Less than a week into NHL free agency, and the vast majority of the big names and a large swath of the little names have been cleared off the board. That puts us officially in bargain-hunting territory, and Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli has hinted that his team might be in the hunt for a bargain or two prior to the start of next season.
In Chiarelli’s shoes, which players would you be looking at?
|C||Mikhail Grigorenko||PP/PK||2012 12th OV pick won 58% of his faceoffs|
|C||Brandon Pirri||PP||57 goals in 226 NHL games; avg. 21 per 82 games|
|C||Mike Fisher||PP/PK||Two years of negligble 5v5 scoring now|
|C||Jay McClement||PK||54% on faceoffs over last three years|
|C||John Mitchell||PK||55% on faceoffs, offense disappeared|
|C||Ryan White||PK||Physical utility guy had 16 points last year|
|C||Chris VandeVelde||PK||Oilers draft pick physical, won 52% of faceoffs|
|C||Chris Kelly||PK||Now 36, underlying numbers in sharp decline|
|C||Mike Ribeiro||PP||Maybe the NHL’s most sheltered player|
|C||Sergey Kalinin||PK||Physical, pure DZ specialist|
|C||Andrew Desjardins||PK||One point, 57% on faceoffs|
|C||Vernon Fiddler||PK||4 points in 59 games for 37-year-old|
The Oilers have room to add a centre, perhaps as a No. 13/14 forward or just possibly a little higher up the lineup, though of course he might also spend some time on wing.
To my mind, there are two possibilities on the list above.
The first is someone young with some upside, specifically one of Mikhail Grigorenko or Brandon Pirri. Grigorenko still gets slagged as a casual player, but he’s also massive, had really decent on-ice results for a miserable Colorado team last year, and has added faceoffs and penalty killing to his strengths. There’s also offensive potential there yet to be unlocked. Pirri is less interesting but knows how to score goals and might be a cheap complement on a line with high-end talents.
The other option is a reserve guy, someone to play the Matt Hendricks role from last season. There are four or five players on the list above who would qualify; if I had to pick one I’d gamble on John Mitchell, who tallied 10-plus goals for four straight years before last season.
|RW||Jaromir Jagr||PP||45 years old, 54% Fenwick last season|
|LW||Daniel Winnik||PK||Utility guy had 12 goals, does a bit of everything|
|RW||Jiri Hudler||PP||31 goals in 2014-15|
|RW||P-A Parenteau||PP||13 goals, 6th time in 7 years he’s had 10+|
|RW||Brian Gionta||PP/PK||Topped 10 goals for fifth straight year|
|RW||Alex Chiasson||PP/PK||6’3″, 208 lbs, 26 years old, played at BU|
|LW||Thomas Vanek||PP||Sheltered like crazy, 48 points|
|LW||Dwight King||PK||28, 6’4″, 232lbs; offence cratered last season|
|LW||PP||Signed in Boston|
|RW||Teddy Purcell||PP/PK||Performed well in Edmonton previously|
|RW||Shane Doan||PP||Right shot had 12 PPG in 2015-16|
|RW||Jarome Iginla||PP||Now 40; scoring dried up last year|
|LW||Viktor Stalberg||PP/PK||Offence is sliding, turns 32 in January|
|RW||Scottie Upshall||PK||Fine work last year on pure DZ forward unit|
|RW||Andrej Nestrasil||PP||23 points in 55 GP in 2015-16|
|RW||Drew Stafford||PP||Last outperformed team Fenwick% in 2011|
|LW||Rene Bourque||PP||12 goals highest since 2011-12|
|RW||Jack Skille||—||Physical, reasonable offence for L4 option|
|LW||Milan Michalek||PP/PK||446 career NHL points, history with McLellan|
|LW||Lauri Korpikoski||PP/PK||Bought out by Edmonton last summer|
|LW||Matt Hendricks||PK||Defensive specialist now a part-time player|
|RW||Stephen Gionta||PK||2 goals in 108 NHL games over last 2 seasons|
|LW||Tanner Glass||—||Player-type is rapidly disappearing from NHL|
|RW||Chris Neil||—||1 goal in 53 games, sniped coach over ice-time|
There are too many options here to go through them all.
Jaromir Jagr would be an extremely popular pick-up option for the Oilers, and the man can clearly still play. For most NHL teams, including Edmonton, he’d be my preference over another famous old guy like Shane Doan or Jarome Iginla.
Daniel Winnik is what Lowetide would call a “Fernando Pisani-type” winger and could conceivably fit in anywhere. Brian Gionta and Viktor Stalberg are lower-end examples of the same general kind of player and there are a few others who might fit that description on this list. Alex Chiasson is not a guy I’d look at in this role, but having played at Boston University he’ll be a familiar name for Chiarelli.
There are some pure-offence and pure-defence types that might be useful in the right role. Jiri Hudler is the most interesting name to me of a scoring group that includes P-A Parenteau and Thomas Vanek as well. Dwight King and Scottie Upshall are potential Matt Hendricks replacements.
|LD||Andrei Markov||PP/PK||Best defenceman on the market|
|RD||Cody Franson||PP/PK||Is he fast, aggressive enough for McLellan?|
|LD||Brian Campbell||PP||Tailed off last season; now age 38|
|LD||Nikita Nesterov||PP||24 years old, some offensive dimension|
|RD||Roman Polak||PK||Eric Gryba, but a little better|
|RD||Christian Folin (off market now)||PK||Good chem with Brodin, sunk with Scandella|
|LD||John-Michael Liles||PP/PK||56% Fenwick, 52% Goals in sheltered role|
|LD||Yohann Auvitu||PP||Older rookie last year, has offensive ability|
|LD||Mark Streit||PP/PK||27 points in 68 games for the 39-year-old|
|LD||Johnny Oduya||PK||Still playing nasty DZ minutes|
|RD||Nate Prosser||PK||Competent end-of-roster type|
|LD||Jyrki Jokipakka||—||45% Fenwick rating last season|
|LD||Fedor Tyutin||PK||Got killed in defensive minutes w/ Tyson Barrie|
|RD||Dennis Wideman||PP/PK||56 points in 2014-15, history with Chiarelli|
|RD||Tom Gilbert||PK||34-year-old played more AHL than NHL in 16-17|
|LD||Jakub Kindl||—||No longer a full-time NHL player|
|RD||Matt Tennyson||—||Fringe NHL’er has history with McLellan|
|LD||Eric Gelinas||—||Minus-22 in 27 AHL games|
There are still NHL defencemen available in free agency who could conceivably help Edmonton.
Andrei Markov would be a great fit but will certainly cost too much. Cody Franson is likely to be more affordable, but lacks high-end mobility or aggression and seems to me a terrible fit for Todd McLellan.
The “Andrej Sekera stopgap” class has a bunch of entries. I like Brian Campbell or Mark Streit, others might prefer someone like John-Michael Liles of Johnny Oduya.
If we’re looking past guaranteed stopgaps, Nikita Nesterov and Christian Folin stand out as younger guys who might be able to carve out a role beyond a single season. Yohann Auvitu belongs somewhere in this mix too, and if you’re a big Jyrki Jokipakka fan and squint really hard he might as well.
We should also mention Roman Polak, who played nearly 18 minutes per game for Toronto last season. He has a lot in common with current Oiler Eric Gryba, but is a more established NHL option. I’m very curious to see if he commands a multi-year deal or has to settle for another one-year pact.
That’s all from me. So: Which bargain free agent(s) would you like to see Edmonton pursue?