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WWYDW: The Edmonton Oilers and the remains of free agency

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?


Pos. Player Roles Notes
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.

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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.


Pos. Player Roles Notes
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 Kenneth Agostino 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.

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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.


Pos. Player Roles Notes
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.

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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?

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