The story is well known. The Oilers need to add one or more defensemen in order to compete. But the team already has five NHL defenders under contract and some more who belong in the NHL. There isn't room for them all.
The five players the Oilers already have under contract on defense are:
1) Ryan Whitney
2) Nick Schultz
3) Ladislav Smid
4) Andy Sutton
5) Corey Potter
In addition, the Oilers will be negotiating new contracts for:
6) Jeff Petry
7) Theo Peckham
On top of those players, there are some others who should bounce back and forth between the AHL and NHL. These include:
8) Taylor Fedun (2013 RFA)
9) Colten Teubert (2013 RFA)
10) Alex Plante (Currently an RFA)
Here's how they break down into righties and lefties:
|Ryan Whitney||Jeff Petry|
|Nick Schultz||Corey Potter|
|Ladislav Smid||Taylor Fedun|
|Andy Sutton||Colten Teubert|
|Theo Peckham||Alex Plante|
One would think that the Oilers would like to see Martin Marincin and Brandon Davidson go to OKC in 2012-13, which means that most of the spots there are filled before any veterans are signed for the farm. Someone may have a trip to the ECHL in their future. There's no rush for recently signed Oscar Klefbom to come across the pond into this logjam.
The Oilers may need to guarantee a roster spot to Justin Schultz (a right handed shot) in order to bring him into the fold, which would already make for six NHL defenders under contract, plus Petry who will certainly be signed. Schultz would be a huge win for the Oilers, but is adding a raw rookie enough for this team? Many would say no, but there isn't any room for more.
It's not hard to see that there will probably be some movement on the backend; not only incoming but also outgoing. That's why a trade not only makes sense but is also steaming toward the realm of inevitability. And why not? If the Oilers trade for an established defenseman it would make sense to send one or two lesser lights back to fill the hole for the other team. Think of Ladislav Smid being included in the Pronger trade with Anaheim, or Jake Gardiner being part of the package for Francois Beauchemin, or any number of other examples.
The organization is strongest in left-handed shooters, so it wouldn't be a shock to see one or more of them bumped out of the line. However, if the Oilers are lucky enough to land Justin Schultz they'll have some real flexibility with their right-handers as well.
The assets are there, so it will be interesting to see how management uses them.