When Oilers General Manager Craig Mactavish hit his first ever free agency, many were hoping for the big splash, the signing that could change the tide for the struggling copper and blue. It never really happened, despite the astute signings of Boyd Gordon and Andrew Ference. The signing of former New York Islander Jesse Joensuu certainly wasn’t the one fans were waiting for, and left many asking who this young fellow was, as his experience in the NHL isn’t too plentiful.
Craig Mactavish likely didn’t have superstar outcomes in mind for Joensuu when he signed him. He was a big body who had acheived decent success as a grinding, third line type player in the AHL with the Bridgeport Tigers. He recieved a few callups from the Islanders, but he never gelled in their line up. In fairness to the player, though, he got his start on a team out of contention with multiple line up changes that likely made it hard to adapt. No one is quite sure what they put in Garth Snow‘s coffee but it isn’t common sense.
The Oilers felt they might be able to find some life in this player and at the very least was being viewed as a tough minutes forward who, with a little improvement, could see more ice time. Instead, his season here was riddled with injury and inconsistencies, many of which were team wide. It’s tough to blame Joensuu for having a less than stellar Oiler debut when the whole year was rife with problems. Some veteran players like Ryan Jones fared worse in some ways, so perhaps there is life left in this contract.
Joensuu is signed to a two year contract, a vote of confidence from management at the outset of his time here. However, the summer will reveal a new crop of free agents, and the draft could see some personnel movement as well. Additionally, training camp almost always breeds a surprise or two and could see additions and subtractions that could leave Joensuu on the outside looking in.
OIL ON WHYTE OUTLOOK: If he has a strong camp, he has a chance of making the roster. The safe money is on Joensuu being waived before the regular season starts. Players who get hurt and only score six points in 42 games aren’t a hot commodity.