Before the trades, before the unrestricted free-agent shopping, the Edmonton Oilers have a pile of their own free agents to make decisions on. Here is a quick look at the Oilers group.
THE NHL WINGERS (RFA DIVISION)
- R Zack Kassian. $1.75M. 36GP, 3-5-8 114PIMS. 1.12 5×5/60. I like his physical play and the fact he has 234 NHL games, and he is 25 so could hang around awhile. On the other hand, he didn’t deliver much offensively. How many wingers who don’t score can one team have?
- R Iiro Pakarinen. $817,500. 63GP, 5-8-13 8PIMS. 1.15 5×5/60. I like his responsible play, he now has 80 NHL games. I feel like he is slightly more responsible without the puck than Kassian and I am pretty sure Todd McLellan loves him.
- L Luke Gazdic. $800,000. 29GP, 1-0-1 24PIMS. 0.32 5×5/60. He is 26 and from what we can tell wildly popular with the team. McLellan didn’t seem impressed with that angle and Gazdic is in a bit of trouble as an Oiler (is my guess).
THE NHL WINGERS (UFA DIVISION)
- R Adam Cracknell. $575,000. 52GP, 5-5-10 20PIMS. 1.02 5×5/60. All of these numbers include his time with Vancouver. I like him as a fringe roster player, but as mentioned above you can’t keep all of these guys.
- R Rob Klinkhammer $725,000. 14GP, 1-0-1 6PIMS. 0.46 5×5/60. Speedy winger couldn’t score enough to stay in the NHL (six goals in his last 82 NHL games). Might be a consideration in the AHL veteran role, he can certainly post offense there (14 goals in 27 games).
Who would I keep if only one of these men were to return? Iiro Pakarinen. For me, his speed is the difference and he is versatile. The one danger (McLellan likes him more than I do) is real, but coaches always have their favorites. If the Oilers have the roster room to add a second winger (behind Pakarinen), I would pick Kassian over Cracknell. Price point would be an issue though, Cracknell isn’t going to cost much and he delivered about as much offense as Kassian (and Pakarinen).
THE NHL DEFENSEMEN (RFA DIVISION)
- Jordan Oesterle. $767,500. 17GP, 0-5-5 0PIMS. 0.82 5×5/60. 48.05 Corsi For 5×5 Percentage. I really liked his play, bet the Oilers waste little time in signing him to a contract. The bigger problem is finding a way to get him on the roster. I think he could be the second recall this fall, maybe first recall if the Oilers decide Reinhart needs to spend more time on the farm.
- Adam Clendening. $761,250. 20GP, 1-5-6 10PIMS. 1.26 5×5/60. 46.75 Corsi For 5×5 Percentage. He is probably too slow and he didn’t do anything for the power play, but that 5×5 number really does catch your eye. Lack of speed kills NHL careers.
THE NHL DEFENSEMEN (UFA DIVISION)
- Nikita Nikitin. $4.5 million. 11GP, 0-1-1 8pims. 0.39 5×5/60 53.27 Corsi For 5×5 Percentage. The Russian had two years of back spasms (or something) and his wheels could not turn. I refrained from calling him Creeque Alley the whole time. I am maturing.
- Eric Gryba. $1.25 million. 53GP, 1-5-6 75pims. 0.55 5×5/60. 49.44 Corsi For 5×5 Percentage. He was basically even CorsiRel and all things being equal he is a player I would invite back—but, with Mark Fayne also on the roster one doubts the Oilers go this way. If Fayne is traded, suspect Gryba gets an offer from Edmonton.
- Adam Pardy. $1.0 million. 9GP, 0-3-3 6PIMS. 1.17 5×5/60. 50.65 Corsi For 5×5 Percentage. I like him in an Andy Sutton kind of way, but Edmonton’s LHD should be solid to very good next year. As a seventh man? Sure, but Edmonton has a bunch of those guys.
- Brad Hunt. $600,000. 7GP, 0-0-0 2PIMS. 0.00 5×5/60. 48.68 CorsiFor 5×5 Percentage. The author of an epic gif, he always reminded me of those old timey AAA ballplayers like Jim Breazeale. The manager would keep him on the bench all year waiting for a situation where he could be sure the pitcher had to throw fastballs. Hunt is a superstar offensive defenseman in the AHL, but can’t play defense. His 21 NHL games are a little shy of Breazeale’s 89, but they both got about 325 at-bats.
The first guy from this group I would sign is Oesterle. Although he is a lefty, the speed he possesses is a real weapon offensively and defensively. He is coming from a long way back defensively (early pro reports were not strong) but he should have a long career based on those wheels. Oesterle could be a regular for a decade in this league if he can figure out the defense, and that speed on offense should get him some points. After that, I like Gryba for the Fayne spot if they move him, and my feelings on the rest range from somewhat indifferent (Clendening, Pardy) to train wreck curious (Nikitin). How many defensive careers has this team ended in the last decade? 100?
