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

    Ogden Brother wrote:

    godot10 wrote:
    The Oilers cannot sign or add another forward to a contract longer than 1-year without a forward going out.
    Thus, the Oilers will have to wait till September to get their man on a one year deal.
    That’s idiculous.


  • Hippy

    godot10 wrote:

    The Oilers cannot sign or add another forward to a contract longer than 1-year without a forward going out.
    Thus, the Oilers will have to wait till September to get their man on a one year deal.

    That's idiculous.

  • Hippy

    As Brownlee has mentioned, wouldn't a trade be more desired than any free agent signing. I say we call up our old friend Scott Howson and strike a deal for Vermette. He's been top 6 in the league the last 2 yrs at the dot, plays PP and PK, and is listed as both C and LW. I know he costs more (2.76M), but he brings so many different dynamics, I think he's definitely a target we should be looking at. He's also credited with more hits last year than any option mentioned above.

  • Hippy

    The Oilers cannot sign or add another forward to a contract longer than 1-year without a forward going out.

    Thus, the Oilers will have to wait till September to get their man on a one year deal.

  • Hippy

    Malhotra may be the best player on that list but i think Moore will be of better value (considering some of the stupid contracts this team has from when Lowe was pulling out his hair)

  • Hippy

    I would stay away from Sillinger, injuries and size scare me.

    Again Malhotra is the best option of the bunch, although Moore could end up being the better option if he continues with the offense.

    I don't mind Bonk, but wonder if time is running out, if anything 1 year deal not 3

  • Hippy

    With the cap troubles we have and the cap going down I would be scared to sign any player to a multi-year contract, as much as I like the Malhotra option I really think it is something the Oilers cant afford to do unless they sign him for 1 year.
    I would prefer to see the Oilers grab a young face-off/defensive style forward from Europe or the AHL who perhaps hasn't made the big show yet due to depth in the position on the main team.
    If we have players like Omark who will only come over if they can play in the NHL then I am cerain other teams must have the exact same type of players. There has to be one to fit our need.