Adam Erne, Edmonton Oilers, Key Post, Markus Niemelainen, Raphael Lavoie

Explaining the Oilers Odd Waiver Moves On Sunday

In an unexpected turn of events, the Edmonton Oilers made some surprising waiver decisions on Sunday, raising eyebrows and concerns among a section of the fan base. The team placed Raphael Lavoie, Ben Gleason, and Lane Pederson on waivers, prompting a wave of reactions from the hockey community. While some fans are expressing frustration and fear over these moves, the Oilers had little choice but to take this risk due to their current roster situation.

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Untimely injuries and the salary cap greatly affected what the Oilers did. Fans don’t have to like it, but they should probably try to understand it before losing their collective minds. In fact, there’s a pretty good chance all three players will clear, making this nervousness unnecessary.

Markus Niemelainen Is Injured

One key factor in these decisions revolves around defenseman Markus Niemelainen. Speculations suggest Niemelainen might be injured, complicating the Oilers’ roster maneuvering. Injured players like Niemelainen cannot be sent down, and given his one-way contract, his full cap hit counts against the team’s cap while he remains sidelined. This situation creates a salary cap puzzle for the Oilers, making it difficult for them to retain promising prospects like Lavoie and stay within the NHL’s salary cap limits.

Markus Niemelainen Edmonton Oilers
Markus Niemelainen, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Placing Niemelainen on Injured Reserve isn’t a straightforward solution. Jason Gregor of Oilers Nation writes:

For those wondering why they wouldn’t just put him on LTIR today? First off, a doctor has to put their reputation on the line, saying he is that injured. Despite what some think, players aren’t placed on LTIR on a whim. They are placed there when the doctor is confident the player will be out 24 days or 10 games.

The Oilers are expected to monitor Niemelainen’s progress closely, potentially placing him on LTIR if his injury proves more severe than initially anticipated.

The Lavoie Situation Might Not Be a Situation

Despite the anxiety brewing among fans, it’s crucial to assess these waiver moves rationally. The biggest fear on Sunday is that a team will claim Raphael Lavoie. Frankly, it’s probably 50/50, but someone might. Sportsnet’s Eric Engles weighed in on Lavoie’s situation, highlighting the player’s potential but also acknowledging the challenging circumstances. Lavoie’s preseason performance was decent, but he didn’t stand out significantly, making his waiver exposure a matter of debate.

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That said, fans tend to overvalue prospects within their organizations, and while Lavoie is a talented player, he’s facing tough competition within the Oilers’ lineup. The team’s primary focus is winning, and unproven rookies often struggle to make a significant impact during the playoffs, a period when experience and reliability are paramount. The Oilers chose to stick with a player like Mattias Janmark because they know what he is.

Occasionally, even strong teams face the unfortunate situation of losing valuable players on waivers. It’s disheartening to potentially part ways with a player you nurtured and groomed, but if claimed, losing Lavoie is not going to make or break the Oilers’ season.

What About Adam Erne?

Other fans wondered why Adam Erne was still on the team at the expense of the players who were waived on Sunday. Yes, Erne remains with a Professional Tryout (PTO) contract, but there’s a reason that the decision wasn’t made on Sunday. There will likely be a move made on Erne in the next 24 hours. Gregor added the Oilers will know more tomorrow when they find out the availability of Ryan McLeod, Brett Kulak, and Mattias Ekholm.

Related: Oilers Goaltenders in a Battle for No. 1 Role

Moreover, there could be a lot more movement on this roster, especially if McLeod isn’t ready. Philip Broberg doesn’t require waivers and Edmonton could then decide to sign Erne. He could sign a new contract tomorrow (a one or two-way deal), be placed on waivers, and not count on the 21-man roster.

In essence, the Oilers’ waiver moves, while anxiety-inducing for fans, reflect the intricate balancing act teams face in managing their rosters, cap space, and player development. Edmonton likely didn’t want to do what they did on Sunday. The team didn’t have much choice.

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