MINOR LEAGUERS (RFA)
- D David Musil $894,166. 65GP, 3-11-14. Three straight solid seasons in the AHL and it looks like another is on the way. I would be tempted to deal him (say, for Taylor Aronson or Alexander Khokhlachev) to cull the LHD. Currently, I would rank Musil behind Sekera, Klefbom, Davidson, Nurse, Oesterle, Reinhart. After Musil, lefties on the pro roster include Dillon Simpson, Joey Laleggia, Ben Betker. Good lord, that is 10 LHD (there is one RHD on the pro roster next year—Mark Fayne).
- R Tyler Pitlick $761,250. 37GP, 7-14-21. Another injury season for this young man (he is 24, young enough to have a career). Part of me thinks the Oilers should let him get a fresh start in another organization. Another part of me thinks that his competition this fall (Pakarinen, etc) is not so strong he would have no chance at all. Intriguing decision ahead.
- G Niklas Lundstrom $655,823. 4GP, 3.90 .872. Chosen 50 spots before Frans Tuohimaa in the 2011 entry draft. Lundstrom is probably the easiest call among this year’s free agents.
- L Kale Kessy $630,000. 55GP, 7-5-12. He is 23 and has 126 AHL games (12 goals), and those totals are about what Mitch Moroz has posted in the AHL (106, 10). I am not sure how many of these player-types are required, but with so little skill on the AHL roster, this may be an easy decision.
MINOR LEAGUERS (UFA)
- L Ryan Hamilton $600,000. 60GP, 20-13-33. Hamilton has been a good soldier for Edmonton and had another strong season. He turns 32 in August, and may receive another deal from the Oilers (they have shown a preference for maxing out on minor league veterans and playing them in prominent roles).
I think you can make a case for Edmonton dealing some and passing on signing the rest. If I could sign only one, it would be David Musil. He could provide solid defense in Bakersfield and perhaps receive a callup—although the competition is fierce.
- L Josh Winquist 35GP, 8-22-30. At 22, he is probably the best offensive prospect in the AHL currently—but he does not have an NHL contract. In his last 82 AHL games, Winquist is 16-33-49 (NHLE: 26 points).
- R Josh Currie 52GP, 10-14-24. At 23, he forced his way into the lineup and played very well. Can also play center.
- C Marco Roy 41GP, 8-12-20. Began slowly, but fought his way up the depth chart and emerged as a solid option. NHLE (21 points) suggests he has some offense and he does have some two-way chops.
From this group, I would like to see Josh Winquist signed. He has shown impressive offensive ability and auditioned for two seasons—no idea if it will be enough but he has earned the contract in my opinion.
PROJECTED 50-MAN LIST FOR 2016-17 (39)
From the list above, I am projecting Iiro Pakarinen, Zack Kassian, Jordan Oesterle, David Musil and Josh Winquist as the local adds.
- G Cam Talbot. No. 1 next season.
- G Laurent Brossoit. Projects as NHL backup/AHL starter, signed a two-year deal.
- G Nick Ellis: I believe he will see a lot of action in Bakersfield.
- G Eetu Laurikainen, AHL backup, he is signed for next year.
- D Oscar Klefbom, likely top pairing, needs to stay healthy.
- D Andrej Sekera, top 4D, important part of the team.
- D Brandon Davidson, top 6D, maybe even top 4D if he continues on current track.
- D Mark Fayne, I question Oilers ability to find three better RH this summer.
- D Darnell Nurse, probably top 6D next season, ideally in Bakersfield.
- D Griffin Reinhart, may spend another year in the minors. Could be dealt.
- D Andrew Ference, they will buy him out (if able). LTIR is my guess.
- D Jordan Oesterle, I think he is going to see NHL action in 2016-17.
- D David Musil. AHL D with some NHL ability, very difficult road ahead.
- D Dillon Simpson, AHL D, closing the gap.
- D Joey Laleggia, AHL D matriculating.
- D Ben Betker, AHL D, matriculating.
- C Connor McDavid, Giant.
- C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, quality NHL center.
- C Leon Draisaitl, emerging NHL talent.
- C Mark Letestu, checking NHL C.
- C Anton Lander, they may find a buyer.
- C Jujhar Khaira, he is a good bet to make the roster in the fall.
- C Bogdan Yakimov, a chance he comes back. Has NHL tools, speed concern.
- C Kyle Platzer, AHL C matriculating.
- L Taylor Hall, impact NHL player. Many fans want him gone.
- L Benoit Pouliot, underrated by many. Trade rumors.
- L Patrick Maroon, big winger has been exceptional since arrival.
- L Lauri Korpikoski, Oilers should try to offload him this summer.
- L Matt Hendricks, checking NHL W.
- L Jere Sallinen, you can never have too many Finns.
- L Josh Winquist. AHL scorer, working toward NHL opportunity.
- L Mitch Moroz, AHL winger/enforcer, matriculating.
- L Braden Christoffer, rugged winger, matriculating.
- R Jordan Eberle, scoring winger could be in play.
- R Nail Yakupov, gone baby, gone.
- R Iiro Pakarinen, suspect he will play a significant role again next year.
- R Zack Kassian, probably part of the future in a top 9F role.
- R Anton Slepyshev, talented winger should push for NHL time.
- R Greg Chase, minor league winger, matriculating.