A lot of the talk surrounding the Oilers right now is centred around their situation between the pipes. It’s no secret that Ken Holland will need to upgrade this team’s goaltending at some point during the offseason, and he likely will, but that’s not the only upgrade that Holland will need to make over the next few months. They really need to find a third-line centre with an ability to create offence. Now, acquiring those types of players is easier said than done, but there are plenty of names on the market including one player who could be a really good fit: Max Domi.
The 25-year-old Domi is currently a pending restricted free agent and all signs are pointing towards him not returning to Montreal after two seasons with the Canadiens. I think at this point, it’s not a matter of if he’ll be traded, but more a matter of where he’ll be traded.
There will be no shortage of suitors for Domi, and there are plenty of reasons why he’ll be a hot commodity. First off, the fact he can play both centre of left-wing is huge. In 2018/19, he spent a lot of time playing down the middle and it resulted in a career year. He appeared in all 82 games and posted 72 points. On top of that, 61 of those points were at even-strength.
He spent most of that season playing with Andrew Shaw and Jonathan Drouin (over 600 ES minutes with each) and also spent some significant time with Arturri Lehkonen (365 ES mins), Paul Byron (228 ES mins), and Tomas Tatar (221 ES mins). He played with some good players but didn’t have an elite linemate helping him produce offence. He can’t do it alone, but he’s capable of driving a line that can score goals against tough competition.
Now, while 2018/19 was a career year for Domi, this past season was far from it. He appeared in 71 games and saw his goal total drop to 17 (down 11 from the year prior) and his point total drop down to 44. His powerplay production was similar, but his ability to generate offence at even strength took a hit. What’s interesting is that he saw his ‘Corsi For Percentage’ and his ‘Shots For Percentage’ go up even though his ‘Goals For Percentage’ dropped by over 10%.
In his breakout year, his shooting percentage was career-high 13.5% and last season, it dropped down to 9.5 percent. I don’t think he’s ever going to score 30 goals, but still, at just 25-years-old, it’s easy to imagine a scenario where Domi bounceback and puts up 50-65 points next season. I think he got a little lucky in 2018/19 and then a little unlucky in 2019/20. His actual ability lies somewhere in the middle of those two seasons.
The other downside with Domi is that he doesn’t kill penalties and if the Oilers are going to spend the assets to acquire a quality third-line centre, it would be nice if they could help on the PK, but I don’t think it’s a deal-breaker.
Putting the numbers aside, Domi plays a style of hockey that Oilers fans would absolutely love. They’re coming off a series against the Chicago Blackhawks where they really failed to show any heart. They didn’t have the compete level necessary to win that series. I think adding a guy like Domi is good way to ensure that doesn’t happen again. I know that’s an old-school reason to like a player, but I think it carries some weight.
Like I said off the top, the Oilers will be far from the only team interested in Domi. The good news is that Edmonton and Montreal actually appear to be pretty good trade fits. The Oilers don’t have very many mid-round draft picks to offer up but considering the fact that the Canadiens have nine picks between rounds two and five in this year’s draft, I don’t think that will be a dealbreaker.
Montreal is also very deep down the middle but I could see them looking for some help on the blueline or some scoring help on the wings. The Oilers have a pair of pending RFA’s in Matt Benning and Andreas Athanasiou that I could see Habs GM Marc Bergevin being interested in.
Adding a quality third-line centre is crucial for the Oilers this offseason and Domi is a perfect fit on paper. Now, making a deal work will be difficult and on top of that, Domi will need a new contract and will make more than $3 million. That might be too rich for the Oilers liking especially considering their current cap situation. But, if Ken Holland can find a way to move some pricey veterans out and open up some cap space, he should absolutely be calling Marc Bergevin to see what it would cost bring Domi to Edmonton.