Is Adam McQuaid a good place to spend $2.5 million?

Adam McQuaid is a big, tough, right-shooting defenceman with ties to Peter Chiarelli from their time together in Boston. He will be an unrestricted free agent and has gotten some love in the comments section here as a potential addition for the Oilers.

For those hoping to see the defenceman make the trip to Edmonton, there was some good news on Thursday, as the Edmonton Journal’s connected Jim Matheson suggested there may be some interest.

“Chiarelli may take a run at Bruins UFA defenceman Adam McQuaid July 1,” writes Matheson, “with the going price about $2.5 million a year for a tough No. 5 D-man.”

That’s a lot of money for a player who only emerged as a No. 5 last year after spending the four preceding seasons as Boston’s No. 6/7, but I suspect that dollar figure is in the range and may even be understating matters; one only needs to look at what players like Clayton Stoner and Deryk Engelland got in free agency. There tends to be a premium on tough defencemen on July 1, and that premium is going to benefit McQuaid.

The question is whether the Oilers should be interested in spending that kind of money.

McQuaid By The Numbers

Season TOI QualComp ZoneStarts Fenwick% Team Fenwick%
2010-11 13.3 EV / 1.4 PK 16.4 46.9 47.5 50.0
2011-12 13.9 EV / 1.0 PK 16.3 49.4 48.3 53.6
2012-13 13.3 EV / 0.6 PK 16.7 53.9 52.7 52.9
2013-14 14.2 EV / 1.8 PK 16.0 49.5 51.4 53.3
2014-15 16.5 EV / 1.9 PK 16.6 49.7 49.4 50.7

That chart has some significant information in it, though it could use a little interpretation.

McQuaid has mostly been limited to depth minutes at evens. He saw a big bump in ice time at five-on-five this year, as the Bruins’ blue line had some significant injury problems, but over four prior seasons mostly hovered around the 13-14 minutes per game mark. For the sake of comparison, Keith Aulie averaged 13.6 minutes per game at even-strength this year; think back to how often he was on the ice when dressed and that’s a pretty accurate picture of how frequently McQuaid got even-strength shifts, though McQuaid got regular second-pair penalty kill usage most years.

The quality of competition number is based on the average ice time of the opponents that McQuaid saw. We don’t deal with these numbers a lot, so again context is helpful. Aulie saw the softest competition of regular Oilers defenders; his number came in at 17.3 on a blue line that was pretty flat in terms of QualComp. If we go back over the years, the softest competition faced by any Oilers defenceman during the rebuild period (min. 200 minutes) was faced by Colten Teubert in 2011-12; that number was 16.9, tougher than the level of competition faced by McQuaid at any point over the last five years.

McQuaid faces generally tough but not extreme defensive assignments; he hasn’t been getting buried in the defensive zone the way Mark Fayne was last year but on the other hand he also played for a better team. Over the years, Boston has used their third pairing generally as a secondary defensive zone option, with Zdeno Chara’s tandem doing the really heavy lifting zone-start wise.

Against this backdrop of limited minutes against depth opponents with a slightly tougher than average zone start, McQuaid’s pairing has at its best been a little worse than the team average and at its worst been walloped by the rest of the club.

Of course, McQuaid hasn’t exactly been out there by himself, either. Maybe his partner has been dragging him down. Let’s look at who he has worked with over the last five seasons:

Linemate Time together Corsi% / ZoneStart McQuaid without Teammate without
Andrew Ference 1,101 minutes 50.2% / 53.8% 50.1% / 47.5% 49.7% / 48.6%*
Dennis Seidenberg 739 minutes 48.7% / 44.7% 50.5% / 50.4% 50.8% / 47.9%
Zdeno Chara 536 minutes 51.9% / 35.8% 49.8% / 51.7% 55.8% / 47.9%
Torey Krug 514 minutes 50.8% / 59.9% 50.0% / 47.5% 54.9% / 63.3%
Matt Bartkowski 246 minutes 56.1% / 52.8% 49.7% / 49.2% 51.6% / 52.7%

*Ference’s numbers are Boston only.

