The Other Guys: Free Agent Scrap Heap

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Free agent frenzy has come and gone, and for the first time in history the Edmonton Oilers got the most coveted guy on the market! However there are still plenty of NHL players languishing in free agent purgatory right now. The Oilers would be smart to shore up their depth with the addition of some NHL veteran presence, and today we’re going to take a look at a few guys still looking for a good home, that could potentially be a fit for the Oilers. 

SAM GAGNER

The former Soon-To-Be Oilers captain had his worst pro season last year, putting up a paltry 16 points while only suiting up for 53 games with the Flyers, in between stints in the AHL, his first time ever playing in the minors. Drafted and used as a center by the Oilers, it appears Sam’s time at pivot is all but over, as his 35.1 faceoff percentage was only .1% better than noted non-center Milan Lucic. Hell, even Coyotes GM Don Maloney said “at the end of the day we just didn’t think he could play center for us at the NHL level” after trading Gagner to the Flyers for the ghost of Chris Pronger. 

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His points per game have been steadily decreasing since 2012, but he still intrigues me as a bottom six winger option. His 16 points last season were more than both Matt Hendricks and Iiro Pakiranein, and while he plays a wholly different style of game than either of those two, it wouldn’t be the worst thing to have a guy with legit offensive touch playing some of those tough minutes, while also being an option to move up the lineup when the inevitable injury bug decimates the Oilers as it does every year. His possession numbers are also stellar, so while he may not have become the top line center Oiler fans dreamed of, he should still have plenty of value to a team like the Oilers. 

WHAT’S HE WORTH?

Gagner is coming off a 3 year deal with an annual cap hit of $4.8 million, and while in Arizona he showed he can still be a 40 point player, I’d only be willing to give him maybe half of that. A two year, $5 million deal would be around the ballpark I’d be comfortable with. 

INTANGIBLES/SPECIAL SKILLS?

About to turn 27 years old (I KNOW RIGHT SHOULDN’T HE BE LIKE AT LEAST 35 BY NOW??) Gagner is already entering his ninth NHL season, which puts him right in the wheelhouse of younger veteran players like Milan Lucic, who have plenty of NHL experience (over 600 NHL games) that the Oilers have been missing for years. 

BUT more importantly his wife is a beautiful doctor. What better example to set for young bucks like McDavid and Draisaitl, than showing them the benefits of finding a woman with both beauty AND brains! 

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Sam-Gagner-Girlfriend-Rachel-Linke-pic

Also this, this, and this

JAMES WISNIEWSKI

He’s 32, missed the entire 2015-16 season (sans 47 seconds) after tearing his ACL, and had the last season of his contract bought out by the Carolina Hurricanes of all teams. HOWEVER he’s a veteran, right shot defensemen, only two years removed from a career high 51 point season. Since 2010 he’s averaged about 12 powerplay points, and as of right now the Oilers are still in need of a QB for their first powerplay unit, so on paper Wisniewski seems like a good fit. 

WHAT’S HE WORTH?

He’s nearing the end of his career age-wise, and we all know what can happen to a once useful defenseman after they suffer a serious lower body injury *waves at my BFF Ryan Whitney*, so I’m a little leery about all that. He’s coming off a 6 year deal with a cap of $5.5 million, and I’d be looking at him to play a hybrid role of a 5-6 D-man/powerplay specialist, so somewhere around a one year, $3-3.5 million dollar deal would be my ceiling. Perhaps Chiarelli could look into a lower AAV, but load the contract with bonuses for games played, powerplay points, etc. 

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INTANGIBLES/SPECIAL SKILLS?

His mime routine may not be family friendly, but it’s pretty hilarious when directed at noted sentient bag of garbage Sean Avery

BRANDON PIRRI

Pirri is a 25 year old, 6 foot, 185lbs centerman and former second round pick, who was buried beneath the weight of unbelievable depth in the Blackhawks organization, before being shipped off to Florida for a couple late round picks. He found his footing as a solid bottom six centre for the Panthers, putting up seasons of 25, 24 and 29 points over the last three years, but has only found himself playing over 60 NHL games in a season once, playing 61 last year between the Panthers and the Ducks.

