Worst Oilers team ever? Edmonton fans starting to ponder the possibility

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When thinking about the woes of the Edmonton Oilers this year, a very young team surrounded with veteran parts that are a mix of successful and abysmal, you wonder just how someone thought it was going to work out this year. Sure, with the influx of talent like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Magnus Paajarvi there was some thought and hope that they’d all be able to become instant success stories and help the Oilers to fight for a playoff spot.

As things go in the NHL, the best hopes and dreams are often dashed quickly. Hall has been solid but took a while to find his way on such rough team. Eberle has been the best of the bunch while Magnus Paajarvi took even longer than Hall to find his stride. Veterans Dustin Penner and Ales Hemsky have been solid while captain Shawn Horcoff has struggled through injuries to try and be the team’s top center.

Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal looks at things with the Oilers with a cold, harsh dose of reality for how the Oilers are doing this season and he wonders, even in spite of the youthful hope on the ice, if this is the worst Oilers team in franchise history.

The all-time points low is 60 in ’92-93 when Ted Green had 41 players tug on an Oilers jersey. Current Oilers’ TV colourman Louie DeBrusk was on that team. So were Steve Rice, Dave Maley, Joe Beranek. They didn’t have one player with even 50 points in an 84-game season, not the current 82. The goalies Billy Ranford and Ron Tugnutt were fine, but the team couldn’t beat the Sisters of the Poor.

This year’s team has 40 points in 56 games. Doing the math, they’ll have to win 10 of the last 26 to get to 60 points. How are they supposed to do that in the ultra-competitive Western Conference where only three teams–Edmonton, Colorado and St. Louis–look to be out of the playoff race? How are they supposed to do that when they have 16 wins in their first 56? They have 20 games left against Western Conference teams. They have  10 wins against the West all season. They’ve won two in their own Northwest Division in 13 games.

Yes, things are that bad and already talk has begun of just who the Oilers will look at when they’re near or at the top of the 2011 NHL Draft. After cleaning up in recent years with forwards and with the number of issues they’ve found for themselves on defense, blue line prospects will get looked at heavily and Swedish defenseman Adam Larsson will most likely be the top one available. There’s no doubt that if the Oilers can grab him they will.

Fellow basement dweller Ottawa is their main threat for the top pick in the draft but the Oilers can take a bit of solace in knowing that the Sens have plenty of prospects waiting in the wings on defense. I suppose if there’s a silver lining to be had in what’s essentially a lost season, it’s that the Oilers can at least look ahead to continuing to make the team better through the draft. It’s a trick they’ve had to get used to the last few seasons and until those youngsters begin to mature, it’s how things are going to continue in the great white north.

Habs sign Mark Streit — is he Markov’s replacement?

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The Montreal Canadiens have signed 39-year-old defenseman Mark Streit to a one-year contract worth a reported $700,000.

This will actually be Streit’s second stint with the Habs. He started his NHL career in Montreal, all the way back in 2005.

Streit split last season between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In the playoffs, he only appeared in three games for the Penguins, all of them in the Eastern Conference Final against Ottawa when Justin Schultz was hurt.

What the Streit signing means for Andrei Markov remains to be seen. Streit, like Markov, can run a power play, so it’s tempting to conclude that Streit is Markov’s replacement.

That being said, almost all of Streit’s contract could be buried in the AHL if necessary, so that conclusion may be premature. This could even be a move by GM Marc Bergevin to gain leverage and convince Markov to sign.

Markov, 38, remains an unrestricted free agent. The Canadiens want him back, but only at a certain price.

Devils give Mirco Mueller two-year extension

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The New Jersey Devils have signed defenseman Mirco Mueller to a two-year contract extension with a cap hit of $850,000.

Mueller, a first-round draft pick of the Sharks in 2013, has only played 54 NHL games, scoring two goals with four assists. In June, after spending most of 2016-17 in the AHL, San Jose traded the 22-year-old to the Devils.

In New Jersey, Mueller should get a good chance to crack a rebuilding roster.

“Mirco is adding another piece to what we’re trying to build here,” Devils coach John Hynes said, per NJ.com. “He’s a young player, he can play with pace. He’s a very good skater. He’s got size, which is something we need on the back end. He makes a good first pass. He allows you to get out of your own zone because he can break out, he can end plays defensively, get possession, make the pass to be able to transition yourself out of defensive situations.”

The Devils have also re-signed goalie Scott Wedgewood and forward Joseph Blandisi.

Rangers lock up Zibanejad for next five years

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The New York Rangers have locked up a key piece of their future, signing center Mika Zibanejad to a five-year deal with a cap hit of $5.35 million.

Zibanejad had an arbitration hearing scheduled for today, but that won’t be required anymore.

The 24-year-old had 14 goals and 23 assists in 56 games last season. It was his first year in New York after getting traded from Ottawa for Derick Brassard.

With Derek Stepan in Arizona now, Zibanejad is arguably the Rangers’ No. 1 center. Kevin Hayes is in that conversation as well, and perhaps Lias Andersson will be soon.

But getting Zibanejad signed long term was a top priority for GM Jeff Gorton this offseason. Hayes can become a restricted free agent next summer, but that’s a bridge to cross at a later date.

Related: Andersson to get ‘every opportunity’ to make Rangers next season

Avalanche reportedly settle with Nieto, avoiding arbitration

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Matt Nieto won’t need his arbitration hearing on Monday.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Nieto has agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract with the Colorado Avalanche.

Nieto split last season between San Jose and Colorado, which claimed him off waivers in January.

In 43 games for the Avalanche, the 24-year-old forward scored seven goals with four assists.

Nieto was the only Colorado player on this summer’s arbitration list. However, the Avs still have a restricted free agent in Nikita Zadorov, who could be off to the KHL next season.