UFA Decisions considers the unrestricted free agents on the Oilers’ roster, starting with the most expensive and working down. Today we consider Jason Strudwick.
Jason Strudwick is the kind of player who gets an NHL career because he’s coachable. He does whatever he’s asked to do, he chips in physically and in any way he can on the ice, and according to pretty much every report we hear from the Oilers’ dressing room he’s personable and an asset in the dressing room.
Strudwick’s now on his fifth NHL team; he was drafted by the Islanders, played long spells for the Canucks, Blackhawks and Rangers, but signed as a free agent with his hometown Oilers in the summer of 2008. Injuries have kept him in the lineup in Edmonton; he’d topped the 60 game mark just four times in a 10-season NHL career, and never played more than 65 games before joining the Oilers, but he’s played 71 and 72 games the last two seasons.
Strudwick provides negligible offence, has been a minus player for the majority of his NHL career, and looked especially bad this season when paired with Taylor Chorney, who was clearly in over his head playing NHL minutes. He ranks last or dead last in most advanced statistical categories on the Oilers’ blue-line, but admittedly would likely be better if paired with an actual NHL defenceman.
What I’d Do As G.M.
It’s no secret that I’ve been fairly critical of Strudwick’s play during his time with the Oilers. His foot speed is not very good, he often seems to hesitate before making decisions in the defensive zone and gets caught out of position far too often for someone with his level of experience. Balanced against that are the incredibly positive reports we get from the Oilers on his character and the way his attitude affects his teammates.
As G.M. I wouldn’t want to bring Strudwick back in an on-ice capacity; I’d rather use the bottom spots on the blue-line for players like Aaron Johnson, or to test-run this year’s version of Denis Grebeshkov or Jan Hejda. I recall Dan Tencer bragging how the Oilers felt they had two NHL-calibre defenceman in the AHL in Peckham and Chorney, a claim I viewed as dubious at the time and can’t be viewed as anything but ridiculous in hindsight.
There are going to be injuries on the blue-line, and the Oilers need a guy who can play in the seventh spot. I’d look to bring in someone else, either a late-blooming NHL UFA or a top European defenceman. As for Strudwick, I’d offer him a role in the Oilers’ organization, perhaps as an assistant coach in Oklahoma, and let him know that if he were able to get a contract somewhere else the door was always open whenever he wanted to retire.
What I Expect To Happen
I expect Steve Tambellini to re-sign Jason Strudwick, and that Strudwick will once again play significant minutes on the Oilers blue-line. I think the team views him as an important on-ice mentor for their younger defencemen, and will treat him accordingly.