Although there is talk of Kailer Yamamoto or Jesse Puljujarvi being traded this summer, we can say with certainty that both players, along with Ryan McLeod, will receive qualifying offers from the Edmonton Oilers.
Those are Edmonton’s top restricted free agents, but what about the rest?
Two of the Oilers’ RFAs have already signed deals abroad, as defender Filip Berglund and winger Ostap Safin have decided to continue, leaving Ken Holland and company to make decisions on two middle players before the July 11 player rating deadline. Brendan Perlini and Tyler Benson are forwards with draft pedigree and impressive AHL numbers who have yet to discover it at the NHL level. Will they come back?
When the Arizona Coyotes selected Brendan Prelini with the No. 12 overall pick in the 2014 draft, he seemed like a perfect prospect as he featured a great body, strong skating and goal-scoring ability. In his first season as a professional in 2016-17, Perlini scored 14 goals in 17 games in the AHL, earning a cap and scoring 14 goals in 57 games in the NHL.
Since that rookie season, Perlini has been unable to establish himself at the NHL level. He scored 17 goals in 2017-18 and then was part of a midseason trade in 2018-19 that sent Jordan Schmaltz to Arizona and Dylan Strome to Chicago. Perlini scored 12 goals in 46 games for the Blackhawks after the trade, but then failed to break into the lineup in 2019-20 and requested to be moved.
The Detroit Red Wings sent Alec Regula, a quality defensive prospect, to Chicago to give Perlini his change of scenery. Since this is Detroit, it’s important to note that this was a Steve Yzerman deal, as Ken Holland had already joined the Oilers at the time.
Perlini scored one goal in 39 games with the Wings and did not receive a qualifying offer. He went abroad and spent a season in the Swiss top league and scored nine goals and 16 points in 21 games. The Oilers gave him a one-year, two-way deal the following summer.
Lamborghini received a lot of publicity in training camp, as Perlini scored five goals in five preseason games, but as with Ty Rattie and others in the past, the performance did not translate into the regular season. Perlini scored four goals in 23 games and possibly the most memorable part of his season was when his mom said she saw on twitter that he had been fired before the team broke the news to him.
Perlini did well with the Bakersfield Condors, scoring 11 goals and 18 points in 18 games, but did not look back with the major league club.
Given his pedigree and draft talent, someone is sure to give Perlini a look in the NHL next season, and it wouldn’t be a mistake for the Oilers to bring him back as a depth player. But there are names like this floating around in free agency every summer and it wouldn’t be a surprise for the Oilers to let Perlini go and cheat someone else.
The Oilers made a controversial decision with the 32nd overall pick in 2016. Rather than take Carter Hart, who would have fit an organizational need, or Alex DeBrincat, who thrived playing alongside Connor McDavid in the OHL, the Oilers they opted to select Tyler Benson, a highly touted local product whose career had been slowed by injuries.
It wasn’t a totally off-the-board pick, as Benson was ranked as high as No. 14 overall heading into the draft, but the concern was that the Oilers were being swept up in the hype of a local prodigy. Benson set the Alberta Bantam AAA scoring record in 2012-13 when he scored 57 goals and 146 points in 33 games. He was No. 1 overall in the WHL Bantam Draft the following spring.
Benson had a good rookie year with the Vancouver Giants, as he had 14 goals and 45 points in 62 games, but his draft season was derailed due to injury and he scored only 28 points in 30 games. Despite that, the Oilers bowed and took him with their second pick in the draft.
The problems with Benson on his draft day are the same problems that keep him from becoming an NHL regular six years later. While he has incredible vision and playmaking talent, Benson doesn’t have the skating ability to keep up with a fast-paced game at the NHL level.
Benson pulled the Oilers out of training camp in part because he was eligible for exemption. He was in and out of the lineup, rarely used outside of a fourth-row role and had a goal and an assist in 29 games before being placed on waivers in March. Though he worked hard to carve out a role as a troublemaker, Benson never really got much fame in a skill line with Dave Tippett or Jay Woodcroft.
Last summer was the end of Benson’s entry-level contract and he returned with a one-year deal worth $750k. He’s a restricted free agent again and it’s hard to say if the Oilers are willing to commit another year to see if Benson can find a role in the NHL.
Regardless of where he might fit on an NHL roster, the Condors might also be too loaded down the wings for Benson to return. AHL veterans James Hamblin, Luke Esposito, Seth Griffith and Brad Malone are in the mix, Raphael Lavoie will seek a bigger role and the team will see an influx of young talent like Carter Savoie, Tyler Tullio, Xavier Bourgault and possibly Matvei Petrov. turn professional.
Tyler Benson has shown all he can in the AHL and if the Oilers aren’t interested in giving him the good looks of an NHL member in a role that suits his skill set, they might as well just cut ties and give you a chance to catch up. with another organization.