Over the weekend it was announced that former Oilers’ defenseman Ryan Whitney was given an invitation to attend the St. Louis Blues training camp. Mason Raymond, another free-agent looking for work, was later extended the same invite from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
With the training camp invite, it’s a simple one. Play your best and prove to the management that you deserve a contract and a roster spot or pack your bags and wait for the phone to ring……again. In reality, the team that offers the invite has almost nothing to lose. So why don’t the Oilers consider inviting a pair of centremen to camp with the notion of potentially having a viable option up the middle until Ryan Nugent-Hopkins returns.
The first that comes to mind is Manny Malhotra, formerly of the Vancouver Canucks. At 33-years of age, Malhotra is recovering from a serious eye injury that limited him to just 9 games last season, where he was held pointless.
Providing Malhotra can completely recover from his injury, he could be worth a tryout and serve as a potential centerman, something the Oilers are short on.
When looking at Malholtra’s Wikipedia page it was written that during the 2011-12 season his role with the Canucks diminished greatly, thanks to the eye injury. But it’s worth nothing that it was mentioned he finished the season with a faceoff winning percentage of 58.5% and was relied upon to take key defensive zone draws. He was also used on the penalty kill, something he’s awlays excelled at.
It’s easy to write Malhotra off due to the eye injury and who knows if he’ll ever play in the NHL again. But if he can prove that his vision is strong enough to compete on the ice, why not extend an invite to him and have him attend the Oilers camp? Again, there is very little to lose on the Oilers behalf and should he play well enough that garners a contract, then the Oilers may have their centerman until Nugent-Hopkins returns.
If he can’t regain his form or his vision is truly that bad to the point where he can’t compete to the level that is required, the Oilers management can merely thank him for his time and wish him the best.
Connolly is a natural centre who can produce offensively when given the chance. Last season with the Maple Leafs he was placed on waivers and after he went unclaimed, he was summoned to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL.
The year prior with the buds Connolly scored 13 goals and added 26 assists in 70 games. His best year’s were in Buffalo from 2008-10 where he scored a combined 35 goals and 77 assists in 121 games. Solid numbers that led to the Leafs signing him as a free-agent in 2011.
His production has dropped off and his age is climbing to the point where he doesn’t have many years left in the league. His outrageous cap hit of $4.75 million last season was a detriment in moving him, hence the demotion to the minors.
Here again is a case of a veteran who could add value to the Oilers, should he prove worthy of a roster spot. Have him earn his way on to the team by competing in training camp for a contract. If he can’t cut the mustard, like Malhotra, it’s thanks for coming, but we’re going in a different direction.
If other clubs around the league are trying it with free-agents who have yet to find a home, why shouldn’t the Oilers? With the club obviously lacking centre depth, having a veteran or two in camp that could potentially help the team isn’t a bad idea. It’s not as though they’d be wasting millions of dollars, only to have them sit in the press box for half of the year.
Agree or disagree? Leave your comments below and let us know what you think.