I will be honest with you, it is not certain to me who should be named as the owner of the whiteboard in procurement at this time. Of course the buck stops at Peter Chiarelli, but I think Keith Gretzky, Duane Sutter and Bob Green may all have input into this area of the organization at some level. Edmonton is officially difficult to read from the outside at this time. Last year, I suggested it was Bob Green, this year we will give it to Gretzky and apologize if we are wrong.
In today’s post, I am going to detail players who are UFA, RFA and signed to current minor league deals. The idea is this: Teams are always in fluid motion, so some of the youngsters signed to deals are no longer considered part of the future—and some of the kids who are currently free agents are being evaluated by the NHL team at this time. Constant motion.
The NHL free agents—Kris Russell, Matt Hendricks, Eric Gryba, Andrew Ference, Jonas Gustavsson, Tyler Pitlick—are surely under the purview of the general manager, so we will discuss those things at a later time. Here are the minor league UFAs:
- LD Mark Fraser. I think the Oilers have to move on from him, based only on the sheer number of LH blue on the pro roster—and the lefties who are coming from the amateur side. Caleb Jones is already signed, while Ziyat Paigin and William Lagesson could get contracts over the summer. I would guess that Fraser is unlikely to return.
The NHL RFAs—Leon Draisaitl, Zack Kassian, Anton Lander, Iiro Pakarinen, Taylor Beck—would be in the Chiarelli wing of the conversation and we will get to them in due time.
- C-L Jujhar Khaira. This young man could be a useful value contract next season, as his entry-level deal expires and the club looks to replace Matt Hendricks on the port side. Todd McLellan has other options, including Anton Lander, so NHL employment is not assured. I will guess he receives a one-way deal for something less than $1 million a year. Should be an Oiler opening night 2016-17.
- LD Griffin Reinhart. He will get signed, and I think it is reasonable to suggest Reinhart will be part of the NHL team this fall—or in another NHL town. Not a chance in hell a former No. 4 overall selection passes through waivers, and I do think there is at least a chance the Vegas Golden Knights take him in expansion.
- LD Dillon Simpson. I expect he gets extended, but (unlike Khaira and Reinhart) my feeling is that Simpson is offered a two-way NHL deal. He showed well enough, but probably ranks No. 9 or No. 10 on the NHL depth chart when everyone is healthy.
- LD Jordan Oesterle. The hits just keep on coming. I think he could go either way, but his foot speed is damned intriguing.
- LD David Musil. It is time to let him go, there is no future here and Musil may have better luck in another organization—preferably one with fewer than 20 left-handed defensemen.
- L Joey Laleggia. His position change is perhaps a tell, and could indicate the Oilers see some potential for him at this position. I will guess an AHL deal is offered, but it may be close. Peter Chiarelli employed undersized skill wingers in Boston, but they were very productive.
- L Mitch Moroz. The progress of Jujhar Khaira (chosen one round behind Moroz in 2012) is an example of a smooth transition to pro hockey. Moroz has had a tougher time, as his checking role in junior (which blossomed to a feature role as he became more senior) has eluded the young man in the AHL. He was a high pick, so Edmonton may decide to extend him, but the numbers suggest the team may move on or offer a minor league deal.
- LC Bogdan Yakimov. I think he is done. Edmonton needs room on the 50-man, and the young center left them hamstrung for the entire season.
- LC Jere Sallinen. Easy call. He will not be back.
- RC Zachary Pochiro. He is in a difficult spot, roster player dealt for NHL player to make the 50-man work. I do not believe he is offered an NHL or AHL deal this offseason.
- G Eetu Laurikainen. He will not return, Oilers will move on.
MINOR LEAGUE FREE AGENTS
- L Scott Allen. I think the Oilers like him a lot. This is a player who is getting the Moroz minutes, and he is a big winger (6.03, 200) who fits the Chiarelli style. I suspect he gets an NHL deal.
- C Josh Currie. It depends on how things roll, but he could get an NHL deal, too. I am usually wrong on the skill guys, but Currie is a very good AHL player and signing him may require an NHL contract.
- L Joey Benik. His trip to the ECHL probably means he won’t be back, but he has AHL skill for sure.
- RD Bryce Aneloski. He is a righty, and that alone makes him a player of interest. I will guess there is discussion of an AHL deal.
- R Jaedon Descheneau. I like his speed a lot and he does have skill. I always love these players and the Oilers never ever sign them. I will guess they pass on him.
GRADUATING JUNIOR FREE AGENTS
- RD Ryan Mantha, Niagra IceDogs. He was drafted by the NY Rangers, but they chose not to sign him. Mantha has performed very well as an overager (1996) and someone will sign him.
- RD Aaron Irving, Everett Silvertips. It may be just an AHL deal, but I believe he can play pro and he addresses an extreme area of need for the organization.
- L Ryan Graham, Swift Current Broncos. Fast winger with a terrific shot, Oilers need a bunch of these guys, maybe one will cash.
- RD Darren Raddysh, Erie Otters. Former teammate of Connor McDavid, he is a steady defender with two-way ability. Nothing flashy, but he can play.
- RC Austin Glover, Red Deer Rebels. He has good size and speed, enough skill to project to the pro level if he can stay healthy.
- L Dawson Leedahl, Regina Pats. Big winger, good speed, skill and plays a responsible game.
- L Dominic Zwerger, Spokane Chiefs. Fast and skilled winger blossomed this season.
Next time we chat about the whiteboard, I will throw in some college names and a few other CHL players who have been performing well this winter.