During today’s loss to the Detroit Red Wings, Sportsnet columnist and veteran Oilers insider Mark Spector predicted that the team is going to shake-up its roster tomorrow.
Spector suggested that the Oilers will return Kailer Yamamoto to Spokane (WHL) as his nine-game trail is up, depth forward Jujhar Khaira will go on waivers to be assigned to Bakersfield (AHL), and Chris Kelly and Ty Rattie will fill their spots. Source.
The main catalyst for this, of course, is Yamamoto. The 22nd overall pick from the 2017 draft has impressed thus far after earning a cup of coffee with a strong pre-season showing. That said, if he plays one more game, he’ll have one years of his entry-level contract burned. As we saw with Leon Draisaitl back in 2014-15, keeping him up at the NHL level and burning a year of his cheap deal isn’t prudent.
The obvious choice to replace Yamamoto seems to be Jesse Puljujarvi, but the former fourth overall pick hasn’t been lighting it up at the AHL level this season. On the broadcast, Spector said the Oilers can’t call up Puljujarvi from the AHL until he earns it with consistently strong play. He suggests that it’ll be Ty Rattie coming up instead. He has nine points through 10 games with the Condors and, despite having high draft pedigree, has never been given much of a chance to show himself at the NHL level.
The other move Spector discussed that seems a little more out of left field is waiving Khaira in favour of adding veteran pivot Chris Kelly. The Oilers brought Kelly, who has a connection with peter Chiarelli from his days in Boston and Ottawa, on a professional tryout contract back in pre-season and he’s stuck around with the team since.
Khaira has only played in six games so far this season and seems to have been passed on the depth chart by Iiro Pakarinen. Signing Kelly gives the Oilers a veteran option who can play centre, but he turns 37 years old this week and it’s hard to say how much he has left in the tank. Kelly would also be Edmonton’s 50th contract unless someone scooped Khaira on waivers, but that seems unlikely at this point.
EDIT: Once Yamamoto goes down, his contract does not count against the 50-contract limit.
What do you think? How should the Oilers handle their roster decisions moving forward?