Help on the Fourth Line

Looking at the Oilers from last season, the most obvious weakness was the team’s penalty-kill, which ranked 27th in the NHL at 77.5%. An increase even to the range of average (16th ranked Vancouver had an 81.4% success rate) would have saved the Oilers 13 goals against last year.

Believe it or not, all of this is a good thing – because fourth-line penalty-killing specialists are cheap and plentiful on the free agent market.

The Oilers have a little under 1.2-million in cap space, according to CapGeek.com. That figure assumes a starting lineup including Gilbert Brule, J-F Jacques, and Liam Reddox. Assuming that we believe Liam Reddox is a first-rate minor league player but not yet a regular NHL’er (which I do) let’s assume his spot is open, and his 515K cap hit is gone. We add that, and all of a sudden there’s 1.7-million to play with.

Let’s make a further assumption: that the team would like a little bit of salary cap breathing room for the trade deadline. If we leave 700K or so, that projects into (roughly) room for a 3-million dollar player at the trade deadline.

That gives the Edmonton Oilers one million dollars to play with. Assuming that they don’t have to ransom the world, they could spend that money on someone who could kill penalties. The following is a quick look at decent UFA penalty-killers who earned less than that figure last season (and excluding Dominic Moore, who will certainly cost more).

Matt Pettinger

  • 2008-09 Cap Hit: 1,000,000
  • 2008-09 Stats Line: 59GP – 8G – 7A – 15PTS, -14
  • Key Number: 93 hits in 59 games played

Matt Pettinger was a go-to guy in the defensive zone for an awful team, along with linemates Jeff Halpern and Adam Hall. Unsurprisingly, all three ended up in the red +/- wise. Pettinger’s nothing special, really; after a pair of effective offensive seasons shortly after the lockout, he’s been a 4th-line player for Washington, Vancouver and Tampa Bay. He averaged 1:07 per game on the penalty-kill last season. He adds size (6’1”, 205lbs) and a physical edge.

How I Feel: He’s better than Reddox, and really that’s all that matters.

Dan Hinote

  • 2008-09 Cap Hit: 1,000,000
  • 2008-09 Stats Line: 51GP – 1G – 4A – 5PTS, -7
  • Key number: Averaged 2:32 per game on the PK last season

Energetic forward Dan Hinote doesn’t add much in terms of size, adds nothing offensively (in eight seasons, his career high in points is 15) and didn’t even start out at the wrong end of the ice all that much last season.

How I Feel: The Sun headline the day after he scored his one goal in 2009-10 would be the “Hinote” of his season.

Dean McAmmond

  • 2008-09 Cap Hit: 875,000
  • 2008-09 Stats Line: 62GP – 5G – 11A – 16PTS, +7
  • Key number: 9 points, +5 in 18 games after being traded to the Islanders

McAmmond saw a huge increase in his time on ice when he went to New York; jumping from 9:40 to more than 15 minutes a game – including more than 2 minutes a game on the PK. His underlying numbers all look decent, and he started in the wrong zone plenty. Still has blazing speed and questionable self-preservation. Plays either wing or centre, although he’s only a middling faceoff man.

How I Feel: I’ve always liked the guy, and he can help the team.

Marcel Goc

  • 2008-09 Cap Hit: 775,000
  • 2008-09 Stats Line: 55GP – 2G – 9A – 11PTS, -6
  • Key number: 58.2% on faceoffs

Goc, who played a fourth-line role last season with the Sharks, would bring both size (6’1”, 200lbs) and speed to the Oilers lineup. He got killed a little bit by the percentages last year, but even with that the odds are that he isn’t going to put up a bunch of points. He turns 26 this week, and has been an NHL regular for four seasons. Goc isn’t averse to a physical game (83 hits in just 55 games last year) and kills penalties (averaged 1:28 on the PK last season). He was also one of the few Sharks to get more starts in the defensive zone than the offensive zone (with that good of a team, there’s not a lot of defensive zone starts to go around).

How I Feel: Goc would be a perfect fit for the Oilers.

