July 15 2014 12:30PM
As Craig MacTavish and his staff attempt to fix the Edmonton Oilers’ woefully inadequate centre depth chart, they’ve had one luxury: a safety net. While talking trade with other managers and looking for the best possible fit, MacTavish and company could look out at free agency and see a pair of pretty good centres (whatever their warts) in Mike Ribeiro and Derek Roy and know that if a deal couldn’t be made they could likely scoop one up for not much money later in the summer.
That’s no longer the case.
Nashville has signed Mike Ribeiro. One year deal worth about $1-million.— James Mirtle (@mirtle) July 15, 2014
Nashville signs Derek Roy to a one-year deal worth $1-million. Couple decent value bets by the Preds today.— James Mirtle (@mirtle) July 15, 2014
For basically the cost of Matt Hendricks, on Tuesday the Nashville Predators signed both proven NHL centres still on the market.
Sure, Ribeiro was blasted by the Arizona G.M. Don Maloney for off-ice issues. Sure, Roy is 5’9” and has gone from a 30-goal man down to just nine last season. But the Predators spent almost no money and went from a centre depth chart of Olli Jokinen and Paul Gaustad to one that stands a decent chance of a competent by-committee performance.
It was a big day for David Poile, and Nashville’s significantly better off for it.
This shouldn’t be a doom-and-gloom day for the Oilers. There are all kinds of reasons why Edmonton might prefer a trade to signing one of the bargain pivots still on the market. And if MacTavish is reasonably confident of adding a quality pivot that way he’s probably right to pass on those free agents.
But the fallback option of a Roy or Ribeiro is no longer there. The last remaining centre of any note still available in free agency (and no, Michal Handzus doesn’t count) is Andrei Loktioniov, the 24-year-old Russian who had 22 points in 68 NHL contests last season.
That’s a problem, because going into next season with the current centre depth chart simply can’t be an option; it isn’t good enough and there’s a real risk of undermining the positive steps the Oilers have made this off-season. Today’s signings leave MacTavish in the difficult position of needing to pull the trigger on a trade or failing in a significant way this offseason.