Craig MacTavish, just under an hour into free agency, has not brought in a star player for the Oilers but he has made significnat moves, signing three different unrestricted free agents.
Goaltender Jason LaBarbera was rumoured to be joining the Oilers prior to free agency; he’ll fill the backup role in Edmonton and both offer the team a reliable player for games where Dubnyk sits. He is seen primarily as a backup goaltender, but it would be a mistake to place him in that role in ink – his performance over the lasst few seasons indicate a player capable of pushing Dubnyk if the incumbent falters. The Oilers have announced that the contract is a one-year deal; price point has yet to be revealed
Defenceman Andrew Ference is coming off a stint in Boston where he filled a second pairing role; it’s going to be very interesting to see how he fares in Edmonton. His statistics indicate a guy who wasn’t really carrying the load in Boston, and at 34 the question is how long he can maintain what he did last season. The money here is known; the Oilers spent a modest $3.25 million – which is a pretty good deal for a UFA who played top-four minutes on a contender last season – but the flipside is that they committed to the player for four years. If he pans out as a second-pairing left-side defender, this is a nice acquisition.
Centre Boyd Gordon seems likely to replace Shawn Horcoff as Edmonton’s third-line centre, barring the addition of another player. His work in Phoenix last year was mind-boggling: he saw top-six opposition and started two out of three shifts in the defensive zone, yet somehow managed to be on the ice for a team-average number of shots for and against. For a checking line centre, that’s a phenomenal campaign. The one worry: he benefited a lot from good chemistry with David Moss and wasn’t as good in the same role a year prior with other wingers. Gordon played 15:00 per game with the Coyotes, including a lot of time on the penalty kill, and won 57.3 percent of his faceoffs. At 6′, 200 pounds he isn’t especially big (and he isn’t a particularly physical player) but he is a legitimate NHL’er who shores up the depth chart in a significant way. The question now is money; we know he got three years but don’t what the Oilers will pay him over that span.
The Oilers’ depth needed a significant makeover, and that’s what Craig MacTavish has done so far. Despite the lack of a big name, the addition of a third-line centre, a 4/5 defenceman and a backup goaltender all needed doing; the only question at this point is whether the dollars make sense.
At least, that’s the only question with these signings; it would be a major surprise if MacTavish was done making moves.