The Edmonton Oilers currently have 49 players on their 50-man roster, but that is a bit misleading. Jesse Puljujarvi is the only RFA unsigned, and some people are wondering if this is the roster you will see at training camp.
I don’t believe it will be.
Without a doubt, the Oilers will sign a few veteran forwards to a Professional Tryout (PTO) like they did with Alex Chiasson last season. I’d be surprised if one of them scores 22 goals, but they will be looking at a few unsigned veterans. Chris Stewart signed a PTO with the Philadelphia Flyers yesterday, which is very early, but he played in Britain last year, so he wasn’t going to get an NHL contract. Other NHL free agents are still hoping to land an actual contract before they agree to a PTO.
Often PTO signings start in mid-August. Mark Letestu signed one on August 14th, 2018 with the Panthers. Scottie Upshall signed with Edmonton on August 19th. Some are later, right before camp, as Chiasson signed on September 10th.
Last season 36 players signed PTOs, which was quite lower than previous years. In 2015, 86 players signed a PTO, in 2016 there was 196, and in 2017 there was 59. Keep in mind some of these signings include players like Luke Esposito, who was signed to an AHL only contract in Bakersfield last season, but in order to appear at Oilers training camp had to sign a PTO.
In 2015, 15 of the 86 players who came to camp on PTOs signed an NHL contract.
In 2016, 12 of the 196 PTOs signed contracts, and five of them actually signed with a different team. Kris Versteeg came to Edmonton on a PTO, but signed with the Flames, for instance.
In 2017, nine of the 59 PTOs signed an NHL contract.
And last year seven of the 36 PTOs signed an NHL deal, including Chiasson and Jason Garrison in Edmonton.
Chiasson went to Washington in 2017 on a PTO and signed with them on October 4th. He won a Cup with them and then last year had a career-year in Edmonton. Some teams do find serviceable players on PTOs. Scott Upshall did with the Blues two years in a row, Roman Polak with the Leafs in the 2017/2018 season, Rene Bourque scored 12 goals for Colorado in 2016/2017, Versteeg had 15 goals and 37 points for the Flames. So you can find a serviceable player, but those too are rare.
Wingers will look at the Oilers roster and see there are realistic opportunities.
The Oilers left wingers today include Leon Draisaitl, MILAN LUCIC, Markus Granlund, Joakim Nygard, Tomas Jurco and Tyler Benson.
The right side has Alex Chiasson, Zack Kassian, Sam Gagner and Josh Archibald.
The third and fourth centre spots have Kyle Brodziak, Colby Cave, Jujhar Khaira (although he might be better suited as a winger) and Gaetan Haas.
When you look simply at 14 forward roster spots, I’d say that ten are pretty much set with Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Lucic, Chiasson, Kassian, Granlund, Khaira, Gagner and Archibald.
The remaining four are up for grabs. Haas and Nygard are on one-year ELC deals, but if they don’t make the NHL roster there is a very good chance they’ll go back to Europe and the contracts are mutually terminated. Cave, Brodziak, Jurco and Benson can all go to the minors without impacting the camp very much.
“The most important thing to look for when you sign a PTO is how many rosters spots are realistically available,” an NHL agent texted me this morning. “You don’t want to go to a team that just needs a veteran for training camp fodder. He dresses only to fill a spot in some of the meaningless preseason games, but doesn’t have a chance to make the team. If I had a veteran forward looking to get a real chance I would recommend signing a PTO with Edmonton,” continued the text.
Today the Oilers have four spots open for competition. That might become three if Jesse Puljujarvi resigns, because they won’t risk exposing him to waivers.
We don’t see many NHL trades between July 15th and September 1st. There were none in the summer of 2017. Last season there was a pretty significant one as the Hurricanes traded Jeff Skinner to Buffalo for prospect Cliff Pu and second and third round draft picks, but that type of trade in August is rare.
September trades are more plausible, and if Puljujarvi gets moved it will likely happen then. On September 17th, 2017, Arizona acquired Jason Demers from Florida in exchange for Jamie McGinn.
Last September we saw three NHL trades.
On the 10th, Vegas acquired Max Pacioretty from Montreal for Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki and a second round pick.
On the 11th, the New York Rangers acquired Adam McQuaid from Boston for Steven Kampfer, a fourth rounder and a conditional seventh round selection.
On the 13th, San Jose landed Erik Karlsson and Francis Perron from Ottawa in exchange for Chris Tierney, Dylan DeMelo, Rudolph Balcers, Josh Norris a first round pick in 2020 and second rounders in 2019 and 2021.
