With the deadline for NHL to set their opening days rosters looming, we now know where the two Oilers who were in camp on PTOs will land. The answer in both cases is Alberta; Eric Gryba with the Oilers and Kris Versteeg with the Flames (get ready for his hat-trick tomorrow night). If you’re a little puzzled by this, you’re not alone.
Gryba's deal in EDM is $950K in NHL, or $250K in AHL, but he has guarantee of $450K. Will go on waivers and if he clears, start in AHL.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) October 11, 2016
Pending final approval. 1 yr, $950,000 for Versteeg in Calgary.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) October 11, 2016
A quick look at the depth chart would lead most fans to conclude that just about the last thing the Oilers need is another depth defenceman, and what they absolutely do need is another forward who can play in the team’s middle-six. So these moves would seem at least a little perplexing to most. Getting Gryba on a cheap two-way deal isn’t horrible. He’s a 6/7 defenceman on his best days but he provides the Oilers with another option should someone struggle or get injured. It’s not a great deal, it’s not a bad deal either. Versteeg though is a different story.
First the good news: According to Todd McLellan, the Oilers did try to sign Versteeg, so at least they saw what he did in camp and thought that he could help the team, that’s at least a little reassuring. And if he chose to sign in Calgary for similar dollars because the role there is going to give him a better opportunity to land a job after the season then that makes sense too. Ultimately there is only so much Chiarelli can do to get a players name on a contract but that doesn’t excuse how today played out.
As I’ve said before, I wouldn’t have wasted my time giving Versteeg a PTO, I would have signed him outright. He’s demonstrated that he can play in that middle-six role where the Oilers could use another body, but if the Oilers wanted to be cautious, taking more of a wait and see approach, that’s not necessarily bad. But based on his play early in the preseason why wouldn’t you have gotten a deal done a week ago? For my money he’d shown more than enough in the first games of camp to justify signing him to a low risk one-year deal.
Again though, Chiarelli can’t force a guy to sign with the Oilers. Maybe that contract was offered a week ago. Maybe Versteeg told them he’d sign it and backed out at the last minute. But until a player signs a deal, a team needs to have a backup plan in place because you never know when a player might Nylander you. And the worst part is there were two two backup options available for the Oilers today on the waiver wire that would have cost the Oilers nothing - P.A. Parenteau and Teemu Pulkkinen. The Oilers passed on both and then lost Versteeg, all of this only a couple of days after trading another roster player, Nail Yakupov, for nothing.
If they’d played their cards differently the Oilers could have had some actual forward depth, maybe even fourth NHL wingers on the right sign of their roster. Instead they’re likely going to start the season with two rookies - Drake Caggiula and Jesse Puljujarvi - playing on the third line. If you’ve been watching the Oilers for the last decade you know how this will end.