Edmonton Oilers sign Brandon Davidson, who faces long odds to crack the team

Davidson, Brandon

The Edmonton Oilers announced on Thursday that they had agreed to a one-year contract extension with defenceman Brandon Davidson. Davidson had a pretty decent cameo with the Oilers last year and is a dark-horse candidate for NHL employment in 2015-16, but a number of different factors beyond his own ability are going to make cracking the team difficult.

Other Prospects

Reinhart, Griffin4

Griffin Reinhart was the No. 4 overall pick in 2012, and after a year in the AHL he looks primed to make his NHL debut. The current administration traded for him (and paid a fairly dear price in doing so) and under normal conditions he’d be a shoo-in for major-league minutes, though as we’ll see the current state of the depth chart introduces some wrinkles.

Darnell Nurse was the No. 7 overall pick in 2013, and the current administration evidently refused to trade him away in a deal that would have brought Dougie Hamilton to Edmonton. He’s a rookie professional, but he’s one of the best defensive prospects in hockey and will likely make a strong push in training camp to make the team. Failing that, he’s a very good bet to be in the lineup by Christmas.

And that’s ignoring all the other guys. David Musil has speed issues but plays a similar game to Davidson in many ways, has better draft pedigree and should be competitive. Jordan Oesterle’s speed stood out during his NHL cameo a year ago, and impressed during the 2015 preseason; he’ll be back again.

It’s a bad time to be a second-tier defensive prospect, particularly one who primarily plays the left side. Davidson has his work cut out for him if he’s to stand out this year and it won’t get easier moving forward.

A Veteran Logjam

21-Ference-6

Even ignoring those prospects, the Oilers have a depth chart loaded with NHL contracts. Here’s what the group currently looks like:

  • Andrej Sekera – Mark Fayne
  • Oscar Klefbom – Justin Schultz
  • Nikita Nikitin – Eric Gryba
  • Andrew Ference

(Klefbom isn’t technically a veteran, but he’s a lock for the roster all the same).

A lot of those veterans aren’t very good. Watching their NHL games last year, there’s a pretty reasonable argument that Davidson outperformed both Nikitin and Ference, but Nikitin and Ference have NHL contracts and Ference owns a no-move clause which makes it impossible to send him to the minors even if the Oilers were willing to bury his contract.

The Waiver Wire

Peter Chiarelli3

Like Anton Lander and Tyler Pitlick a year ago, the most probable outcome for Davidson is a place on the waiver wire in the fall, though he has an outside shot if Edmonton opts to keep eight defencemen because it’s easier to place Davidson in the pressbox than it is a younger prospect.

That’s not necessarily a big problem for the Oilers. It gives them depth in the minors and the likelihood of Davidson being claimed looks pretty small, particularly given the number of good defencemen still sitting on the market, some of whom may still be looking for a home come September.

It also isn’t necessarily a terrible thing for Davidson. Lander in particular excelled after being demoted to the AHL, and absolutely earned his NHL shot late in the year. Injuries will hit, trades will happen, and if Davidson does end up in the minors but plays well, he’ll find his way back.

As general manager Peter Chiarelli has put it on multiple occasions, preseason is a different animal than the first 10 games, which is a different animal from the next 10. A “no” at the start of the year isn’t a “no” forever. Despite the obstacles in his path, Davidson could still carve out a career with the Oilers if he forces the issue.

  • petrklimashelmet

    If he gets waived I can see him getting picked up. He’s cheap and potentially effective. Teams with cap issues and teams on a budget would likely love to dump an underperforming big contract and take a flyer on Davidson.

    He actually seems like the kind of player Toronto would take this season. 1 year contract, lots to prove, good experience.

  • freelancer

    A quick note on preseason. It will be very interesting to see how quickly the prospects are sent back to their respective teams in preseason. For the last couple years it feels like preseason has been more of a developmental camp than prepping the team for the regular season.

