According to Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos, the Edmonton Oilers are close to extending veteran defenseman Andy Sutton. The soon to be 37-year old is currently slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Scratch another D off #NHL trading block. Hearing #Oilers Andy Sutton closing in on a new 1 year deal. Its believed to be in 1.75M range.
A number of people have recently suggested that it makes more sense to sign Sutton, who has been one of the Oilers’ better options on the third pairing, rather than trade him given that the return at the deadline is exceedingly unlikely to be more than a second round draft pick. Further, many have suggested that Sutton genuinely likes playing for the Oilers and would like to keep playing in Edmonton. On the latter point, Jason Gregor tweeted the following yesterday:
He doesn’t want to move family again. Becomes a chore. He really likes the young players, they like him.
I’ve previously held that the Oilers would be better off sending Sutton away at the deadline, mostly because of his age and the fact that their primary need isn’t a lot of bottom-pairing guys, but rather higher-end defensemen. Sutton returned to the lineup yesterday against Ottawa after being a healthy scratch over the previous two games, and is one of five defensemen (Jeff Petry, Corey Potter, Theo Peckham and Cam Barker) the Oilers have probably best suited to a depth role on the blue line right now. Aside from Barker, all of that group is either signed for next season or bound for restricted free agency.
Still, Sutton’s performance this season stands head and shoulders above that of Peckham and Barker, and he’s probably ahead of Potter as well. He adds a physical dimension to the lineup, and the Oilers always have the option of sending him away at this time next year if they find themselves out of the playoff picture once again.
As for the reported terms of the contract, the length is exactly right. Given Sutton’s age and the availability of defensemen on the free agent market, it would be a mistake to sign him to a multi-year deal. The dollar figure is a little harder to stomach; $1.75 million would probably represent a slight overpay for a defender like Sutton. The Oilers already have quantity on the blue line, and Sutton’s already living in Edmonton and apparently doesn’t want to move. Given that the Oilers would almost certainly be dealing him if they don’t re-sign him, one would imagine they could talk him down a bit.
Returning to the positive, the Oilers are currently carrying eight defensemen. Unless that’s the plan long-term, the retention of Sutton would mean that they’ve decided to keep him over one of the less deserving members of the roster – and barring something really unexpected, that might suggest the Oilers have decided not to hang on to one of Theo Peckham or Cam Barker. Sutton’s been clearly better than both this season.