Well, how about that. On Monday, the Oilers passed on the (positive) news that Mark Arcobello, who had been bound for Group VI unrestricted free agency, had re-signed with the team. According to the Oilers’ official press release, Arcobello’s new deal is a one-year extension.
What wasn’t included in the official release are the details of the contract beyond length. It’s almost certainly a one-way contract – Arcobello’s camp really had no incentive to sign a two-way deal with the Oilers. As for the money, I’d guess something in the six figure range; it isn’t likely that the team would shell out more than that for a player who was consigned to the minor leagues not all that long ago.
With the small caveat that we can’t be totally sure until we here specifics of the contract, this comes across as very good news for Edmonton. We speculated just a few weeks ago that Arcobello might prefer to try and find his way with a team less focused on getting bigger, and that the end result might be that he was finished as an Oiler. The team should be happy that this turned out not to be the case, because while Arcobello’s still a bit of a question mark he looked a lot like an effective NHL player earlier this season and there’s no question Edmonton could use more of those.
There are a few people who might plausibly be impacted by this signing.
Sam Gagner is at the top of the list. Arcobello got a prolonged shot at a skill job at centre thanks to Gagner’s injury early in the year, and he did a better job in a top-six role than Gagner has all season. More than that, Arcobello showed signs of being a positive possession player – something Gagner’s rarely done over his NHL career. Given that, Gagner’s current slot as second line centre is a plausible (if less than ideal) place to pencil in Arcobello for next season, and this signing isn’t going to do anything to cool the idea that Gagner’s going to be moved out of town over the summer.
Anton Lander is another player potentially impacted by this signing. Lander’s been auditioning in the Mr. Versatility role that Arcobello eventually slid into prior to his demotion, and the results have been mixed. Some good things have happened with Lander on the ice, and by eye he’s been okay, but the offence stubbornly refuses to come even when he’s playing with scorers. The Oilers’ No. 4 and (assuming they use one) No. 5 centre roles for next season are wide open and even the staunchest supporter of the young Swede would admit he hasn’t forced himself into one of those spots. A pessimist might see Arcobello as the perfect 13th forward because he can do a bit of everything but isn’t proven enough to be put in a top-six job; if that’s the Oilers’ view it represents trouble for Lander.
Last summer, one of the things Craig MacTavish did to try and advance his team was bring in a group of players on cheap short-term deals to see if they had something to offer. Ryan Jones, Denis Grebeshkov and Anton Belov were all given one-year deals to show what they could do; they’ve all been various shades of disappointing but in each case the Oilers’ exposure to risk was limited. Jesse Joensuu, on a cheap two-year contract, falls under the same heading.
The results haven’t been good, but it’s a process that makes a lot of sense for a team like Edmonton that has so much work to do. There’s some risk involved, but also the possibility that one of these cheap deals turns out a player who can further the cause.
This Arcobello extension falls into the same category, and it seems a reasonable bet for management to make. He isn’t a proven player, but he has overcome a lot already and didn’t look out of place in the Oilers’ top-six early in the year; there’s at least some possibility that he ends up dramatically out-performing the dollars he’s signed for.
Or, as I put it when I was speculating that it might make sense for Arcobello to move on:
Good players sometimes get lost in bad teams, and Arcobello shows all the signs. He may or may not turn out, but he will be a nice cheap bet for some smart team out there.