The Danger With DeKeyser


College UFAs are a nice luxury, but no immediate solution for the beleaguered Oilers defense.

Don't get me wrong, in theory it'd be great if the Oilers could sign much-coveted free agent Danny DeKeyser. According to Bob McKenzie the Oilers are a front-runner and are once again pulling out all the stops to sign a collegiate UFA. Darryl Katz has called. Craig MacTavish and Justin Schultz will lead the charge in Toronto on Wednesday, as the Oilers try to woo the 23 year old defenseman into joining this train wreck team. The Oilers could certainly use a left-shooting defender who is more-or-less NHL ready, especially now that Ryan Whitney's days in Edmonton appear to be numbered.

And yet, even if it happens, it's not a cure-all.

Given how Oilers management signed Justin Schultz and then essentially called 'er good enough, signing DeKeyser may not be the best thing for the team. If we've learned anything from Justin Schultz it's that there is a mix of dizzying highs and underwhelming lows when it comes to rookie defensemen. Who knew!

What's more, Justin Schultz represents the best case scenario. Since the 2004-05 lockout, there have been 94 rookie defensemen who appeared in at least 30 games for their teams. So far, Justin Schultz is sixth on that list in points per game. He's leading all Oilers defensemen in TOI with 22:05 per game, including 17:42 at even strength. Those are respectively the 59th and 70th highest totals of all league defenders. Schultz has handled being thrown to the wolves quite well, but he's the exception rather than the rule.

Andy Murray, DeKeyser's coach at Western Michigan University, says that "he's very close [to being NHL-ready]," and "it all depends on what the organization wants." Three guesses what the Oilers are going to want from DeKeyser. The heaping helping of responsibility might be part of the appeal for the player, but it shouldn't be for the team.

The Oilers are no longer in a position to bring in young players that may or may not help the team win immediately. There can be no promises of a roster spot or ice time for a player who has never skated for a second in the NHL. And yet, you just know that that's exactly what management will do. And as bafflingly stupid as it sounds, I'm almost rooting against the team signing this player, just so management is forced to find some actual NHL players for the defense.

That's the point we've come to.

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