Earlier this evening, the Edmonton Oilers announced that they have recalled defenseman Markus Niemelainen from the Bakersfield Condors of the AHL and in turn, loaned forward Brad Malone to Bakersfield. This gives Edmonton an active roster with twelve forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies now, two less players than the 23-man limit.
The swapping of players did appear expected, with The Athletic’s Daniel Nugent-Bowman reporting that expectation yesterday. Operating with 21 of 23 skaters is a challenge for any team, but does allow the Oilers, who are currently using $7.103MM out of $7.117MM of available LTIR, to stay cap compliant. Having the extra player on the roster is of course some element of insurance, one that the Florida Panthers for example, are without, leading them to dress only 17 skaters this evening. To that point, having that 19th skater be a defenseman is key in the event another Oilers defenseman were to come down with injury. Should that happen, Niemelainen could seamlessly slide into the lineup. But, had it been Malone in that situation, the team would be forced to play a forward on defense, or go with an uncomfortable thirteen forwards and five defensemen lineup.
Malone has played in both of Edmonton’s games to date this season, failing to record a point. He played in just eight games for the Oilers last season, but had a solid 39 points in 52 games for Bakersfield. Should Malone once again become a regular member of their lineup, they should be able to count on strong production from their long-time forward.
Niemelainen, like Malone, has played in two games this season, though both with Bakersfield, recording an assist in the process. The hulking 6’6″ defenseman made his NHL debut the Oilers last season, tallying just one point in 20 games. With the call-up, the 24-year-old could get an opportunity to earn more NHL minutes and continue his development at this level.