WWYDW: Signing Jason Demers

There aren’t a lot of free agents on the market this summer who might plausibly address the Edmonton Oilers’ weakness at right defence, but Jason Demers is one of them. A long-time member of the San Jose Sharks under current Edmonton coach Todd McLellan, Demers has been the No. 4 defenceman for the Dallas Stars in the postseason and will be in action against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night.

Is he a player the Oilers should consider signing?

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Demers is a player I’ve been watching throughout the postseason, but one I really keyed in on in this series between Dallas and St. Louis. I’d encourage interested Oilers fans to keep an eye on him in Game 7. What kind of player is he?

As a skater, I’ve been impressed with Demers. He has good straight-line speed moving forward and backward and perhaps more importantly performed well moving side-to-side in the defensive zone. He’s not an elite skater but he’s strong in pretty much all areas.

I was impressed with his hockey sense, too, particularly on the defensive side of the puck. He’s extremely aggressive defensively, and like my Edmonton Journal colleague David Staples I noted that he did a strong job of closing quickly with opponents, thereby forcing the m to make decisions in a hurry and increasing the chance of a turnover. The Staples report noted that reach was a problem, but I tend to disagree; Demers doesn’t have a massive wingspan but he’s so good with his stick that it makes up for him not being 6’4”. That ability to play with the stick helps compensate for average size.

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The Gregor scouting report linked above provides perhaps the best description of Demers from a size/physical perspective, with Gregor noting that he is “[n]ot overly physical, but has good positioning.” He’s only listed at 6’1”, 200 pounds, so he’s not a bruiser defensively, although in my viewing he didn’t shy from contact and he won his share of battles. The best Oilers comparison is probably Andrej Sekera (though Demers is both bigger and somewhat more physical): a player who competes and who wins battles but who can be outmuscled.

Staples and Gregor had rather different takes on Demers’ puck skills. Gregor’s report described Demers as a player with “second tier vision”, one who was willing and able to make plays but lacked the creativity of a strong puck-mover. Staples, on the other hand, had high praise for his puck-moving game (with the caveat that this was based off a handful of games):

There’s not a d-man on the Oilers who has as good a first pass as Demers ( not that this is any kind of high praise, given how weak most Oilers d-men are at this), but even on a fast-moving, sharp-passing team like Dallas, Demers stands out as a solid puck mover.

I lean more towards the report put together by Gregor. Demers is certainly able and willing to make a pass, but he’s not creative with the puck and under pressure he can fall into the trap of just ringing it around the boards and hoping for the best. The NHL.com highlight doesn’t go far enough back to show it, but on the Blues’ first goal in Game 6, Demers did exactly this and ended up turning the puck over. By my count, he had two turnovers in Game 6 in that fashion and a third play where the puck was just high enough not to be intercepted but which resulted in an icing call.

That tendency would seem to be confirmed by the data collected by Dimitri Filipovic in the first round. Demers is just below average for an NHL defenceman both in terms of how frequently he exits the zone and how successful he is at making exits where his team retains control of the puck. Some of that comes from playing with Kris Russell (who exited the zone a lot but threw the puck away too often in Round 1) and some of it would seem to be a reflection of the player’s limitations in this regard.

In other words, he’s good with the puck, but an NHL general manager probably doesn’t want him as the only puck-carrying option on a pairing.

To Sign or Not to Sign

Peter Chiarelli2

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I don’t think Demers should be Plan A.

Free agency opens on July 1, and if at that point the Oilers have not been able to sufficiently address their weaknesses on the right side, they should certainly consider Demers. He’s a smart, mobile defender who plays an aggressive and effective defensive game and provides competence with the puck. However, he’s not a primary offensive option, he has limitations as a puck-mover, and he has only average size.

The trouble is a) that Edmonton needs a legitimate first-pair guy and b) given the lack of right-shooting defencemen in free agency, Demers is almost certainly going to get paid. The play here should be to pursue all available trade avenues first for a more reasonably priced player with a better chance at filling a top-pair role. Failing that, Demers is a reasonable but expensive fallback option.

At least, that’s my view. What Would You Do Wednesday is primarily about our readers, so I turn it over to you: Should the Oilers plan to sign Demers this summer?

