The Edmonton Oilers will take on the Sharks in San Jose tonight, and it’s an interesting opportunity for the team to take a close look at a number of players currently bound for unrestricted free agency. It’s a given that we’re going to see significant changeover of the roster in the summer; are any of these free agent Sharks particularly appealing?
Age as of Oct. 1 of next season; salary information via NHLNumbers.
We can obviously nix a couple of names immediately. Scott Hannan is old and relatively ineffective, while the Oilers already have an enforcer under contract for next year and thus have no slot open for John Scott. Antti Niemi is obviously of particular interest.
- RW Tyler Kennedy
Kennedy’s going to be an interesting reclamation project for someone. He’s not big and he’s a thoroughly mediocre finisher, but he’s an exceptional skater with a decent two-way game and a willingness to play in traffic. He’s also a guy who posts consistently decent underlying numbers. Injuries have at times been a problem and have gone a long way toward defining this season.
I don’t expect the Oilers will have much interest in him; he’s not big and he doesn’t kill penalties and he plays the wing. But he might be a nice value pick-up this summer for someone.
- C James Sheppard
Sheppard’s a player who might be of more interest in Edmonton. A versatile two-way forward with size, the downside is that he isn’t particularly quick; looking back at his draft day scouting report his size 15 feet were mentioned and one scout said “he tends to lumber.” He’s not a great finisher but has some scoring touch, but his primary value is in a bottom-six defensive role. He’s physical, can play centre or wing, wins faceoffs and fights occasionally, though weirdly he doesn’t kill penalties. His underlying numbers are pretty decent given his team/role.
He’s the right age and size for the Oilers, and critically could slot in as a bottom-six centre or start out on the wing and switch to the middle if/when the need arose.
- C Andrew Desjardins
Like Sheppard, Desjardins is a pivot who can also play wing. Size is neither a great strength or weakness, but he does play an intensely physical style of hockey and has no compunctions about fighting. He has minimal offensive ability and his underlying numbers aren’t great, though it’s also worth noting he generally plays with enforcers. He’s a reasonably good faceoff man and a regular penalty-killer.
If the Oilers decide to bring in a veteran No. 13/14 forward, Desjardins is a plausible fit; he plays a tough game and is good enough defensively for regular PK work.
- D Matt Irwin
Irwin’s an interesting guy, in that he has good size and is primarily an offensive defenceman. His NHL numbers haven’t been incredible but he had some good minor-league campaigns in the points department and he’s a guy who can skate, pass and blast the puck. The quibbles are that he isn’t terribly physical, that he’s prone to the odd defensive gaffe and that the underlying numbers are pretty mediocre.
At this point, Irwin is primarily a No. 6/7 defenceman. What makes him interesting for a team like Edmonton is that his skillset (size, offence, skating) is not terribly common on the roster. If they’re looking for a veteran to plug into the Aulie role, this is a really interesting player.
- G Antti Niemi
Niemi’s a proven No. 1 goaltender in the NHL. He’s in his fifth season in the starting role in San Jose since coming over from a Cup-winning run with Chicago in 2010. He has a career 0.916 save percentage over 300-odd career NHL games, but he’s been underwhelming at points in the playoffs and the expectation is that it costs him his job with the Sharks this summer, if not sooner.
If Edmonton wants to get a proven No. 1 (and at this point, I imagine they would) Niemi is probably their first phone call on July 1.