Yesterday, Fernando Pisani signed with the Chicago Blackhawks, crushing the (perhaps unwarranted?) hopes of many, myself included, that would see Pisani return for another season with the Oilers. Other than a need for change, it’s kind of hard to figure out why management wouldn’t have re-signed him. He seemed like a great fit for many of Edmonton’s current needs at forward. Pisani is able to kill penalties, would improve the RW depth, and provide a veteran who can handle top opposition players. Further, he’s a player that, by all accounts, is well liked and considered a good teammate - he doesn’t really seem like someone management might consider a locker room problem.
I think it would be hard to argue he’s not a better player than some of Edmonton’s current top 14F, so what exactly is going on here? Was he not willing to sign in Edmonton for 700K or so? Or did the Oilers simply decide they didn’t want to have him back? I have a hard time believing he wouldn’t have been willing to play in Edmonton – he’s from here, he’s used to the organization. If the Oilers offer him $700,000 on a one year, one way deal on August 1st, I’d have been kind of surprised if Pisani passed on it given the apparent lack of interest in him on the UFA market. But, maybe he felt he’d be able to get the type of deal he did from someone, so no rush to sign that hypothetical offer from Edmonton?
Assuming Pisani was willing to sign, I’m not really sure why Edmonton wouldn’t have signed him. If the plan is to put the best possible team on the ice and try to finish as high as you can, I’m not sure how Strudwick, Jacques, etc help you reach that goal any more than Pisani at a reasonable price, given that he fills some of the needs mentioned earlier. Tambellini has talked about how important he feels the AHL is in the development for younger players, but it sure seems like he’s leaving an easier path to the NHL for Eberle and Paajarvi* than many might. Couldn’t Pisani have helped provide depth, and given Edmonton some flexibility to send Paajarvi and/or Eberle to the AHL if they’re close, but not quite as ready as you’d like them to be?
If the plan is to throw away the season**, then I think Pisani still should have been retained because he’s a reasonable gamble as a potential player to move at the deadline. Obviously that depends on his health in addition to his performance, but it seems like a smart calculated gamble if you only have to commit a year and 700K on that sort of contract. He’s not a player that would single-handedly move EDM from last to 4th last in the standings, so I don’t know if that’s a concern given the goal of a top 3-5 draft pick in 2011. If he stays healthy and starts to play too well for your team goals (assuming management is looking to finish at the bottom of the standings), then he’s probably making himself more valuable on the trade market and easier to move.
I understand the injury concern with Pisani, but as mentioned earlier I don’t think it’s a very big concern on a one year deal $200,000 above the league minimum. If that’s the reason Edmonton avoided re-signing him, it’s even harder to figure out how they decided to commit 20 times more money over 3 extra seasons to Khabibulin only one summer earlier.
I think this was an opportunity missed for the Oilers.
* I left Hall off the list, as he’s not AHL eligible.
** And that’s starting to seem like the best explanation for this summer’s activity.
Legitimate question: What are the alternatives? My next post is titled "What is the plan?", and I'm not entirely sure I've found an answer that satisfies me, to this point.