    • Bandwagon jumper

      I am glad I’m not the only person who feels this way. While other teams start playing the regular roster together in some of the preseason games, Eakins and MacT continued to use the entire preseason as try out camps. So when the rest of the league is starting the season with a team who has played a few games together, our Oilers are playing together for the first time.

      Pathetic.

      I fully expect the new staff to use the preseason to prepare the team for the season, not just tryouts.

  • As Perter C has said if he or Nurse earns a spot they will make it work .I think they could waive Nikitin or trade Ferance for a draft choice there are a number of ways to make room if he is ready ….be it in the Fall or at the trade deadline.

  • petrklimashelmet

    Davidson can bring some things to team this year that Nurse and Reinhart will not. A lot of it is due to his age/experience. I don’t see Nurse and Reinhart making the same physical impact with the big hits and dropping the mitts. These are things the Oilers need more of. He also brings a great work ethic and character.

    So I say either give him a legit shot on the roster as 6-7th-8th Dman (even if he spends a lot of time in the press box) or trade him. Somebody will claim him off of the waiver wire, so at the very least trade him to get some value out of him. I think it is a similar situation to Marincin.

    They can always alternate Nurse and Reinhart between the AHL and NHL. Probably need to trade/buyout a vet or two if they keep Davidson.

  • petrklimashelmet

    Davidson, from what I’ve seen at prospects games and during his time in the NHL, is just a boring in a good way low event defender. The puck comes into the zone, Davidson plays the puck, the puck leaves the zone. He’s not a big hitter or shooter or anything like that. He just calms everything down.

    Good for him, hope he doesn’t get lost waivers.

  • petrklimashelmet

    Nice kid. Had the pleasure of meeting him and having a chat with him at Alberta Ink in Lethbridge. Hope he cracks the roster and would love to see theach lion on his shoulder finished.

    • Randaman

      Not to be negative but what does Nelsons opinion have to do with anything,
      Or his staff for that matter.

      This is a whole new staff or have you been out of touch for a while?

      Don’t get me wrong, I like Davidson but he is in tough to crack the big club unless there are some buy-outs?

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    I can’t help but feel that Davidson has developed into an NHL option at the worst possible time. Hopefully things break the right way for him.

  • 1983 and This Year

    Can’t Ference be quietly convinced to retire if he’s brought back as the Oilers Player Development Manager at coincidentally the exact same salary?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Nikitin, Schultz, Ference and Gryba will all be gone soon. With those possibilities there may be room for him inside of 15 months. No way do they give Gryba the time of day if they knew they were landing Sekera at the time.

    Seen him referred to as a non event perhaps even a boring defender. All characteristics of a kid who just does his job well when required. He’s the perfect hungry 3rd pairing guy making entry level money on a team with rampant overpays throughout their lineup.

    • freelancer

      I know you’re big on Davidson, but Gryba has been described the exact same way. Does his job well, kills penalties, plus have almost 200 games under his belt. In a couple years if Davidson can push him than awesome. Don’t see how you think the Gryba signing has anything to do with Sekera.

  • fran huckzky

    This year we may actually have some NHL talent playing in the AHL instead of the other way around. Finally I see a faint glimmer of light at the end of this long long tunnel.

  • Gordie Wayne

    The Oilers need to purchase a European club in a nice city. Then, they could get rid of Nikitin, Ference, and others without having to buy them out.

    They could ship them off to this team and pay them the same amount they are getting here. Of course, the players would have to agree to this, but Europe can actually be a very good option for the players:
    – Salaries are tax free
    – Seasons are about 25 games shorter than NHL
    – European teams are also allowed to pay for housing, cars, etc…

    Also, it would be nice to have a European team where all Oiler prospects in Europe could also play together.

    Is this crazy? Just thinking outside the box here…

    • oilerjed

      This is a great idea, it’s surprising that it hasn’t been brought up sooner(like many good ideas). Is there a precedent for this with other NHL teams?
      Googled a few answers ie London Lions and some obscure references to the Penguins and the Red Army but not much info about it out there. Anyone with any ideas?