Sorry to put a damper on all of the Lucic trade rumblings, but nothing has changed from a few weeks ago. Nothing is close as of today. Of course things can change, and sometimes do quickly, but today, in fact, a source texted me “all quiet,” on the Lucic trade front.
The Oilers do have 49 players signed to contracts, but remember that Olivier Rodrigue does not count right now. He is considered a junior, so under the NHL guidelines the Oilers have 48 contracts. Due to the CHL agreement, a player who is in his 18 or 19 birth year, and hasn’t played 10 NHL games in one season, won’t officially count on the 50-man roster until he reaches that plateau.
So that puts the Oilers officially at 48 contracts today. Yes, they can still sign another UFA if they choose and re-sign Jesse Puljujarvi if you are wondering.
Also, Philip Broberg is one of the 48 contracts (he counts towards the 50-man roster right away because he wasn’t from the CHL, another odd rule), but he is playing in Europe this year. He won’t be coming to training camp, and once the Oilers officially assign him there, which they could do at any time, but likely won’t until his training camp begins, then he won’t count either.
Realistically the Oilers are at 47 contracts today. If they wanted to sign two UFAs and Puljujarvi, they could reassign Broberg to open up a spot.
The other interesting contract angle to consider this season is Evan Bouchard. If he doesn’t play ten NHL games, regular season or playoffs, then his contract would actually slide. He will count towards the 50-man roster, but if he doesn’t play ten NHL games this year, then his ELC won’t officially begin until next season.
This is similar to what happened with Mikko Rantanen. He played nine NHL games in 2015/2016, and 52 in the AHL so his contract slid. Then he played the past three seasons in the NHL with Colorado and is now an RFA, even though he played four professional seasons with the Avalanche.
I believe Bouchard needs to develop and will start in the AHL regardless of the slide, but it will be something to watch as the season progresses. It could be a big win long-term for the Oilers if he doesn’t play ten games in the NHL this year.
The only young players I believe who have a realistic chance to make the Oilers roster out of training camp are Tyler Benson, Cooper Marody, Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear. Benson and Marody will really need to stand out, otherwise they will start in the AHL. A few more months of seasoning will not hurt either player. Jones, Bear and William Lagesson, who is 23, have a chance to battle for the #6/#7 spot on the blueline. Joel Persson will also get a long look, but he is 25 and not a young prospect in my books.
Other youngsters like Kailer Yamamoto, Bouchard, Dmitri Samorukov, Kirill Maksimov and Ryan Mcleod are destined to start in the AHL. In past years I’ve seen many overrate a player due to some preseason success. Yamamoto scored early, and some felt he was ready. The Oilers were fooled into thinking this way as well, but in the regular season, which is much faster and competitive than preseason games, he showed he wasn’t ready.
Ken Holland does not believe in rushing players. I read Lowetide’s article about the Oilers roster where he suggested Samorukov will be in the mix. Lowetide did a masterful job of stirring the pot — he’s deceptively good at this — but I do not see Samorukov in the mix. You should expect him to start in the AHL.
Holland is a firm believer in having players learn to be a professional in the minors. That doesn’t mean the odd player, like Dylan Larkin, won’t jump directly to the NHL, but even with the Red Wings struggling the past few years, Holland was still cautious with young players. Expect the same here.
Jones, Persson, Bear and Lagesson are the younger D-men who will compete for a job this training camp. We might see Bouchard or Samorukov during the season, but expect both of them to start in the AHL and learn how to live on their own, prepare their meals, become more consistent on the ice and adapt to playing against men.
The NHL isn’t a developmental league, and despite the Oilers organization reluctance to accept this, don’t expect Holland to. He is a firm believer in development outside the NHL.
After having such a blast over the past two years, we absolutely knew that we were going to organize another golf tourney for the summer and, after a few months of planning, we’re psyched to finally be able to launch our third annual golf tournament.
- When – August 29th, 2019 (Thursday). Tee off at 2 p.m.
- Where – Cougar Creek Golf Resort
- How much – $1000/team
- Teams – Groups of Four (4)
- How – Book your team here
As always, a portion of all proceeds from your ticket purchase will be donated directly to a local charity. This time we’ve partnered up with the Gregor Foundation to make sure that our kids are at their most handsome.
Recently by Jason Gregor:
- Breaking Down the Oilers Schedule
- Monday Musings: Oilers Scouting Staff
- Tippett Talks Coaching, Golf, the Stache and Slick Soccer Skills
- Mike Smith feels he has a lot to Prove
- Jesse Puljujarvi’s Agent: “I’m Not Sure Jesse Is Going To Go Back to Europe.”
- Chiasson Looking to Repeat Breakout Season