The Future & Teddy Purcell

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Teddy Purcell has found some rhythm. After recording just two points in his first 10 games of the year, he has nine in his last 10 contests. He’s filling the same role he played with such success in Tampa Bay a few years back, as the complementary winger on a line with bigger talents, and he’s filling it well.

The question now is what the Edmonton Oilers should do with the pending unrestricted free agent.

The Case For

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Purcell is a multi-purpose veteran on a team that has been largely turned over to the department of youth, and that gives him some value. He’s 30 years old and will turn 31 next September, which puts him on the downhill slide of NHL career arc but isn’t “old.” He also has 500 games of experience in the regular season and has been part of a long playoff run with the Lightning in 2011 (he put up 17 points in 18 games).

Those veteran credentials manifest themselves in different ways. He can play left or right wing, he can kill penalties and his defensive conscience is pretty strong—particularly since being united with Hall and Draisaitl, a situation which allows him to play a supporting role on offence and encourages him to keep an eye on defence.

Purcell isn’t overly physical, but he’s reasonably big (6’2”, 195 pounds) and he can play against big, tough teams, with his game last week against the Kings being Exhibit A. The puck also tends to stick to him; one of his underrated qualities is as a defensive forward, where he’s surprisingly good at challenging opposition rushes and forcing turnovers. Offensively he has a decent shot but his real talent is as a playmaker.

Purcell shouldn’t be too expensive, either. He’s in the final year of a deal with a $4.5 million cap hit and even with his improved play of late he’s probably looking at a steep pay cut and he’s not likely to get more than a one- or two-year deal.

The Case Against

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My personal belief is that this latest surge by Purcell is valuable to the Oilers mostly because it shows the rest of the league that the winger is still capable of playing in a top-six role with superior talent. That means a better return at the trade deadline, which should still be Edmonton’s primary play here.

The main reason I say that is because every summer teams are tripping over complementary wingers. Curtis Glencross had to retire after being passed over by two clubs this fall. Sean Bergenheim and others pursued work in Europe instead. New Jersey picked up both Lee Stempniak and Jiri Tlusty for less than the Oilers are paying Mark Letestu. Even highly-touted Matt Beleskey ended up coming in at a cap hit of less than $4.0 million.

Purcell is a middle-six winger with a range of skills. Those players are a dime-a-dozen in free agency and so he’ll be easily replaced in the summer.

Those players, however, are relatively hard to find in February when NHL teams are scrambling around trying to gear up for a playoff run. There are always way more buyers than sellers, which means that if Purcell looks like a guy who can be slotted into a second- or third-line job and provide a right shot on the power play, he’s going to command some kind of return, particularly given his past playoff performance. Edmonton isn’t at the point where it can afford to turn its nose up at a decent prospect or even a mid-round pick.

The Oilers also have some internal options at right wing. In addition to Nail Yakupov and Jordan Eberle, there’s Leon Draisaitl. I strongly believe Edmonton should keep all three of Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Draisaitl; if general manager Peter Chiarelli feels the same it’s entirely possible that the big German ends up playing on the starboard side. Purcell can play on the left side, but it’s not his natural position and given how replaceable wingers tend to be I’m not at all sure it makes sense to go with a sub-optimal fit.

Finally, Purcell’s in a hot run right now and it’s not likely to continue forever. His stick changes may make a difference long-term or they may end up being like Shawn Horcoff’s trip to the Mexican stick factory, a small adjustment which makes a difference in the short-term but doesn’t fundamentally alter the player long-term. He’ll be 31 soon, and he can’t afford to lose another step.

To me, the answer is obvious: Cash-in on whatever success he has by getting a better return at the trade deadline, then go shopping in the summer for a cheap veteran who can play a middle-six role on the wings.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • Jay (not J)

    If he moves out at the deadline, maybe he resigns on the cheap in the summer. What if the Oilers aren’t in the basement anymore come the deadline though? It is not inconceivable that they could be within a few points of a playoff spot in which case it might make sense to retain him for the run and let him go for nothing – or resign, afterward.

  • Spydyr

    Maybe Purcell is polishing his apples to try and attract an offer from some other team. He might not want to stay in Edmonton. We’ll see how much attraction Edmonton has for free agents. This will be a good test for the theory proposed by some who think the Edmonton Oilers is going to become a destination of choice.

  • Grant Fuhrious

    I think the numbers in the first paragraph are slightly off?

    He had 2 points in his first 11 games, and 9 in his last 9 since taking 4 inches off his stick on Oates’ advice.

    • Which is the same thing as two points in his last 10 games and nine points in his last 10 games.

      I phrased it the way I did to split his season-to-date into two equal segments. The way you’ve phrased it is also valid, highlighting his offensive successes.

      I say potato.

      Edit: And I see you’ve clarified, thereby rendering my comment superfluous.

