The McDavid Effect: Attracting UFAs


Call it “The McDavid Effect” — the power of a single teenage
player to turn the fortunes of the Edmonton Oilers. Is it real? We’ve seen new
corporate leadership, team management, and a coaching regime all coincide with
Edmonton winning the draft lottery. Will it extend into free agency?

If not the reason behind all the changes then certainly
just earning the right to draft McDavid seems to have pushed the timeline for
change ahead quite a bit. The Edmonton Oilers have undertaken massive changes
at every level. From the business side of the organization to hockey ops,
everything has been shaken up since the Oilers won the draft lottery and it is
difficult to avoid connecting the dots.

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The McDavid Effect is so powerful, it seems, that he is
already responsible for more good in Oil Country than any other single player
in recent history and he hasn’t even played a game! Heck, he hasn’t even
been drafted yet.

But here’s the real test of the McDavid Effect: Can he turn
Edmonton into a desirable destination for NHL free agents?

I’m not going to slag Edmonton, which has been my home for
my entire life. I live here, I went to school here, I bought a home here. However,
we can be very clear about the realities of this situation. The Oilers are a
perennially bad NHL team that goes through coaches more often than I go through
salad dressing (I should probably throw that ranch out by the way). In addition
to that, the city is carved out of a single solid block of ice that only
defrosts long enough to ruin the roads before re-freezing again.

The last 20 years have not seen Edmonton become a great
destination for free agents. Most that come here already have an Edmonton
connection of some kind or are being compensated more than they might in other
markets. UFAs have come here, but we don’t have to lie to ourselves and believe
this was anybody’s first choice. The weather doesn’t help but there are lots of
NHL markets that have undesirable qualities. The number one reason is because the
team is terrible.

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If you didn’t have any control over your career from the
time you were a teenager until the time you reach unrestricted free agency in
the NHL, would you willingly throw yourself onto a team that’s going to lose
more than it wins? No, of course not. Not unless that team adds more money or
term than anyone else is willing to give.

But what happens when one of those teams ends up with a
generational talent? What happens when someone lands a Connor McDavid? Can it
change the game for them in terms of free agency?

There’s only been one other prospect in the modern era of
free agency who has come into the league like Connor McDavid, and that’s Sidney

Before his arrival in Pittsburgh the Penguins were largely a
bad joke during the early 2000s. They were a hurt franchise that couldn’t draw
flies and saw most/all of its major talent flee to other markets.

I wanted to look only at UFA signings for the Penguins
before and after Sidney Crosby so I used and narrowed
the signings down to only those that occurred between July 1st and
August 31st in the relevant years. I know there are technically
signings that could have come after August that would technically count but I wanted
to narrow the focus onto those primary deals that get made in the summer.

Things went really bad for the Penguins when Jagr left in
the summer of 2001, even though they still had Mario Lemieux, so let’s start
there. Remember that we are only talking about UFAs though.

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The Penguins had a pretty big departure of older players via
free agency that included the likes of Marc Bergevin, Bobby Dollas, Josef
Beranek, Rob Brown, and Garth Snow. Nobody is sure why they employed so many
general managers in playing roles.

Their first and only “big” UFA acquisition was five days into
free agency when they got journeyman defender Mike Wilson. Every other UFA they
signed was destined for the AHL.


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The Penguins lost Robert Lang to free agency after a year in
which he was arguably their best center. This was a big loss for the Pens.

They managed to sign journeyman D Steve McKenna (who would
go on to score a career high 10 points that year) and Marc Bergevin, and Alexandre
Daigle came aboard with a tryout contract during the summer.


The Penguins lost more players to UFA status, notably
Alexandre Daigle and Ville Nieminen. There were more but I’m trying to stick
with NHL players (of which the Penguins were short of in this period).

The Penguins convinced Kelly Buchberger to play for them,
presumably by convincing him the offer wasn’t a cruel joke. They used the same
ruse on Mike Eastwood and Drake Berehowsky. All three men would play their
final NHL season with the Penguins that year. So the Penguins at that time
could really only convince the desperate and old to join them. They were
effectively Cougar Life but for NHL players.

