While it's true that Edmonton's selections from the 2010 draft class are looking promising at the moment, that promise loses its meaning if you are unable to get the players under contract. So far the Oilers have signed Hall, Pitlick, Marincin, and Hamilton, the first four picks from the 2010 Oilers draft class - no small feat. However, there are still a few players the Oilers will probably look to keep within the organization, and most of them need to be signed by June 1, 2012 for the Oilers to retain them. Of those players, and for a few reasons, Ryan Martindale is probably the one most important to sign at this moment. The Oilers might really like to have Bunz and Blain under contract, but since neither is AHL eligible nor is either going to play in the NHL to start the season, there is no pressing need to sign the player.
Based on his age, Martindale is AHL eligible, and based on his performance (both last season and thus far at camp) I think one could make a case he's worth serious consideration at the AHL level this season, as opposed to a fifth season in the OHL. The carrot the Oilers can dangle to Martindale, to convince him to sign, is to have him play in the AHL in 2011/12, making 60-70K, instead of nearly nothing in junior, along with burning a year from his entry level contract. If he’s assigned to junior, unsigned, those carrots are gone, and the Oilers lose some leverage because they can offer no immediately tangible reason for Martindale as it affects his play for the 11/12 season. The fact that they didn’t sign him in the fall would have demonstrated to him that he’s a ways down the depth chart, so why would he sign with EDM when he could go back into the draft, potentially go higher, and hopefully go to a team with less forward prospect depth that he’d have to battle for future NHL employment?
It's true that the Oilers could sign Martindale even after they assign him to the OHL, but I think the Oilers would be taking a pretty serious risk by allowing him to return, unsigned, to junior.