The Edmonton Oilers announced on Monday that they had re-signed a pair of depth players, inking right wing Andrew Miller and defenceman Brad Hunt to one-year contract extensions.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) June 8, 2015
These are, in all likelihood, signings made primarily with an eye on the Oilers’ new minor-league affiliate in Bakersfield, and while terms have not been released it would be a surprise if these were not two-way deals.
Brad Hunt is a first-rate offensive defenceman at the AHL level. He scored 51 points in 62 regular season games for Oklahoma City last season, and for good measure put up 10 more points in 10 playoff games. He was named to the AHL First All-Star Team after being a Second Team selection in 2013-14.
Hunt has a lethal shot and a good first pass. He’s undersized (5’9″, 188 pounds) for his position and he lacks blazing speed; those qualities got him into trouble during an 11-game NHL recall last season. Despite that, he hasn’t necessarily played his final NHL game. He’s an elite level power play specialist in the minors and he’s probably good enough to play NHL minutes in the right situation simply because of that one skill. We’ve seen the Lightning dress seven defencemen for much of the postseason, with Nikita Nesterov getting power play time and sharply limited even-strength minutes; that’s the kind of job Hunt could probably handle under a coach who thought the roster needed a power play specialist.
Even if it doesn’t happen, he’s a nice veteran hand to have at the AHL level. Hunt is energetic and almost perpetually upbeat off the ice; that’s not a bad player to have kicking around in the room and when it’s combined with a high level of minor-league ability he’s an easily understandable signing.
The signing of Hunt makes the task of clawing out minutes a little tougher for a player like rookie pro Joey Laleggia, also a left-shooting, undersized offensive specialist but internal competition has never exactly been a bad thing.
Miller had a breakout campaign as a second-year pro. The soon-to-be 27-year-old went from eight goals to 27 and from 34 points to 60, even earning an NHL recall in the process. He impressed with his blazing speed on a line with Taylor Hall and Anton Lander, putting up six points in just nine major-league games.
Miller doesn’t fit the “heavy” tag that new general manager Peter Chiarelli has targeted; not only is he not a big player but he’s not exactly a pitbull in front of the net or along the boards, either. That’s not to say he doesn’t bring useful skills; his speed was a welcome sight on a somewhat sluggish Edmonton roster last season, and that speed comes attached to a high level of skill with the puck and an active hockey brain.
Miller is likely to slot in as a top-line scorer on a Bakersfield team that was in need of a veteran forward, and he should also be a recall option for Edmonton throughout the year. There’s at least some chance he makes the team out of training camp, depending on what happens over the summer, but as with Hunt this should probably be seen primarily as an AHL signing.
As I see it (let me know in the comments if you think I’ve missed someone currently under contract) the Oilers’ AHL roster next year probably looks something like this at the moment (AHL-only deals marked with an asterisk):
No Leon Draisaitl or Darnell Nurse on this roster, because let’s be realistic. It looks like a pretty reasonable list to me; the Oilers could probably use one more centre as a recall option but for the most part this is a nice blend of veterans (Hamilton, Miller, Hunt) and prospects.
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