It’s been nearly a week now since unrestricted free agency opened, and the best players on the market have already signed contracts with their new teams. For a team in need of depth NHL’ers, however, there remain options.
Yesterday, we looked at what the Oilers could do if they wanted to address their fourth line centre position; today we look at potential third line wingers.
As it currently stands, some combination of Ales Hemsky, Ryan Jones, Ryan Smyth and Jesse Joensuu are likely to fill the two positions on either side of Boyd Gordon. The organization seemingly has an interest in trading Hemsky, and the other three are all arguably better fitted to the fourth than the third line. Are there free agents available who could help bolster the position?
The list above is not exhaustive, but includes every winger to record at least 10 points last season as well as a few others who I identified in my preliminary sweep as being conceivably of interest.
With each player, I ask myself three questions. First, is there a good probability of him out-performing Ryan Jones in 2013-14? Second, is he a good fit for a Boyd Gordon-centered line; in other words, can he handle a primarily defensive role? Finally, is it plausible that he would accept a contract that would be a good fit for the Oilers?
Personal viewpoints will doubtless differ, but here’s how that list breaks down for me:
“No” to question one: Colby Armstrong, Daniel Cleary, Radek Dvorak, Nathan Gerbe, Milan Hejduk, Chuck Kobasew, Guillaume Latendresse, Antti Miettinen, Andreas Nodl.
”No” to question two: Brad Boyes, Damien Brunner, Simon Gagne, Peter Mueller, Mason Raymond
”No” to question three: Jaromir Jagr, Brenden Morrow, Teemu Selanne
That leaves three names worth investigating. Nik Antropov adds size and versatility to the lineup; he can fill in anywhere in the top nine and can also play centre if necessary; he killed penalties sporadically last year but has been a regular on that unit in the past. Alexei Ponikarovsky is coming off a hard year offensively and hasn’t been a regular penalty killer; still he has a strong track record 5-on-5 and would add size to the lineup. Vaclav Prospal can score quite a bit; he’s on this list because he’s also played tough minutes in the very recent past. He’s a better fit for top-six minutes than on a checking line, and he hasn’t seen much time on the penalty kill in recent years.
Despite the number of names, there aren’t a lot of players who strike me as strong fits for the Oilers’ third line. Nik Antropov might be the best fit of the bunch but would need to come at a sizable discount from the $4.75 million he earned last season; but then it’s not likely an NHL team would give that to him.
Recently around the Nation Network
At NHL Numbers, Rob Pettapiece asks whether a goalie can control his rebounds and comes to a pretty interesting conclusion:
Aside from [Pekka] Rinne, who could very well be an outlier here (and we have reason to believe he could be legitimately great at this), there isn’t that much a goalie can do in a given year to suggest he has the ability to save more than a few goals. This may be an artifact of the data quality we have to work with. Or it could simply be too difficult for most NHL goalies to control what happens to a very-high-speed projectile after it hits them in the chest.
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