Anton Lander Reassigned to OKC After One Game


Anton Lander was demoted to the AHL OKC Barons, the Oilers affiliate. It happened immediately after the game was over. Looking at comments on social media and message boards, this move left many scratching their heads. The move is even more confusing because Anton Lander was brought in to play in place of rookie Leon Draisaitl, who was a healthy scratch against Dallas. Craig MacTavish somehow decided it was more productive for Leon to sit in the press box than to play significant minutes leading Team Germany at the World Juniors in Montreal and Toronto.

Here’s the tweet from the official Oilers account:

You will notice the time stamp that read “8:30 pm”, which is 7:30 pm in our time zone. The game was over at 7:00 pm, so there wasn’t really much time for Craig MacTavish and Todd Nelson to discuss and make a decision on Lander based on performance. Furthermore, Nelson was speaking of Lander like business as usual during his post game presser. Based on this evidence, it is likely the decision to return Lander to OKC was part of the plan since he was recalled. Looking at the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL Players Association and the NHL, time seemed to be of the essence.

Here’s section G of ARTICLE 16 16.9-16.11 of the CBA:

"(g) A Player placed on the Injured Reserve List will be ineligible to compete in NHLGames for a period of not less than seven (7) days from the date of the injury, illness or disability for which the Player was placed on the Injured Reserve List. A Player will be eligible for activation to play in NHL Games beginning on the 8th day following the date of injury, illness or disability for which the Player was placed on the Injured Reserve List or any day thereafter that the Player is medically cleared to play by the Club physician. The Club must notify Central Registry, the NHLPA and the Player, in accordance with Exhibit 3, of its intent to activate a Player who is on the Injured Reserve List, or to remove the designation of Injured Non-Roster, prior to the Player playing in an NHL Game by way of a verification signed by the Club physician, and countersigned by a Club executive, attached as Exhibit 28-B. This form must be received by Central Registry, the NHLPA and the Player, all in accordance with Exhibit 3, on the day the Club activates the Player to play and, upon Central Registry’s receipt of such verification, the Player will be officially removed from the Injured Reserve List or have the designation ofInjured Non-Roster removed."

As of this writing the Oilers are with 22 healthy players and 2 on injured reserve (Benoit Puliot and Nikita Nikitin), or are they? The CBA section quoted above states that a day-to-day player is not eligible to return for a minimum of 7 days. What I didn’t understand was if once those 7 days have expired the player can come back at any time or the team has to renew the 7 day period. If it’s the latter, then, depending on the time zone and the time the paperwork was filed by the Oilers to the NHL offices, Nikitin would be coming out of the injured reserve list sometime yesterday (Sunday). His injured reserve time kicked in sometime during December 7th. If he is healthy and wasn’t going to be put back on the injured list, then something had to give, because the team would be one player over the limit. This scenario would explain why Lander was reassigned in such haste. Anton Lander however, would have to clear waivers or would he?

This is section D of ARTICLE 16 16.4-16.5 of the CBA:

"(d)Holiday Roster Freeze.(i) For all Players on an NHL Active Roster, Injured Reserve, or Players withNon-Roster and Injured Non-Roster status as of 11:59 p.m. local time onDecember 19, a roster freeze shall apply through 12:01 a.m. local timeDecember 28, with respect to Waivers, Trades and Loans; provided,however, that Players may be Recalled to NHL Clubs during this periodand, provided further, that if a Player is placed on Regular Waivers priorto the roster freeze period and is claimed during such roster freeze period,the roster freeze period shall not apply and the Player shall immediatelyreport to the claiming Club. However, during the roster freeze period aClub can make any Player transactions necessary for the Club to come intocompliance with Article 50 as a result of a Player being removed from theBona-Fide Long-Term Injury/Illness Exception.(ii) Notwithstanding Section 16.5(d)(i), a Player on emergency Recall may beLoaned during the roster freeze period and a Player who was Recalledafter December 11 may be Loaned through 11:59 p.m. local time onDecember 23, provided such Player is not required to be placed onWaivers during the roster freeze period in order to effectuate such Loan."

What I understand from this section is that during the roster freeze between Dec. 19 and Dec 27th, teams can make recalls if they are men short on their rosters and then can send them back without having to expose them to waivers. I may be wrong, the wording is a bit vague, or I just didn’t get it. So recalling Lander at this time was perfect because he would not be exposed to waivers. The recall then looks more like a Christmas present and recognition from Nelson to Lander. MacTavish got a chance to see the swede up close in a regular season game for the first time in his career.

With the roster freeze now the brass has time to evaluate options concerning Leon, who’s approaching the 39th game line in the sand that would rob the Oilers of an extra year of control over the player. One could see Lander’s cameo as MacTavish having the inclination to send Drai back to junior since the situation with the Prince Albert Raiders has become more fluid   and they might trade his junior rights to a better team. The Raiders are currently 9th in their conference.

The scenario described in this post is the only reasonable way I could find to explain the seemingly bizarre moves regarding Anton Lander this weekend. Given the tradition of questionable decisions though, unless the Oilers give an official explanation, anything is possible.