The deadline for teams to issue qualifying offers to their free agents was today at 3pm. The Oilers waited until the bitter end to make a formal announcement but when the dust had settled the team had extended qualifying offers to seven restricted free agents. Most of the moves, and even one player who wasn't extended, were expected but the Oilers still managed to raise a few eyebrows today.
Under the category of players who were all but guaranteed to receive a qualifying offers we find Devan Dubnyk, Sam Gagner, and Jeff Petry. Alex Plante and Chris VandeVelde were also extended and while neither was a lock to get an extension these were hardly surprises either. Continuing down the list from most likely to least likely we come to Theo Peckham. And then finally, to round out the list, the name that had to have surprised almost everyone, Linus Omark.
Devan Dubnyk - A surprise starter on opening night Dubnyk took a back seat to Khabibulin during the first month of the season when as the soon to be 39 year old played like an all-star before returning to the player we thought he was. After Khabibulin was finished turning back the clock the two split time in November and December before Dubnyk clearly established himself as the better option between the pipes in the new year posting a 0.920 save percentage and winning 16 of 29 starts in 2012. After making $800k in each of the last two seasons Dubnyk has certainly earned a raise but still won't be making nearly as much as the man who will, for reasons I can't determine, be his backup next season.
Sam Gagner - The man with the franchise record tying eight point game just finished his fifth season with the Oilers and once again failed to match his rookie season total of 49 points although his 47 points does actually set a career best mark for points per game by 0.01 (a new career best is a new career best). But if not for an amazing February where he recorded 18 points in 13 games Gagner would have been on pace for a career low in points. Compared to his draft class Gagner looks pretty good but his next contract - he made $2.275M in each of the last two seasons - will nonetheless, both the value and the length, be a major source of debate for fans in the coming weeks.
Jeff Petry - Petry finally established himself as a mainstay on the blue line during the 2011/12 season playing 73 games and recording 25 points. More impressive than the game and point totals was the role Petry played, and excelled in, as part of the Oilers decrepit blue line. Only once in his last 43 games did Petry play less than 20 minutes and the data from Behind the Net shows that those minutes were anything but the easiest available. With his play this season Petry made believers out of any who doubted his game and will receive a healthy raise over the $850k (he was eligible for another $150k in bonuses) he made last season.
Alex Plante - For the third season in a row Plante played a number of games with the Oilers that I can count on one hand; this year the total was three games. In addition to that short stint with the big club Plante played another 41 games in Oklahoma City with the Barons where he managed 14 points and was a +16. Injuries have been an issue for Plante but for a former first round pick four years removed from the draft those aren't exactly the kind of numbers the Oilers were probably hoping for and with a number of other defencemen knocking at the door looking for roster spots (Martin Marincin, Oscar Klefbom, David Musil, and Brandon Davidson) Plante is likely down to his last chance with the Oilers.
Chris VandeVelde - Another player who had a cup of coffee with the big club this season VandeVelde spent most of the year with the Barons recording seven goals and 16 assists in 68 games. VandeVelde improved slightly in his second pro season but is still a long way from being anything more than an AHL player and will almost certainly have to take whatever the Oilers as he continues to pursue the dream of being an NHL player.
Theo Peckham - By almost every measure Peckham had a miserable 2011/12 season. More often than not Peckham was little more than a pylon on the Oilers blue line. A year ago Peckham looked to be trending in the right direction but injuries and a concussion were limiting factors for a defender who plays a physical rather than skill game. Counting Petry the Oilers have seven defencemen under contract for next season so there was a chance that the Oilers may have opted to not give Peckham a qualifying offer but instead chose to keep the big man around for at least one more season. Because Peckham made $1.075M last season the Oilers were able to qualify him at that same amount, I would be surprised if he gets any raise.
Linus Omark - I can't say I saw this one coming. After spending just 14 games in the Oilers lineup this season and tweeting his request to be given a chance to play the general consensus in Edmonton was that Omark would be traded at the draft. When this didn't happen most just assumed that Omark would be allowed to walk but the Oilers surprised pretty much everyone by deciding to keep Omark. What this means for Omark is anybody's guess. Maybe the Oilers will do as I suggested and actually play him in an attempt to increase his value or maybe he'll be left to rot in press box for another season.
Cam Barker - For those playing close attention you likely already noticed that Barker was not one of the players the Oilers gave a qualify offer to today. Rarely is a player being allowed to walk away for nothing a great thing but this is one of those cases. You see Barker is not good and never should have been given a contract to play in Edmonton. In ugly season that saw the Oilers ice one of the worst defences in the league Barker's terrible play still managed to stand out. In my opinion his season can be summed up by watching a goal Mikhail Grabovski scored against the Oilers in February. The goal was so impressive that Leafs Nation had to recap the goal in detail. After the Leafs entered the Oilers end Barker's positioning was described like this:
Cam Barker is far enough from the puck that he can't hurt them [the Oilers] with a giveaway.
I can't think of a better way to remember Cam Barker.