Despite not having very much cap room to work with, Peter Chiarelli has had himself a very nice free agent frenzy. Rather than chasing big additions, Chiarelli inked Kyle Brodziak, Tobias Rieder, and Kevin Gravel to bargain-bin contracts.
Brodziak, the 34-year-old defensive centre, is back with the Oilers after being traded in a terrible deal to the Minnesota Wild in 2009. Brodziak has been a very solid defensive centre in the NHL for over a decade now. He’s one of those guys who Oilers fans remember as one who got away. He chipped in 10 goals in 81 games with St. Louis last season despite playing heavy defensive zone minutes. He’s good on draws and can kill penalties, an ideal replacement for Mark Letestu as the fourth-line pivot.
Another one who got away will finally make his debut with the team as Tobias Rieder inked a one-year deal worth just $2 million. Rieder was drafted by the Oilers in 2011 but apparently didn’t want to sign due to the organization’s bevy of skilled wingers at the time. The Oilers dealt his rights to Arizona for Kale Kessy, who never came close to the NHL. Rieder is a good skating, two-way winger who can chip in some offence. He scored 12 goals in 78 games between Arizona and L.A. last season.
Gravel doesn’t have much of a track record at the NHL level as he’s only played in 70 NHL games with the Kings over the span of three seasons. Regardless, coming in at $700,000 on a two-way deal, so this is merely a depth signing.
What does it all mean?
Edmonton’s needs coming into the off-season were talent on the wings, a right-handed defenceman, and a fourth-line centre.
The team might have found an answer on the right side of the blueline in Evan Bouchard at the draft, but I don’t think he’ll get more than nine games in the NHL before returning to the OHL. I like the idea of giving him a cup of coffee so he can return to junior with specific skills to work on and an idea of what the NHL game feels like. That said, we could still see a trade in which the Oilers acquire a righty defenceman before the start of the season.
The two other boxes were checked off with the additions of Brodziak and Rieder, both of whom, given the market, signed very nice deals. Brodziak, as I said earlier, is an ideal Letestu replacement, while Rieder immediately improves Edmonton’s right-winger depth chart.
What does the depth chart look like as of right now? My guess…
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Connor McDavid – Kailer Yamamoto
Milan Lucic – Leon Draisaitl – Tobias Rieder
Drake Caggiula – Ryan Strome – Jesse Puljujarvi
Pontus Aberg – Kyle Brodziak – Zack Kassian
JJ Khaira – Ty Rattie
Oscar Klefbom – Adam Larsson
Darnell Nurse – Matt Benning
Andrej Sekera – Kris Russell
There’s a lot more depth here than there was last season. Bouchard can play nine games and split time with Matt Benning and then get sent to the OHL while the Oilers replace him on the roster with Gravel or Ethan Bear depending on how they’re performing in the AHL. I have a suspicion Kailer Yamamoto will make the team, but if he doesn’t, Aberg and Rattie can slide up the lineup.
Obviously there’s a long summer ahead, but the roster for next season is starting to take shape and there are quite a few things to like. The Brodziak and Rieder signings may not be sexy, but they both perfectly fill a hole on the team.
What say you, Nation? Do you like today’s signings? How do you expect the roster to look come October? What moves would you make throughout the summer, if any?