The Edmonton Oilers signed Mark Arcobello to a new one-year contract late last week, but I didn't want to comment on the transaction until I had seen the terms of the deal. The always-reliable Capgeek has now published those terms, and it looks like the deal is a two-way contract that will pay Arcobello $600,000 if he's in the NHL and $175,000 if he's in the AHL. I wasn't surprised to see that it was a two-way deal, but that AHL salary represents a 170% raise on what he earned in 2012-13, and would have been among the top forty players on two-way deals last season, suggesting that Arcobello is now among the league's best forwards.
It's a suggestion that has merit. At the beginning of the season, it looked like Arcobello might get squeezed out with several NHL stars coming to play in Oklahoma City, and the team (at least initially) looking to make sure that prospects like Tyler Pitlick and Curtis Hamilton got their ice time. Undeterred, Arcobello just kept playing well and potting points until an injury forced Ryan Nugent-Hopkins out of the lineup, opening a spot for the offensively-consistent Arcobello on the top line.
When the NHL was back in business, his linemates both moved on, and Arcobello became on of the team's top offensive options. His AHL offense was good enough that a recall to the NHL seemed likely, and when Shawn Horcoff was injured, Arcobello was one of the many AHL players who took a turn at replacing him. He played in just one game, but a regular season game in the NHL is pretty impressive growth for an offensive player who was scoring less than a point per game in the ECHL during the 2010-11 season.
After getting sent back to the Barons, Arcobello finished the AHL season strong, helping the Barons to the playoffs and an eventual appearance in the Conference Finals. By season's end, Arcobello led the Barons in points (68) and shots on goal (236) during the regular season (good enough for third in the AHL in both categories), and led the Barons in goals (12) and points (20) during the playoffs (good enough for second and fourth league-wide). It was an excellent season.
There was some talk after the season that Arcobello had a chance to cash in overseas, but the Oilers put enough money on the table to keep him in the system. At this point in his career, Arcobello is a tweener, and he's old enough that he probably needs to get an NHL chance soon if he's going to get one at all.
Is that likely? It's hard to say. Right now, Arcobello is (certainly) behind just Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sam Gagner, Shawn Horcoff and Eric Belanger on the team's center depth chart, but that's a position likely to undergo plenty of change. Horcoff and Belanger likely aren't going to be back by the start of next season, Gagner may get moved to the wing, and some new faces are sure to arrive. As such, it makes any prediction pretty tough at this point, though the best-case scenario for Arcobello is likely an open competition between him, the 2013 first-round pick, and Anton Lander for the last spot. A new coach who knows him a little from coaching against him might help Arcobello in that kind of contest, though I suspect the only person as disappointed as Todd Nelson was about Nelson not getting the Oilers' coaching gig was Arcobello.
But even as things stand, Arcobello has at least a small chance to make the team. With Teemu Hartikainen leaving for the KHL, Ryan-Nugent Hopkins possibly not ready to start the year, and great dissatisfaction with the offensive capabilities of players on last year's fourth line, a spot as the 13th forward or a role on the fourth line does seem possible. And if he makes it, who could do anything but cheer.