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Roster Realities for the Oilers

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.

TRADE TALK…

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.

ROSTER SIZE…

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.

PARTING SHOTS…

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.

THIRD ANNUAL OILERSNATION OPEN

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.

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  • Sammy27

    I sincerely hope we take the time needed to develop the prospects and not rush them anymore. Garner, PJ, etc, if that means sitting on them while the team struggles one more year

    • Alberta Bound Edmonton

      Looking for clarification Jason. Wouldn’t it be the coaches call if a player makes the team? So if Bouchard makes the team on his play would Holland made the decision to send him down?

      • Boba The Fett

        GM’s I would think generally hire coaches that are of similar mindset and I would assume they would both be involved in the discussion of how to handle young players.

  • toprightcorner

    It would not surprise me if the Oilers played Bouchard more than 10 games in the NHL just to burn a year of his ELC. This could start being the norm for potential star players. The Oilers did it for Draisaitl and they ended up getting a contract at a much lower rate than if he had an extra year on his ELC when he would have been $1 mill more a year. If Aho, Rantanen and Marner had their 1st year burned, they would have been RFA’s last season and would have signed much cheaper contracts. That 3rd year for young elite players is typically their breakout season and if they do break out, they are looking at an extra 2-3 mill per year. Not only does that cost a lot more for the owner, but it makes the cap hit much larger for a longer period of time, even though it is inflated 1 year earlier

  • OilCan2

    Ken Holland has done a lot since getting here but it does not seem like it. His moves are scouts and coaches and lower on the roster players. Keeping his powder dry for the last three roster spots is awesome. The other big move is doing nothing with a large UFA signing. This will come back to haunt him next season. He will have massive cap and roster space.

    • Jason Gregor

      Next year the Oilers have $57 million already committed for ten players. They have to re-sign Nurse, Benning, and maybe Persson if he plays well. If you think Nurse gets $5.5m-$6.5m that means they have about $17m to sign 12 players. They will not have massive cap space next year.

      You honestly think not overpaying a UFA will come back to haunt him? Don’t see how. Often it comes back to haunt a team by actually overpaying a UFA in money and term.

      • OriginalPouzar

        Correct, Jason – there is this illusion of cap space next off-season but its apx $25M but with only a 10 player roster and 13 players needed. After Nurse, they are looking at apx $18M for 12 players.

        Thankfully Russell’s NTC is further limited as its going to be essential that his $4M is replaced with an ELC (or 2nd contract in Lagesson/Bear).

        I’m happy that Holland hasn’t committed to guys like Dzingel, Connolly, Nyquist, Johansson – don’t get me wrong, each of those guys would help this year and the Dzingel and Connolly contracts are reasonable, however, if they committed to one of those marginal top 6 players (middle 6 – top 6), it would inhibit the ability to acquire a more material/legit top 6 player next off-season.

        The UFA market, aside from the Panarin’s, was full of marginal forwards – sure, a number of them would help a bit but not really move the needle for the ultimate goal – Holland only has so many bullets, cap currency, even next off-season, and I’m glad he didn’t commit any to a marginal player.

        • Ken Holland

          Russel makes 2.5 million in actual salary next year. Lucic will be at 3.3 million per year for the remainder of his contract. We could potentially clear 10 mil in cap space off to a cap floor team. That would give us closer to 36 million in cap space.

          With all the one year deals, there is also potential to unload some of the newly signed players as rentals deals at the deadline. Whether it be a heart and soul guy like Russel, or a solid 3rd or 4th line player who can help on the penalty kill like Granlund.

          If we go into the draft next year loaded with picks and 26-36 mil in cap space, we will finally be able to bring in a couple of impact wingers and create some depth upfront.

          Not one of the major impending UFAs of 2020 has re-signed with his team yet.

          It’s a studded class that includes Taylor Hall, Romans Josi, Nicklas Backstrom, Braden Holtby, Alex Pietrangelo, Torey Krug, Brayden Schenn and Tyson Barrie.

          • Jason Gregor

            He actually has $1.5m in salary. He has a bonus of $1m due on July 16th. So anytime after that a trade would seem more plausible. Also, next May his trade list expands to 15 teams. He submits a list of 15 teams he would agree to be traded to. So there will be some options.

            Unloading any guys on one year deals won’t increase Oilers cap space. It would have to be one of the ten who are under contract for next season.

  • TKB2677

    The Oilers aren’t going to burn a year of Bouchard’s ELC on 10 games. When he comes up, he will be up for good. Holland has all but guaranteed Bouchard will be in Bakersfield to start.

