The Edmonton Oilers weren’t very good for the large part of the past decade. When you’re not making the playoffs you’re usually sending players out instead of bringing them in. Despite this, the Oilers still managed to add an older, useful veteran every so often that would make the last half of the season more tolerable. The Mike Cammalleri trade reminded me of these players, so let’s take a look at some of the Oilers’ most interesting Old Guy additions.
The Old Guys
Similar to Cammalleri, Derek Roy was a former offensive star in his thirties playing out the twilight of his career. Roy spent the majority of his career in Buffalo but played for Dallas, Vancouver, St. Louis, Nashville, and Edmonton in the three years after being traded to Dallas. The Oilers traded for Roy in 2014-15 after he cleared waivers earlier that day, sending centre Mark Arcobello the other way.
Roy formed an effective duo with Nail Yakupov scoring 22 points in 46 games with Edmonton, while Yakupov finished with 19 points in his last 27 games of the season with Roy as his centre. Those 46 games as an Oiler were the last for Roy in the NHL, as he wasn’t re-signed when the club drafted Connor McDavid that offseason.
The 2013-14 season featured Devan Dubnyk imploding after saving 0.921 percent of the shots faced the season before and new backup Jason Labarbera was unable to stop the bleeding. Enter Ilya Bryzgalov. The quirky netminder was 33 and signed a 1-year deal worth $1.75 million in November after being bought out by the Philadelphia Flyers in the summer. Bryzgalov made his Oiler debut coming in relief for Dubnyk against Chicago later that month allowing one goal on 13 shots and followed that up with a shutout against Nashville a few days later.
Bryzgalov provided some stability in net with a .908 save percentage in his time with Edmonton and was traded to Minnesota fourth months later for a fourth-round pick after both Nicklas Backstrom and Josh Harding were done for the season. Bryzgalov went on to play 12 regular season games and nine playoff games for Minnesota that season.
Also during the 2013-14 season, the Oilers acquired Matt Hendricks from Nashville for Devan Dubnyk. Edmonton wanted to give Dubnyk a chance to rebound elsewhere, and the Predators weren’t sold on the four-year deal they gave Hendricks in the summer.
Hendricks carved out a nice role for the Oilers over the next three and a half seasons, logging minutes on the penalty kill and occasionally chipping in a goal or two. Hendricks is one of the Oilers’ best Old Guy additions. He was 33 when they acquired him and was reasonably effective for the remaining years on his contract while playing on what he called “The Wagon Line” and becoming a fan favourite.
Jerred Smithson was acquired at the deadline of the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, although he joined the team at a later date due to the birth of his child. The 33-year-old had 5 points in 35 games with Florida that season, but the timing of the move was odd. The Oilers with in the thick of the playoff hunt only a few weeks prior and badly needed a center then with injuries to Shawn Horcoff and Eric Belanger, and apparently had Smithson on their radar then.
Smithson didn’t help. He had 1 point in 10 games and the Oilers finished winning just three of their last 12 games. The best part of the Smithson trade is definitely the dramatic behind the scenes look of the how the trade happened, with then Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini citing Smithson winning 70% of his faceoffs in the playoffs.
Desharnais came in as centre help needed when Draisaitl became a more permanent fixture on the McDavid line. Neither Drake Caggiula or Mark Letestu were ideal fits there, so Peter Chiarelli traded Brandon Davidson to Montreal for Desharnais.
The 30-year-old centre wasn’t playing as much as he used to in Montreal, just 13 minutes a game before being traded, but ended up playing even less in Edmonton. Desharnais never really earned the trust of Todd McLellan, but his overtime goal in game five against San Jose made his acquisition worth it. Desharnais came off the bench, found a pocket in the middle of the ice, and finished a slick pass from Leon Draisaitl. Desharnais also assisted on Oscar Klefbom’s game tying goal late in the third period.
Desharnais only had four regular season points but that overtime goal gave Oilers fans one of the most exciting moments in the past decade. That overtime goal gave Edmonton the 3-2 lead in the series, and helped them finish the series in six in San Jose.
What about Cammalleri?
The Oilers hope Cammalleri can be as effective as Roy was down the stretch, or have a playoff moment like Desharnais last Spring. Cammalleri’s 35 years old, but also had 31 points in 61 games with New Jersey last season. That’s a very respectable 0.5 points per game, something the Oilers could desperately use in their bottom six.
The Oilers picked up useful, older veterans mid-season before, and Cammalleri should get all the opportunity to show he still has some scoring left in him.