Why didn’t the Edmonton Oilers sign Jason Demers?

The top right-shooting free agent defenceman came off the
market on Saturday. Jason Demers signed a deal for the next half-decade with the Florida Panthers and did so in exchange for a shockingly reasonable amount of money. 

So why didn’t the Edmonton Oilers sign him?

Part of the reason is probably contract. Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports that Demers took “a little less” to go to the Panthers. 

That makes sense, because $4.5 million is not really the kind of contract one imagines going to a good second-pair free agent. Demers was the No. 3 playoff defenceman for a contending Dallas Stars team a year ago in terms of total minutes played (Kris Russell averaged slightly more per night but missed one game); he just signed for the same annual value as Nikita Nikitin. More importantly he was also the only right-shooting defenceman of any import on the market, and as Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli so powerfully demonstrated, the price tends to be high on those guys. 

So if we imagine him talking to Edmonton, it’s worth tacking some money on to that contract, or perhaps an extra year. 

Even so, as it stands the Oilers could use somebody like Demers. The addition of Adam Larsson did help the right side of Edmonton’s defence, and I’m more bullish on Mark Fayne being able to help than most others are. Still, that’s only two names, and we know for a fact that Chiarelli (correctly) believes that a left-shot/right-shot balance is important. 

At something in the $5.0 million range, there would have been room for Demers and he would have given the Oilers a better shot at the playoffs next year. If the trade of Taylor Hall for Larsson was meant to bring balance, the signing of Demers would have been a logical extension of that instinct, creating a surprisingly deep blue line:

  • Oscar Klefbom – Adam Larsson
  • Andrej Sekera – Jason Demers
  • Brandon Davidson – Mark Fayne 

There is, of course, something missing from that blue line: a power play defender. One of the surprises of the Hall trade was that the player brought back didn’t fill that niche, and Demers doesn’t either. Nobody still on the market really does, with the possible exception of James Wisniewski, who might be a nice fit on a short-term deal. 

It would make sense that Chiarelli wouldn’t want to tie up dollars in two new defenders without one of them adding more of an offensive element. 

25-Nurse-6

There’s also no Darnell Nurse on that list. My read on the situation is that Nurse is regarded by the management group as the most important piece long-term on Edmonton’s blue line. He’s a perfect fit for Chiarelli’s new vision for the Oilers, combining size and aggression; it would be surprising to me if his name wasn’t written in ink in a top-six role next season, even if it means going with one lefty/lefty pair. 

The reason Edmonton didn’t sign Demers was because they brought in Larsson in trade. Demers is faster and more aggressive, Larsson is bigger and stronger, but both fill the same role: defensive defencemen who are also competent with the puck. 

The benefit of bringing in Larsson is that he’s a long-term solution on the right side. He’s only 23 years old (he turns 24 early next season) and for the next decade or more can be expected to log major minutes. Demers is 28, and while he may be a decent bet for the length of his current deal there’s a possibility his play drops off into his 30’s. Chiarelli also sees Larsson as having more upside: 

Still, it’s hard not to imagine the other scenario, the one where Edmonton passes on the Hall trade and signs both Demers and Milan Lucic. Benoit Pouliot would likely have to be sacrificed in such a scenario, but in the short-term the Oilers would have been far better off. Assuming that Lucic plays next to Connor McDavid, Edmonton is going to ice a top-heavy lineup up front next season; in this hypothetical that wouldn’t be the case. There’s also minimal gap between Demers and Larsson in the present, so the blue line would not have been any worse off.   

This is all hypothetical, though; that road is now closed to the Oilers. If the new path leads to the playoffs and then to a contender, nobody’s likely to complain too much. Chiarelli obviously believes that Larsson gives the team a better shot at that than Demers could. 

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • madjam

    Still on radar for trade Karlsson , Ceci ,Trouba , Shattenkirk , Pulock , McIlrath , Barrie , etc.. Wideman still could come cheap as yet . More will come available now as teams get ready for expected expansion losses . The market for trade is actually going to be expanding as free agency winds down . I really expect Chia to be still active before season starts , hard to fathom he might be finished already .

  • Admiral Ackbar

    Of course, we all attempt to between the lines of all trades and see the grand scheme of things.

    Did management lose faith in Hall’s ability to lead the team moving forward? Was he simply the most attractive asset to move?

    Is a #3RHD more valuable than a top 5 LW? Even being a year younger (Dmen take longer to develop), costing nearly $2mil less and having an extra year on his contract, did NJ get significantly more long-term value?

    Does Lucic get signed regardless of Hall’s presence?

    Did they not want to spend 5/$27 on Demers, a 28 year old defender who’s skillset overlaps (largely) with Larsson?

    It sure seems like the Larsson deal was made contingent on a Lucic agreement in principal beforehand?

    Hall puts up more points than Lucic but Lucic has some of the best procession numbers in the league. He’s harder on the backcheck and better in his own zone. Hall will put up more points but will also allow more goals against. I honestly, consider the comparison a wash.

    Guys like Larsson don’t grow on trees but wingers do. Not wingers like Hall, but guys who can be effective. This is why the team has chosen to build down the middle and on D. The team isn’t the same team that we wanted to see win but it’s still the same sweater and that’s where my allegiance is.

  • Admiral Ackbar

    I love how half of our fanbase lives in ‘what if’.

    The current ‘what if’: what if we didn’t trade Hall.

    Be a fan of the sweater and not who’s wearing it.

  • Jay (not J)

    Sounds like PC has other irons in the fire. Ideally Demers would have been available as a plan B or C if other plans didn’t work out but, c’est la vie.

  • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

    Just looking at NHL NUMBERS and am wondering why people think that Barrie is even up for discussion as a trade.
    Colorado is in no sort of cap trouble. Barrie is just a RFA. I could see Edmonton offer sheeting him but I’m sure Colorado matches.
    Nothing to see here folks. Move along.

  • FISTO Siltanen

    Maybe this has been said but I’m tired of reading commentators/bloggers like yourself JW lauding a Florida team for a reasonable contract signing.

    For Demers to net the same amount of cash here in Alberta he’d have to make $5.2-5.4M.

    They have a distinct tax advantage all the while pulling cash from the revenue sharing that is partially paid for by Oilers and Flames fans.

  • FISTO Siltanen

    Maybe this has been said but I’m tired of reading commentators/bloggers like yourself JW lauding a Florida team for a reasonable contract signing.

    For Demers to net the same amount of cash here in Alberta he’d have to make $5.2-5.4M.

    They have a distinct tax advantage all the while pulling cash from the revenue sharing that is partially paid for by Oilers and Flames fans.

  • JackB

    Yes, Chiarelli did get taken to the woodshed in the Hall trade.

    But it was more a case of the OILERS being taken to the woodshed. (Several years of the old boys club running the show, and neglecting our defence. Several years of poor drafting and developing, leaving us very vulnerable on defence.)

    And the whole league knew of our dire need for good right-handed defence. AND NONE OF THEM WERE ABOUT TO DO US ANY FAVOURS. In fact they saw a desperate team, with some pretty good forwards . . . ripe for the picking.

    I think Chiarelli was trying his best, only a few weeks into the job last year, when he tried to improve the defence by trading for Reinhart, getting Sekera, and trading for Gryba. But his mistake was trusting the advice of the people in the organization. I am convinced that the trade for Reinhart was made because of strong recommendations from McTavish and Howson (and Bob Green) convincing him Reihart was NHL ready!!

    . . . might be a hill Bob Green will die on?

  • crackerjack14

    I’d love to see Chiarelli make a block buster trade with Colorado. We know EDM wants Barrie. We’ve heard that Duchene has been criticized by Roy. We know that COL lacks a high end RW, aside from the aging Iginla. We know that COL is looking for a replacement for Barrie. We know Chia wants to be tougher to play against.

    Trade Pouliot (plus?) to ANA for Fowler. Flip Fowler, Nuge, Eberle and prospect to COL for Barrie, Duchene, and Landeskog. Then sign a UFA RW if Yak is traded.

    Lucic-McDavid-Drai

    Landeskog-Duchene-Yak

    Maroon-Lander-Kassian

    Henry-Letestu-Pakarinen

    Klefbom-Larsson

    Sekera-Fayne

    Davidson-Barrie

    Puljujarvi can play in the AHL until Yak is traded mid-season. Landeskog and Maroon can slide up and down lines depending on chemistry. The money stays roughly the same, even with Barrie’s raise.

  • MacT's Neglected Helmet

    The Oilers “didn’t sign” Jason Demers because he didn’t want to sign with the Oilers. It takes 2 parties to sign a contract: the team offers the contract and the free agent signs or doesn’t sign the contract.

    Judging by the fact that Demers and Lucic visited Edmonton before free agency, it’s obvious that the Oilers WANTED Demers but the feeling was NOT reciprocated.

    Here’s how it likely went down:
    (1) Chia tries to trade for a D at the draft
    .
    (2) Prices are CRAZY high during the draft. No dealz.
    (3) Chia shifts gears towards free agency, invites Lucic and Demers to Edmonton.
    (4) Lucic agrees to sign in Edmonton.
    (5) Demers passes on Edmonton.
    (6) Knowing he has Lucic in his back pocket, Chia sells low on Taylor Hall and acquires Larsson.
    (7) Lucic signs in Edmonton, as expected.
    (8) Demers doesn’t sign in Edmonton, as expected.

    There’s nothing Chia could’ve done. Florida is a sweet landing spot for Demers: great climate, great state taxes (0%), great teammates (Ekblad!), up and coming team.

  • Pritchard

    I’d like to c the oilers take a chance on a one year deal for James Wisniewski. The $ should b low. A solid right shot dmen who can really fire the puck.

  • Ndustry

    I don’t get this whole right shooting and left shooting defence thing. Chia Pet does stress it is important to have a balance here. LoL! Like what? Math? As in Three and Three? Ya if you do this guys… Do the Math dot and on.. You don’t have to worry about the balance anymore, you end up with three and three. And don’t have to stress your mind concerning over this? you know that right? well then.. Ok…! lol

  • Oilerchild77

    Jonathan Willis asks:
    “So why didn’t the Edmonton Oilers sign him?”

    Simple. He likely wanted a lot more from the Oilers than the Panthers because Florida has no state tax.

    He would have wanted more than they will be paying Larsson, who is, by all accounts, a better dman. Also, Demers doesn’t fix the powerplay problem, so signing him now wouldn’t make sense.

    So, to sum up, I am glad they didn’t pony up for Demers.

  • 24_McClelland

    The best tradeable asset is gone off this team, and the Oilers STILL don’t have a 1st pairing RH D (or LH D for that matter), who can run a PP and contribute offense 5×5. Makes sense.

    So gone is the driver on the LW, and although he got a 2/3 RH D in Larsson, he massively overpaid. Now the Oilers have an additional issue along the lines of who is going to carry the mail besides McDavid. It’ll be interesting to see what changes in terms of goal differential this year.

    Many, including me, would have preferred that Hall be part of the solution in remaining on the team. I just wish that if he was to be dealt, it would have been as part of a deal to address the big need, not for a guy who has some panning out to do.