UFA Options: Third Line Centre

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:

Mike Sillinger

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.

Radek Bonk

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.

Dominic Moore

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.

Manny Malhotra

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.

  • Hippy

    jt35 wrote:

    @ Ogden Brother:
    I agree, might be a bit much. I was going to add another prospect/pick coming back from them for Gilbert or Grebs, but do we really need any more contracts right now.

    We are getting a little to wound up with the contract #'s as well.

  • Hippy

    misfit wrote:

    That comment might’ve made more sense if I wasn’t trying to make multiple edits on the fly without actually reading it afterward.
    The main points I was trying to make there were:
    – Cogliano could be our #2C this coming year and do just fine. He could develop into much more down the road too.
    – Why trade Cogliano because you can’t play him on the wing when you have other guys who can?
    – Vermette may have killed penalties for Ottawa, but we also need someone to play a defensive role at ES, which Vermette isn’t suited for (especially at close to $3M).
    – Cogliano for Vermette is a poor value trade (IMO at least).

    I'd be willing to bet that if Vermette had been here for 3-4 years and it was Lowe that gave him that 2.75/contract everyone would be begging and pleading for him to be trade for peanuts to "rid him of the contract".

  • Hippy

    Ogden Brother wrote:

    jt35 wrote:
    @ Ogden Brother:
    I agree, might be a bit much. I was going to add another prospect/pick coming back from them for Gilbert or Grebs, but do we really need any more contracts right now.
    We are getting a little to wound up with the contract #’s as well.

    Have to agree, we have what 4 open spots right now. It's not like we are going to be filling all of those spots anytime soon.

  • Hippy

    ANDREW & JW – Pretty sure Cogs will play RW, if the organization doesn't want to have another Cole fiasco. If you watch Cogs almost all of his rushes start from that side and he seems much more comfortable shooting from his off wing.

    Th big question for me is why did Gags play RW with Cogs at Center on the kid line 2 years ago? We knew then that Gags was a better FO guy.
    I actually really like the idea of Cogs on Gagner's wing, I think it would be similar to Cole (Speed wise and he would draw lots of PIMs). My concern is who plays LW with them, I really like Patty O but not on this line and Penner is too slow and not physical enough. I am inclined to say that Jacques may be the best option (Size & Speed) which scares me, although he dis show that he can score in JR & the A.

    Could Patty O be the 1st line LW or the 3rd line C?

    27-10-83
    22-89-13
    18-19-34
    12-78/67-46

    Prefer to deal 12 & 78 and find a Glencross Type for the 4th line LW spot or maybe sign Taylor Pyatt and flip him and JFJ, depending on who performs better with Cogs and Gags.

  • Hippy

    @ Ogden Brother:
    I'd take vermmette is a heart beat! He's fast, wins face-offs and hits! I've always liked him.
    Heres a trade to think about…. what about semin from washington? He's what 5.5 mill a year. a lefty and he can score! Do you think that if we offered cogs, penner and smid or just two of the guys we could get him.

  • Hippy

    wiggs22 wrote:

    @ Ogden Brother:
    I’d take vermmette is a heart beat! He’s fast, wins face-offs and hits! I’ve always liked him.
    Heres a trade to think about…. what about semin from washington? He’s what 5.5 mill a year. a lefty and he can score! Do you think that if we offered cogs, penner and smid or just two of the guys we could get him.

    Surely not. I don't think Washington would give him up unless we are talking Hemsky plus.

  • Hippy

    @ misfit:

    I got the gist of what you wrote the first time around, and understand more clearly the second time.

    You may be right that Cogs could develop into the 2nd line centre with Gagner on the wing, and also right that his struggles at the dot don't mean that he can't play the position. I think that pushing Gagner out of his natural position – where he is better in most ways and with more upside than Cogs – is another type of risk altogether, though. What would have happened to Doug Gilmour if he'd been forced to play the wing for a few years early in his career? IMO, Gagner is already projecting to be an all-star centre, maybe along the same kind of career path. Cogliano? Maybe, but less likely…

    I agree that trading Cogliano for Vermette straight up would be foolish, too, although less so for Steckel, at least based on the small sample I saw of him in the playoffs. He would be loved in Edmonton, despite not having much to contribute offensively.

    Anyway, even if Vermette or Steckel aren't the right players to come back, I'm still toying with the idea that Cogliano might be a better asset to trade than to use since his name came up in all of the Heatley nonsense. I appreciate your responses to these ideas, and am curious: is there anybody that you can think of who would be a good return for him that suits the Oilers' needs better, or do you simply think that he's a blue chipper that can't be dealt away no matter what? I'm with Brownlee about Dustin Brown, for example, and would ship out Cogs and Smid in a hearbeat for him, or Sourey (as Brownlee suggests).

    Thoughts?

  • Hippy

    I just don't like the idea of trading Cogliano to adress a need when you can fill it just as well, or better, in the UFA market without having to give up anyting (like a 22 year old 40+ point centerman who makes just over $1M). By no means is Cogliano untouchable, but that also doesn't mean we should be actively shopping him either. You just don't move a player like that unless you have to, or someone else is offering something you can't say no to.

  • Hippy

    @ Jonathan Willis:

    I'm very curious as to what you see in Hilbert. Other than the underwhelming stats at nhl.com (5'11", 38.2 f/o%, 27 pts), I don't know anything about him. The Islanders aren't I team I've payed much attention to, and it's hard to imagine that any of their cast-offs would be useful.

    Again, what insight can you give about him?

