We’re now deep into the bargain bin section of summer free agency, the point where players are starting to accept tryout offers because there just aren’t that many guaranteed contracts on offer. In this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday, we ask which free agents still out there might be good fits for the Oilers.
In recent days we’ve already seen two players who have been speculated as potential fits for Edmonton—defenceman Jared Cowen and forward Brandon Pirri—accept deals tryouts in Colorado and Florida, respectively:
Defenseman Jared Cowen will join us at training camp on a Professional Tryout.
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) August 29, 2017
#FlaPanthers announce PTO for Forward Brandon Pirri.
— Florida Panthers PR (@FlaPanthersPR) August 29, 2017
Still, there are a lot of familiar names left looking for work. A few will probably do what Kris Russell did a year ago and land short-term deals on the eve of training camp. Jaromir Jagr and Cody Franson, for example, should be able to find homes without needing to go the tryout route. But a lot will have to settle for tryouts.
Before we get into the possibilities, it’s worth pointing out that some good players can be found this way. Lee Stempniak is my go-to example for this; in 2015-16 he had 19 goals and 51 points after initially having to take a tryout deal in New Jersey. The Devils even managed to flip him for second and fourth-round picks at that season’s trade deadline.
Who could Edmonton look at? There is a long list of possibilities, but when I looked around the NHL I came up with five players who I saw as both a) potentially out of luck for a guaranteed contract and b) fits for the Oilers’ specific strengths and weaknesses:
- LW/RW Jiri Hudler. Hudler had a miserable and injury-filled season, and over the past three years has gone from 31 goals to 16 down to three. He’s still a plausible middle-six winger and a pure finisher—he has a career shooting percentage of 15 percent while scoring 79 percent of those goals at even-strength. It’s fun to imagine him adding some speed and creativity on a bigger line (say, Leon Draisaitl and Milan Lucic), even if it means starting a Jesse Puljujarvi or Anton Slepyshev in the AHL.
- C/LW John Mitchell. Mitchell used to be a competent two-way guy who could do a bit of everything, but his offense disappeared last year and at age 32 its possible he’s done. On the other hand, he won 56% of his even-strength faceoffs last year, he kills penalties, he hits and he’s only one year removed from 10 goals. Colorado was a disaster last year, and it’s possible a decent utility forward just got lost in the mix. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having him in camp as injury insurance and to challenge players like Jujhar Khaira and Iiro Pakarinen.
- LW/RW P-A Parenteau. Parenteau is a flawed player, but he’s also a right-shooting goal-scorer and those are not easy to find. He’s scored 13-or-more goals in six of the last seven seasons, and hit 20 as recently as 2015-16. He’d be the same kind of add as Hudler, except with more of a power play focus; he’d have to either get lucky with an injury or outperform one of the younger options in camp.
- RD Dennis Wideman. I went back and forth on whether to include Wideman here, but he does make some sense as a third-pairing/end-of-roster type who specializes in power play work. Right now the betting line seems to be that Matt Benning will get the second power play point job, but given how pedestrian Benning’s offensive totals have been at all levels there’s no harm in bringing in some training camp competition. Injuries happen, and if Yohann Auvitu or even Eric Gryba gets bumped to the AHL because Wideman looks like gold in camp it’s hardly the end of the world.
- C/LW Daniel Winnik. Winnik can play. He was a regular for a very good Washington team last year, mostly in a fourth line and penalty-killing role, though he also put up 25 points without ever seeing the power play. He’s mostly a winger these days, but can also play down the middle. He’d be injury insurance and competition for end-of-roster Oilers.
Hudler and Parenteau are both plausible insurance policies for Edmonton’s top-nine forward group, while Winnik and Mitchell are nice end-of-roster options if there are injuries in camp. Wideman falls into the second category on the back end. There really aren’t any plausible second pairing defencemen still out there unless Franson finds himself unable to land a contract, and even if he does I think his mix of strengths/weaknesses is not a great fit for a Todd McLellan-coached team.
Who would you like to see the Oilers bring into camp on a tryout? Does one of the names above stand out, or would you prefer some other free agent—perhaps a Shane Doan or Jarome Iginla or Alex Chiasson? Or are you content to leave open spots so that players like Slepyshev and Puljujarvi are guaranteed (or nearly guaranteed) NHL jobs? Let us know in the comments section.