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On the eve of a season long lockout (not that they knew it
would go that long) the Penguins did sign an older but still very much
effective Mark Recchi. This is unquestionably the best deal and most impactful
player they signed in Free Agency in the bad Penguins years. The Penguins had
just drafted one Evgeni Malkin a couple weeks earlier, but they were a hot mess
on the ice. It wasn’t all sunshine and roses for Pittsburgh though. They did
lose Toby Petersen to the Oilers. And thus you can see why they continued to
lose for several more years.


The Crosby Lottery was done on July 22nd. The
draft was done on July 30th and on August 1st the free
agency period began. The last time the NHL was operational the Penguins finished dead
last in the standings. They were by all accounts a place where wins went to
die, but they just drafted the most coveted prospect since Mario Lemieux came
into the league. Things changed.

They signed impact defenseman Sergei Gonchar to a five year
deal. Gonchar would be the Penguins’ second leading scorer that season.

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They also signed Ziggy Palffy who would leave the NHL for
good after that season but he still produced at a point per game level as a

They finished that initial summer with Crosby by adding John
LeClair who wouldn’t stay in the NHL much longer but did finish with 51 points
that season supporting Sidney Crosby.


The Penguins would add pain in the rear Jarkko Ruuttu and
Recchi would once again come back to the club. They didn’t really lose any
players of note at all, but it seemed the Penguins slowed down in the UFA
acquisitions in the summer of 2006.


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The Penguins took a massive leap forward in the standings in
2006-2007 but were undone in the first round by the Senators. However,
they became a 100+ point team in the standings. Once again they saw a boost
in their UFA recruiting.

They signed Petr Sykora, Rob Scuderi (who had become a UFA),
and Darryl Sydor early in free agency. The next big signing was RFA Sidney
Crosby to his next deal.



The Penguins were a loathsome club in the early 2000’s who
lost more useful players to UFA status than they were able to sign. At one
point they were only attractive to those on their last legs as players, but
right after drafting Crosby there was an immediate impact in UFA interest from
established NHL players. They continued to add useful pieces even after the
Crosby Penguins were unable to become winners right away, but they didn’t add
more impact players until the Penguins turned North in the standings.

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Can the McDavid Effect turn the Oilers into a desirable
place for NHL UFAs? Hell yes it can, but that initial excitement will only take
them so far. They still need to become winners.

This continues to underscore my personal argument that the
Oilers cannot sit around and wait for things to get better. There is a buzz
around the Edmonton Oilers and Connor McDavid. There are going to be players
who want to play with this kid, play for McLellan and Chiarelli.

There is an undeniable push forward and the Oilers would
have to stand on the brakes to avoid taking advantage of it. Edmonton is a cold
winter city with a decade of losing under their belts, but almost immediately
after the NHL Draft the period when NHL clubs can begin to court UFAs opens up.
There was no reason to believe the Penguins before Crosby could land a player
like Gonchar in his prime. They couldn’t attract flies at the time. Neither
could Edmonton before McDavid.

It can all change in the time it takes for Peter Chiarelli
to finish the sentence, “With the first overall pick the Oilers are
happy to select, from the Erie Otters, Connor McDavid.”

  • Anton CP

    Heard from friend of a friend so not sure how real this is but rumor has it beginning of a deal between LA and EDM

    LA: Clifford, Voynov

    EDM: Yak, 2nd RD 2015 pick

    So if its real what do you think? Adds salary, size and defense to edm. Only reason for LA is they prob don’t want Voynov back after this trial the PR wife beating thing.

    • freelancer

      Not the worst trade proposal. Ignoring for one second the whole “beating the wife” thing. Edmonton gets a third line guy on a good contract and a very good top 4, potential top pairing defenceman. Yak could still turn out to be an elite player but he isn’t there right now.

      However you CANNOT ignore what he has done. If Voynov never played another game in the NHL ever I would be very happy with that. The last thing in the world Edmonton should do, after changing management, coaching, drafting a generational talent, and essentially improving every aspect of the culture of this organization; is give a guy like this another chance and have a dressing room that has to deal with a man like this.

      No way.

        • Randaman

          Pretty crass man. MacT paid his price for his mistake, probably not enough considering the death but it is what it is.

          What I can’t understand is that if MacT and many others can be given a second chance, why is Voynov not a good option?

          Judge, Jury and Executioners!!??

          We need defense and I like the game he plays.

          Just sayin…

          • Randaman

            LA: Clifford, Voynov

            EDM: Yak, 2nd RD 2015 pick

            The reported deal is for a 2nd pairing D-Wife Beater and a 3rd line winger. For a 1st overall pick and this years 2nd which is like a 1st rounder most years. I’ll take a giant pass!

