Three weeks into free agency, the casual fan could be forgiven for thinking that the list of available players is bereft of useful pieces. That isn’t the case, and for some roles – in particular the veteran third-line centre role the Oilers need to fill – there are still a bunch of players who might fit the bill.
I’ve excluded Mike Peca from this group because of his quick departure from Edmonton after his last stint with the club (he didn’t like the travel). I’ve also excluded some fourth-line types who could very well be of interest to the Oilers (Mike Zigomanis, Blair Betts, Boyd Devereaux, Chris Gratton, Marcel Goc). All of those guys would come relatively cheap, and could help address the holes on the penalty-kill (in other words, I hope the Oilers are at least kicking the tires) but expecting them to step in and fill the third-line role may be asking too much (just as it might be to ask Pouliot, Brule or Cogliano to fill the role). A pair of other players (Rob Niedermayer and Andy Hilbert) were ignored because they play wing.
Here’s the list of four, presented in reverse order of their expected price tag:
Vitals: 5’11”, 198lbs, 38 years old
Stats Line: 59GP – 16G – 12A – 28PTS, -15 over the past two seasons
Other Numbers: 56.3% on faceoffs, 28 hits, 3:10 SH TOI, 18:36 Avg. TOI (from two seasons ago)
Best Guess Contract: One year / 750,000$
Mike “Suitcase” Sillinger has played for twelve NHL teams over the span of an 18-year career. He’s been remarkably durable for the majority of that time, up until February of 2008 when he suffered a hip injury that has derailed much of the last two seasons. In the seven seasons prior to suffering that injury, he’d missed a total of 30 games.
When last we saw him, Sillinger was a gifted two-way centre who combined defensive ability with goal-scorer’s hands (he’s never had less than a 12.1 SH% since 2000). He’d be an ideal fit – if he’s still the same player he was before the hip injury. At this point, the injury and age combine to make Sillinger a gamble – he probably will be forced to either accept a training camp tryout or a low money contract to get an NHL shot.
Vitals: 6’3”, 213lbs, 33 years old
Stats Line: 66GP – 9G – 16A – 25PTS, -12
Other Numbers: 59.9 % on faceoffs, 58 hits, 0:26 SH TOI, 15:26 Avg. TOI
Best Guess Contract: Three years / 1.4 MM per season
Radek Bonk has been passed over on the Predators penalty-kill (given that Nashville already had established options in Legwand, Fiddler and Nichol), although he has been effective in that role elsewhere (he led Montreal in short-handed ice-time in 2006-07). He combines size with some offensive ability.
Bonk has reportedly been approached by KHL clubs, but I imagine the security of a multi-year NHL contract would keep him in North America. He’s on of the game’s best face-off men, and is well-qualified to anchor the third line.
Vitals: 6’, 188lbs, soon to be 29 years old
Stats Line: 81GP – 13G – 32A – 45PTS, -2
Other Numbers: 54.1 % on faceoffs, 75 hits, 2:19 SH TOI, 16:50 Avg. TOI
Best Guess Contract: Two years / 1.8 MM per season
It’s been a rough summer for Moore, who turned down a two year, 3.4 million dollar contract from the Maple Leafs, but hasn’t been seriously pursued in free agency. His price-tag, which was once rumoured to be in the 2 MM/year range, has likely dropped as a result.
That said, Moore may not be the best option. He’s a tireless worker and a good penalty-killer, but his offense was likely a one-off and he doesn’t have the frame that the Oilers need down the middle (given that they already have a ton of smallish centres). I like Moore, but I think Bonk or Malhotra would be a better fit. Also, unlike most of the players on this list, Dominic Moore didn’t play in a checking role last season – he played on an offensive line for the Leafs.
Vitals: 6’2”, 217lbs, 29 years old
Stats Line: 77GP – 11G – 24A – 35PTS, +9
Other Numbers: 58.0% on faceoffs, 74 hits, 2:49 SH TOI, 18:00 Avg. TOI
Best Guess Contract: Three years / 2.0 MM per season
Malhotra is hands-down the best qualified player for the Oilers third-line position, but his price tag has kept him from being signed until now. He’s big and plays a relatively physical game, plus he’s a good skater. On top of that he’s a good faceoff man and an experienced penalty-killer.
The only downside to Malhotra is a limited offensive game, and that previously mentioned price-tag.