The Edmonton Oilers settled on a contract with one of their RFA’s this morning. No it wasn’t Leon Draisaitl, rather it was new left winger Joey Laleggia that has agreed to a one-year deal with the Oilers. I say new left winger because Laleggia, drafted and developed as a defender, made the switch to left wing midway through last season.
EDM settles arb case with Joey LaLeggia. One year, two-way…$700K at NHL level.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) July 12, 2017
Laleggia scored 20-18-38 in 67 games last season for Bakersfield, and was called up to the Oilers as a “black ace” during the club’s playoff run. Although Laleggia failed to get any NHL time for the second year in a row, the sophomore pro had a breakout season and arguably established himself as a real prospect for the club.
With a crowded system when it comes to defenders, Laleggia was in tough to get a new contract with the team as recently as New Year’s, but the position switch saved this player. His faults as a defender, combined with the upcoming junior players at the position, made him expendable for the organization.
When going to left wing, however, Laleggia scratched an itch for the Oilers, becoming a consistent scorer and volume shooter in the minors. In the end, Laleggia ended up being one of the better forwards in Bakersfield and has at least put himself into position to get a look at the upcoming training camp in September.
I suspect Laleggia starts the season in Bakersfield, but I think he is on the club’s radar for a recall at some point during the upcoming campaign. If he can continue to be an effective scorer in the AHL, the Oil will have no choice but to give him a chance at the NHL level to see if he can provide a boost to the secondary scoring group that struggled a year ago.
It’s possible that Laleggia simply rode a hot stretch after his position change last season, but it’s also possible that the Oilers found a way to unlock this talented player. A one-year deal is perfect for both, as the club can see if Laleggia is for real and the player can boost his value for a better, possibly one-way, deal next summer.
This move strengthens the AHL team and could end up having an impact on the NHL team down the road. Laleggia took a big step forward last season, can he keep it up and push to the NHL this season? I think he can.