Oilers expected to send Draisaitl back to WHL

The Edmonton Oilers went big with the third pick in the NHL draft by selecting German centre Leon Draisaitl (Matt Slocum/AP)

Leon Draisaitl’s rookie season in the National Hockey League should soon be over.
Sportsnet has learned that it is highly likely the Edmonton Oilers will assign Draisaitl back to junior in the Western Hockey League on Saturday, if not sooner.
The move would end a debate that has gone on since the German centre, chosen third overall in the 2014 draft, made the Oiler roster out of training camp, ostensibly due to an organizational void at centre ice. Although the Prince Alberta Raiders own Draisaitl’s junior rights, he will almost certainly end up in Kelowna, where the Rockets recently traded for Raiders defenceman and Winnipeg draft pick Josh Morrissey, in a push to win the Memorial Cup this season.
The Oilers would like to see Draisaitl join a contender in the WHL playoff race — likely Kelowna, but if not a top team like Brandon or Medicine Hat — even if his rights are not traded ahead of the Saturday deadline faced by Edmonton.
The Raiders are believed to be ready to announce Draisaitl’s trade to Kelowna. Swiss import Kris Schmidli — who scored for the Swiss at the IIHF World Junior Championship on Tuesday — and a high draft pick are expected to go back to Prince Albert.
The Canadian Hockey League trade deadline is January 10. Any trade involving Schmidli, however, can not be announced until Switzerland is eliminated from the World Junior tournament. That could be as early as Friday or Saturday, depending on the Swiss team’s performance.
Complicating matters is the Saturday deadline faced by Edmonton.
Should Draisaitl be on the Oiler roster as of Sunday, when Edmonton plays game No. 40 on its schedule, this season will count as Draisaitl’s first “Accrued Season” under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. After seven “Accrued Seasons” a player becomes eligible for unrestricted free agency.
If Draisaitl is returned to junior after having spent only 39 games on an NHL roster — by end of day Saturday — Draisaitl’s next NHL season will be his first, when it comes to “Accrued Seasons” for free agency.
Draisaitl already burned the first year of his entry-level contract when he played his 10th game this season. But from a cap management standpoint, the 40-game mark is more substantial.
Draisaitl had two goals and seven points in 35 games heading into Tuesday’s game against Los Angeles. He was minus-18, tied for second-worst on the Oilers.
The Oilers could have sent Draisaitl to the World Junior tournament, but opted not to as he has already played in two World Juniors for Germany. Playing him through NHL games tonight and Wednesday, then sending him back to Prince Albert to await a trade is the option the Oilers are expected to choose.