July 11 2014 02:14AM
On Thursday, Fox Sports’ Andy Strickland reported that free agent winger David Moss had a tentative deal in place with a team in Switzerland. The caveat was that he had an out clause if he could land an NHL contract in the next week.
It’s a unique situation, and I can’t help wondering if it’s one that should interest the Oilers.
There are two big items working against a deal between Moss and the Oilers: his age (he’s 32) and Edmonton’s sudden depth on the wings. We’ll take the second in a moment, but let’s see if his positives offset the first before we get to fit.
Moss is a right-shooting winger who can play on either side of the ice. He’s been a pretty good possession player basically forever. He’s big (6’4”, 210 pounds). He had a lot of success on a defensive minutes line with Boyd Gordon in 2012-13; neither player has been as good separated from the other. He has some legitimate scoring ability, too; he’s been a 30-point guy when healthy for most of his career, though he dipped to 22 points last season. He’s also an exceptional penalty-killer.
In short, he’s been a pretty good third-line guy for a while and might be able to handle the job again; worst case scenario he might be a very nice fit (again) on the right wing of a defensive zone specialty line centered by Gordon.
Presumably, he’s not looking at a massive deal in Switzerland, so one imagines the dollars would be reasonable on a one-year deal.
The Depth Chart
Most of the Oilers’ depth chart (aside from the black hole at centre) is settled, but fourth-line right wing is one of the most interesting positions on the team because the options are many and varied and it isn’t at all clear who will win the slot. Leaving aside badly out-of-position candidates (Matt Hendricks, Anton Lander, Luke Gazdic) the internal possibilities include:
- Mark Arcobello: I suspect the Oilers add a centre and give Draisaitl a nine-game audition, which would push Arcobello into this slot or one of the spare forward spots. He’s a smart player with faceoff ability so despite a lack of size this isn’t necessarily a terrible slot for him.
- Jesse Joensuu: 6’4”, 210 pounds and nobody’s going to care if he can’t score if he’s playing on the fourth line. He might end up in the minors but he showed well in camp a year ago and shouldn’t be written off. If Arcobello ends up at centre (or the Oilers want size here) he’s got a legitimate shot.
- Tyler Pitlick: He was a significant draft pick (No. 31 overall in 2010), he’s no longer shielded from waivers and he looked okay in 10 games last year. He’s a contender for this spot.
- Steve Pinizzotto: I wonder. He’s a nasty player and a two-way guy in the AHL (including on the penalty kill) with a mix of offensive and defensive ability. Age (he turned 30 in April) and career arc (18 career NHL games) say ‘no’ but this is a player-type the Oilers love and this is probably his last best chance to crack an NHL roster. If it comes down to a choice between the endlessly injured/forever frustrating duo of Joensuu/Pitlick or a driven Pinizzotto than the AHL journeyman just might win the job.
In the Oilers shoes, I wouldn’t be worried about losing any of those right wings (though I also wouldn’t be terribly worried giving one of them an NHL shot in a fourth-line role). The one concern would be if the Oilers add a centre and keep Draisaitl all year; that would likely force the team to expose either Arcobello or Lander to the waiver wire, which while not catastrophic would be suboptimal (though LTIR is always available to help resolve those problems).
By my count, the Oilers 50-man list will be at 46 names once Draisaitl is signed (assuming Nurse is returned to junior and all the RFAs other than Horak and Larsen are retained). Even assuming they add a centre without moving a name out, signing Moss would put them at a tight but not unbearable 48 names entering training camp.
As I See It
On a cheap one-year deal, Moss wouldn’t be a bad pickup. The Oilers could feel confident moving forward with a fourth line devoted to defensive zone starts. The guys they’d be risking on the waiver wire (one or both of Pitlick/Lander) aren’t players I’d lose sleep over, though in a perfect world they remain in the organization.
It’s probably worth a phone call, even at age 32. If he’s willing to take a one-way/$800,000 contract to stay in the NHL, great; it's been a long time since the Oilers had too many NHL players. If not, there’s a fun battle for that last fourth line job in training camp.