Kris Versteeg will have to beat out a number of young players to land a spot on the Oilers roster, but he could contribute as a veteran scoring presence in the bottom-six.
Kris Versteeg’s plan this season was to play in Switzerland, more than 4,800 miles from his hometown of Lethbridge, Alta. But a change of plans could see him suiting up less than five hours away.
Versteeg, 30, was originally slated to make the jump over to the Swiss NLA for the 2015-16 campaign, but reported complications with insurance and/or his medical exam have resulted in him heading back home. Now, half a week after it was announced that he’d be returning to North America for the coming season, Versteeg has landed himself a professional tryout with the Edmonton Oilers.
According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, Versteeg and the Oilers officially agreed Friday afternoon to have him come into camp on a PTO, and it could mean Edmonton is set to inject a bit more skill into their bottom-six this coming season.
Versteeg is years removed from being the consistent 20-goal scorer he was early in his career, but he could provide some nice punch on either of the Oilers’ bottom two lines. Over the past three campaigns, he has 41 goals and 108 points while skating bottom-six minutes. He could easily be a 10-goal, 30-point player once again, especially if he finds his way into the top six on an Oilers team that does have the scoring talent.
One of the biggest difficulties for Versteeg will be working his way into the lineup, though. On both the right and left wings, the Oilers have significant depth, including youngsters such as Jesse Puljujarvi, Drake Caggiula and Anton Slepyshev. All three could block Versteeg from landing an NHL gig.
But for Versteeg, the hope has to be that the PTO can turn into a one-year deal, and his performance next season will be enough to get him a long-term deal because his career has been about as unstable as any other player in the league. Since breaking into the NHL with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2008-09, Versteeg has suited up for six different teams and been on the move almost every single season since the 2009-10 campaign.
Following the Stanley Cup win with the Blackhawks that season, Versteeg was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs, later moved to the Philadelphia Flyers and then ended up with the Florida Panthers in 2011-12. Versteeg was forced to miss nearly the entire 2012-13 campaign due to injury, and wound up back in Chicago by 2013-14. He completed a full season with the Blackhawks in 2015-16, but was shipped out to the Carolina Hurricanes ahead of 2015-16 before landing with the Los Angeles Kings to end the campaign.
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.