Source: Codie McLachlan/Getty Images North America
With the Oilers season almost wrapped up, it’s time to start talking about upcoming UFA’s and RFA’s and whether if they should be brought back. It’s going to be a busy summer for Chia—if he’s still at the helm. Guys like Nurse, Benning, and Strome are RFA’s, while Auvitu and Rattie are UFA’s among others. The organizational goaltending depth could look drastically different by September as well.
UFA and RFA forwards
Ryan Strome has settled nicely into the third line role after a rocky start with the Oilers. It’ll cost the Oilers three million to extend a qualifying offer, which I’m not against at all.
The Oilers were in need of veteran presence in the locker room, it seems like that’s what the team was aiming for when they traded for Mike Cammalleri back in mid-November. He has been all over the lineup, which can be surprising being that Mike will be 36 this July. He’s not the first guy you’d pencil into the top six or on the powerplay, yet he has averaged 12:45 a game with the Oilers this season, including 1:02 of powerplay time. Just three of his 28 points have come on the man advantage. If you can find veteran leadership in another form that can contribute both on the ice and in the locker room, I vote that the Oilers let Cammalleri walk this summer and look for someone more like Matt Hendricks, who Chia stupidly let walk.
Anton Slepyshev feels like a bit of an enigma at this point. He’s not the “typical Russian,” he paid his dues in the minors and is willing to play wherever. He could be a solid third liner, but with Spector tweeting out in January that the Oilers telling the NHL they were willing to let him move, I feel like they’re going to let him walk. Granted the Oilers do have control over his future, they could qualify him if he flees to the KHL as an option that has been rumoured.
The Oilers were over the moon when they signed University of North Dakota’s Drake Caggiula, the most outstanding player at the 2016 Frozen Four. He had a decent rookie campaign last year, but has been all over the map this season. MacT tried to propel the gritty young winger into a top-six player this year, that didn’t translate well for Caggiula. There’s no doubt that the team will qualify him, but the Oilers need to utilize him in a role that he’ll succeed in.
Iiro Pakarinen is another player with a question mark, he’s an RFA this summer. He could be a factor in the bottom six, he has a laser of a wrister. It doesn’t feel like he has played in 40 games this year, but three points are unacceptable in my opinion. With the Oilers bouncing him around (he spent time down in Bakersfield this year) I think the Oilers will let the RFA walk.
It took forever for the Oilers to call up Ty Rattie, he had 43 points (21G,22A) in 53 games played down on the farm. When the team had struggles creating offence, I was left scratching my head why they wouldn’t call him up. The upcoming UFA was called up and promptly put on 97 and 93’s line where he found success putting up seven points in 11 games. He recently made a comment to Spector that McDavid would still put up 100 points with his Dad on his line, in my opinion, that’s a comment you shouldn’t make when you’re trying to sell yourself to stick around for next year. If the Oilers can sign him to another cheap two-way contract, I’m down.
Denmark’s Patrick Russell signed with the Oilers in 2016 after two seasons at St. Cloud State. The 25-year-old is a UFA and could provide some dependable depth for the team next season, the Oilers should qualify him.
Kyle Platzer was the Oilers fourth-round pick from the 2013 NHL draft, started the season in the ECHL. After leading that league in scoring in the first month (8G-14A-20GP) he was called up to Bakersfield. Unfortunately, the numbers didn’t translate over there, it leaves the question do you qualify him this summer? At 23 I’d give him another season.
I’m not sure what happened to Chia’s rescue project out of Boston, Brian Ferlin. Injured during camp, he was finally waived to head to the farm in November. He played in seven games before disappearing, I think we can all say he’s gone.
Braden Christoffer is 23-year-old RFA with 90 PIM’s in the AHL this season. When I first saw that stat, I thought maybe he was quite the scrapper, but he only has five fights. He certainly plays with an edge, but is that edge worth qualifying? I don’t think it’s a contract against the Oilers.
Grayson Downing has been a dependable player for the Condors this year. The AHL team might bring him back, but I doubt it will be on a contract through the Oilers.
UFA and RFA Defence
|LD, LW||Yohann Auvitu||UFA||28||league||$700K||32||3||6||8|
The Oilers will no doubt qualify Matt Benning. He drives me nuts at times, but he has shown that he can be a dependable d man. Plus the Oilers can’t afford another Jordan Oesterle.
Do you think the Oilers will bring back Darnell Nurse? Bahahaha just kidding! Chia missed his window to sign Nurse to a decent contract the last couple years and boy is that going to cost us. The only question here is bridge or long term?
I’m a big Yohann Auvitu fan, I wouldn’t mind the Oilers bringing him back next season to be the seventh defenceman. Unfortunately, I think the Oilers are going to let their UFA walk, his wife recently posted an Instagram story captioned pack everything without forgetting anything.
It feels like there’s a backlog on the blueline up here and in the pipeline. At the top of the clog on the farm was Keegan Lowe, he’s a UFA come July 1st. I could see the Oilers bringing him back as an option for a call-up, but I’d rather they part with him.
Mark Fayne‘s contract finally comes to an end, bye Felica!
What position does Joey LaLeggia play anymore? According to CapFriendly and Hockey DB, it’s defence, but the Bakersfield Condors have him listed as a winger. I’ll take his 39 points again next season as a reliable call up for bottom six duty as a winger.
Ben Betker was a 6th round pick at the 2013 NHL draft, there’s a slim hope he could find success like 2010 6th rounder Brandon Davidson. He hasn’t found scoring success like he did in junior or the WHL, but he could develop into a steady defenseman. The Oilers will qualify the 23-year-old.
It frustrates me that the Oilers haven’t called up Dillon Simpson for an actual chance, he appeared in three games last season. At 25 the former fourth-round pick is an unrestricted free agent. Personally, if I were him, I’d walk. I’d want to play for a team where I have the chance to crack the roster or be the next in line to be called up, it has to be frustrating to watch Bear jump ahead of you.
UFA and RFA Goalies
I thought that Nick Ellis really had a shot to challenge for the backup position for the Oilers during training camp. I was wrong, and his numbers haven’t been great on the farm either. Aside from that he was once again bumped into the backup role on the farm after the Oilers decided Brossoit was sent down to the AHL.
The former Oil King hero has been anything but for the NHL club. He was 3-7-1 with the Oilers before the team blindsided him by going out and getting a qualified NHL backup. His numbers have been better in the AHL, but I think the ship has sailed on him being an Oiler.
The pipeline of the future on the farm seems beak, but remember that Tyler Benson and Dylan Wells are both in their overage campaigns in the CHL—meaning that we will more than likely see them in the AHL next season. The Oilers could also assign Kailer Yamamoto, Stuart Skinner, Smitri Samorukov, Ostap Safin and Kirill Maksimov all to the farm or return them to junior for their 20-year-old season.
Guys like Strome, Benning, Caggiula, Nurse will be back, no questions asked. The Oilers have struggled with bottom six wingers which leaves the question do you bring back Iiro and Slepy? It doesn’t seem like the organization needs them, they play all over and aren’t utilized consistantly. The call-up depth has been a mess for both defencemen and forwards this season, we don’t have a sound, reliable guy that we can call up knocking at the door unless you consider the emergency call-ups for Lowe and Simpson, where they never dress. Chia and co have their hands full this summer, they’ll need to address not only depth but needs on the farm.
On the list above who would you bring back and who would you let walk? Let me know, shoot me a tweet @nooorzy.