Photo Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Some Bargains Remain in UFA Bin

The Edmonton Oilers have eight million in cap space remaining. They need to sign restricted free agents Darnell Nurse and Ryan Strome, but do they have room to sign another unrestricted free agent to a one-year deal?

Let’s assume Nurse and Strome each sign for $3.1 million. That eats up $6.2 million leaving the Oilers with $1.8 million in cap space.

Peter Chiarelli could elect to not sign any other players and have Brad Malone as the 14th forward. His cap hit is $650,000 so that would leave the Oilers with $1.15 million.

It is nice to have some extra cap space closer to the NHL trade deadline, but last season proved that having extra cap space is of no benefit if you aren’t in the playoff race at the end of February.

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The Oilers need to be in the hunt in February, and if Chiarelli can find a one-year bargain in the UFA bin later this summer he should sign him. In fact, the Oilers have lots of room on the 50-man roster to sign some players to two-way deals and give them some more depth in the organization.

There are some decent options available. As the days turn into weeks, free agents who have yet to sign a contract can get a little antsy. On July 1st the players have the upper hand in negotiations. There are many teams vying for their services, but when we get to July 15th, then into August the balance of negotiating power swings in favour of the teams.

Peter Chiarelli can offer a free agent a one-year deal in the range of one million dollars; possibly even less.

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Would any of the following players pique your interest?

Derek Grant: 28 year old centre

He tallied 12-12-24 in 66 games with Anaheim last year.
In his previous 86 games he’d never scored a goal. He played 11:06/game last year for the Ducks and his 18.5 SH% was very high. It is unlikely he will score 12 goals again, but I’d argue he brings more offensive potential than Iiro Pakarinen did the past few seasons as the extra forward.

His last two seasons in the AHL he produced 27-18-45 in 36 games in 2016 and 11-8-19 in 23 games in 2017.

He has some offensive instincts in his game. He was 53.1% on 5×5 faceoffs last year, but his analytics weren’t great with a CF and FF of 46%.

Tyler Ennis: Winger who turns 29 in October

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Scored 8-14-22 in 73 games with Minnesota last year. Previous two seasons he battled injuries. He is a smaller forward who can play PP or EV. In his first five NHL seasons, he scored 20 goals three times and produced 43, 46 and 49 points. The other two seasons he played 48 and 47 games and scored 15 and 10 goals and tallied 31 and 34 points.

The last three years have been a struggle. Could he bounce back like Dustin Brown did after four tough seasons in LA? Ennis is a very skilled player, and a one-year deal at $1 million would be a good risk in my eyes. He has more proven NHL skill than Malone and some of the other young wingers in Edmonton. Can he rediscover it?

Nick Shore: Right shot centre. Turns 26 in September

Shore played two years of college after being drafted by the Kings in the third round in 2011. He then spent a year in the AHL, split the 2014/2015 season between the AHL and NHL and then spent two and a half seasons with the Kings. He was traded to the Ottawa Senators as part of the Dion Phaneuf trade in February, and then traded to the Calgary Flames two weeks later. The Flames didn’t qualify him and he’s now a UFA.

In his two and a half years with the Kings he played the 7th most minutes among forwards, averaging 11:31/game at EV and 1:19 on the PK. He had ten points in 68 games in 2016, 17 points in 70 games in 2017 and 19 points in 64 games split between the Kings, Flames and Senators last year.

He is a bottom-six forward with limited NHL offence. In his last season in the AHL he produced 42 points in 38 games in 2015. He did have solid possession numbers regardless of how he played for last year. He had a 52.7 CF% and 53.0 FF% with the Kings, a 56.04 CF% and 57.3 FF% with Ottawa and a 55.2 CF% and 55.4 FF% with the Flames.

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Anthony Duclair: Winger. Turns 23 in August
***I wrote this before he signed in Columbus. Columbus signed him for $650,000. So he is out, but I would have signed him.***

Duclair produced 11-12-23 in 56 games split between Arizona and Chicago last year. The Blackhawks didn’t qualify him. Duclair is worth the bet. He scored 20 goals and 44 points in 2016. He struggled in 2017 with 5-10-15 in 58 games. He was injured and a healthy scratch a few times last year, but scored 11-12-23 in 56 games.

A scout text me this about Duclair.

“Skates well. He teases you with his abilities, but then disappears for long stretches. The question is if he can find any consistency with his effort and his decision making. If he does he could be a solid player. At a low salary, I think he is well worth the risk.”


They have 45 contracts, but realistically it is only 42 as Dmitri Samorukov, Ostap Safin and Kirill Maksimov will go back to junior and won’t count. Add in Nurse and Strome and the Oilers are only at 44 contracts. They need to add some forwards, so why not try to sign a few to two-way contracts.

The NHL roster will look something like this.


Gravel/Bouchard (He needs to be signed).


The farm team will need another D-man, and the Oilers could use another NHL-depth forward ready to be recalled in case of injuries.





A player like Logan Shaw intrigues me on a two-way contract. He isn’t a big scorer, but could be PK guys on the farm. And he wouldn’t take PP time from the young kids who the Oilers need to develop their offensive instincts.

If you could sign Dylan Demelo on defence I would look at him. He shoots right and has played 133 NHL games with San Jose over the past three years. He is only 25 years old, and while he brings very little offence he could help defensively in the AHL.

The Oilers have a lot of room to sign players. None are going to be big names, but it would be nice to have a few more bodies with NHL experience in the organization in case of injuries.

I’d happily sign Ennis to a one-year deal. Is he much more of a risk than Ty Rattie?