Eric Perrin

  • 2008-09 Cap Hit: 750,000
  • 2008-09 Stats Line: 78GP – 7G – 16A – 23PTS, -2
  • Key Number: 5’9”, 176lbs

The soon to be 34-year old has spent his entire career in the Southeast division. In 2007-08, he scored a career-high 45 points (after scoring 36 in 2006-07) but saw that total nearly cut in half this year. He was Marty Reasoner’s regular partner on the penalty-kill (averaged 3:17 per game). He generally plays wing but can also handle centre, and he went 52.1% on draws last season (213 total faceoffs taken).

How I Feel: Perrin’s a decent player but lacks size or a physical edge; he might be a better fit elsewhere.

Jiri Novotny

  • 2008-09 Cap Hit: 750,000
  • 2008-09 Stats Line: 42GP – 4G – 3A – 7PTS, +4
  • Key Number: 6’4”, 209lbs

Novotny’s scoring touch never came along the way Buffalo thought it would when they invested a first round pick in him at the 2001 draft. Aside from offense, he’s a fine player for the most part (although his work ethic has been criticized before) and he brings a physical game (74 hits in just 42 games), the ability to win draws (52.9%) and of course some size. He spent some time on Ken Hitchcock’s PK unit as well (avg. 1:06 per game).

How I Feel: Might not be a bad fit.

Andy Hilbert

  • 2008-09 Cap Hit: 675,000
  • 2008-09 Stats Line: 67GP – 11G – 16A – 27PTS, -3
  • Key Number: 85 blocked shots in 67 games

I’ve talked about Hilbert before (mostly here) and despite his size I think he’d be a great addition to the club. He played 2:41 per game short-handed last season, and that blocked shots number is huge for a forward. He’s also one of the most offensively proficient fourth-liners out there, and he’s been solid for the Islanders since the lockout. Of interest: the last three seasons, the Islanders have been -122; Hilbert’s been +9.

How I Feel: This is a quality player, and one of the best bargains remaining on the market.

Blair Betts

  • 2008-09 Cap Hit: 615,000
  • 2008-09 Stats Line: 81GP – 6G – 4A – 10PTS, -5
  • Key Number: Averaged 2:59 TOI per game shorthanded

The 6’3” , 210 lb Betts has been mentioned repeatedly in connection with the Oilers, mostly by Jim Matheson. Apparently, the Oilers interest in the penalty-killer is lukewarm at most, and I can understand that. He does bring size and some physical play (93 hits last season) but is only a vanilla option on faceoffs (49.3% last year) and is only a middling skater by NHL standards. He has very limited offensive ability and isn’t as good a shutdown player 5-on-5 as some other options on the market.

How I Feel: Betts could be a good pickup, although he’s not the best available option.

Boyd Devereaux

  • 2008-09 Cap Hit: 575,000
  • 2008-09 Stats Line: 23GP – 6G – 5A – 11PTS, +3
  • Key Number: Averaged 2:07 TOI per game shorthanded

Boyd Devereaux is not the offensive player his numbers make him seem; in 45 AHL games before being recalled he had only 16 points, and he’s never topped the 27 points he recorded as an Oiler in 1999-00. He’s still a phenomenal skater and has reinvented himself as a utility forward since being picked 6th overall by the Oilers in 1996. Injuries have largely ruined his career. He got some luck bounces-wise last year, and at this point isn’t much more than a tweener.

How I Feel: As much as I have a soft spot for the guy, I’d rather have Liam Reddox on my team.

Tomas Plihal

  • 2008-09 Cap Hit: 500,000
  • 2008-09 Stats Line: 64GP – 5G – 8A – 13PTS, -4
  • Key Number: 52.7% on faceoffs

Plihal brings decent size (6’1”, 210lbs) to the lineup and like the rest of the players on this list saw some time killing penalties last season (averaged 1:05 per game shorthanded). That said, he’s got no offensive upside and he’s suffered a number of injuries since turning pro. His underlying numbers are decent but not extraordinary.

How I Feel: Plihal’s an above-average fourth-liner, but not at the top of this group.

Ryan Bayda

  • 2008-09 Cap Hit: 475,000
  • 2008-09 Stats Line: 70GP – 5G – 7A -12PTS, +2
  • Key Number: Averaged 1:48 per game shorthanded

Bayda’s not a big player, but that doesn’t prevent him from being an effective forechecker. He started with a territorial advantage, but didn’t do much with it last year and despite decent numbers in the AHL he doesn’t really bring offense to the NHL level. He does the little things (hits, blocks shots) but remains a fringe NHL’er.

