The Edmonton Oilers have a subpar defence, and have for some time. Among the avenues available to them to improve upon that defence is free agency. In this week’s edition of What Would You Do Wednesday, we ask which free agents the Oilers should make a point of targeting.
Using NHL Numbers’ free agent search function, I’ve put together a list of just under 40 free agents who played at least 20 games on an NHL blue line last year. Age is as of October 1, 2015, and along with the basic stats is from NHL.com. Enhanced statistics are courtesy of war-on-ice.com. In all cases, where a player spent time with multiple teams time on ice and enhanced statistics are from the team where he spent the most time.
Without further ado, the list, sorted by average ice time:
- QCTOI: Quality of competition based on opposition time on ice
- FFRel: Fenwick rating relative to team performance
- ZS%: Ratio of shifts starting in the offensive zone vs. the defensive zone
Needs & Wants
In my estimation, the Oilers could use two top-pairing defencemen and failing that would secure a top-two defender and a top-four option. The half-dozen players I’d prioritize are as follow:
- Cody Franson. I don’t think people really appreciate how good he was in Toronto. The Leafs didn’t want to pay him market value (source) but the Oilers should have no such hesitation. He’s 6’5” and 213 pounds, a useful weapon on the power play, capable of playing tough minutes at evens and still in the prime of his career. He’d be the right-shooting offensive defenceman Justin Schultz was supposed to be and bring a lot more value in the defensive zone too. With Nashville loaded on D, he’s likely to hit the market. In the Oilers’ shoes, I’d be open to offering him up to $6.0 million/year and term.
- Andrej Sekera. Dean Lombardi paid big in assets to land him at the trade deadline, and for good reason. He’s an excellent two-way defenceman in the prime of his career, can play tough minutes and managed 44 points last season. He’s been overlooked playing for bad teams; no longer. Anything under $5.0 million is good and in Edmonton’s position I’d probably even go over that figure.
- Paul Martin. Age is the only problem here; whoever signs him will likely go beyond what they’re totally comfortable with in terms of years. But he plays the toughest minutes available for a very good team, is a two-way threat and can play the left or right side without missing a beat. He’s a legitimate top-pairing defenceman in the here-and-now. Money isn’t a big object, but ideally the term would be held to no more than four seasons.
- Christian Ehrhoff. He’s coming off a down year in which injury was a factor, but he’s still an awfully interesting option. He’s a good puck-moving defenceman with decent size (though he isn’t overly physical) and he’s shown in the past he can log tough minutes at evens and lots of them as well as add significant value to the power play. Term and money here are tough; on a four-year deal money isn’t a huge issue but at five years the price has to be right.
- Jeff Petry. Two-way right-shooting defencemen still in their prime years are generally hard to find on the open market, which is why it was so silly of the Oilers to think “it was important” that they “challenge him on a one-year deal” last summer. I’d guess he tops $4.0 million in free agency and may even reach $5.0 million per season.
- Zbynek Michalek. He’s a rock-solid defensive defenceman who has been eating a steady diet of tough minutes for years. Undrafted, he learned his defensive game in Houston under Todd McLellan and eventually emerged as a workhorse for the Coyotes. He’d be a pretty fantastic safety net for a player like Darnell Nurse or Oscar Klefbom. He’d be a very reasonable hire at $4.0 million annually.
That’s who I like. Who do you like, and at what price?
RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS
- Will Leon Draisaitl be NHL-ready in 2015-16?
- What should Peter Chiarelli do with Nikita Nikitin?
- What should Peter Chiarelli do with Justin Schultz?
- Which Boston Bruins players might the Oilers target this off-season?
- Peter Chiarelli isn’t afraid to deal young players
- Free agent succession planning
- What will the arrival of Connor McDavid do to the Oilers’ forward lines?
- Follow Jonathan Willis on Twitter