Now you might ask yourself, “Who’s this guy and why does he matter?” Well, if you need to know who he is, take a look here. The reason why Niemelainen is explicitly mentioned is he is a player whose contract converts from a two-way contract to a one-way NHL contract next season, and the problem is that Niemelainen did not establish himself as a full-time NHLer last season. He lost out on the spot first to Ryan Murray and then to Philip Broberg.
He has gotten a couple of call-ups over the last two seasons and has shown himself as a guy who can handle easy competition defensively in the bottom pairing and as a big body that can throw his weight around. That’s a fine player to have around but the problem is he’s a guy who hasn’t yet established himself as an NHL regular so unless he makes the team out of camp and stays there all season – at the very least sharing the spot with Broberg – then if you send him back down to Bakersfield and you want to bring him back up, he has to pass through waivers first, and then another team can just take him for free.
Expect Holland to sign at least one depth blueliner for next season, but Niemelainen would be a depth piece we could lose for nothing.
If Holland wants to hedge his bets he could trade the player somewhere else for a fourth or perhaps a third-round pick and replenish our draft capital in the upcoming draft as we don’t have a third-round pick in it (gone to Arizona as part of the Nick Bjugstad trade at the deadline) or a fourth-round pick (gone to Philly in the Derick Brassard deadline deal in 2022), so it certainly wouldn’t hurt things to get a pick back for those rounds. It wouldn’t be the end of the world as I’m sure Holland will sign someone to replace Jason Demers, and Cam Dineen is a decent option for callup and Phil Kemp just wrapped up his third season in Bakersfield and he’s been making waves as well, the Oilers could give him a cup of coffee at some point next season so he’s an option for call-up as well.
Holland may decide to roll the dice on Niemo but there’s also a case to be made for trading him too. We’ll see what happens.