How I Feel: Probably not worth signing.

The Final Tally

Here’s the order I’d pursue this group in if I were Steve Tambellini:

Priorities: Marcel Goc, Andy Hilbert
Possibilities: Jiri Novotny, Dean McAmmond, Blair Betts, Matt Pettinger, Tomas Plihal
Pass: Eric Perrin, Ryan Bayda, Boyd Devereaux, Dan Hinote

Goc and Hilbert rise to the top of this list because both represent players not just capable of filling in on the fourth line, but also of playing a more significant role if the need arises.

  • Hippy

    @ ScubaSteve:

    Quality of Competition:

    Pisani: 3rd

    Burrish: 10th
    Eaves: 11th
    Maltby: 12th

    Christoph Schubert: a defenseman/forward
    Ryan Shannon: played more AHL games than NHL games last year.

    Your comparables for Fernando Pisani – a dedicated checking-line forward – are a trio of guys who played fourth liners, a minor-leaguer, and a defenseman.

  • Hippy

    jeanshorts wrote:

    Yeah, he clearly WANTS to go back. Well, I mean, either that or he sits out for the whole season, reneges on his contract, receives no compensation and is out of a job until next year, and pretty much forfeits a spot on Team Canada at the Olympics.
    But you’re probably right, he just hates Edmonton. That’s it.

    Haha! Right over the plate JS!

  • Hippy

    D U C K S wrote:

    Wow, Randall was right, sounds like the whole ‘no one wants to be in edmonton’ crowd continues to nail themselves to the cross that they built themselves lol. People spend their entire lives trying to get out of socialist countries, not go to them lol. Is Comrade Lowe still in charge up there? At least Lupul is back home here. Go DUCKS!

    Wow, someone who's federal government consists of a left wing party is calling us socialists. But I guess a statement like that should be expected from someone who comes from a country where a Gallup poll says 18% of Americans think the sun revolves around the earth. Enough said I guess.

  • Hippy

    This always being the bridesmaid and never the bride rut we're in Jonathan….do you think there is any posibility that Edmonton has been blackballed for something K.Lowe may have done to piss of the NHLPA?

    Reminder to all Oiler Nation members…at Saturdays meeting at Gregors house we're gonna hang us a Flames fan!

  • Hippy

    quicksilver ballet wrote:

    This always being the bridesmaid and never the bride rut we’re in Jonathan….do you think there is any posibility that Edmonton has been blackballed for something K.Lowe may have done to piss of the NHLPA?
    Reminder to all Oiler Nation members…at Saturdays meeting at Gregors house we’re gonna hang us a Flames fan!

    Lmao I AM IN!

  • Hippy

    Ogden Brother wrote:

    oilersseasonticketholdersince99 wrote:
    @ Ogden Brother:
    Hossas cap hit with Chicago is 5.2million the Oilers where offering 8-9 million on a 7-8 year deal.
    He doesn’t make what his cap hit is, in fact he doesn’t care what his cap hit is. He cares what he puts in his pocket.
    He’s making 7.9 million/year. The only difference between what the Oil offerd and what the Hawks offerd is that the Hawks are substantially longer… and heavily front loaded…they have three years at the end of the deal where he makes .6 million.

    You don't think that if he really wanted to be here that Katz wouldn't have done the same type of contract for him?

  • Hippy

    quicksilver ballet wrote:

    This always being the bridesmaid and never the bride rut we’re in Jonathan….do you think there is any posibility that Edmonton has been blackballed for something K.Lowe may have done to piss of the NHLPA?

    Then don't you think that would have kept:

    Bulin
    Souray
    Vanek
    Penner
    Garon
    Strudwick

    And a handful others from signing here over the last couple of years? Or does only a handful of guys spurring the team mean "players hate Lowe".

    This whole implication that players avoid coming here because who the teams president is has to be one of the furthest "reaches" I've seen from people.

  • Hippy

    jeff wrote:

    Ogden Brother wrote:
    oilersseasonticketholdersince99 wrote:
    @ Ogden Brother:
    Hossas cap hit with Chicago is 5.2million the Oilers where offering 8-9 million on a 7-8 year deal.
    He doesn’t make what his cap hit is, in fact he doesn’t care what his cap hit is. He cares what he puts in his pocket.
    He’s making 7.9 million/year. The only difference between what the Oil offerd and what the Hawks offerd is that the Hawks are substantially longer… and heavily front loaded…they have three years at the end of the deal where he makes .6 million.
    You don’t think that if he really wanted to be here that Katz wouldn’t have done the same type of contract for him?

