After spending the better part of a decade developing Jeff Petry into a National Hockey League defenceman, it appears as though the Edmonton Oilers have reached the point of no return with the 2006 second round pick.
Considering Petry is about to enter prime of his career and is coming off a three-year run in which he has been this organization’s best blueliner in each and every one of those seasons, it is rather perplexing to see just how comfortable Craig MacTavish and company appear to be with allowing him to leave town.
— theScore NHL (@theScoreNHL) October 15, 2014
While there is no question the Oilers were always going to have to pay in order to keep the twenty-seven-year-old as part of the long-term mix, they have never shown any real interest in going down that path. Why you ask? That is a very good question and one that becomes even more confusing when you look at the sort of money this organization decided to throw at a pair of veteran rearguards who were essentially nothing more than stop-gaps.
MacT had no issue with handing Nikita Nikitin a two-year deal worth $9 million last summer, nor did he have a problem with signing Andrew Ference to a four-year/ $13 million extension as a free agent in 2013. While the former has never really shown to be that good of a player, the latter is clearly on the downside of his career and yet it was a risk this management team felt was necessary in order to help this group take that next step in their overall development.
Clearly it has not produced the desired results and now MacTavish appears to be more than ok with trading away a guy this organization has spent countless hours on in turning into a top four defenceman, for nothing more than spare parts. In essence, we are talking about a second round draft pick or at absolute best, a late first round selection in this summer’s draft. A curious decision when one takes into account Edmonton’s many failed attempts at upgrading their blueline from outside the organization.
Unless you have not been paying attention, finding quality NHL defenceman is next to impossible and acquiring a right-handed puck-mover, is even less likely. Funny thing is, Petry falls into both of those categories and yet the Oilers have made no real attempt at inking him to an extension last summer and because of it, the two sides find themselves in the predicament they currently in.
$5M Per Looks To Be The Magic Number
With pending unrestricted free agency staring both the player and organization in the face, the only way the Oilers could possibly right their miscalculation of the situation is to treat the American blueliner as if he were a free agent they were going after on July 1st. Any hopes of the player taking some sort of “hometown discount” are nothing more than a pipe dream at this point.
The moment this team signed Nikitin to $4.5 million deal was the very moment Jeff Petry had all the leverage he needed to ask for a multi-year deal that would see him take home a number somewhere in the neighbourhood of $5 million a season. While some may think coughing up that sort of cash for a guy like Petry to be frankly absurd, when one takes into consideration his ability, age, and contract status, it is actually anything but. As of this moment, there is total of thirty-two defencemen who are scheduled to have a cap hit of at least $5 million for the 2015-16 season:
ARZ – Oliver Ekman-Larsson ($5.5M), Keith Yandle ($5.25M), BOS – Zdeno Chara ($6.9M), BUF – Zach Bogosian ($5.1M), CGY – Denis Wideman ($5.25M), CHI – Brent Seabrook ($5.8M), Duncan Keith ($5.5M), CBJ – James Wisniewski ($5.5M), FLR – Brian Campbell ($7.1M), LA – Drew Doughty ($7M), MIN – Ryan Suter ($7.5M), MTL – PK Subban ($9M), Andrei Markov ($5.75M), NSH – Shea Weber ($7.9M), NJ – Andy Greene ($5M), NYR – Marc Staal ($5.7M), Dan Girardi ($5.5M), OTT – Erik Karlsson ($6.5M), PHI – Mark Streit ($5.25M), Andrew MacDonald ($5M), PIT– Kris Letang ($7.25M), SJ – Brent Burns ($5.76M), STL – Alex Pietrangelo ($6.5M), Jay Bouwmeester ($5.4M), TB – Matt Carle ($5.5M), TOR – Dion Phaneuf ($7M), VAN – Alex Edler ($5M), WAS – Matt Niskanen ($5.75M), Brooks Orpik ($5.5M), WPG – Tobias Enstrom ($5.75M), Tyler Myers ($5.5M), Dustin Byfuglien ($5.2M)
At first glance, the list includes many of the names we would all expect to see and not surprisingly, it allows has a handful of names on it that can only leave one shaking their head at in disbelief. While there are some obvious omissions on the list, most notably Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano, many of those players will be cashing in over the next year or two with a rather substantial hike in pay.
Had the Oilers been proactive and actually made signing Petry to a long-term extension a priority, say prior to the start of 2013-14 campaign or instead of chasing after Nikitin heading into 2012-15, they could have likely inked him to a deal that would have cost them $4 million plus on an annual basis. By not doing that and allowing this to drag out to the degree they have, MacTavish would now have to pay a premium to keep him around for the long-term.
Eakins Out, Nelson In
In my mind, if Dallas Eakins were still the head coach of this team there would be zero chance of Petry signing on the dotted line prior to the March 2nd Trade Deadline. It is no secret the former Toronto Marlies bench boss was never really enamoured with the style of game the Ann Arbour, Michigan native brought on a nightly basis and his decision to scratch him in the Oilers third game of the season against the Los Angeles Kings was likely the final straw.
That all changed when Todd Nelson took over as coach. While Eakins may not have been a fan, the former Oklahoma City Barons head coach most certainly is and we have seen a completely different player from the moment the change was made. Sometimes all a guy needs is to know his coach believes in him and the fact Nelson helped Petry develop at the American Hockey League level before making the jump to the NHL on a permanent basis, there was already a relationship between the two in place.
Now does that mean the twenty-seven-year-old will instantly agree to sign a team friendly extension? Not at all but should the Oilers general manager happen to pick up his phone and put a call into the player’s agent and offer a four-year deal at a $5.5 million cap hit, something tells me there might be more than a little interest on the other end.
Petry Can Call His Own Shot
While it may be a slight overpay, it would not be a gross overpay and let’s not forget, this mess is entirely on the organization. The moment Petry agreed to a one-year deal that is essentially paying the American blueliner $3.1 million, it left him in complete control of his future. We have all heard the rumours of how the Detroit Red Wings would love to add the former Michigan State Spartans rearguard into their “program” but if the plan is to sign long-term, he would certainly have to leave some money on the table.
It is no secret the Tampa Bay Lightning have been eyeing Petry as a potential deadline target for some time now and apparently the Calgary Flames are considering throwing their hat into the ring as well. We all know the Los Angeles Kings are desperately searching for a player who would upgrade their backend and god knows Petry would look real good on that blueline.
Clearly there is interest in the player heading to the deadline and that will still be the case come July 1st. However, with the salary cap essentially staying the same for 2015-16, the chances of a “good” team being able to fork out a long-term deal at north of $5 million could be limited. With that said, Craig MacTavish could give Jeff Petry 22-million reasons to forgo the entire process.
Rob Soria is the Author of Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One. He has chronicled the Orange and Blue since creating his Oil Drop blog in 2011 and has also had his writings featured over at HometownHockey.ca and Vavel USA, where he has covered the NHL, MLB and ATP Tour. Rob was born, raised and still resides in Edmonton, Alberta and can be reached via twitter @Oil_Drop.