Well the Oilers are down to their last cuts, and things come down to deciding between two players with one game left in the preseason. And thanks to some ill-advised one-way contracts, the best players may not make the team.
Cory Cross? BWah! He's already played his way off the team, at least according to most first hand accounts, usually along the lines of:
"Cross was constantly stuck behind the play and he took at least 3 penalties by my count. He's definitely not adapting to the new rules very well... I'm shocked that he some how ended up even on the night. "
Still, barring a trade he'll be on the team Oct. 5 thanks to the new waiver/salary rule in the CBA. Dan Syvret, despite playing beyond his years and outplaying more highly touted prospects in training camp (like Matt Greene) can still be sent down to the minors at no cost to the Oilers. Dan Smith will also be sent down. Take away JJ Hunter and Mike Morrison (unless he's still filling in for a injured Markkanen) and that leaves the roster at 24 players with 1 more to cut for opening night. Rita or Schremp. Lowe was asked about Rita in the Edmonton Sun:
"The kid is showing a lot of jam,'' said general manager Kevin Lowe, who doesn't want to risk losing a player who might finally be coming around.
"We're not hanging in there because he's a first round pick, we're hanging in there because he has ability. The new rules are suited for him.''
Schremp, meanwhile, has been good on the power play, but needs improvement in his five-on-five game. Will lighting it up against juniors make him any better next year?
"The risk and reward is how much does he develop here and how much does he develop in Junior,'' said Lowe. "Does it hurt his confidence to go back to junior? We've been analyzing some trends of players who have gone back to junior.''
I'm thinking they'll go with Rita, one-way contract and all. If the Oilers want to keep Schremp they'll have to make some sort of move because all of the other players are tied up in one way contracts. Even a ten game trial can't work unless someone is moved. All things being equal (Rita has been pretty good in camp), the Oilers won't risk eating salary and the kid will be sent down. Rita has never made the team and always performed below expectations, especially for a first rounder. He's young yet, but he should have never been offered a one way contract by Lowe; for one, Rita could have been sent down to the AHL while the Oilers got a better idea of whether Schremp was ready. Instead, he gets squeezed out, and possibly too soon for the Oilers to make an educated decision.
Here's the lines as they look thus far:
Harvey, Rita, Schremp