According to TSN, Liam Reddox will be playing in Europe instead of Edmonton (or Springfield) next season. Now, the report also indicates that the Oilers did give him a qualifying offer, which means the Oilers will retain his NHL rights until he turns twenty-seven. Jonathan Willis has indicated that he believes this is primarily a dispute over money and NHL playing time. At a guess, I think this is more about money. The main reason for this is the manner in which the story was reported. The report is that Reddox has rejected his qualifying offer, which is pretty normal. Almost all players reject their qualifying offers. The newsworthy part is that Reddox is going to play in Europe. The odd thing is that there is no indication of where exactly he's going to play. In theory, there is still plenty of time for Reddox to work out a deal with the Oilers. So why are they reporting that he's off to Europe?
Given the nature of the information, I assume that the source for the story is either Reddox or, more probably, his agent. Last year, Reddox saw both Marc Pouliot and J.F. Jacques sign one-way contracts with the Oilers for less than their qualifying offers. This guaranteed them a hefty sum of money and made it very likely that they would stick with the NHL team. I would guess that Reddox is looking for the same kind of deal (one-way at the league minimum would be a decent compromise) and that Steve Tambellini is reluctant to give it to him. As such, the threat of Europe is thrown out to the media. I feel quite confident that if Tambellini comes back with a one-way deal for Reddox that Liam will be staying in North America. The question then becomes, is it worth it?
The following chart is organized according to AHL points per game and is the sum total of each player's numbers over the last two seasons:
As we can see, Reddox has pretty good numbers compared to other players of similar age within the organization. All of these players are very good at the AHL level. The only player with more NHL games over the last two seasons is Gilbert Brule and Reddox has him beat in terms of offense (and probably defence too) at both the AHL and NHL level. If the Oilers have chosen Brule for a one-way deal over Reddox, it's probably a case of draft pedigree winning out over performance. It may also be an indication of management's preference for more physical players, which Tambellini indicated as an off-season priority. Since no new players have been signed, I imagine that more physical players could be given a greater opportunity to win a job out of camp. Good news for Ryan Stone and Gilbert Brule. Bad news for Rob Schremp, Ryan Potulny and Liam Reddox. Without the financial guarantee of a one-way deal, I can see why Reddox was nervous about his job security.
Given that it was one of management's priorities to improve the AHL club this year, losing Reddox hurts is a significant blow. If there are going to be two players moving up from last season's AHL club, the signing of Chris Minard will not be enough to make up for the loss in the forward ranks. Some people may suggest that losing Reddox will save the Oilers one of their 50 contracts (NHL teams can have a maximum of 50 players signed at any one time) but this probably isn't the case. With Reddox gone, the Oilers will need to go out and replace him with someone of similar quality. Presumably, that player will want a two-way contract. If that's the case, the Oilers do not save a contract but do save between $300,000 and $500,000. From an Oilers perspective, I imagine that's what this is about.