Oilers extend Andrew Miller, Brad Hunt

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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.

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. 

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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. 

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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): 

Left Wing Centre Right Wing Left Defence Right Defence Goal
R. Hamilton B. Yakimov I. Pakarinen B. Davidson B. Hunt L. Brossoit
A. Slepyshev K. Platzer A. Miller J. Oesterle D. Musil E. Laurikainen
K. Kessy J. Khaira G. Chase D. Simpson B. Betker *T. Rimmer
M. Moroz T. Ewanyk *C. Rankin J. Laleggia M. Gernat
*B. Christoffer *A. Loiseau

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. 

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • TKB2677

    Are the contracts 2 way? I assume so. I guess you need some AHL vets as I don’t see either of these guys as players making the Oilers. Miller might be a guy that gets spot duty due to injury but Hunt can’t even be a #7 NHL dman.

  • llong33

    I always wonder what it would have been like without Eakins. What could Hunt have done at the NHL level if paired with a solid Right side vet and given reasonable minutes, instead of being sent over the boards with Jultz for 23 minutes a night. The mind Boggles. It will also be interesting to see how many Left side D the Oilers can have on the farm. By my eye, all the left side Defensemen.

    • Jason Gregor

      Hunt would still be undersized and an average skater regardless of who the coach was. Blaming the coach for every bad player is becoming embarrassing. News Flash, The Oilers were a terrible team before Eakins became coach: 30th, 30th, 29th and 24th.

      He obviously wasn’t the answer, but please stop blaming him for the development of every player. Hunt is an AHL D-man. He will help Bakersfield. No coach will magically make him a regular NHL defender.

      • I agree with you in general, but in this particular case we have unusually strong evidence that the player was handled poorly, unless you agree it was a good idea to take an AHL offensive specialist and put him directly on to an NHL top pairing.

        • Jason Gregor

          Using him any different wouldn’t have made him a better player. He isn’t an NHL D-man. Using him how he did, sealed Eakins fate and proved he wasn’t NHL-ready as a coach. I don’t think anyone is debating that.

          Using Hunt on 3rd pair wouldn’t have made him skate faster or grow. His ability as a player is still the same. He did not play 1st pairing minutes every game he dressed.

          When Eakins was fired and Nelson coached Hunt for four games, he didn’t look any better. He was -3 in his final game under Nelson, who knew him better than any of us. Hunt just wasn’t an NHL D-men. Yes, Eakins put him in a bad spot, but my point was about Hunt’s ability as a player not Eakins inability as a coach.

      • HardBoiledOil 1.0

        Wow, heated today. I don’t think I blamed Eakins for the development of him or any player. Merely “wondering” what another coach might have done. I also mention what might have been if he was paired with a right side vet, who the team really doesn’t have. So I don;t know how that was blaming the coach. His usage however, that was straight on Eakins. I’m also not one bit embarrassed to think about what might have been over the last two years with a different coach.

        Power play was awful, PK was terrible, Eakins had no idea how to get the most out of his players which somehow lead to some players being highly valued, and others benched and shipped out.

        I do not think he was solely to blame, just thinking out loud on stuff like, how would Draisaitl’s debut be different? What would Yak’s production be like? What would Nuge’s production have been like if he would have gotten some PP points? Ect.

        Also, how do you say to stop blaming individual development, but then point to the team being terrible. Those are two different things. I think the team being bad is definitely a combo of poor management, lack of individual effort, and of course poor coaching. But individual player development, especially in the case of Hunt and how he was used in his 11 games under Eakins, ya, I think he needs to take a large chunk of it.

        Which he never did if I recall.

        Anyway, I’m not saying he’s going to be an NHL star as his skating is poor. But there are some good examples of undersized puck moving D men making impacts on other teams. I’m wondering if maybe Hunt is a guy that can become that, and if it would have helped to not feed him Jultz minutes for 11 games. That is all. What might have been.

      • Hunt was given most of his minutes paired with Schultz, and that pairing didn’t work.
        While Eakins had a tough job overall and did some things extremely well, this pairing was one of the coaching staff’s mistakes (and that includes all who decided to call him up, pairings, and match-ups).

        From what I saw of Hunt it was more his positional decisions and mistakes that led to goals against. He needs more experience, coaching, and – if he gets called up again – to be paired with a reliable defensive partner.

        Let’s go a bit easier on both Eakins and Hunt.

    • TKB2677

      You have to be able to do more than just shoot the puck hard. The guy can’t skate at an NHL level. Players routinely blew by him. If Eakins had not have been the couch, I doubt he would have ever played a single game.

      • He appears to not be NHL regular quality, but the guy was destroying the AHL. He was going to get called up and given a shot no matter who was coach.

        Even now it is perfectly reasonable to think he could work out as a PP specialist for some team in the NHL.

        • ubermiguel

          If he was small but a great skater or not a great skater but big, he could definitely get on somewhere else. Being small and not a great skater…that doesn’t usually lead to long-term success.

          If he couldn’t crack the lineup in Edmonton consistently, I can’t see a situation where he cracks the lineup regularly with a team with more defensive depth.