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

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  • TKB2677

    I’m actually a little bit shocked at this article coming from Willis. Willis is the guy who based on what his spread sheet told him, said that Mark Fayne had better numbers than Seabrook and floated the idea that Fayne was a better dman than Seabrook. There isn’t a GM, scout or player past or present in the league that would say Fayne is ever better than Seabrook. Hell, I don’t even think Fayne would say he’s ever been better than Seabrook but the spread sheet says he is.

    Anyway, so to see an article like this coming from a hardcore advanced stats guy like Willis is shocking to me. The majority of the advanced stats guys that I have heard take turns leading the “Demers is great” parade. Lowetide the other day went so far as to say the Oilers need to do whatever it takes to get him. If it takes an extra year, you give it. If it takes giving him more money than you should, you give it.

    My personal take. Would Demers most likely be an upgrade on the Oilers defense? YES. But in saying that, that doesn’t say much. Their best dman on the right side is Fayne who on the majority of teams is a 3rd pairing guy. If you can sign Demers for 4.5 mill on a 4-5 yr deal to play in your second pairing, sure go for it. He was making under 2.5 mill last year so you give him in the area of .45 mill, that’s a huge raise. Play him in your second pairing. But if it is pushing 6 mill, run away.

    I personally think the Oilers need to go all in on a guy via the trade route. If Faulk or Barrie is available, go get them. If it costs you Nuge and something, pay the price. They desperately need a PP guy. They aren’t going anywhere until they improve their defense.

  • McRaj

    Reading the comments, I can really see why people bash our fan base. We assume things way too much and go with potential instead of reality when evaluating our roster.

    Davidson was our best D-Man for a month, so that mean’s we should slot him into a Top 4 Role automatically? WRONG. He has yet to prove anything. He can slot in Top 4 or be in the AHL.

    Klefbom has all this potential and when he has played he seems top pairing. Issue with that is that he is always injured, has never ever played a full season in any major league, and until proven otherwise he is injury prone.

    Nurse/Reinhart may be third pairing or may start in AHL. Reinhart may become a shutdown D or may be a bust. Nurse may become a top pairing beast or may be nothing more than a third pairing D.

    Sekera? Overpaid and is a second pairing D who is unfortunately playing above his head. Fayne is third pairing D.

    Other Prospects and Players, all third pairing potential at best it currently seems (except those not playing in NHL/AHL like Jones/Bear).

    In reality, the Oilers need to acquire two SURE FIRE Right Shot D-Men. If a trade is available where the Oilers can trade pick #4 to Arizona for pick #7 and either Right shooting D-Men Murphy or Stone. That deal should be made. You get a right shot d-man and then draft Chychrun, who if we go off of potential which everyone seems to love, has a higher ceiling than any of the D-Men on our team.

  • camdog

    You could slot Davidson on the right side to start next season. It’s not optimal but it would work. The team still needs to acquire 2 reliable d-man but getting 2 righties might not be practical for next season.

  • Spiel

    SIGN THE MALL!
    First pair, right handed D, an are a rare commodity in free agency. Good luck Chia!

    According to the writers here, we don’t really need a RHD anyway, because we have the corsi KING – Mark Fayne. Fayne and Pouliot were two fo the most celebrated FA signings on this website, yet just a few seasons later, they are the names coming up in the trade proposals.

  • @Hallsy4

    Or even both of those deals if possible. I think that would fix the D for the most part, and give guys who need time to develop (Nurse) to develop, without substantially taking away from our core or current future, minus the #4 pick. I don’t think Pouliot and Reinhart gets us Bogosian though.

  • ajoseh

    Fix the Oiler is simple

    To Arizona
    Hall
    Yak
    Davidson

    To Oilers
    OEL
    Hanzal
    7th oa pick

    Oil draft Dubois @4th and a dman with the 7th like Chychrun or Sergachev. Sign Ladd

    Maroon – McD – Ebs
    Ladd – Hanzal – Drai
    Kassian – Nuge – Slep or the Drake
    Khaira – Leststu – Hendo

    OEL – Kelf (My swed connection)
    Sekera – Fayne
    Nurse – Gryba

    Tab
    UFA Goalie

    • Cowbell_Feva

      I know Arizona’s new GM is only 36, but he ain’t trading OEL and Hanzal for Hall.

      Yakupov and Davidson are supposed to be sweeteners, but there is ZERO chance of that trade going down, let alone with the 7th overall pick!

      Dude, this is why Oilers fans are laughed at for over-valuing their players.