Things didn’t work out in Switzerland for Kris Versteeg, and
now he’s once again on the open market in NHL free agency.
It represents a second chance for Versteeg to stay in North
America. It also represents a second chance for teams like the Edmonton Oilers
that still have a need for a proven top-six NHL scorer at right wing.
Edmonton’s lack of scoring depth at right wing has been
explored on this site at length over the summer. Outside of Jordan Eberle, all
of the team’s logical candidates for the role have question marks.
Puljujarvi is only 18 and is playing North American hockey for the first time.
Nail Yakupov has intriguing potential, but little history of living up to it
and will be playing for a coach who thought the Mark Letestu line was the best
place for him last year. Zack Kassian has draft pedigree and five-on-five
scoring history, but struggled badly to produce last season with the Oilers.
Leon Draisaitl lacks those question marks, but is needed at
The arrival of someone like Versteeg, coming off a 15-goal,
38-point season, would do much to fill the gap created by the loss of Teddy
Purcell (14 goals, 43 points) and give the Oilers the flexibility to do some
- play Yakupov on a more sheltered scoring line with Draisaitl
and Patrick Maroon
- play Eberle with Benoit Pouliot and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (if
desired), giving the Oilers two killer forward lines
- allow Puljujarvi to make his North American debut in the
AHL, where he can play heavy minutes early and accelerate the transition
process to the NHL
- allow Draisaitl to stay at centre, giving Edmonton a third strong
- add a much-needed right shot to the power play
- add another five-on-five scorer to a team that has struggled
to find offence
- add necessary depth to a club that needs to make a move up
the standings this year
This seems like a no-brainer. It’s better for the Oilers as
a team, it puts Yakupov and Puljujarvi in positions to excel right out of the
gate and it isn’t likely to cost too much.
The wrinkle here may be health, because there have been
conflicting reports on exactly why things went sour in Switzerland.
Although fully healthy, Versteeg had hip surgery 4 yrs ago which may have prevented full coverage in Switzerland. https://t.co/6iUbL8EV8L
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) September 5, 2016
Team version doesn’t match players view or his representation. https://t.co/tUCKJ2aVMa
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) September 6, 2016
According to the player’s camp, there was an insurance issue
because Versteeg had surgery a few years back. According to the team, Versteeg
didn’t pass the medical needed to sign on. Obviously, any contract would be
dependent on him being fully healthy for the start of training camp.
Another possible wrinkle is interest from other teams. Our
sister site in Calgary has a piece today making the case for Versteeg as a
player and noting that the Flames too are in need of a right-shooting
right-winger with offensive ability. The Oilers certainly aren’t the only club
that could use an infusion of scoring at the position.
Still, it is to be hoped that Edmonton makes a pitch. After
an aggressive summer and a decade of failure, the club needs to get better
fast. Versteeg could help with that.