It's rather unfortunate that Jason Strudwick isn't a better hockey player. By all accounts, he's a fantastic person. He also seems to enjoy playing in his home-town of Edmonton. He's surprised me with how articulate he is in interviews and I've never once heard him throw a teammate under the bus. During games, effort level is never a problem and he's always willing to stand up for himself and for his teammates. If Jason Strudwick were a decent hockey player, he'd be an excellent choice as the next captain of the Edmonton Oilers. He wouldn't even need to be good, sixth defenseman type talent would do. Yes, it's rather unfortunate that Jason Strudwick isn't a better hockey player.
Well, things sure are changing quick! I wrote about the defense this morning and less than an hour later there's more news to report. The first thing I saw was Jason Strudwick re-signing in Edmonton for one year (no dollar figure just yet). I was hopeful that after the acquisitions of Jim Vandermeer and Kurtis Foster and the lack of waiver eligibility for Theo Peckham that there would no longer be room for Strudwick on the roster and that the last remaining spot on defense would go to a new player capable of top four minutes. Instead, the Oilers are bringing back Strudwick who's likely to be the seventh or eighth defenseman on the team as well as the fourteenth forward. Huh. When I say it like that, it doesn't seem so bad. Let's just hope our defensemen are healthier this year and we don't ever need to see Strudwick getting top four minutes or coming out to defend a lead with a minute to go in the game.
And, you know what, the Oilers should be healthier next year because it looks increasingly like they're absolutely committed to ridding themselves of Sheldon Souray before training camp. Today, they decided to move that process along by putting Souray on waivers. It seems that the skepticism expressed earlier today about Souray's value was warranted. If someone claims Souray off waivers I'll be surprised, but that would be an excellent result for all involved (and if Ethan Moreau can get claimed off waivers, you really never know). His actual salary is only $4.5M so the risk for a non-cap team isn't as much as it could be. At half price, Souray may actually be a good risk. If the Oilers are determined enough to rid themselves of Souray that they put him on re-entry waivers, I bet he goes. If they're foolish enough to buy him out it will cost them $6M in real dollars over four seasons and he'd come with a cap hit of $2.4M for two seasons followed by $1.5M for another two seasons. So let's hope they don't do that. We'll see what happens.
Finally, the Oilers have also come to terms with defenseman Richard Petiot who has a lot in common with Jim Vandermeer, Kurtis Foster and Jason Strudwick. Like them, he's an Alberta boy who might still seeing playing in Edmonton as some sort of honour. Like them, he's very big, standing 6'4'' and weighing in at 215 lbs. Like them, he's completely incapable of playing top four minutes on the blueline. The terms of the deal haven't yet been released, but I'll assume it's a two-way deal and that Petiot is destined for Oklahoma City. And in that context, Petiot could is very effective. He spent last season with the Rockford Ice Hogs of the AHL and led his team in plus/minus with a +20 rating and scoring a career-high 37 points. If the Oilers are serious about making the Barons a better team, Petiot is an excellent person to start with.
So what does this mean for the depth on defense? It means Ladislav Smid is going to be a top four defenseman this year, which really isn't that bad of an idea. Hopefully, they at least get him a qualified partner and try to use him in a shut-down role. If they end up losing Souray on re-entry waivers, they should be able to cobble enough money together to make a reasonable play for Mike Mottau on a two-year deal, perhaps at $3M per season. Those moves would give the Oilers eight defensemen (Gilbert, Whitney, Mottau, Smid, Foster, Vandermeer, Strudwick, Peckham) at an approximate cost (assuming Souray goes on re-entry) of $20.5M. And you know what? That's a load better than a third pairing of Chorney-Struwick to start the year which is kind of what I was expecting when free agency started.