Teddy Purcell hasn’t been a big hit in Edmonton this year. To his critics, he’s soft, slow and dramatically overpaid, a legitimate candidate for a buyout and a really good option for a retained-salary trade.
He’s also well down on any legitimate list of the Oilers’ problems.
The Shopping List
The Edmonton Oilers may not have a terribly long shopping list this summer, but it is populated with big-ticket items. At a minimum, the team probably needs to add:
- A second-line centre
- A top-pairing defenceman
- A starting goaltender
A new top-four defenceman and top-nine winger wouldn’t be bad additions, either. And when I write “top-pairing defenceman” I mean “top-pairing defenceman”, not “a top-pairing defenceman the same way that Nikita Nikitin is a top-four NHL defenceman.”
The Oilers have a finite amount of cap space and a finite amount of tradable resources. Management needs to bend all of its efforts to addressing some extremely difficult priorities, so if anything is to be added to the offseason shopping list it must qualify as being of vital importance.
Replacing Teddy Purcell simply doesn’t meet that threshold.
In Defence of Purcell
When Craig MacTavish was asked about whether the Oilers considered moving veterans like Teddy Purcell at the trade deadline, he offered the following answer:
Not really, no. I didn’t have those conversations and for this reason: We need players for next year. We’ve got to go forward, I think we will go forward next year, we have to. We’re going to need players. Teddy Purcell to me would be a guy – we had some interest in Teddy – he’d be a guy that would fit in very well to a team that’s having a playoff run. A piece like Teddy would help because he can play with good players, he’s got lots of talent. We need players for next year, we need experience. We need Teddy next year. Unless it was a deal that really made sense for us in the long term we wouldn’t do that.
That’s a pretty good explanation for the decision to keep Purcell. The 29-year-old brings 499 games (including playoffs) of NHL experience to a roster that doesn’t have much of it. He can play at left wing or right wing, and while he’s only a complementary player he’s the kind of guy who can play on the same line as high-level teammates and keep up with them. Not only can he play at even-strength, but he’s been part of both Oilers special teams this year. There’s value in that; he’s a reasonably versatile fill-in option who is unquestionably a real NHL player.
We can counter the critique that he’s slow and soft, too. It’s true that he doesn’t possess blazing speed or an intimidating physical game, but this has been true at previous NHL stops, too. He manages to get by because he has a reasonable offensive tool kit, decent size and a lot of intelligence. The puck seems to stick to him; I’ve lost track of the number of times he’s picked off an opposition outlet pass or stripped the puck off an opponent in the neutral zone. He has warts; that’s why the Oilers were able to get him for Sam Gagner. Those problems don’t make him useless as an NHL player.
Keeping Purcell also likely makes sense in asset management terms.
Is Purcell overpaid at a $4.5 million cap hit? Probably, but there are better ways to shed that money if it turns out the Oilers need it (buying out Nikitin alone would clear up $3.0 million). Additionally, Purcell’s contract expires next season, which means that Edmonton would likely have no problem moving him as a rental at the trade deadline at that point. Given the dollar figure attached to his name and the number of contending teams in cap distress this summer, there’s a pretty decent chance that the return on that trade is better than the return the Oilers would get for dealing him in June.
There’s just no reason to shop the guy. The Oilers have much bigger problems, he’s a legitimate fill-in option for the time being and the return isn’t likely to be any less at the deadline anyway.