Thursday, 22 March 2012

Figuring out an Oilers roster for next year

a.m.k. is a serious Oilers fan, a serious writer, and a casual Oilers writer. He just got accepted to some pretty sweet grad programs.

At this point in the season, the most exciting thing for me is watching the AHLers on the cusp of making it to the bigs get tried out in the NHL. Part of that excitement fosters a lot of frustration though, because those players are rarely used in the situations in which I would like to see them. Sometimes I wish they would just use the last two call up options soon, just for fun, to give two more people a tryout.

Here are some Oilers who could use a turn before the season ends:

- Linus Omark is playing on your fourth line? I don't care if you don't think he fits into your team next year, at least give the guy a chance. He played well in his half-season last year, and though he's not currently playing spectacular, he's definitely not the worst guy on the team over the last few games either.

Could  use some minutes.
- Hartikainen is getting a decent shot, and they're probably more interested in him for the long haul. I can't really blame them--I like Harty more as a player; he can score at a decent clip (not as well as Omark; and he can get slotted into the lineup pretty much anywhere. He does a lot of what Ryan Jones does, but he's more skilled and a bit more physical -- even if he doesn't kill penalties.

- Maybe the old Russian will have another groin issue and we can give Roy a look in the bigs? I don't think he has what it takes to be an NHL goaltender -- maybe a backup eventually -- but I don't think it would hurt to give him some minutes especially if you aren't going to give Dubnyk the rest of the starts for the year anyway.

- Can we see Ryan Keller up here? I know he's getting old, but he's still in his 20s and he showed pretty well in training camp. He's also the Baron's top-scorer.

- What about Arcobello? No one ever talks about this guy and he was one of the first sent away from camp, but he seems to be a fixture on the top line in OKC and does well. I don't think he's ever been given a serious look, so why not now? If he has no potential he can be sent away; we're going to need to clear room on the 50-man roster starting next season, and even more after that, with the influx of young guys needing contracts who do have legitimate NHL potential.

- Can Chris VandeVelde get another tryout for the 4C job? (Update: They did call him out when Horcoff hurt himself. Good on them for listening to me.) If he works well, maybe Belanger is traded next deadline (or sooner) and VV can step up without a drop off. He showed OK in the bigs last year -- better than O'Marra I thought, and I was surprised that O'Marra was the first 4C call-up option used.

"Trusted  to protect leads."
- The other guy I wouldn't mind seeing as a 4th line option called up is Hunter Tremblay. I knew nothing about this guy going into the year and I still don't know much, but I do know that he has had a really good season and he seems to be continuing to gather speed. He has 5 short-handed goals on the season which is pretty ridiculous for a bottom six player, and he seems to be trusted to protect leads because he scores empty-net goals. He also scores in shootouts. For some reason I think I've heard he can also play centre, which would be helpful.

- Tanner House is a natural centre but doesn't seem to be getting it done nearly as well as Tremblay is, as far as underdogs to make it further -- though his calling card is as a defense-first forward, so his lack of points might not be a terrible thing. What is a bad thing is that House was one of the few cut from the Barons' clear-day roster, which means he's not valuable enough in the AHL to keep him around for the playoffs.

- Lastly, we got this guy named Bryan Rodney in the O'Marra trade who is an offensive defenseman. He sounds like Cam Barker with less upside, but it could still be worth throwing him in the NHL for a few games just to see what he has. It's always easier to give players away if you see they aren't on the verge of threatening for a job in the bigs or even a good call-up option. I presume the Oilers only have him in mind as a potential call up option and moreso as a veteran presence on the farm after Helmer is near retirement and since there are about to be a handful of young defenders making the jump to the AHL next year.

An aside on the Ryan O'Marra saga

Buy low, sell high.
I was surprised when O'Marra was called up, but even more surprised with what he did with the Oilers, and surprised again when he was traded right before the deadline. Maybe they figured he was at the highest value and they have about a billion other 4C options going forward, which is true. Still, hurts a bit to let a guy go when he's playing the best you've seen him (or at least the best I've seen him).

I would've said the same thing had they dealt Gagner, but now I am thinking that it wouldn't have been a terrible idea if there was a good return. Maybe they tried. Although he is still very young so you don't totally know what you can get out of him, and I'd hate to give him away for him to start tearing it up. Yeah he's a 5 year vet but he's 22 and could still take his game to uncharted territories for him.

Oilers' 50 Man Roster for 2012/13

There are more than 50 people that I could see the Oilers signing. And since I think the Oilers pick up a couple UFAs and (hopefully) make a few trades, predicting the 50-man roster gets even harder. For simplicity's sake, I will assume that they are picking up one NHL defender, let's say via free agency, and leaving the rest as is, though I bet they'll take a couple of college free agents too. They haven't made an indication they are going goaltender shopping, which means that next year we might be stuck with Dubnyk starting 55 games or so and Khabby starting the rest into his retirement. I guess they want to finish like 10th place in the West or something, which is probably about the worst plan I've ever heard.

Goalies (5)



They have Khabby, Roy and now Bunz signed through next season, and unless they make a trade, they are going to re-sign Dubnyk. The biggest uncertainty here for me is Danis, who is playing very well in the AHL, but with at least Roy graduating to the AHL next season, they might want to get him to split time with someone else and free up an NHL roster spot, so they might re-sign LeNevue to an AHL-only contract and give Danis away.

