In just a couple of years, Jordan Eberle has gone from playoff scapegoat to playoff hero. He was invisible during the Oilers playoff run back in 2017, failing to record a goal over the course of 13 games, but he was instrumental in the Islanders’ shocking sweep of the Penguins, racking up four goals.
And it isn’t like Eberle was just scoring to pad leads during garbage time. All four of his goals were clutch. In Game 1, he opened the scoring just a couple minutes into the game, setting the tempo for the series and putting momentum in New York’s favour. In Game 2, he scored the go-ahead and eventual game-winning goal. In Game 3, he buried the tying goal just seconds after the Penguins had taken a 1-0 lead, again giving the Islanders momentum. Game 4 was the same story as he scored quickly after the Penguins went ahead in the game.
This is the clutch Eberle we all expected to see in the NHL playoffs given his knack for scoring key goals at the World Juniors.
Eberle is heating up at just the right time. He had a down year in terms of production this season, scoring just 19 goals and 18 assists over the course of 78 games. It was the first time in his career he failed to hit the 20-goal since his rookie season back in 2010-11 (this is if you don’t count the lockout-shortened year in which he scored 16 goals in 48 games).
This playoff success will certainly compensate for his so-so season when he hits the free agent market for the first time in his career this season. Eberle, of course, inked a six-year extension worth $6 million per season after his entry-level deal with the Oilers but was traded after his miserable playoff showing to help the team free up some salary cap space.
That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday question. Should the Oilers be interested in bringing Eberle back? The team, as we know, badly needs high-quality scoring wingers who can put the puck in the back of the net and Eberle does exactly that. Even if the Oilers want him back, would he want to play in Edmonton again? He got a pretty hard kick on the way out the door when he was traded.
Eberle will roll into free agency highlighting the second-tier of free agent forwards. At the top, you have Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene, if the Blue Jackets can’t get either player signed to an extension. After that, you have the second tier, which, in my opinion, consists of Eberle, Ryan Dzingle, Kevin Hayes, and Gustav Nyqvist. Other names who could be in the free agency mix if they don’t get signed by their current teams are Sharks and Islanders captains Joe Pavelski and Anders Lee.
It’s a pretty solid market for free agent forwards this summer, which is a good thing for teams looking to add a veteran scorer to their lineup. Given the fact there are quite a few quality players available, there likely won’t be a bidding war for a player like Eberle, who will fall under the radar behind guys like Panarin and Duchene.
The Oilers are obviously in a bit of a tight spot when it comes to the salary cap. The team has about $75 million wrapped up in next season’s roster, which still features a few un-signed forwards like Jujhar Khaira and Jesse Puljujarvi. the team could save money by selling off players from their expensive blueline, like Kris Russell or Matt Benning, but we don’t know what the plan is yet.
Personally, I think the fit makes a lot of sense, but it isn’t that simple. Eberle is going to be 29 years old in May and certainly has a few more productive years in him. That said, players signing contracts at this age are a big risk. We saw it with Milan Lucic, the Sabres saw it with Kyle Okposo, and the Flames are seeing it right now with James Neal. I would love to see Eberle return and silence his critics for a few years, but I also worry about how a six- or seven-year deal would age. If the Oilers could free up the cap room, which is a huge if, I would prefer a shorter term, higher annual value deal to bring Eberle back into the mix.
What say you, Nation? Jordan Eberle has shown these playoffs that he isn’t the guy who disappears during the big games like many thought back in 2017. The Oilers badly need a player like him who can score goals and produce on the power play. Should they bring him back? Would he even be interested in coming back?
HOCKEY HELPS THE HOMELESS
Last year, the fifth edition of Hockey Helps the Homeless in Edmonton had a record year by raising $200,000 to assist the Mustard Seed and Jasper Place Wellness Centre in helping the homeless and those living in poverty.
With the event fast approaching May 10 at the Terwillegar Rec Centre, we’re hoping citizens of Oilersnation step up to help, as they always do, to make HHTH the biggest success yet. Last year’s response was fantastic, thanks in large part to the 10th anniversary Oilersnation party that raised $5,000 for HHTH, with every penny staying right here in Edmonton.
In these final days leading up to the tournament, we’re hoping to sell as many $1,000 pennant sponsorships, and $100 Mega-Raffle tickets as we can. If you own a small business or want a keepsake for the games room at home, pennant sponsorships are perfect – you get a pennant with your company logo signed by our pros. With the Mega-Raffle, just 100 tickets are printed. The winner gets a Theatre Suite for 10 guests, food and a bar tab at an Oilers game next season hosted by Ron and Linda Low. Good times.
You can check out the website, purchase pennant sponsorships and Mega-Raffle tickets or donate here.