Archive for 2016-12-25

Oilers Sign Tyler Benson, Halak on Waivers

The Edmonton Oilers have signed their second-round 2016 draft selection Tyler Benson to his entry-level contract today, keeping Benson in the fold for at least three more years.

Photo courtesy of the Edmonton Sun

Over at — where I am a regular contributor — I wrote the following about Benson.

If you don't know Tyler Benson, you should try to remember his name. Benson was taken No. 32 overall in last year's NHL entry draft by the Oilers and he's on fire in the WHL with the Vancouver Giants. In Friday's contest, he scored a hat-trick including an overtime winner. 
There was some concern over Benson's health in his draft year and that's why he slid to the second round and became available to the Oilers.  Edmonton took a chance on him and it looks, so far, like it's paying off in a big way. 
Benson won't see any time with the Oilers this season, but he's a prospect worth watching. He was highly touted all the way up to his most recent season when injuries struck. Benson could be the steal of the 2016 NHL draft and the Oilers may have another dynamic winger in their system.  
The best news for Oilers fans is that Benson is starting to find consistent scoring and looks to have rebounded from poor health issues that plagued his career. He's an excellent passer who has great vision and good hockey sense. He projects to be a top-six forward in the NHL.

Jaroslav Halak

A goaltender who was once caught up in the debate about who was better in Montreal — Carey Price or Halak — is now on waivers and available for pickup by any NHL team. To do so, they'd need to take on his $4.5 million dollar contract for this season and the next.

It's this issue that doesn't seem to make Halak a fit in Edmonton. The Oilers only have about $4.5 million in cap space and will need other items if they do in fact make a run for the playoffs. That cap space could be valuable and there is no guarantee that Halak can be moved at the end of the season or picked up in the expansion draft.

That said, if Halak clears waivers and the Oilers could make a trade with the Islanders keeping some of his salary, there may be a fit. 

Oilers Looking at Signing Kris Russell in January

The Edmonton Oilers have been in the news over the holiday season. Some of it has to do with how well the team has done under some lesser expectations to start the season. Most of it comes as a result of word leaking that the Oilers are interested in offering an extension to Kris Russell upon his eligibility to resign January 1st.

The Arguments For

Kris Russell has been a strong defender for the Edmonton Oilers. While injured, Edmonton played some of its worst hockey and he was clearly missed. He's playing the second-most minutes on the Oilers' blue line and he's leading the team in blocked shots; while being fifth in the NHL among defensemen in that category. He provides the Oilers will an experienced NHL option on defense. These are all good things.

The Arguments Against

By extending Russell, the Oilers would need to make a future trade if they don't believe the core of Andrej Sekera, Kris Russell, Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson are enough to contend when the games really count. There is a legit argument to be made that this top-four is good, but not good enough and that it lacks a true top-tier defender.

The other problem is what adding another contracted defensemen does to the Oilers' future plans come the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. Russell under contract changes the perspective on whom the Oilers should protect and the best ways to go about doing so. Signing Russell is virtual writing on the wall for a future loss that could mean a lot more to the Oilers future.

My Take

Sign Russell if you want. Just wait. There is so little suggesting that now is a good time to do so and that past history of extending players early hasn't gone well for the Oilers that it makes more sense to give Russell a full season to prove his worth. It also makes more sense to have everything planned to the letter in preparation for the expansion draft.

The Oilers look good on paper, but at this moment in time aren't even a playoff team. If you commit to this top four on your blue line and it turns out it wasn't quite enough to get you to the promise land this season, then you're stuck for next season and other seasons where you potentially have an asset you signed too early and now can't move.

If you have faith in Oilers-GM Peter Chiarelli, then you have to hope he knows something we don't or has another plan up his sleeve. If not, this move seems illogical at best.

But, who cares what I think right? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.

Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.

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