Jim Matheson’s excellent interview with Steve Tambellini ran a couple of days ago. Tambellini was extremely guarded about some issues (the hiring of a new coach) and open about others. One of the items he was relatively open about was how the brass viewed Ales Kotalik.
Q: What are you going to do with your unrestricted free agents, Kotalik and Dwayne Roloson?
A: They’re in the world championship and we all agreed we’d talk after that and they’d talk to their families and see what they want to do. We’ll have discussions with both guys.
Since we know the Oilers are interested in re-signing Kotalik, it’s probably good for us to take a look at him as a player again. I’ve done two previous pieces on Kotalik; one when he was acquired and another examining his ability to play left-wing on the first line. Tyler at mc79hockey also did a piece on Kotalik’s value as a shootout specialist. I’m largely referencing the work done in those three articles as I don’t especially want to redo the work done there. Based on those three articles and Kotalik’s career statistics, I’m going to make some statements about him:
- is a very good/elite option as a powerplay point man
- is an elite option in the shootout
- does not kill penalties
- does not provide anything more than average NHL offense at even-strength
- does not get significantly outscored at even strength
- adds size but not much more than average NHL grit/physical presence
Is that a fair evaluation? I think it is, but if there are any concerns please chime in below.
Based on that evaluation, Kotalik’s useful but unspectacular at even strength, and contributes nothing of significance to the penalty kill. In other words, if the Oilers are re-signing him, they’re doing it primarily for his contributions on the powerplay and in the shootout. Since the shootout is a bit of a fringe item, I think it’s fair to say that for Kotalik to provide fair value to the Oilers he should be a point-man on the power-play. Let’s look at who the Oilers have that can fill that role right now:
- Sheldon Souray
- Lubomir Visnovsky
- Tom Gilbert
- Denis Grebeshkov
If I were running the team, I’d view Kotalik as a support player at even-strength and a dynamic power-play option, so the only way I re-sign him is if I’m planning to move one of the four offensive defensemen currently on the Oilers. That frees up a powerplay spot for Kotalik (where he’s probably in the same range as any of the other four options) and allows the Oilers to address another area while trading from a position of strength. In other word, my decision would go like this:
- If I’m trading a top-four defenseman, I re-sign Kotalik
- If I’m making no changes to my defense, I’m letting Kotalik go
At this point, I think I would move a defenseman.