The Edmonton Oilers signed Ryan Keller to a one-year two-way contract yesterday, and Ryan Rishaug tells us that Keller got a pretty nice payday ($625,000 NHL and $225,000 AHL). Keller was good enough to get into six NHL games with the Senators in 2010-11, but spent most of the season in the AHL where he scored 42 goals and 34 assists in 94 regular season and playoff games for Binghamton. That team finished fifth in their division, but went on to win the Calder Cup, and it's not hard to imagine that his recent team success played a role in the Oilers bringing him aboard.
During the regular season, Keller's 32 goals led the team, and with Colin McDonald and Alexandre Giroux moving on to greener pastures, Keller will be counted on to do something similar with the Barons in 2011-12. Thankfully, he has the kind of track record that suggests he should be able to follow through on that expectation. Before last season, Keller scored 34 goals and 34 assists in 72 games with Binghamton in 2009-10, and was a point per game player in the SM-Liiga in both 2008-09 and 2007-08. He doesn't have a realistic chance at a roster spot with the Oilers, but as a top line AHL player, he's an excellent fit, especially since he's a natural right-winger.
The only potential snag in this signing is the fact that it puts the Oilers at the fifty-man limit on their reserve list. Or does it? After the jump, I'll take a closer look at the CBA to see if that fact is in fact a fact, and glance once again at what the roster might look like at the start of the year in Oklahoma City.
The guys who qualify as AHL veterans currently under contract are Petrell, Keller, Green, Helmer, and Potter so the veteran rule won't be a major consideration in line-up decisions, but there are an awful lot of players on this list, particularly up front. Given the Oilers' lack of depth on the blue-line (it's not hard to imagine two injuries to defensemen at the AHL or NHL level), I fully expect Martin Marincin to play pro hockey this season, but players like Curtis Hamilton and Tyler Pitlick are going to need to play well in training camp to earn their spots with the Barons, and a player like Toni Rajala may well end up going back to Finland. If those players end up making the team, that whole bottom forward group will probably start the year in Stockton.