It seemed so obvious. Right there, available for nothing on the waiver wire, was a useful fourth line centre with zero acquisition cost. Instead, Kyle Chipchura will remain in Arizona after going unclaimed by the NHL’s other 29 teams.
Both Brunner and Chipchura clear
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) December 6, 2014
That Damien Brunner cleared is not all that surprising; after all, he comes with a $2.5 million cap hit and that’s a lot of space for an NHL team. But Chipchura is a pretty reasonable fourth line centre priced at just $875,000; it’s a bit perplexing to see him zip through waivers without any team putting a claim in.
It’s hard not to see this as a missed opportunity for the Edmonton Oilers.
This is the same team that as recently as training camp felt so strongly about having a spare centre that it kept a mediocre Will Acton on the roster while waiving camp standouts Tyler Pitlick and Steve Pinizzotto (both of whom have subsequently made their way back to the majors). Acton was ultimately demoted and then traded, never having been replaced on the roster as the Oilers’ No. 5 centre.
And the funny thing about Chipchura is that on merit he very well may have deserved one of the top-four centre slots on the club. The team’s current depth chart is as follows, with select numbers highlighted:
At the start of camp, Dallas Eakins talked about having only two NHL centres, and that’s basically what the chart above suggests. Nugent-Hopkins is delivering wonderfully in his role, as is Gordon. Arcobello and Draisaitl on the other hand are struggling to score and struggling to break even on the shot clock despite getting a continual offensive zone push.
For the sake of contrast, the following are Chipchura’s numbers this year:
- 10:23 TOI, 1.10 PTS/60, 4.9 RelCorsi, 35.6% zonestart, 54.7% faceoffs
At worst, he’s a nice fit as the club’s No. 5 centre. At best, he could have taken Gordon’s role, freeing up that veteran centreman, or displaced one of Arcobello and Draisaitl.
In some ways, this is a lesser sin than letting Mike Ribeiro wander off to Nashville in the summer was; after all, Chipchura isn’t a top-six player like Riberio (22 points in 25 games) is and wouldn’t have had the same impact on the ice. In other ways, it’s worse, because the Oilers know now exactly how bad they are down the middle and have turned their nose up at an effective 28-year-old with 350-plus NHL games under his belt.