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Will Theo Peckham Be Back?

Not too many Panthers looking impressed.
Not too many Panthers looking impressed.

Theo Peckham was one of just five Oilers to play in at least 40 games and register a +/- rating of even or better, so you'd think that he probably had a decent year. That's not really the case. Peckham had some trouble getting into the lineup even when healthy this season, and that wasn't because the coach was making a bad personnel move: his struggles were very real.

The puck generally hasn't been moving the right way when Peckham is on the ice. His Corsi rate last season was worse than everyone but Taylor Chorney and Jason Strudwick, two guys who probably didn't belong in the NHL. That could probably be excused as a young defender being thrown into the deep end before his time, but when the Oilers dialed back the degree of difficulty, things didn't improve. This season, exempting Nick Schultz who spent most of the season in Minnesota, he was only able to beat out Ryan Whitney and Cam Barker, and with Whitney trying to recover from injury all season, that's two more players who weren't good NHL options. He was also second-to-last among the team's defenders in individual scoring chances, ahead of only Colten Teubert, yet another player who didn't belong in the NHL. Add to that his penchant for minor penalties - he was on of the league's five most penalized regular defenders (minimum of forty games) during five-on-five play in each of the last two seasons - and the fact that his season ended with his second (documented) concussion, and the picture really isn't pretty.

A few years ago, I suggested that Rick Berry was a good match for Theo Peckham. Rick Berry played 197 games in his NHL career. Theo Peckham has stands at 156. At this point, it's fair to ask whether or not Peckham will make it, and if he does, whether it will be with the Oilers or someone else.

I think that Peckham's future with the Oilers is probably bleak. Steve Tambellini already has five defensemen under contract in Ryan Whitney, Nick Schultz, Ladislav Smid, Andy Sutton, and Corey Potter. Jeff Petry is unsigned, but will certainly be given a new contract and a spot in Edmonton's top six. That leaves one spot left if the Oilers carry seven defenders (I think that it makes sense to carry eight defenders and thirteen forwards, but the Oilers generally haven't done that).

If that spot goes to Peckham, the Oilers are in a world of hurt. It means that the team will rely on Petry, Smid, Whitney, and Schultz as their top four, and would only have Sutton, Potter, and Peckham in reserve in case of injury. A passing glance at that depth shows that the Oilers are in desperate need of at least one more option to play top four minutes.

Complicating matters is the fact that Peckham will be due a $1.075M qualifying offer. Given his performance this past season, I'd have to think he'd probably take that. In that he's likely not in the Oilers' plans, that adds a sense of urgency for the Oilers if they hope to trade Peckham before qualifying offers need to be tendered in late June. Will Peckham have any value at the draft? I'm not sure. There's at least some chance that his physical play, NHL experience, and relative youth are an attractive combination to someone, especially since Peckham is certain to have a highly-motivated summer given his tenuous grasp on NHL employment. Even as I say that, I'm realizing that they should probably be attractive to the Oilers!

And that's, I suppose, the real cost of the contracts handed out during the year to Andy Sutton and Corey Potter. I liked Potter's deal, simply because he'd played well through the first half, and it seemed to me there was some upside, especially if he was deemed a good option on the power play, which is often an expensive position to fill. I was less happy with Sutton's deal; that he's likely to push the much younger Theo Peckham out the door is just one more reason.