Target of Opportunity: Chris Gratton

Chris Gratton has played 18 games for the Tampa Bay Lightning this season. In those 18 games, he’s managed two assists, and put up a -3 rating. On the surface, it makes total sense that today he finds himself placed on waivers, along with fellow teammate Radim Vrbata.

Unlike Vrbata, Chris Gratton is in the final year of his contract –- a contract that pays him $1.25 million this season. Also unlike Vrbata, the Oilers should claim Gratton off of waivers.

This no doubt seems a little bit nonsensical, but I’ll explain. Looking at Gratton, the first number that jumps out is size; 6’4” and 225 lbs of it. He isn’t afraid to use it either. Even though Gratton has only played 8:07 per night at even-strength (13th among Lightning forwards), he’s thrown 33 hits; the second-highest rate on the team.

The next number that comes to mind is face-offs. Gratton has won 112 of the 180 face-offs he’s taken –- 62.2 per cent. With face-offs being a bit of an issue for this team (particularly on the penalty kill), Gratton could add some ability to the line-up. He’s also a key part of Tampa Bay’s penalty kill, averaging 2:37 a night short-handed. With the Oilers PK mired in 29th place in the league, some new personnel could certainly help matters out.

As for his rather ugly Corsi number (outshot 100-83 on average), there’s a simple explanation for that. Gratton has started in his own end 79 times, as opposed to 32 times in the offensive zone. Whenever there was a critical defensive zone draw to be won, Gratton was Barry Melrose’s first choice –- and despite his success on draws, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that it’s difficult to generate offense when being placed in that situation. This year, Gratton is scoring at a 0.82 PTS/60 pace. Last year, it was nearly double that –- 1.54 PTS/60 -– a very respectable number given how Gratton was being used.

I’m not saying that Gratton is a player who’s going to come in and save the team -– far from it. What Gratton can do is come in and solidify a fourth line that all too often has looked lacklustre. He can add some size and physical presence to a line-up that all too often looks to need it. He can win face-offs, and help out on the penalty-kill; two areas the Oilers have struggled in.

The point is that Gratton fits a team need. He’s in the last year of his contract, and is a low-risk pickup, and has a good chance at improving this hockey team. It won’t be a huge deal if the Oilers don’t pick him up, but I personally believe that a manager should never pass up an opportunity to address team weaknesses when it isn’t going to cost him anything. He’d certainly be a better fit on the fourth line than Jesse Boulerice or Tim Sestito, or even current roster players like Stortini and Reddox.

  • Hippy

    Even if his utility was solely used in those critical faceoff situations he'd be worth it. Especially with this new power play faceoff rule this year.

    MacT used to use Marty Sakic or Stoll for face offs and they'd come right off to the bench once posession was gained. That's slick.

  • Hippy

    Antony hits a good point point a stop gap for Reasoner. It's not just the ability to win a face off it's also that ability to help on the PK (get the stick in a lane, block shots and win face offs). A physical presence is a nice plus as well so we don't need Stortini and Macintyre taking up space.

    We all know that the transition from a muck and grind group to a more skilled team has left the PK soft, but let's not continue to rush out and solve one problem (while opening a whole raft of others).

  • Hippy

    He also brings an aggressive edge, not that Stortini doesn't, but I don't think Stortini gets respect in the league for being a scrapper and with Macintyre out, I think Gratton is a more physical presence than Stortini, and teams might think twice about taking liberties against the Oilers. Or maybe he's a better hugger than Stortini. LET THE HUG OFF FOR THE 4TH LINE COMMENCE

  • Hippy

    Hockeysmack wrote:

    The club needs a little help, and this is a relatively cheap way to do it.

    That's just it – this isn't going to move mountains, but it's a very cheap solution to an ongoing problem.

  • Hippy

    I agree with Towel Boy, although not as enthusiastically. Actually having someone that can win a faceoff is huge; factor in his size and experience, and I think this is a no-brainer. The club needs a little help, and this is a relatively cheap way to do it.