That’s surprisingly nice company. Ference and McQuaid don’t appear to have been much of a partnership; each player seems to have done better without the other, which makes a certain amount of sense given the lack of a primary puck-mover on the pairing. McQuaid’s results with Seidenberg and Krug are decent, Chara is made of magic and McQuaid and Bartkowski were surprisingly effective. On the whole here, McQuaid has no cause for complaints with regard to his defence partners and the forward group he was out with looks pretty reasonable, too.

Nothing here says anything to me other than “third pairing” but McQuaid looks like a reasonable fit for that role. Given his size, toughness and the fact that he’s a right shot, there’s a certain amount of appeal to signing him and running him next to a (relatively) inexpensive puckmover like Martin Marincin or Darnell Nurse on the third pairing, though at $2.5 million he’s far from a cost-effective option.

The Problem

21-Ference-1

The difficulty is that the Oilers aren’t making this move in a vacuum. Here’s a reasonable approximation of the defensive depth chart as it stands today:

  • Oscar Klefbom – Justin Schultz
  • Nikita Nikitin – Mark Fayne
  • Darnell Nurse – Andrew Ference
  • Martin Marincin/Brandon Davidson

Klefbom and Fayne are probably top-four options next year even if Chiarelli has a great summer, but none of the rest should really be counted on to play north of the third pair. Nurse is a raw rookie, Nikitin was a trainwreck last year, Ference is slowing down and Schultz simply lacks the defensive game to reliably play top-four minutes at this point in his career.

Nikitin makes $4.5 million per season. Schultz is going to come in just shy of $4.0 million and Ference is north of $3.0 million for each of the next two seasons. Edmonton has three incredibly expensive bottom-pairing guys, and just for good measure the one signed long-term isn’t really an ideal fit for McQuaid’s skillset.

Edmonton has real problems on the back end and a finite amount of cap space to address them. Spending $2.5 million on McQuaid uses up a significant chunk of that precious cap space and fails to address needs in the top-four. If the Oilers can somehow clear away a bunch of the detritus before July 1, McQuaid would probably be a nice partner for Nurse or Marincin. If they can’t, they’ll be sinking a bunch of money into a partner for Andrew Ference who isn’t really a great fit in the role.

McQuaid’s a useful player. He’s just not the right fit for the Oilers’ roster at the moment, and it’s hard to imagine that Peter Chiarelli can do enough restructuring between now and July 1 to change that. 

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • camdog

    Jim Matheson, is even more irrelevant these days then Don Cherry. There was a time when he was connected to the organisation, however that was over a decade ago. He has come up with a number of rumours the past few years that were never even remotely believable.

    Mcquaid reminds me a bit of Mark Fistric at this point in his career and as JW correctly points out he is not a fit at that price point. Could just as well sign Aullie for another season at league minimum.

    • camdog

      While you may disagree with his opinions, he has been connected dice Tambo left. I’ve seen him firsthand sitting next to MacT at the Annual Bears/Oilers Rookie game two years in a row. MacT at least evidently gives him plenty of time.

      • camdog

        I tend to go over to hockey news a couple of times a week. Every week Matheson makes up a new rumour on whom the Oilers should target, yes they are opinion pieces but every hockey gossip site picks them up and spits his rumours out, as potential trades. They aren’t really all that different from some of the rumours that are discussed on here. After a while you tend to phase the guy out, because he’s just throwing names out there. If Stauffer or Rishaug say something good possibility it’s true, if Matheson says it I don’t really believe it.

  • camdog wrote:

    Mcquaid reminds me a bit of Mark Fistric at this point in his career and as JW correctly points out he is not a fit at that price point. Could just as well sign Aullie for another season at league minimum.

    Interesting that you bring up Fistric. He had a tough year and got dumped to the minors in January; he has two years left at a $1.267 million cap hit and you have to think the Ducks would love to move him.

    • camdog

      He may come cheaper than Mcquaid, but for every big hit he made, he would toss the puck over in the slot or the forward would go around him. Mcquaid does this as well, but I don’t think as much.

      I think the Oilers need to need to get a guy that can play 18-20 minutes like Fayne and not be a liability and get a veteran goalie. We can get another Smid,Ference, Fistric, Aulie or Mcquaid, but it won’t really change anything. Mcquaid might be better than the others, but not by enough to help the team win games.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Puck no.