            This is a bad deal wife beater or not.

          • Randaman

            In your opinion I guess.

            Yak was a #1 in a very weak draft year. Where would he rank this year?
            10 to 16 maybe?

            What are your credentials in the family councilling area?

            Stick to what you know and leave what you don’t know to the experts.

            Just sayin…

          • Joe Mamma

            Yes in my opinion a 2nd pairing Dman traded for a # 1 overall albeit in a weak draft year is a bad bet everytime. To also include this years 2nd in a strong draft year for a 3rd line winger(something I think we can fill with what we got) only makes the trade worse.

            Not to get into it but I think we can all agree hitting a women is deploreable and does affect my opinion on your character. So yah taking in “all” information on players to be considered in a trade which any decent GM should do. Means his actions against his wife also plays a role in lowering the value in this trade.

            Like i said bad trade all around. His criminal actions only accentuate how bad it is.

          • Zarny

            10-16 maybe?

            Good grief, get a clue. Yakupov had 101 pts the year before he was drafted and 69 pts in 42 games his draft year.

            He’s not McDavid or Eichel but he’d be in the mix with Strome, Marner and Hanifin.

          • Randaman

            I find your comments t be insightful and right on the money most times but this time I have to be the odd man out and disagree.

            I have never been a Yak fan (hockey wise).

            I like him but think he doesn’t fit our needs going forward.

            I would think that if value can be obtained in trading him, PC will definitely look at it.

            As per his placing in this draft year, I might have been a little off. 6 to 10?

  • R U Kidding Me!

    Noticed the Wings were able to replace Babcock from within the organization. Shame the Oilers couldn’t do that..promote from within. But I guess when there is no toy in the kinder surprise what else can you do

  • the McDavid effect is far reaching. Not only is the nation hosting a draft party (YAY!!!)….. the Edmonton Oilers.. the league wide standard for brutality when it comes to engaging its fan base… is hosting a draft party.

    UN… fn… real.

    Oil Change V10.. “this time the wheels are actually on the pavement”.

  • freelancer

    IN THE KNOW ? Hall,Eberle, Hopkins, Yakupov ,and Schultz are/were the most integral part of our club and have mainly made us into a last place club . We have relied upon them and they keep failing to make us better . Can McDavid and McLelland help change that , or may Chiarelli have to change the bulk of them for heavier grittier players ? The fab 5 are not elite , and that is why we remain a very poor club . Our goaltending has been subpar , but that has a lot to do with rest of club . Scrivens , Dubbie , etc. faired much better once away from having to rely on our fab 5 to develop . I think we are going to see some bold moves dumping our fab 5 if poor results continue this season . The fab 5 have also been coach killers as well . Are the fab 5 the crux of the problem , more so than the defence and goal tending ?

  • BobbyCanuck

    I’m from Pittsburgh and a life-long Penguns fan. A big problem with the premise of your article is that the Penguins were facing bankruptcy for the second time, and the franchise in large part necessitated the 2004 lockout. UFAs didn’t sign in Pitt from 1999-2004 because the franchise was bleeding money, and couldnt make reasonable offers to their own UFAs (Lang, Jagr, Kovavlev, etc). Sid Crosby’s arrival coincided with a hard Cap that was largely tied to gate revenues, which made Pitt solvent enough to go after higher-end UFAs like Palffy and Gonchar.

    Meanwhile, 2015 Edmonton does not have a major issue with finances preventing them from signing UFAs. Your other points all hold water, but the comparison to the pre-lockout Penguins is apples to hand grenades.

    There are similarities, but the McDavid situation is quite different from the post-lockout Penguins. Otherwise, good job.


  • What I am curious to see is if McDavid is enough of an incentive to bring in UFAs who are willing to sign contracts for less money and term than their previous gigs. Are they so eager to be part of the next big thing that they are willing to take a pay cut to make it happen? Are there guys who want a cup more than they want a huge payday?

    For anyone who’s willing to step up to the plate in such a way, Oil Country would welcome them and treat them like hero’s.

  • Joe Mamma

    Seriously, BM, Brownlee, somebody. Can we please start issuing warnings and bans to ultrathinzigzags, Walter White, and others of their ilk? They are textbook trolls, are constantly posting off topic and inflammatory comments, and contribute nothing but strife and irritation to what is otherwise a pretty damn good board (easily the best in the nation network).

