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.
First up, let's take a look at this reserve list. The relevant section of the CBA reads as follows:
Not more than 50 Players signed to an SPC and not less than 24 Players and 3 goalkeepers under an SPC. Age 18 and age 19 Players who were returned to Juniors, and who have not played 11 NHL Games in one season, shall be exempt from inclusion in the 50 Player limit. Any club violating this provision shall be liable to loss of draft choices as determined by the Commissioner.
I read that to mean that junior players count against the limit until they are officially returned to the CHL. In that this doesn't happen over the summer, I would assume that all of the 18 and 19 year-old players do in fact count against the 50 player limit over the summer. That said, players who are currently restricted free agents do not seem to count toward the 50 player limit, so even with this signing, the Oilers are still technically at 47 contracts since all three of Andrew Cogliano, Taylor Chorney, and Ryan O`Marra are still restricted free agents. However, qualifying offers remain on the table until July 15th, so it would seem unwise for the Oilers to sign any more players before that date, assuming the rest of my interpretation is correct.
Shifting gears somewhat, let's now take a look at who's likely to be available for the roster in Oklahoma City to start the year:
Lennart Petrell - Ryan O`Marra - Ryan Keller
Teemu Hartikainen - Anton Lander - Mark Arcobello
Josh Green - Tanner House - Antti Tyrvainen
Hunter Tremblay - Milan Kytnar - Tyler Pitlick
Curtis Hamilton - Chris VandeVelde - Toni Rajala
Philippe Cornet - Andrew Lord - Cameron Abney
Taylor Chorney - Alex Plante
Bryan Helmer - Corey Potter
Martin Marincin - Colten Teubert
Johan Motin - Taylor Fedun
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.