putting Anton on waivers in favour of Will Acton on the team is another indictment in the awful choices MacT has made. Good thing is all is saved with this signing, but still, poor asset management decisions persist.

    No confidence in Lander? More like no confidence in MacTavish.

    • pkam

      Not sure I agree. Lander needed time in the AHL to develop. Sitting on the bench in Edmonton as the 13th forward would have not helped his development. Furthermore, choosing which player to waive requires a carefully calculated decision on the part of the GM as to which player will likely clear waivers and which one will likely be claimed. Lander cleared waivers, so MacT actually made the right decision. The fact that the Oilers later traded Acton to Vancouver reinforces the idea that the Oilers would likely have lost Acton for nothing if MacT had waived him instead of Lander. Rather than being a poor asset decision, it was actually a good one.

      Give credit where credit is due.

      • pkam

        A simple fact Oilers fans seem to forget.

        Gazdic was not ready to return at the start of the season. Acton is a centre 6’3 and over 200lb who is willing to drop the groves when needed so he fit the bill better than Lander in that situation. And he also performed a bit better than Lander in the preseason.

  • pkam

    I wish the team was built with nothing but Lander’s. the guys a winner!! Works hard, solid defensively, can put the puck in the net, plays physical and with hear! We need more of him!!

    How’s Paajarvi doing? 19pts in 28 AHL games this year. Anyone seen him play? What kinda role is he playing down there?? Paajarvi-Lander would’ve probably looked like a dominate third line next year.

  • pkam

    Lander is the exact type of guy you want in your dressing room. Very well deserved. Wouldn’t be surprised if he was wearing an “A” on his jersey next season

  • Wax Man Riley

    I remember Pajaarvi saying that Lander wants to win more than anybody he has ever played with.

    It made me think of that Moneyball quote that The Oilers need more of next year:

    “I hate losing. HATE it. I hate losing even more than I want to win, and there is a difference.”

  • pkam

    Maybe people can stop blaming Stu MacGregor for problems with this team? He is making fine draft picks for the most part. For sure there have been some misses… But if one reads between the lines a few of those picks were not his BPA and the team went to fill holes… they even turned to Chabot for advice on a long shot goalie?!

    I say leave Stu Mac in place. Give him free reign to cut some chafe amongst the amateur scouts in place. And develop the picks with more patience .

    I also think this was a sly ploy by MacT/Lowe et al to focus blame in one area to take the heat off where the real issues are.