The Oilers will have a change over in many of their UFA’s this off-season. This presents the Oilers an opportunity to remold their supporting cast to make a run at the playoffs next season. Edmonton finished the season 28th in the NHL with a 29-44-9 record for 67 points.
Available UFAs: D Anton Belov, F Ben Eager, D Taylor Fedun, D Mark Fraser, F Ryan Jones, F Steve MacIntyre, F Steve Pinizzotto, F Ryan Smyth
Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth will be returning in goal to hopefully provide the Oilers with a full-season of stability in goal.
Justin Schultz, Andrew Ference, Jeff Petry, Oscar Klefbom and Martin Marincin will most likely be apart of the returning defense for next season. There are two spots open currently for a combination of; free agent signings, a promotion from the minors and or Darnell Nurse (7th overall 2013).
Upfront the Oiler returnees will be Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and David Perron. Boyd Gordon and Matt Hendricks will make up two-thirds of the third-line unit. Anton Lander will be given a long look as the fourth-line center. Other than that everything else is up in the air right now.
Sam Gagner and Nail Yakupov are potential trade targets. Jesse Joesnsuu and Mark Arcobello are probable for depth roles but not entirely guarantees for next years roster.
The interesting notion is that many of the Oilers internal pending-UFA’s are most likely to be swept aside, which opens up almost seven spots for the opening day roster (five if Gagner and Yakupov return).
Remolding the supporting cast
Aside from the Ryan Smyth retirement many of the UFA’s for the Oilers this off-season are playing in supporting roles and with the subpar results of another season in Edmonton many of them aren’t expected back.
The Oilers shipped out their bigger UFA names at the trade deadline. Ales Hemsky was traded to the Ottawa Senators for a 2014 5th round pick and a 2015 3rd round pick. Nick Schultz was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets for a 2014 5th round pick. Ilya Bryzgalov was traded to the Minnesota Wild for a 2014 4th round pick.
The remaining group includes Ben Eager, Ryan Jones and Steve MacIntyre who are expected to hit the market this summer after diminishing roles with the organization.
Eager, 30, was signed in July of 2012 to a 3-year $3.3M contract and was assigned to the Oklahoma City Barons near the middle of the contract and played sparingly with the Oilers concluding with 7 games this season averaging 7:13 TOI.
Ben Eager on the way to join EDM tmw in Montreal. THis will be his last go as an Oiler, I sense. Possibly his last NHL shot.
— Mark Spector (@SportsnetSpec) October 22, 2013
Jones on the other hand was previously used as a 3rd-line energy forward that could contribute on the scoresheet from time-to-time and saw his role diminish as injuries mounted on the 29-year-old. Jones missed 54 games over the past three seasons battling various injuries. Eakins was unimpressed with his conditioning when he came back into the fold and Jones ended up averaging 9:50 TOI and grew weiry of being a frequent scratch under Eakins. A former fan favourite, Jones will test the market in hopes of landing a 4th line role with another NHL team.
MacIntyre as it seems is a different story. He represents a changing in the guard and the non-essential role of an enforcer in the NHL. The game is evolving and moving away from having players who’s sole purpose is to drop the gloves. Enforcers in today’s NHL need to be versitile players and be trusted to play useful minutes. MacIntyre wasn’t able to provide that for the Oilers organization and his previous NHL spot has been given to Luke Gazdic who was also acquired this season.
There was also the retirement of Ryan Smyth who concluded his career with an emotional night at Rexall Place in April. Smyth, 38, finished his career with 296 goals and 631 points for 6th all-time in Oilers franchise scoring and 842 overall in the NHL. Despite a long career that was highlighted by a World Junior gold medal, an Olympic gold medal, back-to-back World Championships, a World Cup and a Spengler Cup, the ultimate prize of a Stanley Cup eluded Smyth throughout his career. It’s expected that Smyth’s jersey number will be retired at some point in the future.
Mark Fraser who was acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs in January in exchange for the rights to Teemu Hartikainen and Cam Abney isn’t expected back next season either. Fraser, 27, was seen as a one-dimensional defenseman who was tough but struggled with mobility and foot speed. In regards to re-signing UFA’s the Oilers have already come to terms with Steve Pinizzotto who is expected to play a depth role next season.
Fedun deserves proper NHL look
Negotations with Taylor Fedun are pending. Fedun, 26, is a hometown fan-favourite but it’s clear the organization isn’t entirely sold on his talents. Fedun endeared himself to fans after making an emotional comeback after breaking his leg a few seasons ago.
Fedun is a puck-mover who hasn’t been given a fair shake at the NHL level. With the current state of the Oilers defense he would be a 6th/7th defenseman next season or at the very least a first re-call option from OKC. Fedun will likely find himself in the same position elsewhere in the league and could benefit from a final one-year two way deal with the Oilers similar to the $0.65M he made on his last year.
Bolting for the KHL
Anton Belov (previous cap hit $1.50M) has already asked for his release from the Oilers organization and signed in the KHL with SKA St. Petersberg. The 27-year-old defenseman was brought into Edmonton to be a PP specialist and was thought to be a late-bloomer hidden in Russia. Belov grew tired of head coach Dallas Eakins philosophy and even bashed the organization on the way out.
The Russian defenseman saw his minutes diminish as the season wore on and finished the season as the 5th defenseman on the team with 16:41 TOI.
“I can only say that Anton was a great person and a pleasure to coach, and I wish him all the best with his young family and his career.” – Dallas Eakins
For Belov he accomplished his main purpose of coming to the NHL which was to get a better opportunity to be seen so he could make the Russian Olympic team for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Belov ended the season with one goal and 7 points in 57 games this season.
He wasn’t the only Oiler to leave the organization and head overseas though.
— Dmitry Chesnokov (@dchesnokov) April 21, 2014
Available RFAs: G Richard Bachman, F Luke Gadzic, F Curtis Hamilton, F Roman Horak, D Philip Larsen, F Andrew Miller, D Jeff Petry, F Tyler Pitlick, D Justin Schultz