  • TKB2677

    Based on everything that I have heard Holland say, I am expecting the Oilers to be better and “compete” for a playoff spot this season but there is a good chance they don’t make it. Compete being they will be in the hunt more so that they were last year and maybe just miss. If they get lucky, they squeak in. But I look at the moves he’s made and they are all small moves. Tons of 1 yr deals. He’s brought over a couple of Europe guys who when they were interviewed, what stopped them from coming over earlier is they have contracts that just expired. Holland himself even mentioned how they (being Detroit) have been watching these guys for a while waiting until their deals were done. I could see some more moves being made to clear out guys like a Russell, pipe dream Lucic. But he didn’t sign anyone to long term deals. He hasn’t made any reactionary or “splashy” trades. Then I look at capfriendly. For next season, the Oilers will have 6 forwards that will be signed for next year. (McD, Leon, Nuge, Lucic, Chia, Khar). They will have 3 dmen signed for next season Klef, Lar, Rus). Larsson and Russell will be UFA’s and could be traded. Manning will be gone. Nurse, Benning and Persson will all be RFA’s.

    So I see some of the forwards that are UFA’s at the end of the year as place holders for some guys in Bakersfield. I am sure the odd Oiler UFA might be signed but I bet a lot will be gone. For defense, if he hasn’t been traded, I bet Russell will be as a UFA, maybe even Larsson though he’s a righty and might get resigned. They will sign Nurse, then make the call on Benning and Persson. But at the same time, a guy like Bouchard is probably on the team full time and maybe even Samurokov. So he is being cautious and probably setting the Oilers up for next season.

    What I find funny is fans are complaining about Holland being too cautious in free agency and not making a lot of big moves. But then those are the same guys who complained about Chia being too aggressive and making dumb, knee jerk trades or signing free agents when he should have just stayed the course.

    • Ken McTippett

      Yep. More sensible fans know that Holland is setting things up for next year while trying to make small moves to maybe give the team a fighting chance to be competitive this season. It’s the right way to do it.

    • GK1980

      “Based on everything that I have heard Holland say, I am expecting the Oilers to be better and “compete” for a playoff spot”. I stopped reading here. Management and players HAVE to say this every year. Unfortunately I’ve never been so sure this team will NOT make the playoffs next season. Roster is simply not good enough barring a fluke like they had 2 seasons ago.

  • OriginalPouzar

    I have Lagesson well ahead of Bear, both as far as NHL readiness and likely impact in the NHL. Recall how badly Bear struggled during his short stint in the NHL – completely caved in 3rd line minutes. The issues he had are the same issues he still has at the AHL level – dealing with speed, both off the rush as well as on puck retrievals. and battles near the boards in general. He has those issues at the AHL level (although not reflected in this GF/GA ratio partially due to how dominant the Condors were for 1/2 the season – they were offensive zone possession monsters, rarely playing in the defensive zone). I’m rooting for Bear but I feel he may never be more than a tweener. Hopefully he can play 3rd line minutes at some point because his shot is indeed a weapon. Bouchard likely makes him redundant in a year or so though.

    While Jones is the sexier player because of his skating, I have Lagesson right there with him. Of course, different type of player but I see Lagesson as ready for the 3LD role and, once he gets the call, he may never look back. I see potential for a 22 minute 2LD when fully developed. He’s the “new age” Adam Larsson/Jason Smith – an aggressive and physical defensive d-man (although not quite as mean) but, also, a good skater and a solid transitioner of the puck by pass. He’s going to be a fan favorite in Edmonton.

    • Kneedroptalbot

      You have a keen eye for talent. I too see Caleb Jones and William Lagesson
      as the two d-men ready to make the jump. Smooth skating and good puck handling.

    • TKB2677

      Good post. I agree with you. I don’t see Bear as a full time NHLer. He will be a spot duty guy, a guy that could be a PP specialist. On a good team with a really good defense, maybe be could be your #6 but I have my doubts.

  • OriginalPouzar

    Lucic for Neal is such a win for Edmonton that I can’t imagine Treliving pulling that trigger unless there is a material material sweetener or serious retainment.

    Yup, Jeal was pretty much as bad as Lucic was last year (well, offensively at least, I don’t know if Neal showed a complete inability to take a pass at the blueline from a d-man, pivot and move the puck up ice).

    With that said, Neal fell off the cliff for one year whereas Lucic has been 4th line/replacement level at 5 on 5 for three straight years now. I would think that leads to a greater chance of a Neal bounce-back than a Lucic.

    Then we get to the contracts and (1) Neal’s contract does not have any trade protection (the lack of a NMC takes away all expansion draft protection risk)_ and (2) Neal’s contract has zero signing bonuses so the buyout structure is normal – buyouts still suck but at least its not “buyout proof”.

  • OriginalPouzar

    I’m still disapointed that Chiarelli wasn’t able to get McLeod under contract in 2018 as, if he had, McLeod’s contract would have been subject to slide this year as well. I’m sure his agent was all over that but perhaps Chiarelli could have enticed him with some additional Sched B performance bonuses in order to get him under contract prior to the turn of the calendar (not that they would be attainable mind you).

