No two NHL teams are the same, and no two situations are equal. Peter Chiarelli became GM of the Boston Bruins in the summer of 2006 and up until they won the Stanley Cup in June of 2011, he rebuilt his entire defence.
It started by signing unrestricted defender Zdeno Chara on July 1st, 2006. The Bruins didn’t have instant success despite the Chara addition. They missed the playoffs in 2007, finishing 23rd overall with 76 points, but Chiarelli kept changing his blueline and four years later they won the Cup.
Andrej Sekera is not Chara, but he was the first major addition to Chiarelli’s blueline in Edmonton, and Chiarelli has some interesting decisions ahead of him regarding the team’s backend.
Chiareilli has also added Eric Gryba, Griffin Reinhart and Adam Clendening since taking over, but if his past record is any indication that doesn’t mean they will be here in the future when the team is in the playoffs. Chiarelli acquired Paul Mara, Andrew Ference, Dennis Wideman, Adam McQuaid, Shane Hnidy, Johnny Boychuck and Dennis Seidenberg between 2006 and 2010.
Mara, Ward and Wideman were traded away for other piayers, and I suspect we will see some of Chiarelli’s additions only be in Edmonton as stop-gaps until he uses them to fill other holes or acquires different defenders.
Gryba has been a solid addition thus far. He was essentially dealt for Martin Marincin, and he brings a different element than Marincin (including being a right-handed shooter). Gryba is five months from being an unrestricted free agent, but we know what he is as a player.
He is a third pairing defender who is a good penalty killer, he’s big, physical and can make an okay first pass. He turns 28 in April, has played 212 NHL games and currently makes $1.3 million.
Chiarelli could trade him for a draft pick at the deadline, but I believe the Oilers need proven players more than draft picks. Gryba has improved throughout the season. Todd McLellan is playing him more minutes every game and Gryba looks more confident, making better decisions with and without the puck.
He has stayed healthy, playing 47 of 51 games, and only Brandon Davidson and Oscar Klefbom have a better CF% and CF% Rel among Oilers defenders. according to War-on-ice.com.
He is the only physical right shot defender they have in the organization, and he has a very good contract for the minutes he plays. As of Tuesday evening, the Oilers and Gryba’s camp had not had any discussions on a contract extension. That could change before February 29th, and if I’m Chiarelli I would at least find out what type of money Gryba is looking for.
The current UFA crop of D-men is not great, and there aren’t any big, strong, right shot, third pair defenders who are 28 years old. I’m not saying Gryba is irreplaceable — far from it — but he knows his role and he is a solid PK guy. The Oilers don’t have anyone in the system who shoots right and plays his rugged style.
If you could sign him to a two-year deal at $1.75-$2 million/year, would you do it? I would. I like Gryba more today than I did at the start of the season. He looks more comfortable and assertive and he’s an experienced defender who shouldn’t cost a lot.
For me, Brandon Davidson has been the biggest and most pleasant surprise this season. Many didn’t expect him to make the team out of training camp, and most didn’t worry about exposing him on waivers. Chiarelli and McLellan saw something in him and knew he was a keeper.
Davidson just keeps getting better. He has become the surprise player I’ve said the Oilers desperately need, but I never had him pegged as the guy who would elevate his game and become this good.
He will be 25 years old in August. He is just starting to enter the prime of his career, as most D-men mature later than forwards. The sixth round pick in 2010 has never had anything handed to him.
He has had to work extremely hard for his success, not to mention overcome testicular cancer en route to being the player he is now. He is the kind of player every fan cheers for. It’s hard to not root for him.
He signed a one-year deal worth $585,000 last summer and he has earned a pay increase. He is a restricted free agent at the end of the season, so he could elect to go to arbitration. It is clear the coaching staff likes him based on his minutes played, and he’s repaid them by playing very well.
He’s only played 47 NHL games so it is difficult to find contract comparables. Most players will have played more than 77 games (based on him playing the remainder of the season) before they sign their third NHL contract.
There are 11 D-men from his 2010 draft class who have played more NHL games (listed from most GP to least).
Cam Fowler (381) 32-130-162
Justin Faulk (314) 47-104-151
Erik Gudbranson (296) 10-30-40
Dalton Prout (181) 4-20-24
Radko Gudas (169) 7-28-35
Jon Merrill (154) 5-23-28
Martin Marincin (119) 1-10-11
John Klingberg (117) 19-64-83
Mark Pysyk (96) 4-13-17
Alex Petrovic (84) 1-10-11
Brandon Gormley (58) 2-3-5
Zach Trotman (58) 2-8-10
Jarred Tinordi (49) 0-6-6
Davidson (47) 4-3-7
Fowler, Faulk and Klingberg are offensive D-men who play a lot. I see Davidson more in the mold of Gudbranson, Prout, Gudas and Petrovic. He isn’t as physical as any of those four, but he moves the puck well, shoots just as hard, if not harder, and I’d argue is a more agile skater.
Gudbranson is in the final year of a two year deal that paid him $2.5 million.
Gudas makes $1.4 this year, the final year of deal that had a $992,000 cap hit.
Prout makes $1.1 this year and is in the final year with a $1.075 cap hit.
Petrovic will make $1.2 million next year (5th year of pro like Davidson) and has a cap hit of $1.05
Davidson could sign a two-year deal and still be one year away from being a UFA. That would allow him and the Oilers another opportunity to see how he has matured before becoming a free agent. Or they can sign him to three years at a higher amount and take him right to free agency.
I could see him signing a two-year deal at $1.2-$1.4 million/year.
On a three year deal, I envision a contract in the $1.7-$2 million/year range.
What type of money do you think would be fair?
Davidson has earned an extension, and he and Gryba would be a solid third pair for the next few years.