The Edmonton Oilers have signed both Taylor Chorney and Ryan O'Marra to one-year contracts, which goes to show that, even if those two can be frustrating to watch, they aren't dummies. As you may recall, the Oilers extended qualifying offers to these players at the end of June, and the CBA stipulates that these offers are valid until July 15th, which just so happens to be the day that both Chorney and O'Marra signed. With forty-seven players already under contract, there may have been some quite legitimate worry that the Oilers would have gone in a different direction (especially for O'Marra), and fifteen days into free agency, it's a bit tougher to find a deal with another team. As such, the prudent thing to do is just take the deal. Ryan Rishaug has already confirmed that Chorney took his qualifying offer ($735,000 at the NHL level and $62,500 at the AHL level), and I'll be shocked if O'Marra didn't take the $735,000 and $70,000 he was offered a few weeks back. After the jump, I'll take a brief look at what the organization likely expects from each player in 2011-12.
Taylor Chorney is heading into his fourth professional season, which means he's entering that dangerous part of his career where he's no longer really considered a prospect. He'll need to clear waivers to make it to the AHL, but with six guys on one-way contracts plus Jeff Petry hanging around as the second-best right-handed defender on the team, the only way I see him making the Oilers out of camp is if the club decides to carry eight defenders. Even if they do, he'll have a helluva time getting into the lineup unless he wants to play his off-side, which given his NHL results so far, could be absolutely disastrous. It seems more likely to me that (barring injury) Chorney gets sent to Oklahoma to start the year and takes on the toughs at evens with a variety of partners. If he plays well, he might be able to earn a call-up for the fourth straight year, but again, he's getting older, so the Oilers might prefer to take a look at some of the younger prospects like Colten Teubert and Alex Plante even if Chorney would be the man if these recalls were based on merit alone.
Ryan O'Marra is a couple of months younger than Chorney, but aside from the fact that he's entering his fifth professional season instead of his fourth, he's in a very similar situation. Although he had some time in the NHL last year, the young man is absolutely buried at center. He's clearly behind Horcoff, Gagner, Bélanger, and Nugent-Hopkins, and is likely behind Anton Lander too. I'd probably prefer guys like Tanner House and Milan Kytnar too, which leaves O'Marra and Chris VandeVelde behind the eight-ball in a big way. As a result, O'Marra is pretty much a lock to start the year in Oklahoma where he'll likely play on a checking line and see lots of duty on the PK. If he shows well, he might be able to earn a call to the big club, but the competition this year will be tougher than it was in 2010-11 since there are now a bunch of guys that the Oilers may want to take a look at.