With the season now complete, the focus in Edmonton will turn to which players should return next season. I think it is fair to expect, especially at the AHL level, that there will be ample player movement this off-season. How much movement there will be at the NHL level remains to be seen.
With a few prospects entering the professional ranks this summer, the Oilers will need to clear a few contract spots off the 50-man list if they want to add come June and July. Luckily, they have ample pending free agents that they can cut free prior to July 1st.
There really won’t be many tough decisions when it comes to the free agents this year, as there are just two NHL regulars that are pending UFA’s and two call-up options. The RFA choices could be classified as fairly obvious as well.
Since we don’t have any real news to talk about (although I suspect that changes soon) let’s try our hand and guess the future of these men without contracts, shall we?
Mike Cammalleri – Acquired in a desperation trade in November, Cammalleri was okay for Edmonton in a depth role this year. His scoring touch has basically evaporated, however, and he was only okay at five-on-five while being a non-factor on the powerplay. I could see a veteran’s minimum contract late in the summer for depth, but I’d bet Cammalleri has played his last game with the Oilers, and perhaps the last of his NHL career.
Yohann Auvitu – Personally, I’d bring Auvitu back. He’s a unique player, but he’s got some real offensive ability, can help on a powerplay and posts good number for a seventh defender. The problem? He’s not your typical 7D in the sense he is a risk taker and can be a liability in his own zone from time-to-time. He won’t be back next season, and I wonder if the KHL is his next stop.
Ty Rattie – A solid AHL scorer in Bakersfield and a decent run in Edmonton post-deadline earned Rattie a second contract with the club. That said, he should not be counted on as an NHL’er to start next season, I still don’t think he’s a full-time NHL’er at this point. Having him as a veteran recall option on the farm is fine by me, and I suspect that will be his role next year.
Keegan Lowe – Earned two NHL games with the team his father has been a legend with, and was arguably the best defender in Bakersfield this season. The Condors will need a veteran or two to work with the young kids and I think Lowe is a fine fit. Suspect he gets another one-year deal.
Mark Fayne – Playing for Florida’s AHL affiliate in Springfield on loan, the Oilers are simply counting down the days until Fayne’s contract is off the books. Not a prayer he gets even a phone call from the club.
Joey LaLeggia – It’s my understanding the Oilers nearly loaned him to another team at the AHL deadline, so it appears they have made a call on LaLeggia. He won’t be back next season.
Brian Ferlin – Only seven AHL appearances this season. Injury has derailed his career, and I’d be stunned if the club invested a contract spot in him again next year.
Grayson Downing – Disappointing AHL season (4-19-23 in 48 GP) for the veteran. Another non-factor to the NHL club that I can’t see taking up a spot on the 50-man list next year.
Dillon Simpson – Seems like he’s been passed over and he was not given an NHL game this season. Suspect the Oilers don’t see room for him with Lowe, Ryan Stanton, Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones, Ryan Mantha and Eric Gryba all returning to Bakersfield next season in my mind. He’ll get a second opinion with another organization.
Darnell Nurse – Without doubt will be back. The only question is, will he receive a bridge deal or a long-term pact? I’d go the bridge route if I were the Oilers right now. Darnell will need to take another step forward next year.
Ryan Strome – Was better the second half of the season, and I’d wager he’ll get another contract. If he’s the third line center for the club or playing on the wing in the bottom-six, then he’s a fine depth piece. Appears the Oil agree with that assessment based on usage after Christmas.
Anton Slepyshev – For whatever reason, the Oilers don’t seem interested in this player. I’d bring him back, but suspect he has played his final game with the club. Would bet on him returning to Russia.
Drake Caggiula – I’d cut Caggiula loose, I don’t think he’s an everyday NHL’er, but the club loves him and will no doubt bring him back for a third NHL season.
Iiro Pakarinen – Todd McLellan is a huge fan of his, and if he sticks around I could see Iiro remaining as the 13th or 14th forward next season. The coach trusts him and he’s a reliable defensive player.
Matt Benning – Possible trade bait for an upgrade on defense, but barring that the club will sign him. He’s a fine third pairing option who is solid in possession and can chip in a little offense. The club won’t let him walk for nothing.
Laurent Brossoit – Brossoit had a chance to grab hold of an NHL job and he didn’t do it this season. As a result, and with other prospects moving up the system, he won’t get qualified. Time has run out on LB.
Nick Ellis – Ellis struggled this season in the AHL, but will get another one-year deal and be given the chance once more in the AHL. He’s young and has shown flashes in that league, plus he played behind a poor team this year and didn’t get many looks due to LB’s presence on the farm.
Patrick Russell – A strong push late, legit season-over-season progress and the ability to kill a penalty will get Russell another contract with the organization in my mind. He’s quietly earned it.
Kyle Platzer – Never developed in the AHL, and as a result will be flushed this summer. Will be a lesson, however, as the club really didn’t give him much of a chance on the farm.
Ben Betker – Solid season in Bakersfield, but as another left-shot D who has toiled in the minors for a few years, he’s in a bad spot. End of the line for Betker with the Oil.
Braden Christoffer – Simply has not done enough at the AHL level to warrant another contract. It’s too bad, however, because he’s exactly the kind of player the Oil need in their bottom-six. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the required skill level at the AHL level, let alone the show.