He matches up pretty favourably against Anton Lander (WHOM I STILL THINK IS DUE FOR A BREAKOUT ANY DAY NOW) putting up better offensive numbers and similar possession numbers, while Lander still has an edge in career faceoff win percentage (50% to Pirri’s 46.1%). Best case scenario he challenges Lander and Letestu for a bottom six center role, or perhaps even a winger role on the third or fourth line. And worst case scenario the Oilers are able to add another depth forward to shore up the ranks down in Bakersfield (Pirri put up 75 points in 76 games for AHL Rockford in 2012). 

WHAT’S HE WORTH?

Pirri did not receive a qualifying offer from the Ducks, which would have been worth just north of $1 million a year (I’m probably wrong about this. Please correct me if I am). A three year, two-way deal at $1.5 million per is a reasonable gamble to me, on a guy who could be a valuable bottom six player. 

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INTANGIBLES/SPECIAL SKILLS?

Brandon Pirri loves fans so much so that he once gave his game used stick to a little boy IN THE MIDDLE OF A SHIFT! 


What a guy! 

KRIS RUSSELL

Arguably the most devise free agent on the market, Kris Russell is beloved by old-school hockey types (HE BLOCKS SO MANY SHOTS) and derided by analytics crunchers (HE BLOCKS TOO MANY SHOTS BECAUSE THE OTHER TEAM ALWAYS HAS THE PUCK). Russell had back to back great offensive years for the Flames in 13-14 and 14-15, putting up 29 and 34 points respectively, with 12 and 14 of those points coming on the powerplay. His numbers fell this year, as the Flames came crashing back to earth after laughing in the face of the analytics gods in 2014-15, and he was shipped off to Dallas, where he underwhelmed in the playoffs. 

WHAT’S HE WORTH?

Look, I know most of you really don’t like Mark Fayne, OR analytics for that matter, but in my opinion despite slightly better offensive numbers, Russell is a MUCHB bigger liability in his own end, and the numbers back me up on this. 

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 1.10.36 PM

Combine that with the rumour that Russell is looking for a 5 or 6 year deal worth somewhere around $30 million, I’d avoid him like the plague. That being said, if he were to accept a DRASTICALLY reduced contract, in both term and AAV, maybe I’d kick the tires a little. A two year deal worth $2.5-3 million a year (Mark Fayne money as we call it in Edmonton) wouldn’t be great, but Russell has shown some offensive touch, so perhaps he could find himself being a decent contributor in a bottom pairing role? This would also allow the Oilers to shelter guys like Nurse and Reinhart, rather than continuing to throw them to the wolves. Either way I’d rather the Oilers look elsewhere for veteran defensive help. 

INTANGIBLES/SPECIAL SKILLS?   

Almost single handedly reignited the Analytics V. Old School debate on Twitter, before it was completely co-opted by the PK Subban/Shea Weber trade. 

NIKITA NIKITIN

LOLOLOLOL JUST KIDDING!!! 

SHAWN HORCOFF

While many, MANY people argue he was massively overpaid after the Cup Run Of ’06®, Shawn Horcoff was always an incredibly solid player for the Oilers. The Oilers are only JUST NOW starting to finally recover some actual center depth they slowly dismantled after MacT, in all his infinite wisdom, traded Horcoff for *sighs deeply, rubs temples* Philip Larsen. Horcoff turns 38 in September, and had the worst offensive season of his NHL career since his rookie year, but the numbers show our heterochromia carrying friend still has a bit of tread left on those tires. His 51.29 faceoff percentage puts him right in line with Mark Letestu, and you know he’s gonna go out there and the kill the hell out of penalties for you. 

Obviously he’s a former Oilers captain, and was one of the veteran guys who helped take Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano under his wing when they were just little NHL babies. He’s got the leadership and veteran intangibles that would be great to add into this still relatively young Oilers locker room. 

