As has been widely reported, the Phoenix Coyotes waived veteran defenceman Rostislav Klesla on Tuesday morning. Should the Oilers put in a claim for his services?
A Brief History Of Rusty Klesla
Klesla was the first pick in the history of the Columbus Blue Jackets, going fourth overall in the 2000 Draft. The Blue Jackets selected one spot behind the Minnesota Wild, which meant that instead of Marian Gaborik they got a big defensive defenceman. It could have been worse; if Mike Milbury hadn’t been in full-on Don Quixote mode and made the crazy Rick DiPietro selection with the first overall pick Klesla might not even have been available.
Klesla never developed much offence (his career high in points is 22, set in 2006-07) but did evolve into a big, capable defensive defenceman; something like a Blue Jackets version of Ladislav Smid. When he was traded to Phoenix in 2011 he was playing second-pairing minutes at even-strength and top-unit minutes on the penalty kill.
Of late, though, Klesla has slid down a deep Coyotes depth chart. He’s playing third-pair minutes at even-strength and he isn’t needed on the penalty kill. There’s no real statistical indication that his skills have seriously eroded, but Phoenix has lots of other options.
Should The Oilers Claim Him?
The equation seems simple. The Oilers have a weak blue line, and Klesla’s a decent NHL defenceman. Despite this, the answer to the question is ‘no.’
Klesla is in the final year of a deal that pays him a hair under $3.0 million per season. Like Anton Belov and Andrew Ference and Nick Schultz he’s a left-shooting defender, and like the latter two he’s overpaid relative to his contributions and probably best suited to the third pair of a good team. There’s no sense burning up cap space (the Oilers seem awfully concerned with entry-level bonuses) on a guy who duplicates skills already on the roster.
If Klesla were cheaper, I have little doubt he would be claimed. For that matter, the Coyotes likely wouldn’t have waived him; he’d have been tradable and the club might have been more comfortable keeping him. But he isn’t cheaper, cap space is an incredibly valuable commodity, and he’s the kind of player Edmonton already has.