Decisions on Defence: Gryba and Davidson

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.

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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.

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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

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.

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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.

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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. 

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  • toprightcorner

    Gryba is a perfect 3rd pairing dman, size, mean, PK and is not a liability in his own end. Having that in a RHD is even better so I would look to sign him for 3 years $1.6 – $1.9.

    Davidson is a little tougher, not because of ability but positional need. It also ends up being a numbers game. Sekera, Klefbom and Nurse are here long term and when you add a true top pairing guy, there’s your top 4 for many years to come. That means Davidson has no place to move up in the lineup. With Reinhart being acquired by Chairelli, he will definitely stay even though he is likely a year away from a permanent spot.

    Bringing in a top pair player then means you have to move out a dman and Davidson is the only one that is showing well and could also be projected by other GMs with a higher ceiling and have more value. I would guess that Davidson will likely get traded in a package that brings back someone that fills a bigger need which would be a top pairing dman. If a trade is made for that player, a scoring forward would be the main part of the package but a promising dman with upside will be sought by those GMs as well.

    Davidson has shown the ability to be a second pairing guy but the Oilers already have 3 of those ahead of him on the roster so he will draw the short straw.

  • Seanaconda

    Sign them both.

    On those contracts…they will still be tradeable…

    As will Klefbomm, Nurse, and even Sekera….

    Note that I would have traded Klefbomm for Harmonic.. Klef always seems to get injured long term and next year is more expensive than Harmonic.

    Oilers will eat half of Jultz salary to move him for a 6th round pick. He will be the subtraction.

    And Ferrence… hopefully they can find a way to be rid of his contract…. He is likely gonna stay injured past the buyout deadline…

      • Gadgets

        Read your own words. You just said you’d pay them 2 million each. Now you’re trying to change your mind because people are showing you that would be an over pay?

        They are both valuable players but the key the the Oilers long term success is going to be not just cap management but asset management as well.

  • Gadgets

    “For me, Brandon Davidson has been the biggest and most pleasant surprise this season.”

    Davidson had been an amazing surprise and a welcome addition to the blue line, but I would say Leon is the bigger most pleasent surprise this year. I always knew he would be good but never though Draisatl could be this good.

    I often think Leon doesn’t get the credit he deserves.

    • .

      Good point. I think Leon has been the best thing in the first 50 games (40 for Leon).

      I’d say that Leon’s been the biggest surprise and that McDavid has been the most pleasant one. Davidson has been fine, but doesn’t compare in terms of the impact that those two are making. Talbot would be 2nd in the pleasant surprise category with his play over the last 550 shots or so.

  • .

    Brandon Davidson has caused me to change my opinion of our defence prospects and given what Klefblom has said in the past, I’m no reluctant to judge our minor league defenceman too harshly.

    Basically Klefblom said it was easier for him to play in the NHL because everyone is where they are supposed to be. I remember watching Musil play last year for a few games………and he did not look out of place. In fact he looked good and never appeared to be too slow as many suggested was his problem.

    Just saying.

  • Secondary players should be signed AFTER the primary pieces are acquired and right now we have jack squat on RD.

    I would rather ear mark that 2M (for Gryba) and 1.5M (for Davidson) to help bring in top talent such as Byfuglien and/or Burns. At the end of the day, that 3rd pairing spot is easy to fill for less than 500k-900k. I see no need to spend on this position unless 1RD and 2RD are already figured out.

  • .

    For me both Gryba and Davidson have proven there both definitely 5,6,7,D . A typical scenario is happening in Edmonton there both being rated higher than they both are at this time . Both are great stories and I would like both on 2 year deals but at the right price. Also your top 4 D should be getting more minutes and don’t right now because we don’t have a #1 and maybe a bit away from a real #2 . Klef,Nurse and Sekera,could end up in the top 2-4 but if you want a cup at least one probably two topD are needed or a few years growth for both Nurse , Klef .

  • .

    All could think about while reading this was how farcicle Shultz’s contract($3.7M) is. Davidson is twice the D man Schultz is and we are arguing over paying him 1.2- 2 Million for what he does. Davidson is a $2 million D man. He would be great on the PP as well if they would just play him there. If I was GM i’d try to get him for 4 yrs x $2 Mill.

  • O.C.

    Contracts below $2 million per are easy to move if the player doesn’t pan out. Gryba at $3.5 over 2. Davidson at $2.75 over 2.

    If either want term, I keep the annual rate. 2 years is a better option for the Oil. Soon, others will take pay cuts to come over.

  • Word to the Bird

    I really believe the guy who said Davidson could be dangled as trade bait is on to something. Chiarelli is a smart man and probably doesn’t want to trade one of the forwards until he can see all of them playing together finally. And as much as I love the way Davidson is playing right now, I doubt he will ever reach the level of Travis Hamonic (at least not any time soon). Is Davidson and maybe a third round pick fair?

  • wiseguy

    Remember when we wanted to trade Hall for Weber, now he is on waivers we should totally get him. *checks newsflash* oooh, different Weber. Ok. Still, Yannick is a right hand shot, has a bomb on the pp. I think we would have grabbed him if we didn’t take Clendening but still a person of interest. Can’t have him, Schultz and Clendening though.

  • passenger

    Good write up JG!! I hope we have the trade Ebs for a top D crowd on a short leash. Gads Ebs can put the biscuit in the oven,….