WHAT’S HE WORTH

Horcoff is coming off a one year, $1.75 million deal. I would be okay with the Oilers giving him an identical deal, and having him play a Boyd Gordon-esque role this year for the Oilers. Plus how great would it be to see Horcoff end his career back where it all started? 

INTANGIBLES/SPECIAL SKILLS?

He’s got two different coloured eyes and looks very reminiscent of Sloth from the Goonies. Plus, now that he’s been suspended for PEDs he can use that experience to teach the young Oilers (how not to get caught taking PEDs). 

IN CONCLUSION

It’s not a murderers row of talent by any means, but there are a few guys still out there looking for contracts, who could be very valuable additions to the Edmonton Oilers. Edmonton has a projected $8.3 million in cap space going into the 2016-17 season, and a few shrewd signings by Chiarelli could go a long way to giving the Oilers some depth the likes we haven’t seen in probably a decade. Did I miss anyone you think would be a good fit? Let me know in the comments! 


    • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

      1.5 ml for Gagner is the very most I’d go. Could get in some power play time too. Wizniewski 3.5 no way.2 ml top. These guys are gonna be begging for a job come fall time. Invite 1 to camp and let him earn some money.

  • Jay (not J)

    If Horc’s still on the breadline in a month or so I wouldn’t mind seeing him (or Gagner for that matter) get a camp invite. I don’t think that anyone on the list is someone that you would want signed right now, but 1 or 2 trying to keep the dream alive could create good competition at camp. Also the 2 former Oilers were both good role models (well, until one of them got caught juicing – let’s say they demonstrated an admirable work ethic)and could help set a positive tone in preseason. If one of them earned a spot it would mean that he outperformed somebody who’s currently penciled in. Can’t be upset about the team improving.

  • deferoiler

    Why must we continue to fantasize about bringing back ex-oilers. There ex’s for a reason. Also paying Kris Russell that kind of money is absurd. The fact that Dallas gave up a hefty price to acquire him and then let him walk tells you something.

    • Keepyourstickontheice

      A list of previous Oilers I would happily bring back if the money/term made sense:

      1) Taylor Hall
      2) David Perron
      3) Kyle Brodziak
      4) Andrew Cogliano
      5) Martin Marincin
      6) Boyd Gordon
      7) Sean Horcoff

      They are ex-oilers because they either didn’t fit the teams needs at the time, or were valued less than what they brought back in return. Doesn’t mean they can’t be useful hockey players in the right circumstances.

      • deferoiler

        I never said they were useless players and obviously dreadful management played a huge role in these guys leaving but I don’t get why we need to go down that road again. They wont be the same player they were and if other teams are pushing them aside why should we be so inclined to resign them Don’t get me wrong I love guys like horcoff and ganger but judging by the fact that chairelli isn’t connected to any of these players and the fact he wants size over skill in the bottom 6 I would pass. Unless we get them at a bargain deal and charelli sees them as good fit, that’s the only way I would go down that path. STOP LIVING IN THE PAST. Id love to have ganger back but I would rather sign a better depth player that fits charellis mold and make the playoffs then have a fan favorite back.

        • Keepyourstickontheice

          “Id love to have ganger back but I would rather sign a better depth player that fits charellis mold and make the playoffs then have a fan favorite back.”

          Like who? Let’s talk PTOs

    • Seanaconda

      Dallas let all their dmen ufas walk tho. Goose demers and Russell. No one really did like Russell tho

      but Dallas is betting on their d prospects proving themselves they have pretty good dmen coming up.

      All they want for a dman would be a legit top pairing left hand dman.

      They would rather spend their money fixing their goalie situation I think. Try to get bishop or fleury and getting rid of neimi or lehtonans contract somehow.

  • Action Jackson

    Vrbata or Pirri between 1.5-2.5 for one season. Possible #2 RWs and with right shots for the powerplay. In the dog days of the summer this type of player comes on the cheap.

  • Seanaconda

    Wait till these guys are desperate and give them a classic coyotes prove you still belong in the nhl type of contracts. Under a million for a year.

    They might go to Europe instead but guys sometimes bite on these. for another chance to show they can still play.