      • That does seem to be the big knock on him. But then again, I’ve seen a lot of the same criticism from Nashville fans about Franson, and he’s gonna get like 6 million dollars this off season.

        That doesn’t really have much to do with Franson per say, but it is interesting to see how different fans view different players.

        Consider this though, when Petry got to Montreal, the system they played demanded Petry moved his feet and make plays at faster speeds, ect. He even said he found another gear specifically because of the system they play there (Paraphrasing). So is Hunt’s slow speed a result of his poor skating, or the result of the crap down tempo system Eakins employed during games, and especially during practices?

    • bazmagoo

      I agree Will. Playing Hunt and Schultz as 1st pairing d-men is one of many reasons why Eakins and MacT are no longer making these decisions. Thank you McJebus! Marincin, Petry, Fayne, Ference, Nikitin and Klefbom were all better 1st pairing options than Hunt. Now that is the definition of an incompetent coach!

      Gregor was on the keep Eakins for continuity bandwagon for longer than anyone else, nuff said.

  • It is a new era.
    I believe both Draisaitl and Nurse will start the year as #1 center and #1 dman down in Bakersfield.
    They then both get the call up at some point during the season, giving the roster a nice charge of new energy when required.

  • Young Oil

    Just to add, Winquist and the Jones brothers seemed to be highly praised players on AHL contracts last season, I would be surprised if they weren’t back on the roster next season.

  • pkam

    Why is Brandon Davidson on your chart but Curtis Hamilton is not?

    Is there insider’s news that the Oilers will resign Brandon Davidson but not Curtis Hamilton?

  • TKB2677

    For Hunt. If you are a small player, in the NHL today, as a Dman you need to be competitive, you need to be able to move the puck, have a bit of offensive dimension and be able to skate really well. If you can do that, then you can probably be effective. Good examples are Ryan Ellis, Tyler Spurgen, Kris Russel. Hunt, seems to have a good offensive dimension because of his shot, but that’s it. If he was a lot bigger with the same skill set, then he might have a chance because he can be a big body to clear the net, maybe be tough and physical. So at 5’9, 188 lbs lacking what he lacks especially in the skating, he isn’t a full time NHLer. I’m also going to guess that this season, unless most of the NHL defense gets injured, he will be hard pressed to even get a call up.

  • Kevwan

    Not a lot of love for Miller. I thought he showed well in his 9 games. NHL speed for sure and I’d feel comfortable with him as a callup if top 9 player gets injured. If we could dump Purcell he would be in the competition for 3rd line W.

    Hunt could probably be a 6/7 – PP specialist on a team with a strong D core. Unfortunately that isn’t the Oilers. He’ll be valuable in Bakersfield mentoring and competing with the kids. Both are good signings.

    • TKB2677

      Easy answer for Miller. 5’10, 180lbs. The Oilers have more than their fair share of smallish, non physical, skill guys that skate away every time here is any kind of a scrum.

  • ubermiguel

    Leading a good AHL team in scoring outright (Miller) and being the top scoring d-man (Hunt) in your mid-20s gets interest from other organizations. I’m guessing we had to give 2-way deals or another organization would have. These guys are young enough to still be looking for that NHL shot.

  • TKB2677

    Brad Hunt = a smaller version of Mike Kostka….

    Kostka is 29 years old and has played 70 NHL games and likely will retire at 80 NHL games…

    Thus I hope this is just an AHL contract and the Oilers better options for the 7th defenseman…

  • Assistant Captain

    C & K Jones are going to be factors in Bakersfield, so will Josh Winquist. Won’t be room for everyone but that’s good thing.

    The recently signed undrafted juniors are probably going to spend at least half a year in Norfolk (ECHL) with strong chance they’ll get called up to Bakersfield.

    I’d also guess that Gernat goes to ECHL unless his physicality and fitness improve over the summer. There’s just not going to be spot for him in Bakersfield with Laleggia there and possibly Nurse and/or Davidson.

  • Borbs

    Either I haven’t been paying attention, or Gregor hasn’t commented on anything in a little while. That being said, today should be a reminder he’s always out there, waiting, lurking, watching for somebody to say something completely asinine that he can refute in a skillful and, I think, a hilarious way! Think before you type boys and girls!! (or maybe he’s as tired as I am of people arguing and complaining about the same damn things all the time!)

  • Hunt gives his all, 100% every game. Yes he’s small, and he knows it. Maybe he is a career AHL-er, but his commitment to the team and to hockey has to be applauded. Being small sucks when you want a hockey career, especially if you play D.

    On the other hand, Miller is an enigma, not tough but has great hockey sense. I have a gut feeling about him and think he may well be the dark horse in all of this. He could well carve out a really decent NHL career and I hope it’s for the Oilers.

    So for all of you Hunt haters, back off. He didn’t ask to be fully grown at 5’9″ but neither did Wild’s Spurgeon. Hunt plays with heart, he may always be in the AHL, but his commitment and guts are 100%. And Miller? who knows but it could be a case of “watch this space.”

  • SKOilFan

    I am the farthest thing from an Eakins fan, but when criticizing how he managed the defence, it is not like he was mismanaging Savard, Robinson and Lapointe. They had the weakest blue line in the NHL.