When news broke that the Oilers signed Oscar Klefbom to a seven year deal at $4.167 million per season I, along with many in Oilers Nation, was very pleased. However, to many outsiders who definitely don’t watch the team closely, the deal raised eyebrows. Let them raise their eyebrows. The Oilers need to find good players and keep good players. This deal ensures they get to keep one for the prime years of his career.
Oscar Klefbom began the 2014-2015 season on the top pair in the AHL and finished it on the top pair in the NHL. This year he should find himself in the top four but not necessarily the top pair thanks to the signing of Andrej Sekera. He is 22 years old with a July birthday and still has this season remaining on his current deal. That means his extension will keep him in Oiler silks from the age of 23 through 30.
Sure glad the Edmonton Oilers learned their lesson about signing young, unproven players to 7-year contracts.
— The Royal Half (@theroyalhalf) September 19, 2015
@Kent_Wilson how on earth does Klefbom get 7 years over 4 per? I just laugh at how incompetent Oilers management is.
— Earnest P Willygonk (@buckgnarly) September 19, 2015
We can find any number of detractors if we just look for them. However, the underlying reasoning most of them have isn’t that Klefbom only has 77 games and should prove that he can be an elite defender. No, the biggest mark against any individual Oiler’s contract is that the team as a whole has performed poorly.
It makes absolutely no sense, but the reality of being a bad team is that people will always assume the team is bad because the players are bad. Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Jordan Eberle in particular don’t have the reputations they deserve across the league because it’s only natural for people to transfer blame for the mountain of losses onto them.
Edmonton’s defense is terrible. Oscar Klefbom is an Edmonton defenseman. Therefore, Oscar Klefbom is terrible, or at least not nearly as good as player X from some winning club. Subconsciously this is what is going on for a lot of people who just haven’t seen the kid play a lot.
SHAKE IT OFF
Of course, that’s just not how things actually work. Bad teams like the Oilers are bad because they can’t find enough good players or if they do then they can’t keep them. We’ll take Edmonton’s defense as a prime example of that. The franchise has been terrible at drafting and developing their own defenders. When they finally did with Jeff Petry they opted to challenge him on short term deals right up to the time he was able to walk away as a free agent. They finally found one good player but opted not to keep him.
The Klefbom deal takes the gamble that the player is indeed a good player but Edmonton is making damn sure that this time they’re keeping him. It’s a good gamble.
Klefbom has the pedigree, the size, the skating, and the results to suggest that he is going to stay in the team’s top four for the duration of this extension that doesn’t even kick in until next season. He’s going to be making less money on average than Nikita Nikitin and he’s already good. If he never gets better than what he was at the end of last year he’s still going to deliver value on the contract.
I’ve written about Klefbom here, here, and here (for just a few examples). My eyes tell me the Oilers found a very good player. A good number of stats seem to support that belief. Instead of waiting around for Klefbom to price himself up the Oilers made sure that they are going to keep him around for the prime years of his career at what should be a bargain price for a quality top four defender.
Bad teams only get better by finding good people and keeping good people. Edmonton has struggled greatly doing that with its blueline in particular. Yes, there’s a certain amount of risk signing Klefbom to this deal, but I like the club’s chances.