    Two top pairing blueliners, and a goalie. This is what’s needed. 4 through 7 guys are a dime a dozen, and also a great place to let rookies get their feet wet. Last years blue line was built strictly with 4-7 guys. The Oilers literally have 8 of them right now.

    • a lg dubl dubl

      You pretty much said what I wanted to say.

      If PC can somehow get rid of Nikitin or Shultz, then I’d be ok with McQuaid in the bottom pairing.

      The defence needs more @$$holes, not “morning glories” as Pat Quinn once said.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Well said dubl dubl. Nikitin and Schultz will make almost 9 million this season, yet McQuaid is by far the best of the 3.

        Hard to believe the guys that boat anchored them with these two guys are still hanging around.

    • bradleypi

      How did boston “fool” us with ference?? I suppose you are gonna try to tell us you thought that signing a Stanley Cup champ, fierce competitor and all around stand up guy was a bad idea at the time? If the Oilers had 5 more ferences on defence, I guarantee the Oilers would be a playoff team. Finding players that bring it like ference every night should be priority one for this club. And Mact started that process by shipping petry out. McQuaid would be a great addition to this team. Solid defender that scraps and doesn’t lose very often. He and gazdic would terrorize the league.

      • camdog

        Mact got fired by keeping players like Ference, Schultz and Niktin at the expense of Petry. As it stands Petry is listed at #14 in hits by d-man these playoffs…

        • bradleypi

          I think Mact got fired because PC was available and Bob obviously wanted his own guy there. And trying to sell me on petry is never gonna happen man so don’t even try. He went to a team that was a favorite to win with the leagues best goalie and petry did absolutely NOTHING to make them better. He added no offence which is what they acquired him for as they kept trying him on the pp. FAIL. Hence why they were eliminated so early. But I’m not here to talk about my disdain for petry. He’s gone and the oilers will be better off for it. I hope you keep your comments in mind next winter when the oils defence is much improved under coach McLellan. My ideal defence for next year is

          Ufa signing-Schultz
          Nikitin-fayne
          Klefblom-ference
          I’d like beauchamin to be that Ufa if PC doesn’t make a trade for one

          • Beaumatters

            I think it might be a bounce back year for Nikitin as well (contract year, but with the KHL, maybe not as big a deal to bounce back as before) but would like to see another D and have Ference in the 7 role to cover if NN is the dog he was last year. Schultz is a wild card to me, but realistically, I don’t think there is another option. (No way he walks for zero, this organization has done too much of that) So here’s to a one year contract (gulp), turning things around and then see what his place/value is.

          • bradleypi

            I’m really not sure what ference did so wrong last year to end up in oilersnations doghouse? Why you guys think he’s not capable of taking a regular shift is beyond me. I’ve never seen a fan base have such disdain for their captain. Makes me wonder if people actually watched any oiler games at all last year. And you’re nuts to think Schultz only gets a one year deal. If PC likes his his potential as much as I do, he will get at least 3 years

          • bradleypi

            It is not disdain, it is called depth. With injuries and NN being a wildcard, Ference would probably play a regular shift. The point is, if you can actually get anyone’s point but your own, is if Ference is a 7th, I am liking the D a lot more than I do now. And if you think Schultz signs a 3 year deal under 4.5 to 5 mil, you are nuts. And if it is offered, the Oilers are nuts. Paying on potential for a player who has shown little isn’t smart….but I will consider the source….

  • bradleypi

    JW I can’t believe that you actually think that jultz isn’t a top four dman especially on this team… I just don’t get how oilersnation is so surprised that his strength isn’t defense. I knew that when he signed with the oil. I thought everyone else did as well. The team has been epically bad for the last 5 years. How is an offensive dman supposed to thrive when the whole team was pathetic offensively and worse defensively? I guarantee that under coach McLellan we will see a different jultz. You must think so also because in one breath you say he’s a 3rd pairing dman and in another you say he’s gonna sign for 4mill. I sure hope PC isn’t so stupid as to sign a “3rd pairing” dman for 4mill. Lol. And I will guarantee that nikitin will be better too. He’s better than oilersnation thinks he is. Guy has an absolute bomb for a shot. And if he comes to camp in shape he’s gonna prove a lot of haters wrong.

