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Is There Room for One More College Free Agent?

Last spring and summer, Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli had a procurement problem. With Leon Draisaitl signed right after the 2014 draft, he was looking at crickets when it came to signing anyone else from the 2014 draft haul.

One of the ways Chiarelli dealt with the problem came in signing college free agents. Drake Caggiula, Matt Benning, Nick Ellis and Patrick Russell all signed with the Oilers and added to the overall quality and depth of the Oilers and Condors. The four signings represented a major spike in college signings in one summer.

  1. March 8, 2011: Oilers sign Taylor Fedun from Princeton.
  2. March 19, 2011: Oilers sign Tanner House from Maine.
  3. March 31, 2011: Oilers sign Hunter Tremblay from University of New Brunswick.
  4. July 1, 2012: Oilers sign Justin Schultz from Wisconsin.
  5. April 17, 2013: Oilers sign Andrew Miller from Yale.
  6. March 31, 2014: Oilers sign Jordan Oesterle from Western Michigan.
  7. April 7, 2016: Oilers sign Nick Ellis from Providence.
  8. May 6, 2016: Oilers sign Drake Caggiula from North Dakota.
  9. May 9, 2016: Oilers sign Patrick Russell from St. Cloud State.
  10. August 27, 2016: Oilers sign Matt Benning from Northeastern.

This spring the club added Joe Gambardella and Shane Starrett, continuing an uptick in procurement from the college free-agent pool. Although Edmonton is at 50-contracts (including Leon Draisaitl, who was qualified), two of those (Dylan Wells, Tyler Benson) are slide rules. A slide rule contract can be buried once the player is sent back to junior. All of this means there is a way to add another contract should the opportunity arise.

There are three free agents of interest this summer.

  • LHD Teemu Kivihalme, Colorado College. He has been a free agent since July 1. Colorado College coach Mike Haviland: “[Kivihalme] improved defensively from year to year. He came in with offensive skills and skating, but he needed to become better defensively to be trustworthy at the next level.” Source
  • LC Alex Kerfoot, Harvard. He will be a free agent August 15. Shane Malloy, Hockey Prospect Radio: An intelligent puck possession playmaking center who can play on the wing that has good passing ability whether stationary or at speed. Uses the give and go well and can draw defenders to create time and space for his line-mates. Is a quick darting skater with the agility to dodge and roll off defenders. He defensive game has matured once his defensive habits such as an active stick, head on a swivel, taking correct angles became consistent.  Source
  • LC Dominic Toninato, Minnesota-Duluth. He will be a free agent August 15. SBNation: He’s a top line center with the ability to play on the power play and penalty kill. He plays with a physical edge that sometimes goes too far. He’s a decent skater, but will likely move from center to wing at the next level, where he should provide strong, gritty two-way play with the occasional offense chipped in as well. Source

Kerfoot probably makes the most sense based on position, perhaps Kivihalme is the most logical based on team need. Free agency is winding down this summer, with the Oilers making some unusual signings. An additional college free agent may help the minor league team and improve overall depth in the organization.

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  • OriginalPouzar

    Question for you Lowetide, do any of these players posses the projection required to take the risk of getting to 49 contracts and leaving such little wiggle room?

    What if Kailer signs and makes the team? Long shot I know but you’ve talked about the possibility on your site.

    What if Talbot gets hurt and LB fails and Ellis isn’t ready? PC may want to acquire a tender.

    I’m not sure the guys are worth the risk but I only know what was written above.

  • TKB2677

    With McDavid at 12.5 next year and Leon probably at 7-8 mill. That’s potentially close to 21 mill for 2 guys. For the Oilers and any team with really expensive players, you have to constantly be bringing in players to your organization with the hopes they can play so they can replace other players that get too expensive to keep. I believe that if you have 2 elite centers like the Pens have with Crosby and Malkin, you don’t need a ton of elite players around them to score. Connor Sheary is a good player as an example. Would he score like he does on another team with lesser players, I doubt it but he’s good enough to put up numbers playing with the likes of Crosby or Malkin. I think the Oilers will have that same 1-2 punch in McDavid – Draisaitl.

    I think after this season, the Oilers will have to make a decision on who to keep between Nuge and Maroon. I think Maroon will be a lock to score over 20 goals again if he plays with McDavid. So Maroon will need a big time raise. Nuge makes 6 mill. I don’t see Nuge as a center on the Oilers. I think it is either Nuge or Maroon on left wing after this season because it will be too expensive to keep both.

    In looking up the 3 players listed.
    Kivihalme is listed as a 6’0, 170 dman on hockeydb. He doesn’t score points, according to the scouting report needs to work on his defense and he’s skinny as a rail at 22. PASS

    Kerfoot looks somewhat interesting. Put up decent numbers for the last 3 seasons at Havard. This past season 16 goals, 45 pts. Fairly small at 5’10, 175.

    Toninato is a 6’2, 190 lbs forward. So better size. OK numbers.

  • I won’t be mad if we sign one of them, NCAA is good source of NHL ready players who are pretty much free and if they turn out to be Caggiulas or Bennings im all for it. I’d rather save that room though on a TC invite or possible late offseason additions. While we’re on the topic of college free agents, I think Gambardella was an underrated signing and I think he has a higher chance of becoming a solid NHLer then people think.

  • Spoils

    the McMagnet should make these and other types of signings a little easier. Ideally I think the Oilers need a little more than just competition on wing. I think they need a certifiable scoring RW. So many ways to line the FWs up, but adding a goal scorer – given we lost ebs and pulj is not a known commodity – feels smart.

    what about a trade?