Last spring the Edmonton Oilers executed one of the more interesting transactions in recent history. The team signed Swedish defenseman Joel Persson to a one-year entry-level contract, but immediately assigned him back to the SHL for the 2018-19 season. The team was basically buying his rights moving forward, while leaving Persson to play for his regular team for the duration of the entry-level deal. The 24-year old would become a restricted free agent at the end of this season, but the Oilers would own his exclusive negotiating rights. Now the team has signed Persson to a one-year extension, and Cap Friendly reports the deal is worth $1MM. Despite having never played in the NHL, this contract is not limited by the entry-level salary restrictions.
Persson turned a lot of heads last season when he exploded onto the SHL scene with 34 points in 51 games. That was good enough for second among all defensemen only behind Lawrence Pilut, who then left for the Buffalo Sabres for 2018-19. With Pilut gone, Persson is now king in the SHL and is tied for the league lead among defensemen with 23 points through 36 games. His 19 assists rank sixth among any position.
There is a chance that the offensive defenseman could play some games for the Oilers this season, but an extension like this almost guarantees that he will see North American ice in 2019-20. Whether he can carve out a role on the powerplay with Edmonton is still to be seen, but the young defenseman has all the skills necessary to be a contributor with the man advantage.
The Oilers still have six other defensemen on one-way contracts for next season, but given the injury struggles of players like Andrej Sekera and performance issues by others like Brandon Manning and Matt Benning, there will certainly be an opportunity in Edmonton. Whether Persson is the answer to that won’t be known until he starts playing against NHL competition, but adding a 24-year old defensemen with plenty of offensive skill is never a bad idea. At worst, his cap hit would be completely buried in the minor leagues.