    • stonedtodeath61

      Funny thing with the less is more with the 4 inches being cut off. It’s a well known fact that our beloved Sen, Mark Stone has the shortest blade on the club by a substantial margin. Love this kid and what he can do. If this gets out, I am buying shares in hacksaws. lol

  • Jay (not J)

    To add: I now realize you’re looking at 10 game splits, so the numbers as written are correct.

    That is, he has 9 points in his last 10, but he also has 9 points in his last 9. Point a game pace since the stick change.

  • mithaman

    It’s too early to make a decision here. If Purcell continues his strong play and shows he has the chops to play with Hallsaitl you have to re-sign him. I mean why wouldn’t you? He’s going to come fairly cheap and he’d probably only get 1-2 years.

    If his play regresses then get whatever asset you can for him at the trade deadline since we wouldn’t resign him anyways.

    Bottom line, Purcell’s future is in his hands. He can earn a spot or be moved elsewhere.

  • Jay (not J)

    Purcell is a key to the Oilers having 3 balanced lines when McDavid returns. I see Teddy staying with Draisaitl & Hall. Nuge, Ebs & Pouliot. McDavid, Yakupov & Hendricks/Korpikoski the other. Where the Oilers are in the standings obviously determines if Teddy is dealt or not at the deadline.

  • Grant Fuhrious

    A few things:

    One it bugs me when people say things like Yak has to prove he can play with anyone, not just the top talent and be effective, but everyone is patting Purcell on the back. The guy is a zero contributor when not playing with talent and even then has not shown long term on the Oilers he can be productive in a top six role.

    Having said that, I thought by now someone in the AHL would have stepped up and challenged for his role in the bottom six, like Pitlick maybe. But that really hasn’t happened.

    So while I think it’s best to get rid of him, the Oilers might be sending away a cheap veteran deoth option in favour of the spot going to someone who hasn’t earned it.

    Having said all that, if Purcell does move, and Lander is sent back down or away cause of his non contributions, well that does open the door for an all Russian third line of Shlepyshev, Yakimov, and Yakupov, which I for one have been dying to see.

    But then at the moment I really like the idea of having three scoring lines when McDavid gets back that consist of Hall, Drai, Purcell – Pouliot, McDavid, Yak – Hendricks, Nuge, Eberle. In whatever order you think, your mileage may vary on which line gets the play time.

    That top nine just looks like way too much for any team to handle. It would give coaches match up fits. It also has a nice mix of size and skill on every line that doesn’t look like a bunch of smurfs.

  • Kevwan

    Purcell is never going to be a thumper but he needs to use his body more. The play on his assist to Leon’s game tying goal against the Hawks was a perfect example. Lean on the Dman to free up the puck.

    Sadly plays like that are to rare in his game. Unless he decides to become more “physically” involved consistently, I’d move him at the deadline.

  • For Pete's Sake!

    If Purcell keeps playing the way he has lately, why not keep him?

    If this team actually turns things around in the near future and I have a feeling they will, he could he could certainly help Hall and Drai push this team toward a fight for a playoff spot.

    Then sign him to a much lower priced one year deal for next year. Keep him hungry. He seems to play much better that way.

  • stonedtodeath61

    Unfortunately for Teddy the league has younger players at a quarter of the cap hit ready to fill the roll. We won’t see Teddy next year or past the trade deadline if someone will take him.

    GO OILERS! Caps suck.

  • mithaman

    Way too soft. Ship him out for anything that you can get.

    The stick thing is a nice story but I could play at a point a game with Hall and Drei the way they are playing (well maybe not).

  • stonedtodeath61

    He is playing at his highest level since arriving at Edmonton and at this level he is actually a nice complement to the roster.

    Our best shot at a serious run will come 2-3 years from now. Does he fit those plans? There is value in keeping a hot streak hot in the short term.

    If we can get him down to the 2-2.5 range i don’t see any reason not to keep him around for another season, but in all likelihood his agent will be advising him to hold out for more, in that case we definitely should be dumping him at the deadline for full value.

    Teddy came through for us after all. Whether he stays or goes, his efforts to comeback this year leaves me impressed.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    He’s been playing pretty well – but if the Oilers are looking like they are out of the playoffs at the trade deadline, ship him out and get what you can. Obviously if we are on our own playoff run then you could keep him if they are seriously thinking they can make a run to the conference final.

    If they end up trading him but he continued to play at an elevated level all year it is not out of the question that they could resign him in FA for 1-2 years at a lower cap hit – or you find someone else, like the article said these guys aren’t exactly hard to find.

  • DieHard

    Trade him at the deadline for hopefully a second rounder. Come July 1st and if both he and the Oilers can agree on a short term low dollar contract, I would have no problem. He appears to be able to move up and down the roster OK.