  • Hippy

    @ Andrew W:

    He's played against first and second lines for three years, starting in his own end, and hasn't been killed despite the fact that everyone else on the team has been.

    That's exactly what you look for in a defensive forward.

    He's a complimentary player offensively, but I'm not looking at a big role or anything: just a 4th line player capable of moving up the lineup when injuries hit. Most of the current crop of 4th line types are going to need to live up to potential just to keep from drowning in that role; with Hilbert there's no gambling involved.

    BTW, he's a LW (though he's listed as a C), which helps explain the ugly faceoff numbers.

  • Hippy

    misfit wrote:

    I just don’t like the idea of trading Cogliano to address a need when you can fill it just as well, or better, in the UFA market without having to give up anyting (like a 22 year old 40+ point centerman who makes just over $1M).

    I was under the impression that the Oilers DIDN'T want to trade Cogliano. The exception being that he was probably the closer piece in the Heatley offer. Now, trading him is becoming more accepted every day. That's just not right.

    As far as I see it, his biggest problem is the guys he's being forced to play with. I can't believe Moreau and Pisani are the best fit for his skill, creativity and speed. Given that Nilsson knows this is his last at bat, I'd almost want to see the reformation of the kid line.

  • Hippy

    The trouble is we have too many top 6 forwards who are small in stature.
    If you start signing other players into those spots without moving some of them first you then cut into their playing time which makes them disgruntled which gives you an even wider range of problems

  • Hippy

    misfit wrote:

    I just don’t like the idea of trading Cogliano to adress a need when you can fill it just as well, or better, in the UFA market without having to give up anyting (like a 22 year old 40+ point centerman who makes just over $1M). By no means is Cogliano untouchable, but that also doesn’t mean we should be actively shopping him either. You just don’t move a player like that unless you have to, or someone else is offering something you can’t say no to.

    Bingo, trade one of our most marketable pieces for something that we can just sign for free? No thanks.

  • Hippy

    West Coast Oil wrote:

    The trouble is we have too many top 6 forwards who are small in stature.
    If you start signing other players into those spots without moving some of them first you then cut into their playing time which makes them disgruntled which gives you an even wider range of problems

    … or you can just move them after…

  • Hippy

    Regardless of the forwards most posters would prefer, the Oilers have to subtract contracts to add to their roster. It has been recognized they can do this through trades, however, what about putting players on waivers to test the opportunity to rid contracts and get some cap room? I realize this doesn't give value for assets, but what is the priority? It could get the club an needed fourth line centre and address Tambellini's objectives as outlined in the media conference that announced the firing of MacTavish. Going to training camp with the present roster is a recipe for missing the playoffs, again. In the meantime, our adversary to the south, the Flames, keep improving their team. How do they do this and the Oilers braintrust seemingly can't?

  • Hippy

    Totally off topic,
    but i think that the Oil should go after Bertuzzi aswell..
    I think if we can trade some assets to fill our 3rd line centre spot (maybe nilson), bertuzzi would fit nice with gagner on the second line. Hes still got great hands and brings grit to the lineup.
    He's cheap too, we should jump on it.

  • Hippy

    @ Ogden Brother:
    Trouble is at that point you are dealing from a point of weakness. Once they know you need to shift a player the deals are down right pathetic (just ask Ottawa or KLowe)

  • Hippy

    HAZER wrote:

    Totally off topic,
    but i think that the Oil should go after Bertuzzi aswell..
    I think if we can trade some assets to fill our 3rd line centre spot (maybe nilson), bertuzzi would fit nice with gagner on the second line. Hes still got great hands and brings grit to the lineup.
    He’s cheap too, we should jump on it.

    Signing Beruzzi is the one thing the Oilers could do that would make me put my jersey away.
    Completely unacceptable.

  • Hippy

    DonDon wrote:

    Regardless of the forwards most posters would prefer, the Oilers have to subtract contracts to add to their roster.

    Considering they're currently about 4 or 5 contracts under the limit, they can certainly add a player and then worry about moving a contract later.

  • Hippy

    I would've thought that Malhotra was a no-brainer, even @ 2.5. He's young enough, yet experienced enough that he could become a valuable part of the core. This is a guy that since his draft year has been pegged as a future NHL captain. I'd take him @ 2.5 over Ethan @ 2. And thats no slight on Ethan. I also would've kept Brodziak over Pisani.

  • Hippy

    West Coast Oil wrote:

    @ Ogden Brother:
    Trouble is at that point you are dealing from a point of weakness. Once they know you need to shift a player the deals are down right pathetic (just ask Ottawa or KLowe)

    That still is a better solution then trading quality assets for lower quality assets to fill holes.

    Sign your 3rd line center for free (asset wise) And if you are forced to waive Nilsson or trade O'sully for a decent prospect you are still better off then swapping cogs or Gilbert for a Vermette (or any 3rd line center)

  • Hippy

    RossCreek wrote:

    I would’ve thought that Malhotra was a no-brainer, even @ 2.5. He’s young enough, yet experienced enough that he could become a valuable part of the core. This is a guy that since his draft year has been pegged as a future NHL captain. I’d take him @ 2.5 over Ethan @ 2. And thats no slight on Ethan. I also would’ve kept Brodziak over Pisani.

    Ya the fit seems to good to be true to me. Give him the 2/2.5 million and then cut the worst of MAP/Nillson at camp.

  • Hippy

    Apparently Bonk hasn't received an offer from any NHL teams yet. He also has a canadian wife. Might be a good option, I don't know alot about him though. Obviously have to dump some salary.