    • Have to agree, not one guy on that list that is worth any more than league minimum. It will be enjoyable to tell my Flames buddies down here that Kris Russell has fallen to his rightful place. Flames fans talked about this guy like he was the next coming of Pronger. I contended that he blocked so many shots , because they never had the puck when he was on the ice.A special no to Gags, had his chance and blew it, dont need any more soft as butter players, had a roster full of them for years, mercifully that is changing.

      • OTOF2

        That would also be a backhanded compliment to Flames management. They somehow managed to get two good prospects and a 2nd round pick (one Dallas win away from a first rounder) for a guy who only a few months later seems to have little value. Well played.

        • Seanaconda

          Makes Vancouver/ Benning look awful as well for not trading Hamhuis at the deadline when that’s who Dallas wanted over Russell.

          And then losing him to Dallas in free agency anyways.

  • vetinari

    Please take the Oilers’ cheque book away from Jeanshorts, BM.

    August is the time that you grind guys into one and two year bargain deals with the threat of the KHL as an alternative.

    Also, be patient until after the arbitrations are over– someone will have to shed money off their roster and we can be there waiting with open arms.

  • Bringer_Of_Snow

    Pirri definitely interests me. So does Wiz. But given that he missed a full season from injury. I see him getting a PTO next season. It would be a pretty safe bet to give him a one year, $1mil contract now though. It ensures you get him, and he could end up having a good season. If not, you just bury him. Its a win win. HE gets guaranteed money, and we get a potential, cheap PP QB.

    Lucic-McD-Ebs
    Pou-Nuge-Yak
    Maroon-Drai-Pulj/Pirri
    Hendo-Testtube-Kass/Paks

    klef-LArsson
    Sekera-Fayne
    DAvidson-Wiz
    Nurse, Reinhart, Gryba??????

    Ideally you move Reinhart + 2017 1st and 2nd for Barrie, but not likely

    • daryl

      First the expansion draft so no big move for Barrie now second would really like to nab Boyle don’t really know if it is possible but for a one or two year deal he wouldn’t be bad the guy can still skate.

  • wiseguy

    Gagner for $2.5mill to play the 4th line when he doesn’t check? You must be trolling us for comments…

    Horcoff took Gagner and Cogliano under his wing… how’d that turn out? We definitely don’t want him taking any more youngsters / top prospects under his wing if the result is one becomes an AHLer and another had to be rebuilt by a team after he got traded.

    • Seanaconda

      Did horcoff do that ?? I more remember the cogs gags Nillson line. With horcoff still centering hemsky and Penner back then

      And then horcoff taking hall and ebs under his wing which didn’t turn out that bad for them.

  • MacT's Neglected Helmet

    $5M for 2 years of Gagner??? LOL.
    You know he’s not going to score 8 points every night right?

    I like Gagner, but I’d be surprised if he got a one year $1.25M contract. Most likely, he will have to attend a training camp tryout as an unsigned free agent.

    • He’s been a 40 point player his entire career up until last year. He’s only 27 so I have to think that was more of an aberration rather than a sign he’s completely fallen off a cliff seemingly out of nowhere.

      You’re right that it’s much more probable someone makes him a lowball offer like that, but in my opinion he should be worth more than Zack Kassian, who has never broken 30 points in a season.

      • vetinari

        “You’re right that it’s much more probable someone makes him a lowball offer like that, but in my opinion he should be worth more than Zack Kassian, who has never broken 30 points in a season.”*

        *while he hasn’t broken 30 points in a season, Kassian HAS broken Gagner before!

        Too soon?

      • I think Gagner was working through a pretty bad concussion last year too. Problem is once you get concussed once *cough* Kassian *cough* the second one lingers.

        I’d offer him something like $1.5M per with bonuses for point production. Personally I think there’s still a player there.

      • wiseguy

        Using points to compare gags and Kassian’s worth to the team is absurd. You stated that gags would be on the 4th line. Kassian brings more important attributes than gags to a bottom 6 line. It would be like saying Schultz should be worth more than Adam Larsson because he gets more points.