    Those contracts weren't really used last year. Anyways, that wasn't the point. The other poster was trying to imply that Hossa left $/year on the table to avoid Edmonton…which simply isn't the case.

  • Hippy

    Ogden Brother wrote:

    jeff wrote:
    Ogden Brother wrote:
    oilersseasonticketholdersince99 wrote:
    @ Ogden Brother:
    Hossas cap hit with Chicago is 5.2million the Oilers where offering 8-9 million on a 7-8 year deal.
    He doesn’t make what his cap hit is, in fact he doesn’t care what his cap hit is. He cares what he puts in his pocket.
    He’s making 7.9 million/year. The only difference between what the Oil offerd and what the Hawks offerd is that the Hawks are substantially longer… and heavily front loaded…they have three years at the end of the deal where he makes .6 million.
    You don’t think that if he really wanted to be here that Katz wouldn’t have done the same type of contract for him?
    Those contracts weren’t really used last year. Anyways, that wasn’t the point. The other poster was trying to imply that Hossa left $/year on the table to avoid Edmonton…which simply isn’t the case.

    This is true.

  • Hippy

    Ogden Brother wrote:

    quicksilver ballet wrote:
    This always being the bridesmaid and never the bride rut we’re in Jonathan….do you think there is any posibility that Edmonton has been blackballed for something K.Lowe may have done to piss of the NHLPA?
    Then don’t you think that would have kept:
    Bulin
    Souray
    Vanek
    Penner
    Garon
    Strudwick
    And a handful others from signing here over the last couple of years? Or does only a handful of guys spurring the team mean “players hate Lowe”.
    This whole implication that players avoid coming here because who the teams president is has to be one of the furthest “reaches” I’ve seen from people.

    The biggest problem is the team isn't a contender, then start adding the weather and travel and you can see why players don't want to come here. Vanek and Penner were more for the money though and guys like Garon and Strudwick really had no options. But signing Souray and Bulin is quite big.

  • Hippy

    jeff wrote:

    Ogden Brother wrote:
    quicksilver ballet wrote:
    This always being the bridesmaid and never the bride rut we’re in Jonathan….do you think there is any posibility that Edmonton has been blackballed for something K.Lowe may have done to piss of the NHLPA?
    Then don’t you think that would have kept:
    Bulin
    Souray
    Vanek
    Penner
    Garon
    Strudwick
    And a handful others from signing here over the last couple of years? Or does only a handful of guys spurring the team mean “players hate Lowe”.
    This whole implication that players avoid coming here because who the teams president is has to be one of the furthest “reaches” I’ve seen from people.
    The biggest problem is the team isn’t a contender, then start adding the weather and travel and you can see why players don’t want to come here. Vanek and Penner were more for the money though and guys like Garon and Strudwick really had no options. But signing Souray and Bulin is quite big.

    Obviously each player has different motivators, so you can't really use a brush to say "why players don't come here". That said, I really doubt the winning is #1 on the list. Cup winners/runner ups (and other solid PO teams bleed players to bottom tier teams every year.

    Also, ya sure if the Oil had the Cup record of the Wings over the last few years (or the potential for Cups as the Pens) they would probably attract another player or two, but I highly doubt if the team was upper but not top tier… say 5th/3rd/4th over the last three years, that they'd be a top 10 destination team for players.

  • Hippy

    Boy you fans sure show the love back. Pisani has a more amazing playoff run than anyone could have possibly expected and people in the city are singing for him, and the GM knows he can probably get 3mil on the open market at that point so he signs him long term to keep a really popular good defensive player who has shown a lot of upside. What happens? He almost DIES of a disease that dibilitates him totally. After that he doesn't perform as well as they thought he should and you bunch of clowns call him a bum and the GM a dolt for signing for so much.

    Give me a friggin break!

    The Oilers have the worst travel in the league, the coldest winters, lots of upheaval with new coaches and GMs, and they haven't been in the dance for three years. Add to it a fan base that routinely crucifies players and incessant media attention.