I still think that they give away LeNevue, though, who has been a good backup this year for Danis getting lots of starts, since he might get some kind of crappy prospect or AHL player in return. That way, they have Danis as the first NHL call up option and don't have to rely on Roy, who doesn't look as poised to be in the top league yet. Perhonen and Tuohimaa, the two overseas goaltenders, don't need to be signed yet, and perhaps it's North America bias or draft pedigree or because I haven't seen them play, but I'm not really counting on either to do anything.


With all of the blueliners in Junior looking to make the jump, it'll be interesting to see who the Oilers decide to sign in the off-season. It could be a tell as to who they think their best prospects are, but it will also be related to their ages and whether they have another year of Junior eligibility. I am going to assume that they aren't dumb enough to resign Cam Barker. I am also going to assume that one of Whitney or Peckham is sent away -- probably Peckham because there will be a team wanting him, and we have Teubert who could maybe take his place in another year. (Actually, I'd rather give Teubert away than Peckham, but that's probably my bias because I've seen Peckham have some good games whereas I've seen Teubert play well like twice. Their age difference isn't actually all that great, either, but let's still say that Peckham is dealt.)

Defense (14):
Free agent signing



For the AHL, you'll see there are five defenders listed. I'd save the last two spots for two AHL-only deals, with one of either Yeo or Ringwald, who apparently have both played well this year, and Tulupov. The other of Yeo or Ringwald can head back to ECHL and be call-up number one, or traded.

Normally few players with NHL contracts are stuck in the ECHL, but there is just no room anymore, unless the Oilers are cleaning house. The problem with that is that they don't want to give up on defensemen too early. The only D-man listed here that isn't a prospect hunting for an NHL job is Rodney -- and really, you might want at least one veteran call-up option if your team plans on challenging for a playoff spot.

AHL superstar Alex Plante.
I can see one of Davidson or Blain not getting signed and perhaps Plante traded. It was a bit of a toss up between Plante and Chorney for me which one would stay and which would leave, and I chose to let Plante stay mostly because he's a couple years younger and he made the first-team AHL all-star team this year, so that's a good sign. Chorney shows well at the AHL but is older and in all of his call ups looks lost. Plante does have concussion issues, though.

Otherwise, I can see Helmer saying goodbye this year or signing elsewhere for a year, since we don't really have room for a 39-year old AHL-only defenseman anymore. Montgomery didn't make the AHL clear day roster over Yeo or Ringwald, so that's not good for him. Lowery got sent to the ECHL about a third of the way through the year, but good for him for managing to impress enough to go from nothing to an AHL deal. I can see him in the ECHL next year but unless he has a stellar summer I don't seem him back in the AHL for the Barons. I could also see Montgomery in the ECHL, but he can probably get an AHL job somewhere else.

The five defenders I've chosen to keep off this list and have remain in junior are Gernat, Bigos, Klefbom, Musil and Simpson. It's an age thing. Gernat still have more years he can play in Junior, and even though he is a better prospect than Blain or Davidson, I don't think a year dominating Junior will hurt. Bigos has another year of NCAA eligibility and I hope he gets the call to the AHL soon since his season is done already, but unless he is very impressive I bet he goes back to college because of numbers. The only downside is that he might elect not to sign with the Oilers; he'll become UFA only a few months after he graduates, and with his size, he'll get signed somewhere for sure, so not signing him might be a risk. Klefbom has one more year left on his Sweden contract anyway and he doesn't seem to be tearing it up or anything (he went almost the entire year with 0s across his boxcar), so another year there will be good I think. No need to sign him because Oilers won't lose his rights if they don't, as far as I know. Musil should have another year in Junior and Simpson in NCAA, again, because of numbers. If anyone ahead on the depth chart doesn't impress, expect them to lose their spot to these guys being graduated in fall 2013.


The forwards are also interesting, but to me the more interesting part of the forwards is who will be on the NHL roster. I think they will be giving away more forwards than defense because I think they know more what they have in lots of these players and it's just a matter of tightening up and cutting off the loose ends. Guys who haven't performed great might be given another year (Pitlick, Hamilton), but there is a tight leash.

Forwards (28):


Kytnar is overseas now, and though I like him, it seems like he's done. House has another year left on his contract but I can see him being given away. Goodbye Hordichuk, please. I bet they give away Omark and someone else for a draft pick or 2LW. Maybe Gagner goes? Or for a goaltender. Pelss and Czerwonka can be returned to Junior, but I think there's an off-chance one of them makes the majors, probably Pelss if I had to pick. Kellen Jones is still waiting for a contract, and I think he'll still be waiting, though he's showing well in NCAA for his low draft pedigree. I am betting Tremblay gets resigned and VV might not, but I'm not sure so I left him in.

That's 47 roster spots. That's room enough to sign their first round pick and have the ability to sign two more guys. I bet a few of the guys listed above get traded though along with the others I mentioned and some fresh blood is brought in. At this point, I'd list the "expendable" Oilers as Abney, Martindale, Rajala, VandeVelde, Green, Petrell, Belanger, Eager, Gagner, Blain, Davidson, Rodney, Teubert, Plante, Marincin, Potter, Sutton, Whitney, Danis, Khabby and Dubnyk. I wouldn't trade any of them away for a bag of pucks, but that list makes 21 current players I'd be OK without.

a.m.k. may never have actually been to Edmonton.

[Images grabbed from Wikipedia,, Copper & Blue, and]

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