Fans of the Edmonton Oilers are doing one of two things over the past 24-72 hours; either pulling their hair out in frustration or eagerly waiting for the next shoe to drop.
For the first group of fans, it’s easy to become frustrated; the moves made by GM Peter Chiarelli seem to be further proof he’s no longer fit to manage this Oilers’ team. While speculation is that he alone is not deciding on the path or making these moves, the series of events that have transpired recently is baffling, to say the least.
The second group of fans is either trying to stay positive or thinking that the only way to explain what’s going on is to consider there must be something else in the works.
In either case, one phrase keeps coming to mind… ‘of course, they did.’
Ryan Spooner Waived
Edmonton placed two forwards on waivers this week. The first was Ryan Spooner, who as part of the trade tree for Jordan Eberle, will always be associated with one of the worst trades Chiarelli has made to date. Eberle was traded for Ryan Strome, who in turn was traded for Spooner. Spooner was then waived in the hopes someone, anyone, would pick up his contract.
Had Spooner been claimed, it would have represented trading a 20-goal scorer for absolutely nothing. Arguments can be made that Eberle was no longer a fit in Edmonton, but who at this stage wouldn’t take him back if they’d knew then what they know now?
Even more interesting, Spooner cleared waivers on Tuesday and was not sent to the AHL despite being an extremely unproductive member of the team. He’s slated to play on Tuesday versus the Detroit Red Wings and is going to be given an opportunity to produce in what feels like a must-win game for the Oilers.
Is there a reason he’s getting another opportunity when every win counts and the club clearly doesn’t want him? Monday wasn’t the first time Edmonton has tried to dump his contract. All we can say about the series of moves involving Spooner this week is, ‘of course, they did.’
Ty Rattie Waived
Not alone on the waiver wire, Rattie was sent down along with Spooner. Even though Rattie represents almost everything the Oilers are looking for in a player they’d like to add to the roster before the NHL Trade Deadline closes on Feb. 25 (cheap contract, skill, ability to score) Edmonton felt he wasn’t a fit.
The Oilers took a big chance someone would claim him and are potentially lucky no one did. The question becomes, why is Rattie not in the lineup and Spooner is? Why waste the potential that you can showcase this player and move him at the trade deadline if you feel you don’t want him? If he produces, he helps your team and becomes attractive. If he doesn’t, you’re no worse off than you were before.
Rattie may not be the 20-goal guy you pick up from a non-playoff team for your run, but he’s better than most of what the Oilers currently have in their system. Again, we say, ‘of course, they did.’
Three Years for Koskinen
Could Mikko Koskinen be the goaltender of the Edmonton Oilers’ future? Sure. Could he flop and be the type of player the team wishes they could move next season? Yes. Because both options are possible, it made little sense to give an unproven netminder with only 27 games of NHL experience a three-year deal worth an annual average of $4.5 million.
Yet for the Oilers, ‘of course, they did.’
There are some — like TSN’s Ryan Rishaug — that are making the argument signing him now can be justified if you’re looking at this deal from the perspective of what was available in the free agent market for goaltenders this summer. With names like Sergei Bobrovsky ready to make a mint on the open market or players like Robin Lehner unproven, Koskinen was more of a “sure thing” and it eliminated the possibility he’d be more expensive in the summer should he get back on track this season. That simply isn’t an accurate assessment of the situation.
While it might be how the Oilers justified this deal to themselves, the chances Edmonton could have signed Koskinen for the same deal in two months was strong. Or, if for some reason he demanded more on his next deal, the team could simply let him walk and the Oilers found themselves a different netminder at a lesser cost, but just as proven.
Edmonton jumped the gun here. The only reason to do this now is that there’s a plan to trade Cam Talbot and again, it’s important to ask, ‘Why?’
If the goal is to make the postseason, Edmonton needs solid goaltending. Neither Koskinen nor Talbot has proved they can provide it consistently. There’s also not much value in trading Talbot now. At best, the Oilers are looking at a 2nd round pick from a team that thinks they can use Talbot as a backup for their playoff push. For those that believe the Oilers will get a scorer from a non-playoff team for a struggling free agent, well…
Caleb Jones Demoted
It’s easy to suggest the reason a player like Rattie was waived is that he doesn’t have a fan in head coach Ken Hitchcock. Perhaps there’s truth to that. But, if true, how does one explain the demotion of defenseman Caleb Jones? Hitchcock is arguably Jones’ No. 1 fan.
While prone to making some mistakes early in his career, Jones is an NHL defenseman. On this Oilers’ team, he should hold the six or seven spot even when everyone is healthy. The problem was, not everyone was healthy and Jones was often asked to do more than he’s been ready to handle. That shouldn’t equal a demotion.
Jones gives the Oilers a better chance of winning than a player like Brandon Manning, Kevin Gravel, or even Alex Petrovic, yet all were chosen over him.
‘Of course, they did.’
What’s Next in Edmonton?
If you think the Oilers are done, think again. There’s no indication these moves will be the last and while things may slow down over the All-Star break, the wheels are likely still turning on the management side of things.
The only hope for fans of the Oilers is that whatever move comes next, we’re not left saying, ‘of course, they did.’
Jim Parsons is a freelance writer who covers the Edmonton Oilers and news and rumors posts here at The Hockey Writers.
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