Oilers GM Steve Tambellini has been hard at work trying to re-sign the Oilers RFA's, stock AHL affiliate Oklahoma City with players, and find a home for Sheldon Souray next season. Tambellini was able to sign two pending RFA's this week, and a good AHL depth forward. Lets start with the RFA's shall we?
Theo Peckham signed a one year contract with the Oilers. Peckham was drafted in 2005 by the Oilers, and has been projected as the their shutdown defender of the future. Peckham has been developing at the AHL level, and has seen some NHL action. Peckham is a guy who loves to hit, and loves to fight. He is one tough guy and has already proven that he can fight and hit at the NHL level.
His game isn't bad either. Last season, when on a terrible Falcons team in the AHL, Peckham put up half way decent numbers. He is also a guy who doesn't get involved with the offense much, but is rather an old-school, in-your-face, stay-at-home defender. If allowed to develop correctly, Peckham will be a key Oiler for many years.
I am a guy that really likes Peckham and how he stands up for teammates. His game could use some work, but as mentioned before he isn't bad right now; a year or two away from being a solid NHL-er though. I think after this season the Oilers will let Jim Vandermeer leave via free agency and give Peckham an every night NHL job. That appears to be the plan.
The Oilers also re-sign RFA forward Ryan O'Marra. O'Marra was traded to the Oilers along with Robert Nilsson and a 2007 first round draft pick (Alex Plante was picked here) for Ryan Smyth. O'Marra is a guy who has lost his offensive touch at a young age sadly; he will never be the forward Kevin Lowe figured he was getting. O'Marra is big guy though, and likes to throw the body; not only that, but he can play PK and win a faceoff. O'Marra could be the Oilers third or fourth line center down the road.
This coming season O'Marra will play in OKC however, and hopefully it will be in a top-six role. I still feel it is too early to give up on him, and I think he will be an NHL role player one day. Hopefully the Oilers give him a chance to play in an offensive role this season in OKC, and hopefully he thrives in it. I'll be rooting for O'Marra this season—there is still hope for this kid.
The Oilers also dipped into the UFA pool, signing 24-year-old left winger Greg Stewart to a one-year contract. Stewart is probably going to play in OKC this season, but might get a chance to play on Edmonton's fourth line. Stewart spent most of last season with the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs, getting 10 points (5G, 5A) in 45 games. Stewart also played five games for the Montreal Canadiens last season, but was unable to get point. He did have 11 penalty minutes in the NHL.
Another depth move for the Oilers it would look like. Stewart is a solid AHL role player. He can play some dirty minutes in the AHL, playing PK and the third line role. This move adds more depth to a solid OKC roster, and gives the Oilers more players at camp fighting for roster spots.
The Oilers do still have a few RFA's to sign even after O'Marra and Peckham. Forwards Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano, and Gilbert Brule lead the list. Forward Liam Reddox and goalie Jeff Deslauriers are also unsigned by the Oilers at this time.
Its also a minor note that the Oilers will sign Colin McDonald back next season. McDonald sign an AHL contract with the OKC Barons and will remain in the organization.
The Edmonton Oilers took another step in the right direction in OKC this week by naming the first ever coach in Barons' history. Todd Nelson, who was last an assistant with Atlanta, was named Barons coach Thursday. Nelson is someone who has been around young players before and has helped develop them. Nelson will be a guy that can help prepare the young Oilers for the NHL because he has coached there before.
Not only will he be able to prepare Barons players for a possible NHL stint, but Nelson should be a guy that can help the Barons get some wins. He is a good coach, and this was a good move by the Oilers.
Nelson wasn't the only coach added to the Oilers organization this week. They also named two assistant coaches to Tom Renney's staff. Renney was allowed to pick his assistants and he selected two on Thursday. Kelly Buchberger, who has been with the Oilers as an assistant the past few seasons, was given another contract and welcomed back for another season behind the bench. Joining Renney and Buchberger will be former Oilers defender Steve Smith.
Kelly Buchberger coming back is not shocker to me or any other Oilers fan. Bucky is a young guy who is learning the ways of coaching, and it sounds like he is getting better as the seasons go on. Buchberger's role this season will probably be to work with the offense since he played forward during his NHL career.
He will help the young forwards with their defensive game, which is key to having a good NHL career. Don't think that the forwards will play a MacTavish defensive game up front though, as Renney and Quinn tried using run and gun and it worked until injuries came along.
Expect the Oilers offense to be fast, and to score a ton of goals this season. Bucky will really help the young forwards be better on the defensive end too, which should help.
Steve Smith played for the Oilers for many years—I won't mention the moment he is known for the most. Smith was a hard hitting shut-down defender and one of the NHL's most feared hitters for years. He has been an assistant coach before at the NHL level too. He will probably work with the Oilers defense this season, teaching them how to be better in front of their own net and in their own zone, and will also help them with their hitting game.
A lot of people were surprised to see Smith as an assistant and don't think it will work. I, on the other hand, think that Smith will be a guy that Oilers fans will soon like as a coach. Smith should really help the defense, and get them to be more physical. I think the defense will be better this season, and Smith will have a hand in that.
I do like the two Oilers assistant coaches, and think good choices were made. Don't get me wrong, better choices could have been made, but these aren't bad. Head coach Tom Renney also said that it is possible that a third assistant will be named this summer.
With Pat Quinn upstairs in Edmonton in the senior adviser role, it looks as if Wayne Flemming won't be back next season in Edmonton. Adding Steve Smith to the staff pretty much tells you Flemming is gone.
Nik Khabibulin's court date is coming up soon, which should give us an idea whether we will see him in Edmonton this season or not. There is a way that the Oilers can get out of the contract, and that is if Khabi is unable to attend training camp because he is in jail or rehab. I'll have all the details as soon as they are learned.
You can follow me on twitter @AToilfan83 for up to the second NHL and Edmonton Oilers news!