At the end of the 2014-15 season, there wasn’t much positive to be said about Teddy Purcell. In his first season with the Edmonton Oilers, he scored 12 goals and 22 assists in 82 games, which was by far his lowest point-per-game production total since breaking into the league with the Tampa Bay Lightning back in 2010. That wasn’t really unexpected, though. I mean, the Oilers acquired Purcell in a “let’s swap bad contracts” deal in which Sam Gagner and his $4.8 million cap hit was shipped to Tampa Bay. Immediately after, Gagner, with $1.6 million retained by the Lightning, was dealt to the Arizona Coyotes for a sixth round pick. So I guess that kind of gives you an idea of where Purcell’s value was at back then.
Now, after spending a good chunk of the season playing alongside Taylor Hall and Leon Draisatil, Purcell has rejuvenated his career and looks more like a legitimate top-six scoring asset than some guy who’s going to be out of the league sooner rather than later. And it couldn’t have happened at a better time, as Purcell is set to hit the open market for the first time in his career this summer.
Who is Teddy Purcell?
Well, to sum it up quickly: he’s a late bloomer.
Purcell played for the Notre Dame Hounds of the SJHL during his 18-year old season in 2003-04 and was passed up in the NHL draft. He spent the next two years playing for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL, again, going undrafted. It wasn’t until he was a 21-year old freshman at the University of Maine that he made his first major splash in the hockey world. In 40 games with Maine, Purcell racked up 16 goals and 27 assists, which was good enough for the Los Angeles Kings to offer him a two-year, $2.7 million entry-level contract.
In his first season playing professional hockey, Purcell absolutely dominated the AHL, scoring 25 goals and 83 points in just 67 games for the Manchester Monarchs. To put that in perspective, the next highest total on the team was Brian Boyle, who had 62 points in 70 games. After spending the next couple years bouncing up and down between the Monarchs and the Kings, struggling to find consistent success at the NHL level, Purcell was dealt to the Lightning at the trade deadline for Jeff Halpern.
This is when he finally broke out. In his first full season with the Lightning in 2010-11, Purcell scored 17 goals and 34 assists playing primarily with Simon Gagne and Vincent Lecavalier. Also, he was a major part in Tampa’s playoff run that season, as he was third on the team with 17 points through 18 games as the Lightning came within just one win of making it to the Stanley Cup Finals. The following season, Purcell was hooked up with Steven Stamkos, which led to him enjoying the best statistical season of his career, scoring 24 goals and 41 assists in 81 games. That performance was good enough for the Lightning to lock him up to a three-year, $13.5 million contract extension that would keep him under control at a $4.5 million cap hit until summer 2016.
After another successful year as Stamkos’ wingman in which he put up 11 goals and 25 assists over the lockout-shortened 2013 season, Purcell hit his first major road bump in 2013-14. This was the year that Stamkos broke his leg in a collision with Bruins defenceman Dougie Hamilton, forcing him to miss just under three months of action. When he was healthy, though, Stamkos spent most of his time with Martin St. Louis on his wing, as the Lightning had bought out Vinny Lecavalier’s contract before the season began. Unsurprisingly, Purcell struggled playing primarily with Alex Killorn and Valtteri Filppula, scoring just 12 goals and 30 assists in 81 games, which was the worst of his four full seasons in Tampa.
Knowing that they needed to free up cap space to squeeze in the extensions handed to Ryan Callahan, Ondrej Palat, and Tyler Johnson, the Lightning dealt Purcell to Edmonton for Sam Gagner, who was then quickly flipped to Arizona for a draft pick. Purcell, as we know, had a rough season with the Oilers, scoring 12 goals and 22 assists in 82 games playing primarily with the enigmatic Nail Yakupov and Derek Roy as his linemates. This year, though, he’s has been excellent alongside Hall and Draisatil, as he’s put up 11 goals and 20 assists through 57 games with the Oilers.
CONCLUSION: Purcell has produced 0.54 points-per-game and a 51.3 Corsi For percentage over parts of nine seasons in the NHL with the Kings, Lightning, and Oilers. He can be a good depth producer, but when paired with an elite linemate like Stamkos or Hall, he’s shown that he can produce at a very high level. That said, he probably isn’t going to be the one to drive the office on a line, so what you get out of him largely comes down to who he’s going to be playing with.
What’s he worth?
I think it’s fair to assume that Teddy Purcell will be moved by the NHL’s trade deadline on Feb. 29. Whether the Oilers are interested in bringing him back on a new contract next summer is a different thing, but it would be very surprising to see the Oilers, who currently sit dead last in the Western Conference, hang on to Purcell rather than getting at least something for him as a rental sale.
Obviously this isn’t the greatest seller’s market we’ve ever seen, but I can think of at least a handful of teams that would be interested in Purcell as an upgrade on what they currently have in terms of right wingers in their top six. Like, the Chicago Blackhawks may want somebody better than Richard Panik playing with Jonathan Toews and Andrew Shaw come playoff time, while the Dallas Stars would probably be happy to not have Patrick Eaves playing with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin on their top line. Then there’s also the Islanders who might find themselves in the mix if Garth Snow decides he needs to sell Kyle Okposo before letting him walk for nothing this summer.
Regardless, somebody is going to be interested in Purcell’s services, even if they’re only willing to give up a second round pick for him. The real point of intrigue is what he’s going to command as a free agent this summer.
Purcell is essentially the epitome of a complimentary forward. When he’s paired with a somebody really good like Stamkos or Hall, not only does he play better himself, but he helps that teammate play better. For example, this season, when him and Hall are on the ice together, they have a Corsi For percentage of 55.1 and are producing 2.97 goals for per hour. But when they’re apart, Purcell has a 45.2 CF% and is producing 1.56 goals for per hour, while Hall has a 49.6 CF% and is producing 2.45 goals for per hour. So, I mean, obviously a lot of this comes down to Hall being a damn good hockey player, but Purcell deserves some credit too and shouldn’t just be viewed simply as somebody who tags along and enjoys other players’ success.
Over the past three seasons, Purcell is 62nd in points scored in the NHL among wingers. That puts him in company with names like Ryan Callahan, Michael Frolik, Matt Moulson, Drew Stafford, Benoit Pouliot and Justin Abdelkader. When you shift that to points-per-game over than span, though, he ranks 79th among wingers, just ahead of Ales Hemsky and Matt Beleskey. But if you take the three seasons in which he primarily played with an elite linemate like Hall of Stamkos, he produced 132 points in 186 games, good for a 0.71 point-per-game average. I mean, obviously you can’t just forget about the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons just like that, but if you want to get an idea of how Purcell is going to perform when you put him in a situation to do so, there it is.
Anyways, judging by his past performance and similar wingers who have signed new contracts recently, I would guess that Purcell’s next deal will be pretty similar to the $4.5 million annual one that he carries right now. Drew Stafford got $4.35 million per year for two years with the Jets and Matt Beleskey got $3.8 million per year over five years from the Bruins on the open market last summer. So a short-term deal should net him somewhere between $4 and $4.5 million, while a longer investment would likely result in him taking a pay cut for added security.
CONCLUSION: Judging by similar players who were signed recently, I would guess Purcell will ink a contract similar to the one he signed in Tampa Bay a few years ago. As I mentioned earlier, though, if he’s signed to a big deal in order to be the one driving offence for a team, there’s a very good chance they won’t be getting their dollars worth.
Previously in this series:
Keith Yandle (2016 UFA)
Victor Hedman (2017 UFA)
Brent Burns (2017 UFA)
Kyle Okposo (2016 UFA)