  • fisherprice

    All of the suggested salaries for these players is too high. Gagner maybe at $1 million for 1 year sounds about right. Wisniewski missed an entire season with a serious ACL tear, while this kind of injury isn’t a career death sentence in hockey like it is for basketball or football, $3 million? What? Brandon Pirri will find some way to miss 40 games with an injury so you won’t get value no matter what you pay him. Kris Russell is a bad defenceman but he’s also willing to take a Shea Weber slapshot to the face if necessary – while I think the Oilers could use a little more of that die hard mentality, Kris Russell is actually really really bad. We’re not going to be able to ditch Letestu’s contract so I don’t really see the point of bringing in a slightly better version of him in Horcoff.

    I dunno, it seems pretty clear to me why none of these guys are signed right now.

  • CMG30

    If the price was right, I’d take Horc back in a minute. He’d be perfect centering a hard minutes 4th line.

    Gagner never recovered from taking Kassians’ stick to the chops. Even his doctor/wife hasn’t been able to fix him. Besides, he doesn’t strike me as a ‘Chirelli’ type player. Then again, I’d invite him to a tryout and stick him on a line with Kassian just to see what happens!

    • Jay (not J)

      I think given the circumstances they would both put their own self interest first and get over it. I don’t think that the two of them making it work is beyond the realm of possibility. They’re both pros and both would have a lot at stake.

  • sportsjunkie007

    That $8.3 million in cap space isn’t adjusted for Ference being on LTIR or McDavid, Draisaitl, Puljujarvi, Larsson and Nurse bonuses being earned. Realistically the Oilers have more like $3 million plus to work with.

    • Seanaconda

      Ferance is basically ltretired isn’t he? So his cap only matters till the first game then it’s gone. Larsson is past his ELC so does he even have bonuses??

      Lou in new Jersey didn’t even give him bonuses for his ELC when he was 4th overall.

      With the other 4 we are probably over the free bonus cap tho. Nurse might not even have very much for bonuses worked into his contract being a 7th overall or whatever he was.

  • Looch#27

    No way I offer any money to these gents without going through a PTO. Having said that Horcoff is intriguing and I’m assuming would come cheap. Wiz seems like a huge risk(see Ryan Whitney). The best thing to do is wait it out and that’ll put the squeeze on anyone who still wants to play in the show. We’ve done the Gagner thing no way I go back!!

  • 99 to 97

    I like the Wiz a lot more after seeing him shove noted NHL bottom-feeder and alledged puppy-kicker (anyone have video footage?) Sean Avery. Horc was a good Oiler. He did whatever was asked when he was here. It wasn’t his fault he was offered an exorbitant contract and had the audacity to sign it.

  • bazmagoo

    I’d take a flyer on Vrbata and/or Wisniewski on a one year deal but the rest of them don’t fit our roster needs. What about Gryba? Eric was playing well before he got injured. Schenn’s deal hurts him big time.

  • Moe Sizzlack

    Someone sure sat you guys down and made you take your articles seriously huh!!?? Haha GOOD!!

    2 yr 5 mill.?

    R U H!GH??

    I’d give him 2 year 4mill at absolute MOST .. His 16pts deserve a Kassian like contract .. And let them be line mates haha (remember the broken jaw) some enemies turn into the best of friends .. True Story!

  • and for the first time in history the Edmonton Oilers got the most coveted guy on the market

    I’d say that (arguably) we got the most coveted guy on the market for the second season in a row. Andrej Sekera was easily the best UFA defenseman (and possibly player) last summer. Granted, the 2015 UFA group was by and large a plate of BS and chips, but still.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    due to the fact Tyson Barrie isn’t an Oiler yet, I’d say Russell and Wisnewski are still on the table for d-men. and please Chia, just say NO to Gagner and Horcoff!! been there done that so let’s move on shall we?

  • RedMan

    The Oilers really need Kris Russell and Dennis Wideman to bring up their offensive output from the blue line. You just have to get over your pride and the Flames stain. Flames would probably trade Wideman 4 Yakupov and retain salary, Russell could be picked up at a discount.