The Edmonton Oilers made a relatively minor roster move on Sunday but according to one Oilers insider it may be the precursor to a more significant move.
According to a report from Sportsnet's Oilers insider Mark Spector, the Oilers have made the move to send rookie forward Tyler Benson back down to the American Hockey League after just 2 games played at the National Hockey League level. Benson, a 21 year old winger, had no points in his appearances for the Oilers and finished his brief stint with the team with a plus minus rating of -1. The former 2nd round pick (32nd overall) at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft saw little action during his time with the Oilers and it seems unlikely that, barring any injuries, he will return to the NHL roster during the regular season.
Although this move in and of itself is not particularly newsworthy, Spector appears to believe that this move hints at a significant return for the Oilers. Spector believes that the decision to send Benson back down "likely" means that veteran forward James Neal is ready to make his return to action following a foot injury that has kept him on the sidelines. This would mark Neal's first return back to action since missing 5 games due to that foot injury, and the timing does very much suggest that his return is imminent. Benson was initially called up to the roster shortly after it was revealed that Neal had been injured, so it would make sense that Neal's return here is the motivating factor behind Benson being sent back down.
Neal has appeared in 50 games for the Oilers this season and has produced offensively with 19 goals and 10 assists for 29 total points, but his plus minus rating of -21 is not a pretty one. If Neal is indeed back in the lineup for the Oilers then the next time he will play will be this upcoming Tuesday when the Oilers face off against the Chicago Blackhawks. It will be a huge game for a team that currently sits just 1 point out of first place in their division, and they will be hoping that Neal can continue to produce offense for them as they look for that all important win.