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  • OilersGM

    Chiarelli the cap killer. Need to find away to get rid one of Russell, Sekera or Lucic, find away. I still believe there is enough room to bring in one more FA winger. I would prefer Ennis or Duclair on a 1 year 1M deal.

  • bazmagoo

    I would have liked to see him sign Christian Folin instead of Gravel.

    Right shot, right sided, Swedish, 183 games of NHL experience, and available for 1 year at $800,000 apparently.

    Looked like the perfect guy to push Benning, to me. That’s another big Chiarelli miss, in my opinion.

  • oilredemption

    I like Matt Read as an option for the 13th/14th forward. He has previous experience scoring 20 goals (granted it was 5 years ago), can skate decent, can PK. Has played up and down the lineup in Philly. He is aging like 95 ford tempo but he’s 33 and I still think there’s some gas in the tank. Also he is a natural veternan right winger which this team sorely lacks.

  • OriginalPouzar

    One minor point, while Safin may go back to junior, he is eligible to play in the AHL as a 19 year old due to the fact he was drafted in the NHL draft prior to the CHL import draft. I believe his contract would slide as well if in the AHL.

    With that said, he very well may be back in junior. There are conflicting reports on how he did in his 9 games (I think) in Bakersfield this past year.

    This may be a function of how he looks against pros in camp.

  • Towers-of-dub

    I thought they had more cap space than that because they had a deal lined up to trade Lucic once his bonus was paid. That’s what the insiders were saying. What’s happening with that now?

  • aspin

    I think the AHL is good for dmen. Logan Day is on an AHL contract and should be given a spot. They also have another defenceman on an AHL contract. As for forwards, there are also forwards on AHL contracts. Brayden Christoffer being one. Josh CUrrie and Evan Polei being others. I would not be against signing one more vet forward though.

  • QuitForRealThisTime

    I think they will be opportunity to get a bargain bin player after the season starts. The roster as is will probably be the team that starts the season. See where JP and Yamo are at before committing more money now. Malone can be the extra if required.

  • Gravis82

    Why exactly do we need to sign strome? Find a temporary replacement in UFA and wait for your draft picks. Strome is not good defensivly and a poor choice at 3C, but not offensive enough to play higher in the lineup.

    He is the same type of player as Eberle, at 1/2 price, with 1/2 the offense.

  • Craig1981

    I have been super pessimistic about this year, because there are 5 players with BIG question makes :

    Rattie: Can he compliment the top line like Armstrong did for Crosby, MacDonald did for Gretzky
    Lucic: Can he return to what he was 2 years ago
    Puljujarvi: Can he make the step up like Rantanen and Debrusk did this year
    Rieder: Same as Lucic
    Sekera: Is he over the injury or is it permanent ?

    The reason I’m less pessimistic is, though not all those questions will be answered positively, the AHL has some guys that might be ablest fill the voids (as long as SOME of the questions are answered positively)

  • The Immortal

    Ennis took too many blows to the head. Another small slow soft defensively challenged winger is not what we need. If so we traded a much better one in Eberle why? For Strome? Seriously?

    • Better? Seriously? Completely disappeared during the playoffs , in fact his allergy to contact directly caused 2 losses and his unwillingness to make a hit on an injury prone defence man possibly cost us a third game. Object is not just to make the playoffs, but to win them all and take the Cup. Eberle will be no help in that department. If the Islanders re up him, he wont get that kind of coin from Lou.

      • The Immortal

        Yeah i don’t recall the stats by heart but over his career he’s top 20? scoring rw in the league. Our depth on rw is exactly zero…Rattie gifted the # 1 spot? OMFG.

        Strome is allergic to contact and corners. No skill, no grit, slow as molasses…great trade.

        Can’t win the Cup if you don’t make the playoffs….

  • Arfguy

    I do like Nick Shore as another centre option. I saw a couple of games he played in (LA and Ottawa) and he’s a pretty good skater. If nothing else, I think he’s worth a 2 year risk at about $800K AAV.


    Sign Tyler Ennis. He is a 3 time 20 goal scorer and also played for team Canada at WHC a few years back. His value is very low but his skill set is very high. Injuries and inconsistency has plagued him the past few years. Oil coild sign him for cheap and he could be a steal.

  • Kepler62c

    Great article, I like the idea of adding some guys to the Bake that will provide good depth but don’t need to be on the top lines and take time away from players still developing.

  • The Future Never Comes

    Grew up playing against Ennis in Edmonton, he’s got some soft mitts and is like a dollar store Eberle, may take a low low contract to play in Edmonton and try to rediscover his career before it’s to late.

  • Arfguy

    I’m surprised that Dylan Demelo and Alex Chiasson are both UFA. While Demelo seems like a tough player to gauge, based on limited experience, Chiasson is a right-shot RW who can easily play 3rd line minutes and produce.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    I dont see Strome being worth over 3 mil a year. I would not sign Strome for that, use that money for someone else. Does Strome really give the Oil enough value to give him a 3 mil a yr contract, not in my opinion. There are guys who are paid too much for what the team gets from them

    • Arfguy

      I honestly don’t think Strome is worth $3 million. I think $2.5 million that he was getting was sufficient. The problem is, he was fourth in scoring behind McDavid, Draisaitl and RNH. I think he’ll get $3 million with the Oilers. I think he’d get less with other teams. The other problem is, there aren’t a lot of options for a 3rd line centre. I think there are a couple, but it is a risk. I do like Nick Shore, but Strome does have a history of being more productive than the likes of the UFA centres available. Strome also has age on his side, which a lot of the UFA centres do not.

  • Oilersforever

    many ballast in the composition of the: Sekera, Russell,
    Кassian, Lucy. until we get rid of them, we can’t make the playoffs. soon Chia and Todd out!