The Oilers made a pair of blue line moves Friday. First they activated veteran rearguard Mark Fayne off the injured list and assigned him to Bakersfield. Next, they recalled one of last year’s pleasant surprises, bringing Jordan Oesterle up from the farm team.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) December 30, 2016
Before we get to the individual player moves, it’s worth taking a moment to look at where this decision leaves Edmonton’s NHL roster. Most teams carry 14 forwards and seven defencemen, simply because there’s more room in a 12-man forward lineup to work in two extra bodies than there is in a six-man defensive grouping.
The Oilers have instead chosen to go with 13 healthy forwards and eight defenders. This is often an indication that there are some undisclosed injuries on the blue line, though it could mean that the team wants to take no chances with Andrej Sekera’s illness.
It could also reflect a desire to keep someone like Jesse Puljujarvi in the lineup rather than the pressbox. Certainly there is no lack of recall candidates up front, from Anton Lander to Jujhar Khaira to Anton Slepyshev.
Fayne was assigned to the minors without being waived, but that doesn’t make this a conditioning stint.
Players on conditioning assignments don’t need to clear waivers but do take up a space on the NHL roster. The CBA allows teams to send down previously waived players as long as they have not a) played 10 NHL games or b) spent 30 days on an NHL roster since they were last exposed. Fayne’s contract means there was no risk of him being claimed, but because neither of those thresholds have been passed he can be sent down without having to go on waivers again.
Given that Fayne has played just 30 minutes of hockey this season, Edmonton’s desire to get him some playing time is understandable. It wouldn’t be a big shock to see him again this year, but it does seem clear that Todd McLellan and his staff have made their decision on this player.
This year, Matt Benning has been the college free agent defenceman impressing Oilers fans with his strong rookie performance. Last year, it was Oesterle. He’s been banged up this season and has appeared in just 14 games, all in the minors, recording eight points over that span. In his last four games he has three assists, 16 shots and (for what little it’s worth) a minus-three rating.
Oesterle lacks size, but plays an intelligent game and can both skate and move the puck.Importantly, he’s in his final year of waiver exemption, so he needs to carve out a spot on Edmonton’s roster quickly. He got off to a good start on that front last season, and needs to pick up where he left off if he gets a chance to play.