    I am sure treatment of Ryan Smyth, Mike Comrie, and Chris Pronger hasn't helped the reputation. You think players don't talk?

    If you were an NHL player would you want to play here? All that goes away if the team has some success and everyone settles down a little bit. The team is one of thirty teams that are all trying to win, so there are going to be ups and downs. Go in a corner and suck your thumb so more by all means, but please stop posting this "woe is me the team is the worst ever and will suck forever and oh my god we're all gonna die."

    Take the players that really love being Oilers, players like Moreau, Pisani, Staios, Strudwick and Horcoff. Boy… listening to this site they are all a bunch of bums and should be traded. fan loyalty, my a$$! Players should love this city and stay here because we are awesome and treat them so well. Yeah right, you bunch of jerks.

    I think your attitude is what brought those silly Ducks fans on here. What does it say about the fanbase that they have to come on here and be ignorant to have a good time. lame. lame ducks.

  • Hippy

    OvenChicken8 wrote:

    Cam wrote:
    If you were an NHL player would you want to play here?
    Yes. Yes I would.

    well yeah me too cause I am crazy fan… but you know what I mean…

  • Hippy

    It looks like it doesnt make sense to develop 3rd or 4th line talent anymore. Why waste years and big cap dollars on a Brule or a Pouliot when you can sign guys for 500k.

  • Hippy

    Halibut wrote:

    It looks like it doesnt make sense to develop 3rd or 4th line talent anymore. Why waste years and big cap dollars on a Brule or a Pouliot when you can sign guys for 500k.

    I was kinda thinking the samething the other day. The thing with guys like Brule and Pouilot is it was after a few years that it was decided they would be 3rd/4th liners. But I can see know why we didn't re-sign Brodziak.

  • Hippy

    Halibut wrote:

    It looks like it doesnt make sense to develop 3rd or 4th line talent anymore. Why waste years and big cap dollars on a Brule or a Pouliot when you can sign guys for 500k.

    Because the vets you sign for $500K are never going to be more than 4th liners. All teams must develop players and the 4th line is a good place to do it. If you believe all the "no one wants to play here" crowd, this is especially the case in Edmonton.

    I do take your point though. It should impact on the draft philosophy somewhat. There is not much need to draft a guy if you only see him filling a run of the mill grinder type role.

  • Hippy

    Wasnt oilersseasonticketholder…. guy called out not long ago by administration on this site for posting anti oiler posts under other screen names from the same IP address as his oiler loving screen name? Why is he still here?

  • Hippy

    do you think there is any posibility that Edmonton has been blackballed for something K.Lowe may have done to piss of the NHLPA?

    I'll take Mike Comrie for one thousand, Alex. Which is a tiny fraction of what K-Lowe tried to "take" him for.

  • Hippy

    @ Jonathan Willis:

    Good points, maybe I underestimated Fernando a little. I like the guy, and last season dropped his value considerably, but some (read: half) of that was due to coaching, and the other to illness. If we get another 16-12-28 year, while excelling on the PK, I'd be happy to pay him 1-1.25m. I'm gonna let you win this one, since your numbers back it up, and mine don't.

    Cam wrote:

    After that he doesn’t perform as well as they thought he should and you bunch of clowns call him a bum and the GM a dolt for signing for so much.

    Cam, you ignorant slut, no one called him a bum, is he overpaid? Yes. Is he a bum? No. He also signed his contract before the illness. Oiler fans are no more demanding than Habs or Leafs or Flames fans, so you can stop beating that drum. Players (like anyone else) make decisions on where to play based on what's best for their : a)Bank Account. b) Career c) Family.

  • Hippy

    Cam wrote:

    I think your attitude is what brought those silly Ducks fans on here.

    I kind of thought they were silly too. and misinformed about our federal government.

  • Hippy

    @ ScubaSteve:
    I am not comparing fans in Edmonton to Toronto or Montreal, but I have heard those cities are particularly hard on their players too, which has made some want out of those cities as well.

    I have heard Pisani referred to as a bum on this site, though perhaps not this particular thread. Don't call me ignorant 😉

    I hadn't had my coffee yet when I wrote that spiel so I was kinda cranky…

  • Hippy

    […] at Oilers Nation, they had an excellent post titled, “Help on the Fourth Line” in which they discussed options including Marcel Goc prior to his recent signing with the […]