With a little over a week separating us from the NHL’s annual entry draft, Ken Holland has continued to handle housekeeping issues surrounding his new organization. On Tuesday, Holland re-signed a key member of his AHL farm team and confirmed his first Assistant General Manager.
The club announced a one-year contract for Patrick Russell, who originally signed with the team as a college free agent in the spring of 2016. Russell made his NHL debut this past season, going pointless in six contests with the big club. He was a key veteran in Bakersfield, playing in 51 games for the club and registering 40 points (18-22-40).
Russell, according to Cap Friendly, will carry an AAV of $700,000. That’s an identical AAV to his last contract, but the expectation is that he’ll earn a raise over the $85,000 AHL salary he made last season.
Russell’s signing makes sense on a few levels. The Oilers will return prospects Cooper Marody, Tyler Benson and Kailer Yamamoto to Bakersfield next season, while also integrating Ostap Safin and Kirill Maksimov to the pro level. Having capable veterans that can help those guys is going to be key. Russell will be part of that leadership group should he return to the Condors.
There is also the chance that Russell makes the Oilers out of camp. He had a strong run last preseason, and will be a potential value deal for the club. Russell has a heavy shot, can penalty kill and is strong on the forecheck. His biggest issue? His lack of footspeed at the NHL level. He could be an option for fourth line or 13th forward duty during the year.
Russell joins AHL veterans Brad Malone and Joe Gambardella as key Condors that Holland has re-signed so far. Expectation is that veteran Mitch Callahan will not be retained.
Bakersfield also signed Luke Esposito and Steven Iacobellis to AHL contracts. Esposito dressed in 63 games and finished with 24 points (7-17-24) for Bakersfield. Iacobellis went 23-42-65 in 58 games with Edmonton’s ECHL affiliate in Wichita.
Keith Gretzky Retained:
The worst kept secret in Edmonton became official on Tuesday. The club announced that Keith Gretzky, most recently interim-GM after the firing of Peter Chiarelli, will remain with the organization as an Assistant General Manager.
Gretzky was first hired in Edmonton to serve as the AGM to Chiarelli, and will now serve in the same capacity under Holland. Among his focuses will be taking over for Craig MacTavish as the GM of the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors.
In addition to running the farm team in Bakersfield, Gretzky will be heavily involved in the amateur scouting department. Along with Bob Green, Gretzky will run the Oilers draft next week in Vancouver. He’s expected to spend time on the road scouting prospects in his new role, and will assist Holland with the draft moving forward.
Expectation was that Holland would hire two Assistant General Managers early in his Edmonton tenure. The first would be tasked with helping on the amateur side, while the other would help with the pro scouting side. With Gretzky handling Bakersfield and the amateur side of things, it makes sense that the next hire will effectively replace Duane Sutter.
I’d put my money on Sean Burke coming over from Montreal, and wouldn’t be shocked if we saw that hiring shortly after July 1st. Burke, in turn, would help form Edmonton’s new pro scouting department.