The Edmonton Oilers announced on Monday that they had issues qualifying offers to three of their restricted free agents. Receiving offers were defencemen Justin Schultz and Brandon Davidson, along with right wing Tyler Pitlick.
Not receiving offers: Apparently, everyone else.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) June 29, 2015
According to NHL Numbers, the Oilers had 10 restricted free agents in all, so before we get to the guys who will be back it’s worth taking a minute to look at the seven players cleared away by new management. The list includes:
- Brad Ross, recently acquired from Toronto in the Martin Marincin trade. Ross, a second round pick in the 2010 Draft, was a failed prospect and a contract dump by the Leafs so it’s no surprise to see Edmonton cut him loose.
- Matt Fraser. A ‘tweener at this point in his career, people wondered whether his history with Peter Chiarelli would outweigh the fact that Chiarelli had waived him earlier in the year. It did not. He’d have been fine to keep around, but there wasn’t room for him at the NHL level and there wasn’t a need for him at the AHL level.
- Keith Aulie. A big, physical player doomed by his inability to handle the puck. Aulie accepted the No. 7 role last year and did it without any grumbling to the media about being a perpetual healthy scratch.
- Curtis Hamilton. An Oilers’ second-round pick, injuries hurt him significantly and he just didn’t show enough when healthy.
- Kellan Lain. Acquired in the Will Acton trade, the big forward played all of two gamesi n Oklahoma City before getting hurt. He appears not to have the necessary offence to make a go of it in the NHL, even in a defensive role.
- Tyler Bunz and Frans Tuohimaa. Edmonton has not had much luck with its goalie prospects, and both of these were easy decisions for the club. Bunz did manage to get into an NHL game with the Oilers.
Justin Schultz will be back. I’d wondered if the Oilers might consider taking him to team-elected arbitration, but such a move would result in (at most) a 15 percent salary reduction and might not even lead to that. Letting him walk was another thought, but Edmonton probably did the right thing in keeping him around, particularly since there was no certainty of replacing him in free agency.
Schultz doesn’t necessarily need to accept the offer, but after the season he just had, a quiet one-year deal at his current salary is probably best for all parties.
Brandon Davidson was a no-brainer to retain. The 23-year-old rearguard has an outside shot at being with the Oilers on opening night, perhaps in the No. 7 role, after a reasonable end-of-season cameo with the team. He will require waivers if assigned to Bakersfield (which is the likely result at this point in time).
He’s cheap insurance regardless of which level he ends up playing at.
Pitlick was probably the toughest choice on this list and the Oilers really could have gone either way here. I think they made the right decision in qualifying him; he’s an excellent skater, a quality guy in the defensive zone and if healthy a very good candidate for the No. 12/13 job at the NHL level. That, his youth and his cheap contract make him a handy player to have kicking around the system.
The counterargument is that he’ll turn 24 in November, he’s terribly injury-prone and he’s been slow to develop. Those are all valid points, but at the cost of one spot on the reserve list and roughly $800,000 it’s not like Edmonton is betting the farm here.
Allan Mitchell reviewed the Oilers’ list on this site just yesterday (he was correct on all the RFA decisions, by the way) and once Connor McDavid is added these decisions will put Edmonton at 44 players against the 50-man list, leaving them plenty of room to be active in free agency and still be able to look at the waiver wire in the fall.
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