Kris Versteeg is a 30-year-old right shooting winger with
two Stanley Cup rings who might have been a useful bargain signing for several
NHL teams. It appears that won’t happen, as he’s expected to sign in
Switzerland this weekend.
Looks like Kris Versteeg’s playing career is taking a different path. He’s expected to sign with Bern in Swiss League this wknd.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) July 22, 2016
Switzerland’s a solid choice for NHL’ers who strike out in
The quality of the league itself is really rather good, good
enough to force NHL teams to keep an eye on it even in years where Auston
Matthews doesn’t play there. 500-game NHL veteran Pierre-Marc Bouchard led the
league in scoring last season, and Cory Conacher was able to use it as a
springboard to secure a one-way deal with Tampa Bay this summer.
Off the ice, it’s not only a beautiful, historic,
first-world country, but it’s also one in which a monolingual English speaker
can get around reasonably well.
Likely, Versteeg won’t be the last of this summer’s
unemployed free agents to look overseas for work. NHL signings have been
reduced to a trickle, and many teams seem to be waiting for arbitration cases
and/or the salary cap compliance deadline in the fall to trigger additional
deals. History shows some players, like Lee Stempniak last year, will stick
around and perhaps even accept a pro tryout.
Versteeg was one of the more attractive options on the list
of possibilities, particularly since he was coming off a 15-goal, 38-point
season and can clearly still play at a major-league level.
Still, there are other players left, including people like
Radim Vrbata, Sam Gagner, Brad Boyes and Mike Santorelli. If Edmonton’s
comfortable acquiring a left shot and bumping him over to right wing, Brandon
Pirri would be a good option. Jiri Hudler’s probably the best of the lot, but
given his KHL history and recent NHL success it’s hard to imagine him signing
at a steep discount.
Adding a right wing is important for the Oilers not only
because of the uncertainty on the right side of the roster but also because of
the power play. The man advantage lacked right shots last year and it showed.
Right now the Oilers top options on that side are Jordan Eberle, Jesse
Puljujarvi and Mark Letestu.
Ideally the coaching staff would have at least one more
option. Additionally, none of those players are primary shooters, though Eberle’s
evidently working on it:
Jordan Eberle on @OilersNow today says he has hired a shooting coach and is focusing on improving his one-timer
— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) July 22, 2016
This will be a situation worth watching over the summer.
Edmonton has the contract room, the cap space and the roster hole to be a good
fit for a bargain-bin free agent or two. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the
Oilers looked at signing one of the remaining players still on the market.
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