In my opinion, it’s just as well; a Pisani signing would have been more a nod to sentiment than pragmatism. As much as Pisani is a player I loved to see in an Oilers’ uniform, if Steve Tambellini is going to bolster his team’s bottom six, he really ought to be looking at players who could be useful a few years down the road.
Before we start looking at a list of free agents, we should establish some criteria. Mine are fairly straight forward. My base assumption is that the scoring stars will be developed from within (some combination of the current Penner/Hemsky/Gagner/Brule/Cogliano group augmented by the rookies) but that the defensive base for the team should be a more veteran group. Ideally, these veterans won’t be in their mid-thirties when the team starts contending, so we can eliminate pretty much anyone over the age of 32 (sorry Pisani, Modin, Halpern, etc.). Additionally, these players should be big, or at least not undersized (sorry, Tim Kennedy) and have some track record of playing in a defensive role.
Here’s my list of possibilities, along with some relevant data. Statistics and salary from 2009-10:
|Player||Team||Age||Salary (MM)||QualComp||QualTeam||ZoneStart||EV PTS/60||PK TOI/GM||Rel. Corsi|
Unfortunately, it’s a rather short list; there aren’t that many big, defensively-minded forwards with youth on their side left on the market.
At this point in his career, Enver Lisin isn’t a defensive specialist – he’s a brilliant skater (arguably the fastest from his draft class) with a decent level of talent, but he’s got some significant deficiencies. He’s not an overly physical player, and he still has some defensive deficiencies to work out. The numbers look good, but I don’t think it’s an ideal fit (not that I’d oppose taking a flyer on him).
Three Buffalo Sabres make the list. I’m not a big fan of Adam Mair, who at 31 has yet to show he can stick his head above the fourth line and survive. Raffi Torres has played in Edmonton before and thus we’re all familiar with him (QualComp and QualTeam ranks are from his time in Columbus, where he spent most of the season) and know what he brings. If we view him as a third-line winger there are some definite things in his favour – grit and energy, some goal-scoring – and I think his talent is a nice fit for the Oilers. What does worry me is the off-ice rumours we’ve all heard, and whether he’s worth signing depends on what he’s like off the ice. Finally, Matt Ellis is another guy I’d be interested in – possibly on a two-way deal – and he might provide another option along with Colin Fraser.
Ruslan Fedotenko and Aaron Asham are both on the older side of the ledger, and neither really fits the shutdown role for me; Fedotenko’s coming off an awful year where he was asked to contribute offence and Asham’s an energy guy who I think would be miscast as a defensive ace.
Matt Hendricks is a late-blooming forward who I’d be willing to look at on a two-way deal, but honestly I don’t think he’s all that far ahead of a guy like Liam Reddox. He does have some big league penalty-killing experience and he’s put up good AHL numbers, but I’d be worried projecting him above the fourth line.
That leaves Stephane Veilleux. I’ve always had a soft spot for Veilleux, who did well in a checking role for the Minnesota Wild, but he’s coming off a miserable offensive season and he had surgery this summer. I’d like to see the Oilers sign Veilleux since he brings a lot of things they need – energy, defensive acumen, penalty-killing experience, but again this isn’t a deal I feel strongly about.
The full list of free agents is available from capgeek.com. I don’t see anyone I’m particularly bullish on, but what does everybody else think?