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
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:
*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 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.
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