The Edmonton Oilers start the week with questions about center, defense, goaltending and special teams. They have depth on the wings, money in hand and perhaps a willingness to part with future draft picks in their arsenal.
The biggest question goes like this: will the Oilers be in building mode or is this the season when the team decides to contend for W’s from G1? Now that’s not the same as pushing for a playoff spot, but it’s progress.
From there, it becomes easier to construct the shopping list for July 1 and beyond. Before that, there are qualifying offers and possible buyouts for some players. Over the next couple of days we’ll look at UFA’s, both Oiler free agents and possible incoming players.
For now it’s the restricted group.
Here’s a look at the RFA’s:
- C Andrew Cogliano: Coach Renney used him in a new role (tougher competition, PK role) and there were signs of progress, according to the coach. His FO percentage was poor and his -12 wasn’t stellar, but Renney sees a player. More than that, he was a willing soldier and did appear to be working on his game. I don’t know that he’s ever going to be a player that a coach can count on, but there’s a lot of try. His offensive contributions 5×5 have been going backwards since his rookie season so it might be a case of the absence of opportunities clearing the mind. Coming off a 1-year, $1M deal and my guess is he’ll be traded this week unless coach Renney found a way to talk everyone into keeping him.
- D Ladislav Smid: Played second pairing minutes (in terms of toughness) and delivered a reasonable CorsiRel. It’s progress, and depending on what route the team goes this summer Smid should be able to settle into the 3rd pairing and be an effective depth player. He was a 1.3M cap hit this past season, I think they’ll sign him to a multi-year deal and consider him a part of the future. Now that I’ve finally endorsed Smid, he’ll be dealt by Tuesday.
- D Theo Peckham: Tough as nails throwback has negotiated the rapids and been able to hold Alex Plante at bay while establishing himself as a reasonable option for the coach. The Oilers have added similar player types (Teubert, Musil) but Peckham has the roster spot and it’s his to lose. $550,000 cap hit, he should get a nice raise and perhaps more than one year from the Oilers.
- D Kevin Montgomery: Acquisition from last season who has a chance to be a helpful player. Cap hit is around $600,000 and I’d say his chances of staying are better than Chorney’s.
- L JF Jacques: The Edmonton Oilers have devoted 1322 even-strength minutes to the NHL career of JF Jacques and have received 9 goals and 8 assists. The most impressive thing he does is the pre-game skate. Man he’s big and fast. Maybe that’s the problem, he’s a batting practice superstar. Anyway, Jacques is really pooched now with Smyth coming on board. I don’t think they’ll trade him or qualify him (he was a $615,000 cap hit), but rather do the Poo route and allow him to have a fresh start in a new town.
- D Taylor Chorney: Well now, what the hell to do with this fellow. Chorney–like Alex Plante–is losing the battle for his player-type on the roster. It’s actually even worse: not only has Jeff Petry passed him like a house on the side of the road, the organization is adding a Fedun here and a Klefbom there at every turn. $942,000 cap hit, I think they’ll trade him if possible and as a backup sign him and risk waivers when he’s sent down.
- L Liam Reddox: Already gone. Reddox has signed to play in Sweden next season, and one imagines that he’ll be back for another NHL try down the line.
- R Zack Stortini: His story was written opening night when he was in a suit for the anthem. Stortini’s foot speed seems to have cost him that NHL job, and I think the Oilers will attempt to unload him sometime this week.
- C Ryan O’Marra: With Ryan Smyth back in the fold, perhaps the organization will allow themselves the possibility that O’Marra isn’t going to become an NHL player. Shame too, the team needs a player just like him (only better). Expect the Oilers will walk away.
- L Matt Marquardt: Oilers gave up All-Star Cody Wild for this role player, I have no idea what they plan to do with him. A guess? He’s down the line.
- G Bryan Pitton: He’s not progressing and the Oilers may or may not need him for Stockton.
- D Jordan Bendfeld: Tough defender who splits time between Stockton and OKC. I’d guess he gets a contract.
I think the Oilers will deal Cogliano, try to trade Chorney, Jacques and Stortini and sign Smid, Peckham and Montgomery. The rest are minor league players who may or may not return.