This year’s crop of free agents isn’t great, but there a few players that would help the Oilers.
The best option on a long-term deal is defenceman Cody Franson.
He is 27 years old.
He is 6’5″ and 215 pounds.
He shoots right.
He has a hard shot and can play on the powerplay.
He has played 400 games.
He produces points and he has very strong possession numbers.
There are very few UFAs that I would sign to a five-year deal or longer, but Franson is one of them. He will be highly sought after, especially in a weak class, but the Oilers have the money and he’d replace Jeff Petry.
I see Franson commanding between $5.4 and $6 mill AAV.
The Oilers currently have eight D-men: Oscar Klefbom, Mark Fayne, Andrew Ference, Justin Schultz, Darnell Nurse, Eric Gryba, Griffin Reinhart and Nikita Nikitin, and while signing another one will give them nine, if it is a proven NHL defender who can play in the top-four then I’d do it.
Mike Green, Andrej Sekera, Paul Martin, Francois Beauchemin, Christian Ehrhoff and Zybnek Michalek are some of the better options.
Green and Sekera are 29 and both will want long-term deals. Green is outstanding on the PP and if he plays on your 3rd pairing at ES you have a pretty good D corps. The Oilers can’t have Green and Schultz on the right side, so if they add Green, they’d have to move Schultz. Sekera is steady. The Kings are trying hard to re-sign him and offered him $4.75 over five years. He will get more on the open market, so the Kings might have to up their price, but with them terminating Mike Richards’ contract, they do have some money to sign Sekera at $5 mill or more.
None of the rest are great options, but a one-year deal would be a smart move if you could land Ehrhoff or Martin. Ehrhoff has had a few concussions, but when healthy he is a solid player. Martin is 34 and likely looking for a longer deal, but he is very smart positionally and a solid puck distributor.
Michael Frolik would be an solid third line left winger. He is 27, has scored 40+ points four times, is an excellent possession player and can kill penalties. He was a $3.3 million cap hit last year and will cost closer to $4 million now, but I’d be very interested in him on a four-year deal. He could also moonlight in your top-six when injuries occur.
Shawn Matthias scored 18 goals last season, 17 of them at ES. He had a 13.6 sh%, so a slight dip to 12 wouldn’t result in a major drop off. He is a big body, 6’4″ and 223 pounds, and he plays hard. He is also 27, which fits with the Oilers time line. In two years, when they should be a legit playoff contender he won’t be old. Last season he found some consistency, and he is looking like he’ll be a consistent 15-20 goal scorer. He is listed as a centre, but he mostly played the wing last season in Vancouver. His ability to play centre is a plus.
Scottie Upshall struggled last season and missed 20 games with an injury, but he can skate, plays with an edge and has scored 14+ goals four times. He’ll be cheaper than Frolik, and you could sign him to a shorter term. He is not an elite penalty killer, but has averaged 1:14/game on the PK for the past three seasons, so he can help out when down a man.
The ultimate risk might be Chris Stewart on a one-year deal. He turns 28 in October and he constantly teases you with his ability. He is 6’2″ and 230 pounds. When he is on his game he is a handful down low and he has pretty soft hands for a big man. He’s scored 28 goals twice, had 18 in the 48-game lockout season (prorates to 30 in full season) and scored 14 last year and 15 the previous year. If the Oilers want a bigger body on the wing with some skill, and can handle himself in tough situations if he is inclined, then a one-year deal could be a low risk. One year at $3 million.
The Oilers don’t have much experience down the middle in their top-nine. Connor McDavid will be a rookie, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has played 258 games while Anton Lander has played 132. Chiarelli might look at adding some experience.
Kyle Brodziak, Mike Santorelli, Mark Letestu and Jarret Stoll are some of the centre options. The Oilers really like Lander’s competitiveness and hockey sense. I feel they believe he is ready to be a consistent third line centre, so if they add a centre it might be late in the summer when veterans will sign a one-year deal for cheap.
Who would you like the Oilers to sign?
My candidate for biggest overpay will be Matt Beleskey. He had career-high 32 points last season, with 22 goals. He already turned down $16 million over four years from the Ducks. Good on him for getting the money, but a GM and his fanbase will be regretting it.
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