Friday, May 30, 2008

Hrabal Signs With Edmonton

News today out of Oilerville that Edmonton has reached an agreement with defender Josef Hrabal and signed him to a 2-year 2-way contract. Many of you have probably never heard the name Josef Hrabal so allow me to give you a bit of background.

The Oilers drafted the Czech born rearguard (in the picture he's the player on the left wearing the dark NASCAR uniform) back in 2003 using an 8th round pick to do so. Credit should go to scout Frank Musil for finding Hrabal who had played 6 games in the top Czech men’s league during his draft year at the age of 18. Hrabal played parts of the next four years in the league before bolting for a bigger opportunity and a bigger pay cheque in Russia. There he hooked up with Severstal Cherepovets, the club he has played the last year and a half for.

Hrabal made his first appearance in Edmonton back in June of 2006 when he attended prospect camp at Rexall Place. Sitting with Kelly Buchberger that week I remember clearly how Hrabal surprised us by dominating a shootout drill with finesse moves no one was expecting.

Just three weeks ago I’d contacted Kevin Prendergast for an update on Hrabal’s contract status and this brief report is what I was given.

“He's got to be signed by June the 1st and if he's not signed then he'll become a free agent," said Kevin Prendergast, "We have made an offer and we're just waiting to hear back."

Shortly there after I received word that negotiations had fallen through and that Hrabal would indeed become a free agent June 1st. Well Something obviously changed in the last 14 days as the player and the team have reached an agreement. More on that when I get it.

Hrabal has some offensive abilities but it would be better to describe him more as a Ladislav Smid than a Denis Grebeshkov. His career high is the 13 points in 56 games (including playoffs) that he just earned this past year in Russia.

One thing the Oilers have learned over the last two injury plagued years are that you can’t have too many d-men in the system. With former UofA Golden Bears captain Harlan Anderson opting to playing in Germany next year instead of in Edmonton’s system, there is definitely room for Hrabal.

The fact that he has a 2-way contract means you can pencil him in for Springfield unless one of two things happens: he shocks the world and makes the Oielrs out of camp or he heads back to Russian instead of playing in the minor leagues of North America. I assume that the Oilers have some assurance that he won't do that but I have yet to confirm that. Keep in mind that Alexei Mikhnov had a similar deal except his was only a 1-year agreement whereas Hrabal has singed up for two.

I am still trying to confirm whether or not Hrabal will be at camp next week.

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