The Edmonton Oilers have played much better in their last five games, but changes will be coming to their roster within the next two weeks. Why is that? Well the team is on the verge of finally getting to full strength when it comes to injuries.
Defenders Adam Larsson and Andrej Sekera are both close to a return, with Larsson possibly returning this week and Sekera right after the Christmas holiday. When they both return to the lineup, the Oilers will need to make room on the roster for both of them.
If the club wants to keep 14 forwards and seven defenders, then Edmonton would need to send two blueliners out in the next two weeks. If the Oilers are open to keeping eight defenders, then things get a little interesting. There are some obvious choices here, and what I would do is quite apparent. That said, we have to factor in the previous decisions of this coaching staff and management team when trying to see into the future.
The Obvious Choices:
If Edmonton is going to do this based on merit, then forward Nathan Walker and defender Eric Gryba will be hitting the waiver wire pretty soon here. Walker is likely to be claimed back by the Washington Capitals or another team if he hits waivers, but it appears to be the right move. With the emerge of Jujhar Khaira and Jesse Puljujarvi, along with Milan Lucic’s best hockey as an Oiler, there isn’t room for Walker.
As for Gryba, he’s clearly been passed by both Brandon Davidson and Yohann Auvitu in the last few weeks. Currently the seventh defender, Gryba has warts to his game and is clearly behind both Larsson and Sekera as well on the depth chart. With everyone healthy, I believe Gryba is the ninth defender on Edmonton’s depth chart. I like him, I really do, but he’s lost his job on merit.
Not only are the players above him better, but Gryba has struggled in a big way this season. He’s taken a number of bad penalties and it seems like he’s lost a step. At times, he’s been a massive liability for the Oilers.
I suspect Walker would be waived when Larsson returns. This would allow Gryba, a veteran, the ability to stick around for the holiday season. When Sekera returns, likely next week at some point, then the Oilers will have a decision to make on Gryba.
It’s also possible, although remotely, that the club could trade Walker, Gryba or another player for a late round pick to clear a roster spot.
What Else Could Happen:
We’ve heard about the Oilers reported interest in Ottawa sniper Mike Hoffman. What if a deal for the forward materializes quickly, aka in the next twelve hours? Could Edmonton send off someone like Gryba or Walker as a throw-in on a deal like that? Sure, they absolutely could.
Yohann Auvitu could also be another candidate to hit the waiver wire. Todd McLellan loves his veteran players and we know he values what Gryba brings to the table. Perhaps McLellan would rather have Gryba sitting in the pressbox than Auvitu. I’d be surprised by that and would think it is a mistake, but based on past history it is certainly possible.
What about a different forward going out besides Walker? We’ve heard Anton Slepyshev and Drake Caggiula’s names in the rumor mill quite a bit lately. Could one of them be out the door in a trade to make room for Larsson or Sekera? Also, keep in mind that Slepyshev doesn’t have to clear waivers, so the Oilers could simply assign him to Bakersfield and easily open a spot up. That possibility, in my opinion, isn’t getting enough attention.
Adam Larsson has already told reporters that he is good to go tonight, so the first domino is likely to fall in the next little while. On top of that, Andrej Sekera is extremely close and reports have him back as soon as next week. The Oilers have to clear two spots on their roster and I do believe that they will make the obvious choices.
I think Nathan Walker is the first to go when Larsson returns, while Gryba will be on his way out of town when Sekera finds his way back into the lineup. Ideally, both clear waivers and go to Bakersfield to keep depth, but odds are at least one will be claimed off of waivers.