      • bradleypi

        Not defending. Just gonna be laughing at all you so called oiler fans when you will be cheering for these guys next winter and then telling us how you all knew that they were good dmen. Just like you all did with dubnyk. This defence will be better under PC and coach McLellan. Mark my words.

      • bradleypi

        This is why I know more about hockey than you bro. Let’s all remember this next winter. You can climb back on the bandwagon when the oil are playing better hockey under a new system. Which was thd real problem the last 2 years.

      • bradleypi

        Thanks for adding no value to a hockey blog at all. But I can just imagine what you would say anyways….”Schultz sucks. Nikitin sucks. Ference sucks.” Does that sum up your oiler knowledge?

    • ChevygoFast

      Usually I don’t put much stock in what you say but there is some sense here.

      NN isn’t going anywhere unless someone scoops him at the trade deadline. He’s off the books next year. Hopefully he does have a better year.

      Jultz will likely get signed. If they can get him playing with an NHL partner, he could come around. Much like how Roy helped Yak.

      Then there’s a Maclleland factor.

      The D won’t be fixed this year. Hopefully it will be improved by some addition and team play.

      • bradleypi

        Exactly. Why buy out nikitin in the last year of contract unless you are absolutely sure that you have a top four guy to replace him. And to me the McLellan factor is huge. I mean you’d have to be crazy to think that Eakins didn’t twist these guys into pretzels. Trying to turn jultz into a defensive dman, playing yak on the 3rd line and trying to turn him into a defensive specialist, playing hall at center…. I could go on and on. Coach McLellan will know what to do with these guys. I’m not expecting the cup like most of oilersnation but improvement will be there for sure

  • jonnyquixote

    This is a sensible article. Signing a player like McQuaid isn’t a bad idea, but the numbers floating around make little sense. With a stagnant cap, there are going to be a lot of bargains out there as good veterans shake loose from teams who need to accommodate contract extensions for core players and raises for RFAs.

    There will be a solid physical right-side defenseman that the team can sign for half of this $2.5 million sticker price. There’s no need for McQuaid to make more than a guy like Jay Harrison.

    There will be a bargain trade available for James Wisniewski too. Maybe even in exchange for Nikita Nikitin, who comes in at $1 million cheaper and 1 year shorter on his contract. Maybe a sweetener is needed from us if Anaheim wants to pretend that they want to keep JW.

    There will be good defensemen available from teams like Tampa and NYR. Maybe even a guy like Niskanen from Washington. These defensemen will cost good but not great draft picks and prospects. Look at the deals NYI made for Leddy & Boychuck, and Tampa made for Garrison.

    And there should be a market for Justin Schultz, perhaps in return for a defenseman with a lower skill level but more reliability.

    That doesn’t even touch the free agent market.

    It should be fairly easy to rebuild this defense the way other successful teams this year did, without overspending on bottom-pairing guys in free agency.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    I don’t know why we are talking about who we might get – the conversation should be about who we should get rid of and how quickly.

    On another note, karma has hit Lundvist – after the way he slammed the Oilers back in December he’s been on my hit list – I’m glad he was knocked off his perch tonight.

    Great game by Kelowna….looking forward to Sunday’s Memorial Cup Final.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Finding someone to take NN off our hands in a trade and replacing him with AM is one thing. Buying out NN and signing AM for $2.5 is totally different because of the cap implications. It would be the same effect as signing AM for $4 million a year; because the buyout would be a $1.5 charge against our cap for each of the next two years.

  • camdog

    Dr. Drai was a beast tonight; he has the wingspan of a 777. He could have had 4 more goals if his shot could hit the net on breakaways/wide open chances that he created for himself. Not criticizing, just commenting.

  • Beaumatters

    Money will dictate who…but the Oil needs toughness on D (and up front, yes, they all need to be able to play at the NHL level) I way I see it, to round out 7 D, they Oil need 3 new additions, so I would get 2 tough and 1 skilled. (and if you get toughness & skill in a player, great) If those additions come from rookies, UFA’s or trades, I don’t really care. Assemble and then let the guys fight it out in camp to see who plays where and in what league in 2015/16.