Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers sign Philip Kemp to a two-year extension

With the Stanley Cup Finals set between the Florida Panthers and the team that eliminated the Edmonton Oilers, the Vegas Golden Knights, the Oilers, like 29 other teams around the league, are finished with their on ice action for the 2022–23 season. Despite this, behind the scenes the Oilers are still hard at work setting their plans for next season.

In the weeks and months ahead there will be some transactions, re-signings, and draft selections as the Oilers look to improve their team. While some of these moves will be headline grabbing, even from a league wide perspective, the work involved in team building goes beyond, with many small moves crucial to the Oilers overall success as a program.

One such move of this unheralded nature was made on May 30 as the Oilers signed right shot AHL defenceman Philip Kemp to a two-year contract extension.

Kemp has been valuable for the Condors

A seventh-round pick in 2017, Kemp has never been the most heralded prospect in the Oilers system. That being said Kemp has done well for himself in becoming a valuable contributor in the AHL for the Oilers affiliate, the Bakersfield Condors. A big body at 6’3”, Kemp has been a reliable presence on the blueline for the Condors, playing with a responsible disposition that has earned the coach’s trust with some strong in zone defending.

Offensively, Kemp’s production does little to inspire NHL upside, though his six goals and 21 points in 71 games with the Condors was helpful to their cause in pushing for the playoff spot they earned this season. Kemp did most of his offensive work with functional passing ability. The six goals are notable for a defenceman, and 15 assists is respectable showing that Kemp has a degree of playmaking sense, even though limited.

This season we saw the Oilers promote a big bodied, defensive defenceman in Vincent Desharnais. Desharnais was a key part in stabilising the Oilers in defensive situations, especially when Tyson Barrie was still an Oiler. Though there were many other factors in the Oilers turning their game around, the correlation between Desharnais’ promotion and the Oilers record improving was obvious.

Kemp might provide a similar effect on the lineup some day, but such would be a best case scenario. At the very least his size fits a clear vision the Oilers have for their blueline, giving Kemp some potential to follow Desharnais’ footsteps. In some ways, thanks to his skating and strong puck skills, relative to Desharnais, there might be a bit more upside available to Kemp. It should not be overlooked, however, that being as strong defensively as Desharnais is not a given. 

Will Kemp get the NHL call up?

Although we shouldn’t ever completely rule out a player finding their way into the NHL, it is likely that Kemp will be a career AHLer. Though he may not suit up for the Oilers, Kemp can still be an important part of the Oilers operation.

In a hard cap world, one hampered and stagnated by the COVID-19 pandemic no less, each dollar is vital to constructing a strong team. One of the biggest assets in this context are players on cheap entry level deals. While drafting good players is certainly a big part of this equation, developing players is equally important to their chances at becoming valuable NHL contributors.

Kemp can be a big part of a strong Bakersfield team once again. His presence will be key in providing stability for a number of younger, more highly touted prospects likely to be a part of the Condors this season. With the likes of Xavier Bourgault, Tyler Tullio, Matvei Petrov, and even Jake Chiasson likely to be part of the Condors regular lineup, having a player of Kemp’s ilk will give them the chance to have a stable platform to operate from. One of the most crucial aspects of developing young AHLers is to have a good enough team to support them. Creating a positive environment where players are driven and focused goes a long way towards building winning habits.

Kemp’s style of play fits well with these younger players, as his defensive abilities and experience will complement a more offensive skillset rather than occupy the same space. Of course, the Condors employ some more proven AHL scorers, like Seth Griffith and Tyler Benson, who will help the likes of Petrov and Chiasson in putting up offence, but Kemp still provides some dimension to the lineup. While fellow defenceman Cam Dineen provides a strong offensive option from the blueline, Kemp’s work will be more about defending. 

In all, Kemp’s modest two-year extension at $775,000 will not have any effect on the Oilers cap while he is in the AHL. There is very little risk in this deal, essentially costing nothing but a contract slot for the Oilers.

Gregory Babinski

twitter: @axiomsofice

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