Two weeks on the beach was nice, but it’s time to get back to hockey and talking about the Edmonton Oilers. Not too much has happened in the two weeks I was gone, but the Oilers did come to terms with first round pick Evan Bouchard on a three-year ELC last week, and there is verbal going on surrounding the on-going Darnell Nurse negotiation.
I’ll touch on both of those things, Josh Currie’s signing and more on this re-entry Monday.
Bouchard In The NHL:
In my brief post about the Bouchard signing last week, I touched on what his immediate NHL future might hold. I suspect we see him play a fair bit in the preseason and start the regular season on the roster. I wouldn’t be shocked if he went to Europe with the Oilers and stayed with them on their east coast trip to start the season.
After that, however, I think the smart play is sending Bouchard back to the OHL’s London Knights. He’ll play a major role for the junior outfit, and will no doubt enjoy more success. The Oilers have a history of rushing their players to the NHL, and I don’t think that approach is wise with Bouchard.
The club desperately needs a good start to the season, and playing a veteran lineup is likely the right approach for Todd McLellan. Unless Bouchard rips up the preseason, there is no reason to force him onto the roster right away. He’s one helluva prospect, his time will come.
I’d say Bouchard has a 75% chance of making the opening night roster, but I think he’s only got a 25% chance of sticking around to the home opener. Less than 10%, in my mind, that he sticks around past the nine game mark.
Josh Currie’s Moment:
In sports, there are always stories that you can easily root for. The last story like that for the Edmonton Oilers? Marc Arcobello, who came out of no where to earn an NHL contract and eventually a decent little career in the league. Josh Currie very well could be the next guy to be the easily cheer-able underdog in a city that loves that kind of story.
Currie, who played four seasons in the QMJHL, earned an ECHL gig with the Gwinnett Gladiators for the 2013-14 season. He played in 70 games that year, registering 15-16-31. He was a fine ECHL player, but nothing about him screamed NHL prospect. He would shift to Edmonton’s ECHL affiliate, the Bakersfield Condors, for the 2014-15 season.
He’d play 71 games in Bakersfield, posting 14-28-42 for the club. That caught Bakersfield’s eye, and Currie began the 2015-16 season with Edmonton’s new ECHL affiliate in Norfolk, Virginia. After 13 games (6-6-12), the Condors signed Currie to an AHL deal. The rest, as they say, is history.
He posted 24 points (10-14-24) in 53 AHL games the rest of the way, earning a contract for the 2016-17 season. A 36 point output (22-14-36) in 67 games earned him a third AHL contract for 2017-18, and bigger responsibility.
He led the Condors with 46 points (20-26-46) in 68 games and was the most offensively dynamic center that the club had. He played with top Edmonton prospect Jesse Puljujarvi and saw some time with Ty Rattie, Bakersfield’s lone All-Star game representative.
Currie earned this contract the hard way, and will report to Edmonton’s camp with a two-year NHL deal under his belt. I’m not sure Currie even ever thought this would be possible, but it goes to show what hard work can do.
I wouldn’t be shocked if he ended up as the Condors’ number one center again this season, and he could end up as Kailer Yamamoto’s pivot should the dynamic prospect start his season in California. Currie is easy to root for, and although he may never make the NHL, it would be foolish to bet against him. I look forward to seeing him in preseason action this fall.
On Darnell Nurse:
I wouldn’t worry too much about Darnell Nurse not getting signed just yet. We all knew a long-term contract was going to be impossible due to Edmonton’s cap situation, and that a bridge deal was almost certain.
There are concerns with a bridge deal, but they don’t bother me too much. I’ve seen people point to Matt Dumba’s new long-term deal with the Wild as a reason for caution. If Nurse turns into a 20-minute a night, top-four defender that also can post 50 points, then I’ll happily pay him two or three years from now when players like Andrej Sekera and Kris Russell are off the books and not taking up chunks of the salary cap.
I could see Nurse signing for two years, three at the max, and coming in at less than Oiler fans might imagine. I think anywhere from $3-$3.5 million per year is the likely landing spot for this bridge deal. That’s pretty good value for the Oilers if Nurse can fill a top-four role this season. I suspect that will be the plan.
The 14th Forward:
Derek Grant signed in Pittsburgh this past week, so you can take his name off the list for potential 14th forwards. I don’t think you’ll see the Oilers sign someone before training camp opens. I think the likely answer here is a veteran getting a tryout in training camp, like Chris Kelly last fall and Kris Versteeg the year before that.
Joe Colborne is a name that has been talked about a lot, and the Oilers absolutely have talked about him. Scottie Upshall, Nick Shore and Jason Chimera all make sense as well. Edmonton talked with Chimera prior to the start of free agency, but I believe the signing of Tobias Rieder kept that deal from getting done.