UFA Decisions: Mike Comrie

Edmonton Oilers v Toronto Maple Leafs 

UFA Decisions considers the unrestricted free agents on the Oilers’ roster, starting with the most expensive and working down. Today we consider Mike Comrie.

We’re all familiar with the Comrie saga: how he was drafted by the team, made the jump halfway through the 2000-01 season, signed a fair-sized contract and was promptly relied on to be the Oilers’ first line centre (with Doug Weight sent away for Jochen Hecht, Marty Reasoner, and Jan Horacek). Comrie provided some good offensive seasons in the role, but then wanted to leave town in the summer of 2003.

After a lengthy holdout, the Oilers arranged a trade with the Anaheim Ducks which would see Comrie go to Anaheim in exchange for Corey Perry and a first round draft pick. Unfortunately, Kevin Lowe felt that the trade didn’t reflect “fair market value” and reportedly asked Comrie to write a cheque to the Oilers for $2.5 MM. When Comrie declined, the trade fell through, and the Oilers instead sent him to Philadelphia for Jeff Woywitka, a first round pick and a third round pick.

The relationship between Comrie, a native son, and the Oilers organization was bitter at this point and fans almost unanimously sided with the organization. Comrie quickly became one of the most despised players in the league for Oilers fans (and all sorts of baseless rumours made the rounds), and though subsequent incidents (Nylander, Pronger) knocked him down the list he remained unpopular.

After the holdout, Comrie’s career stalled; he was flipped to Phoenix (where he had a fine season in 2005-06) then to Ottawa, then to the Islanders, then back to Ottawa again. Injuries intervened. Comrie was still mostly regarded as a top-nine forward (at wing, rather than centre) but the lustre had disappeared.

Comrie went unsigned for a good length of time this past summer, rumours started floating that he might be coming back to Edmonton. They didn’t make sense on the surface, but at the end of August our very own Baron Wanye Von Gretz IV pulled himself away from watching the Cornell Big Red performing ‘Bye Bye Bye’ long enough to report that Comrie had been signed to a one-year deal by Daryl Katz.

It wasn’t a bad move for the Oilers, but it was a great move for Comrie. Once ostracized, Comrie had won fans back over before the end of training camp with a fantastic preseason performance (including a fight) and we all wondered how well he might perform for the Oilers. Illness would de-rail his season, though he still scored 13 goals over just 43 games. Perhaps more importantly, his reputation within the city was largely repaired.

What I’d Do As G.M.

I liked the Comrie signing last September, simply because I felt the Oilers were short of actual NHL players and he signed on the cheap. That said, with incoming forwards like Jordan Eberle, Linus Omark and possibly Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson fighting for time, it doesn’t make sense to re-sign Comrie; they’ll all be competing for the same kind of job (scoring forward with defensive deficiencies). I think Comrie will latch on somewhere else, but I don’t think I’d be interested in him if I were the Oilers’ G.M.

What I Expect To Happen

Comments that Pat Quinn made about Comrie over the course of the season may have indicated some strain in their relationship, and I wonder if that will be a factor in the forward returning. If the Oilers buy out players like Nilsson and O’Sullivan, and if they’re determined to force Eberle and Omark to fight for a roster spot, there’s a possibility they re-sign Comrie. I’d be surprised if they do; I expect Steve Tambellini to let the veteran forward walk.

  • Ei8HTYSE7EN

    I would definitely like to see Comrie back, 2 year deal around $2.5M tops per year. Once he started to get healthy, he was looking great. I wanna see him net 30 goals once again as an Oiler.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    ” . . . if they’re determined to force Eberle and Omark to fight for a roster spot, there’s a possibility they re-sign Comrie.”

    The Oilers damn sure better expect Eberle, and especially Omark, to earn a roster spot. If they’re going to reserve a spot for Omark, maybe they should consider bringing Patrick Thoresen back, too.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      I know Thoresen’s name seems to come up lots in the last month or so mainly as jokes, but have you heard any serious talk about him coming back the NHL?

  • After we rid ourselves of Moreau, O’Sullivan and Nilsson i would keep Mike if he’d stay for a similar amount. If we’re stuck with 2 of those guys then i would have to say no.

    These must be exciting times for those entrusted to build this team. I’d give up Hemsky and Gagner to the Bruins for that second pick. The Bruins may take somone other than Gagner if we took back Ryder. Keep Hall, send Seguin back for one more year of junior and we should be good for another top five pick next year.

