After returning from Switzerland due to apparent insurance issues, the Edmonton Oilers announced that they have inked veteran winger Kris Versteeg to a professional try-out deal. TSN’s Darren Dreger was first to report that Versteeg was heading to Edmonton.
Versteeg scored 15 goals and 38 points in 77 games split between Carolina and Los Angeles. He plays a gritty game, despite being on the small side for the current NHL at 5’11, 176 lbs.
The two-time Stanley Cup champion (both with Chicago) slots in behind only Jordan Eberle on the Oilers’ right wing depth chart, and would give fourth overall pick Jesse Puljujärvi a challenge to make the team out of camp. The Oilers are often criticized for rushing young players to fill gaping holes in their roster, like Justin Schultz and Leon Draisaitl. While Draisaitl turned it around with 51 points in his sophomore year, Schultz is now a bottom-pairing or depth defenseman after entering the league with much higher expectations. Starting Puljujärvi in the AHL would help him get acquainted with the North American game.
Looking at the players Versteeg will be competing with on the starboard side: Eberle and Puljujärvi are likely the top two guys on the depth chart for the better part of the next decade. Both have three years left on their contracts. Other than them, Nail Yakupov, Zack Kassian, and Iiro Pakarinen each are entering contract years, but none scored more than Yakupov’s 8 goals and 23 points in 2015-16. Versteeg also is comfortable on the left side, which would give the Oilers some flexibility to move lines around throughout the year.
The Oilers will also have Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Draisaitl away at the World Cup for the beginning of training camp, so Versteeg will help fill out the pre-season roster veteran quota.