    Both of these D men will continue to improve. It looks like two year deals would be the best at a reasonable $. With NN & JS gone PC will only really need to fill one top 4 D slot. I’ve been too pumped watching Connor to check the draft prospects but maybe a first round D man might be in the cards this year.

    I wonder if AF has seen his last game? I also wonder what his status is on July 1st. If he is on IR a buyout is not in the cards; right? What happens if he is still on IR at camp? Does he have to pass a physical to maintain his contract?

  • camdog

    IMHO we have the following 5 long-term D: Klef, Nurse, Davidson, Reinhart and Sekera. The rest are short term fillers to keep the D at least a bit competitive until K,N,D and R mature and fill slots appropriately e.g. Nurse or Klef may evolve into a top pairing, or not. With more experience, PC will be able to slot them appropriately and fill in the hole (s). He will keep Clendening, Fayne and Gryba while the 4 mature. The rest are gone by this summer.

    One thing is clear, any way you slice it, we still need a solid top 2 D as there are not 2 in the 5 long term names. I would get him sooner rather than later as he can help the team be more competitive i.e. stop having such a high Goals Against Average and help develop the inexperienced 4 L-T D (exclude Sekera).

    • Anton CP

      One little problem, all of those 5 Ds are left shots. Sekera can play the right side but Bomb, Nurse, Davidson, and Reinhart that couple of them have to learn to play right too.

      And this will definitely not going to be a popular opinion:

      The way I see it, Sekera and Bomb will both be the Oilers long into the future consider about the contract that they have and just signed. Schultz has 50% chance of actually getting an extension with similar among of money (not saying that he deserves it, but it is the sad truth of the short supply of RHS D). Reinhart will likely getting a push next season and also will not likely to be on Oilers’ roster beyond 2017 unless he is more of willing to sign for very little money. Davidson will also be getting an one year contract extension only to be monitored the development between him and Reinhart, only one of them will likely get to stay beyond 2017.

      Then what’s left will be Nurse. Nurse will be a very interesting case going forward, this is the first year of his entry level contract kicking in. Nurse will have another 2 years to prove his value however the most likely case is Nurse will be like Jones whom was shipped out of the town before his entry level expired.

      I can’t see Gryba and Clendening depart after this season, both of them are RHS and very affordable. Chiarelli will likely try to move Fayne if he can find a buyer. The rest of it is if Chiarelli can convince Ference to retire.

      If Fayne, Ference, and Nikitin can all come off the book by next season then Chiarelli will have more cap spaces but with the new contract of Talbot and Klefbom kick in that he will still only be getting 11m cap space to work with if Purcell is off the book too (he is very unlikely to still be an Oiler by next season).

      • Seanaconda

        Sekera plays far better on the left side too but I doubt they get rid of nurse tho. He is the type of player the oilers want and need once he develops. It’s too bad what side you shoot matters so much more on d than forward.

        • Anton CP

          It is not because they want to, it is just a very tough situation when you look at the contracts and also the positions. It is very unlikely for any GMs willing to give out bunch of lengthy contracts to players all play the same position (other than C). No GMs in the right mind willing to give more than 2 big contracts to players on same position (McTavish not withstanding…also Petry is still considered to be top 20 RHS D in the league…). 5 D-men playing on left side, as like you said that Sekera is better playing left then how many left side can you actually have?

          • Anton CP

            It comes down to money, Reinhart and Davidson will likely be in the range of no more than 2m per year. That is about as much as third pairing D can get, how much do you think that Nurse will be getting with his talent? He is likely north of 3m+ at least, it is not an ideal price if Nurse will not be playing on top 2 pairings. Unless Nurse can magically convert to right side and plays well that it leaves with very little option to keep Nurse as the Oilers. So the only other option is to move either Sekera or Bomb to open up money and space but with NMC which Sekera has and the more mature Bomb with actually smaller cap hit (4.1m as top D is cheap), Nurse will be the easiest to move too.

          • Seanaconda

            If he’s playing third line minutes and doesn’t get any points then it’s hard to say he will get that much. The only reason klefbomb got his 4 or so million is cuz the oilers are betting on term

          • Anton CP

            If Nurse is playing 3rd line minutes then both Reinhart and Davidson will be much cheaper compare to Nurse into the future. Which was what happened to Jones. Didn’t you think that Poile would be trying to low-balling Jones also? Preds already have both Weber and Ellis locked for long time and it has no reason to give the big contract to Jones when Ellis is only getting 2.5m cap hit.

            And about Bomb’s contract, if Bomb can be anywhere near the legitimate top pairing D then he is actually cheaper than you think. Bomb’s contract would rank 62nd in league for D-man. Heck, even Nikitin is making more than Bomb. Ranked 62nd means it is not a very high risk for a young D-man with top pairing talents.

          • Seanaconda

            That’s why I am betting on term. Chances are it’ll be a steal pretty soon also when is sekeras contract up cuz if it’s around when nurse hits 300 games then it would be a pretty good transition

          • Anton CP

            …Sekera’s contract expired on 2021 with NMC until 2019 and NTC to the end.

            Even if the Oilers signing Nurse to a bridge contract (2 years turn) after his entry expired by 2018 and with the bridge it will expire by 2020. It will still be another year short of Sekera’s contract expiration.

            You should really look up the turn of salaries for all players.

  • camdog

    Davidson’s an interesting player because of all the left d-man when he switches to his off side I think he can handle it better than Klefbom, Sekera and Nurse.

  • nugeishuge

    Hey guys, could someone point me in the direction of that article that compared the oilers dman point production to the rest of the teams dman point production