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.
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.
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
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.
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?