    If we could only fast forward two years and allow ourselve to be intoxicated with hockey again.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      It’s really tough to say. In the KHL a team is only allowed 20mil per team + a fracnchise player. The SEL from what I remember is a lot less. Sure he might be able to get it, but long-term he is better to hack it out in the AHL. I don’t think Omark gets all that much in Europe as a UFA. Granted it’s probably 3 or 4x his AHL contract.

  • Ender

    Like Jofa, I think it’s about the price. If he’s willing to sign for a similar contract to what he has now (cheap and short-term) then I bring him back. There is room on the team for a couple of small guys and I wouldn’t mind too much if Comrie ended up being one of them.

    If Comrie needs a bunch of money or he needs anything over a two-year deal, I wish him the best of luck in finding it in another city. He’s decent, but he’s also replaceable.

  • Ya, I say sign him for 1-1.5M for 1yr. if you can. He’s a vet who wants to be here, can net you 20 goals, be a leader for the kids, Edmonton boy, good depth player. We have to get rid of POS and Nilsson if we do that though, too many complimentary players, a la Joffrey Lupul. A couple of them is good, 8 of them is poor to fair.

  • Sounds like this decision is pretty cut and dry for me. The Oilers need to get bigger and are planning for the future. There is no sense in re-signing this guy. The only wildcard would be if the owner tells Tambo to re-sign him. Man, hubris really bit KLO in the behind on that potential deal with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. We should have Perry here.

  • SkinnyD

    Are MPS and Omark ready to play on the smaller ice with bigger faster dudes? What kind of contracts do they have…can they play in Oklahoma for a year and get used to the bigger players and smaller surface?

    If so, bring Comrie back. Even if not, bring him back. He won’t be expensive…and he wants to be here. He’s a slippery, tough little bastard that can score.

      • Part of the reason the AHL club had no success is because all our best prospects were not playing there. I’m sure they would have fared better with Nash, Omark, MPS, Lander, and Petry there. Add in Eberle, Chorney, Potulny and Dubnyk and I doubt they’re a bottom placed team.

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        They don’t have more problems then the big club. The problem is the big club can’t stay healthy and continued to take away all the AHL’s players.

      • SkinnyD

        I think I’d heard rumblings on Gregor’s show that neither would want to play in the AHL…that they’d head back overseas instead for whatever reason if they don’t make the big club.

        Just not sure why you wouldn’t want to develop into an NHL player…AHL is the best way to do it, is it not?

        • Jason Gregor

          I’ve said that Omark is open to going down for one year. He has a clause in the second year of his contract that he can go back to Europe if he doesn’t make the Oilers, but if he doesn’t make it this year he will go to the AHL.

          As for MPS, it isn’t a guarantee he will go to the AHL like Omark. I think MPS might be the most NHL ready between him, Eberle and Omark.

          • SkinnyD

            See, that’s what I don’t understand with MPS – if he doesn’t make the team, does it really do him any good towards developing his North American game by heading back to Europe? Sure, another year is another year to grow and develop, which is good. But wouldn’t playing in the AHL for a year be better for his forward progress towards the NHL?

            Keeping in mind that I speak in a measure of ignorance in comparing the European and North American games…

          • Why don’t we look at the top 10 scorers from Detroit’s most recent cup winning team. Would you agree that accounts essentially for the core of the team?

            Datsyuk – Europe

            Zetterberg – Europe

            Lidstrom – Europe

            Rafalski – Europe even though American

            Cleary – Not developed by Detroit

            Hudler – 3 years AHL

            Holmstrom – Europe with 6 whole games AHL

            Samuelson – Not developed by Detroit

            Franzen – Europe

            Filippula – 1 season AHL, plus 3 games

            So out of the top 10 scoring players on that team only one was sent by Detroit to the AHL for more than 1 season. Only two can be said to have done any developing there.

            Just to be fair and make sure we are looking at the proper core, I also checked top 10 in ice time. Doing so you have to swap out Hudler, Samuelson, and Filippula for:

            Kronwall
            Stuart
            Lilja

            Kronwall did spend parts of 3 seasons but his only full year there was the lockout year.

            The other two were developed by other teams.

            So of 13 players that made up the core of Detroit’s last cup winning team exactly 3 of them spent enough time in the minors to say that Detroit developed them there.

            Lets track Detroit development techniques:
            AHL – 3.
            Europe – 6.
            Developed by other teams – 4.

