The Edmonton Oilers announced their final cuts this afternoon and for this management team, it's the same song, different day. Five men were sent down today - Ryan Keller, Josh Green, Ryan O`Marra, Teemu Hartikainen and Gilbert Brule - and with the litany of injuries on the back end, those cuts should firm up the opening night roster.
Thoughts on the cuts and opening night roster after the jump.
Gilbert Brule's trip to Oklahoma City was inevitable. He looked terrible in pre-season and was coming off of an awful 2010-2011. That Brule made his way back to Oklahoma City is only a surprise to those in the MSM and the Oilers themselves. Brule had a career year in 2009 and the Oilers rewarded him with a 2 year contract worth $1.85 million per year. Though the red flags about his season and upcoming negotiations were evident two months into the 2009 season, the Oilers went forward anyway, keeping alive a tradition started with Steve Staios, Ethan Moreau and Shawn Horcoff. Brule has battled health issues for much of his career, but even when healthy, he's been ineffective outside of 2009. He's still young enough to rebuild a career and he's got a draft pedigree that will make him attractive to other General Managers if he can come back. Brule is the fifth player under a one-way contract sent to Oklahoma City under Steve Tambellini's regime.
Teemu Hartikainen's trip to Oklahoma City was inevitable as well, but if the final roster was truly comprised of the best 23 players, Hartikainen would be on it. Another season in Oklahoma City is probably better for Hartikainen's career, but the Oilers will be a worse team this year for it.
Keller, Green and O`Marra were all expected to spend the year in Oklahoma City and will all play in the Barons' top six. O`Marra and Green will probably make up 2/3 of the Barons toughs line and Keller will probably pair with Hartikainen on the Barons top scoring line.
As for the two rookies who made the team in place of the aforementioned five, Anton Lander and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins showed off a wide range of skills, skills needed on the big club this season. Nugent-Hopkins' play-making ability was excellent and Lander's penalty killing and defensive marking was superior to most of the rest of the roster. Their placement on the roster makes this year's core even younger than last year's, and signals a continuation of last year's growing pains.
Nugent-Hopkins might not be on the roster for good, but he'll get at least 9 games before Sam Gagner and Ben Eager return from injury.
The cuts also mean that Corey Potter, Taylor Chorney and Jeff Petry will all begin the season on the big club, combining with Tom Gilbert, Theo Peckham, Andy Sutton and Cam Barker to form a blueline that needs help in a major way. Ryan suggested Bryan McCabe as veteran help even before Ladislav Smid's injury, and there are a couple of alternatives in Anton Stralman (should he not make the Devils on his try-out deal) and Paul Mara. They could also reach out to the aged Craig Rivet in a pinch.