      • TKB2677

        I totally agree. Teams would fall over themselves to get Puljujarvi off of waivers. I think the Oilers could trade JP right now to a whole bunch of teams, the offers are just not what Holland wants right now. We are in the time when not a lot of business gets done. I see the Oilers holding on to JP for another month and as teams get closer to camp, a deal will open up that brings them in a real NHLer. Either that or some of these lower end RFA’s who have arb rights and get awarded a contract the team doesn’t like or can’t afford, all of a sudden a trade will appear.

        • Violentgent13

          You’re completely right. I have a strong feeling Holland already has a deal worked out and he’s just waiting to pull the trigger. JP still has value and I’m sure Holland is just comparing trade options. I have 100% confidence he gets a deal done that’ll leave everyone happy.

      • BringtheFire 2.0

        Actually, it isn’t a black cloud of fan-hate. Edmonton fans are loyal and passionate. Much more so than us. We just had the best season we’ve had since ’89 and all the crowd on FN want to do is trade the Norris winner, anyone who scored 70 points, and then fire the coaching staff after we finished second overall.

        I think what Abagofpucks is saying is that Jesse should know that with Holland here, it’s a new day. Everyone gets a clean slate. Chia is gone and the OBC seems to be removed from the mix. Why not see what what a patient, seasoned GM might for for him before demanding a trade or threatening to play overseas? Or what confidence a new coach might be able to instill in him in a stable organizational environment? The fact that he has made threats and doesn’t want to be in Edmonton would make any loyal fan call him out and bid him good riddance.

        Good job, pucks. Way to stay loyal to the team.

  • Fireball

    I hope the oilers staff go into camp with a clean slate and anyone who earns a NHL roster spot gets it. A players age or draft pedigree should not determine where he plays. His performance should. There’s zero risk ( if earned ) in letting these kids play 8-9 games in the NHL. That is of course unless your positive they are not making it and you risk burning a year off their contracts ( like anyone who had a few games last year ) pure and simple a players play should determine where he plays

    • Fireball

      There’s a misconception in Edmonton that they have ruined players by letting them play in the NHL at to young of a age.. that is not true. They have ruined players by giving them roster spots without earning them. Sending kids to camp with already penciled into the opening night roster then failing to reverse the decision when it was apparent they were not ready. This can also be the cause of a players decline in development in the system. If a kid comes to camp and out plays all other prospects as well as veteran NHLers yet gets sent down yet players who haven’t earned it get the spot can have a adverse affect on the player.

      • Fireball

        These scenarios can be compared in every day life. I’ve been in management for a long time. When someone’s working their asses off, out working and out performing others but you give the promotion to someone else.. The person who gets ( screwed ) passed over becomes very discouraged and are never the same. The others who have observed this within the group see that hard work and determination means nothing., if it did surely the person who earned the promotion would had got it. Now you have mass confusion.. what exactly does a person have to do to get ahead ?? Do I work harder ?? Why would I ?? There’s no reward. It seems personal relationships or background is the only thing that matters ! It causes Major dis- function.. Hmmmm .. hmmmmmm.. hummmmm.. that could easily describe the NHL roster over the last 14 years.. it also easily could describe the development system in the organization over the last 14 years. How possibly could you ever develop a player from outside the first round or two if you have determined his faith simply based upon where he was drafted ? Or his age ??

      • Jason Gregor

        Can you name one recent example of a player who clearly outplayed veterans and was sent down? Also Benson and the young D will have a legit chance, but they have to play outstanding to stay. If they are just average it doesn’t help the team now, or the players development.

    • Ken Holland

      Lineup
      Draisaitl – McDavid – Kassian
      Lucic – Nuge – Chiasson
      Granlund – Haas – Nygard
      Gagner – Khaira – Archibald
      Jurco

      Klefbom – Larsson
      Nurse – Russell
      Jones – Benning
      Persson

      Top line was unstoppable and had Kassian at nearly a 30 goal pace(28).

      Lucic and Nuge actually have good chemistry together.

      Third line is pure speed, with solid forechecking mixed in with some skill.

      Fourth line has potential to put up some points.

    • Jason Gregor

      Don’t see why CGY would trade Bennett straight up for Puljujarvi. And OTT isn’t taking Manning just for a 4th round pick.

      One other note…change your handle or your comments will be deleted in the future. No need for that type of handle.

  • Hockey Bunker

    The Oilers have two untouchables, Drai and McDavid. Holland’s job now is to see if he can find cheaper replacements for some of the others without setting the team back. It’s a process that you hope doesn’t take two or three years or there is a risk McD and Drain will pull a Tavares.
    So cheaper first, younger if possible.
    And for the virtually untradeable Lucic, a heart to heart where he needs to be asked, “how do you want to be remembered as a player? A failure or a success. Right now you will be seen as a failure, a guy who just couldn’t deliver. Boston is already forgotten like it never happened.”. They need the guy to just go wild!!!