    I have zero issue with dissenting opinion, and even open dislike of the Oilers and their fans. But I for one am fed up with their baiting tactics and off-topic attack posts designed only to piss people off.

    This board doesn’t need these clowns. It is not entertaining. It is not good blog fodder or click bait. It simply drags down the quality of conversation on these boards, and discourages intelligent and reasonable posters from posting here or signing up, as they don’t want to get dragged into this schoolyard crap with a bunch of mental midgets.

    I’m tired of it. I’m sure many of the other longtime members here are tired of it too. Get rid of these douchenozzles or expect to start losing good people around here that aren’t interested in poo-flinging matches with neanderthals.


    July 1. You will see the Oilers go for the Gold, rather than sit back and finish last. PC is aggressive, and does not pull punches.

    can’t wait to see that. McDavid is for real. and look at the change he has brought. one man does make a difference. even at just 18 years old

    Have McDavid Day!!!

    • Randaman

      I know you’re not new around here… So seriously. What is this?!

      We are giving up an absolute dumpster fire of a Dman, a 4th line Center and a mid round 1st for a Franchise Center. You must be trolling.

      • Ndustry

        Just how valuable is a disgruntled 9.5M/year player worth for 7 more years ? Giving them back their first round choice for Perron , and Lander is significant and opens up a lot of cap space for them . They are weak defensively and Nikitin might prove better with them , like Petry did for Habs . Besides Nikitin”s contract is only for one more year . Not to many teams would be interested in Malkin”s contract to begin with . Ridding ourselves of Nikitin would/should allow us to consider going after Malkin . Now if we can negotiate the B.Sutter deal I mentioned to compliment it ,then we would be fine down ccnter for a long time .

        • freelancer

          I’m not saying the Penguins might not look to move Malkin in a deal to fix their problems. I suspect it’s being considered.

          What I am saying is a deal of Nikitin/Lander/and 2015 16th overall for Malkin will be beaten by better offers from 29 other teams.

          Honestly your trade has more value just leaving it at Lander and 16th overall and leaving the boat anchor Nikitin out of it.

          You realize we are talking about likely a top 5 Center in his prime at 28 years old right? People don’t trade those guys for other teams garbage(Nikitin) + 4th line C + 16th overall.

          What might be reasoneable is RNH + 16th Overall. Or Draisaitl + 16th overall. But i’m not even sure that’s enough to be honest.

  • Ndustry

    I heard Luke Schenn might be available for a 3rd – 5th rounder. Del Zotto is an RFA too and Philly is cap strapped. I also heard Buffalo might looking to get rid of Weber. Anyway I think we should look at Hits on D, Weber is like a cheaper Fayne who can hit, Luke Schenn is a genuine step up, although I’m not all that into Offensive D Del Zotto can score and Hit. If you seriously look at our D’s Hit+/Hit- and our top forwards you’ll see we’re getting beat up and Ference is the only + hitting D left. Which is why Franson is good UFA option, not too sure about the price tho. With Franson and Del Zotto you can at least have 2 hard hitting D in the top 4 who can also score to compliment Schultz who is 41 Hit+ / 149 Hit- = -108Hits and Klefbom who is 45 Hits+ / 117 Hits- = -72Hits. So we need a couple to compliment these guys and play at the same time as Eberle and Hall who get hit 1st and 3rd most (schultz is 2nd) and who are in the high -70 to -120 range for hits.

  • freelancer

    I wanted to read a nice hockey article.

    I had to read an essay for something that could have been summed up in three paragraphs

    I mean no disrespect. More words do not equal riveting context.


  • Anton CP

    One thing, Crosby came in post lockout year, the CBA was much different after it. Players are lock in with a team for at least 10 years before they can become a UFA. Also most of the core Pens players are drafted by them, they did not have meaningful UFA actually joined them after Crosby also, they signed Gonchar but it has more to do with Malkin instead of Crosby.

    In short, UFAs are not typically come to a place because there is a sudden burst of hope, they will first follow the money then the family then the chance of winning then the comfort zone then managements and then maybe with a chance to play with a legend, Crosby maybe good and a future HOFer but he is not a “legend” yet. As good as McDavid can possibly be, how will he be like 3 years from now? No one can say it with certain.