            Twice as many guys developed by Detroit in Europe than the AHL seems like more than “one or two”, and they definitely are NOT keeping players there longer than other teams.

          • SkinnyD

            Zetterbeg, Datsyuk, and Franzen all played their minor pro hockey in either Sweden or Russia – no time spent in the AHL – all 3 went straight from there to the NHL, and played at least 3 years overseas out of junior. They weren’t playing in the NHL until they were close to 23 years old. At least, this is what nhl.com has told me.

            …so tell me why we’re in a rush to see Eberle up here? Tell me why we didn’t send Gagner and Cogliano back to junior? Leave MPS playing for Timra for a couple more years…I want us to be perennial like Detroit.

            To be fair, those 3 Detroit dudes were late round picks. Seguin or Hall will probably play in the big show next year because of what they are.

          • SkinnyD

            True enough – if Timra was good enough for Zetterberg, it should be good enough for Magnus.

            And can we just insist that he puts Magnus on his jersey? It would be both easier to understand and pronounce, plus helle-cool.

            I apologize for saying helle.

        • Itsbitsman

          I read an interview with MPS on one of the other sites, could’ve been copper and blue, and he said he would go to the AHL if that’s what the Oilers thought was best for him.

          He then used Karlson(sp?) in Ottawa as an example of how performing in the AHL can get you onto the big club.

        • They’d make WAY more money playing overseas than they would in the AHL. Still, I’m not sure if I’d want a guy with that much sense of self-entitlement in the room. To my mind you have to earn an NHL job, you’re not owed one.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            They don’t make way more, that is a common mistake. Sure if they are top players they make way more, but these guys aren’t making that much more over there then their AHL amount. With Omark’s team going tits up I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want to go back to Russia either.

  • He did well out there last year. I guess if nothing changes by Draft Day the club should probably let him go and focus on players with other skill sets. But if the team has cleared up space in the top 3 lines with some DD trades then they should definitely consider tossing him another 1 year contract.

  • Tombo

    I’m in favour of seeing Comrie back in Oiler silks. If he stays healthy I think he could make for a good leader and be a much needed veteran presence in the locker room. In particular if we can get him at a bargain price.

    • THEBIGD

      I 100% agree with you Tombo as there will be a lot of players not back here this coming season. And if we can sign him for $1.2 Million or in that range for one season only. I would not pay him more then that.He may be the one person to help out the young kids.I am really looking forward to see who will be here when the season starts.As I believe there will be a lot more changes then people think? My opinion? Can anyone answer who the Oilers should take with the number 1 pick? As I can’t don’t know which kid would be the best long term.What do other people think they should take? I hope I get some answers as I believe it has to be Hall?

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Not sure if the Oilers should sign him, but there wasn’t anything wrong with Comrie’s defence, was there?

    He covered the right guys in his own zone, was reasonably tough on boards, moved the puck well, didn’t make many turnovers. He’s not P O’Sullivan or E Moreau or JF Jacques in his own zone. Hell, in limited minutes, though against weaker comp., he was even as good as the injury depleted F. Pisani on defence at even strength (Pisani a far superior PK guy).

  • I got shivers down my back when Comrie did what he did in that pre-season game and the crowd chanting his name afterwards. That sort of thing hasn’t happened here in a long time. Great sports moment stuff. Man I wish I was at that game.

    I figure he’d be an inspirational leader on a team that desperately needs one – our team. We’d be idiots to let him go if he’s anywhere near reasonable in contract terms. In fact, I’d be more than happy to see him walk out in the first home game with the C on his chest. I bet the crowd would start chanting his name again.

    BTW – My guess is Quinn doesn’t like Comrie because he’s an opportunist – probably one of the best out there.

  • OOOOOO I likes it when I am mentioned in a story that doesn’t involve my illegal monkey knife fight promoting!

    Not a single mention of Hilary Duff JW? That is showing some restraint

  • Petr's Jofa

    To me it all comes down to Comrie’s asking price. If he’s willing to take something similar to last year, I’d sign him and would have no problem putting Eberle in the AHL at the start of the year.

    With the injury problems Edmonton’s had, I think there is value in having quality prospect like Eberle to call up.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Same story with Pie for me. Shop for someone that actually gives us what we need. If we can’t get that, and Comrie is stil available. Ink him up.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I bring him back. Tough to find proven scorers. If it turns out all the kids make the team then I say we try move him later.