Welcome to the OilersNation UFA preview. Over the next 15 days, we’ll be profiling the top 30 players in this year’s UFA class, as listed by TSN. Contract information is from our friends at Puckpedia. Full UFA list via puckpedia here. Analytics provided by hockeyviz.com and naturalstattrick.com. Contract projections are done by evolving-hockey.com with the presumption contracts are signed between Aug. – Oct. 11.
Today, we’re looking at the 26th ranked Dustin Byfuglien and 25th ranked Wayne Simmonds.
One of the most interesting names on this year’s free-agent market is Dustin Byfuglien.
Back in April, the big defenceman and the Winnipeg Jets mutually agreed to a contract termination, meaning Byfuglien walked away from the $14 million (over two years) that he had remaining on the deal.
The story began in September, shortly before the start of the 2019-20 season. Byfuglien informed Jets’ general manager Kevin Chevaldayoff that he wasn’t sure if he had another season in him. At the beginning of October, Byfuglien changed his mind and said he would reconsider after getting surgery on his ankle.
Come January, Byfuglien ultimately decided not to return to the Jets, and, four months later, the two sides agreed to the contract termination. Now, Byfuglien is a free agent.
It’s incredibly difficult to predict how Byfuglien would perform at the NHL level after undergoing surgery and taking an entire year off from playing. But, given the fact he hasn’t officially announced his retirement, there’s reason to believe the big man still wants to play.
In 2018-19, Byfuglien played in 42 regular-season games for the Jets, scoring four goals and 31 points while logging 24:22 per game. He also had eight points in six playoff games for the Jets that year.
Contract projection: N/A
Should the Oilers be interested? Given the upside, you can’t go wrong on a one-year, show-me deal with Byfuglien. He could come back from a year of rest fully healthy and dominate like his younger self. But he could also be completely toast. If the price isn’t high on a one-year deal, I would give Big Buff a go.
It seems that age and wear and tear have taken their toll on Wayne Simmonds.
A few years back, Simmonds was one of the best power-forwards in the league. He was a lock for somewhere between 25 and 30 goals each season and he played a tough, physical style that endeared him to teammates and fans alike.
But, since leaving Philadelphia, Simmonds’ production has cratered. He had 17 goals in 62 games for the Flyers in 2018-19 before getting dealt to Nashville at the trade deadline. As a Pred, Simmonds managed just one goal and three points in 17 games. Next, he signed a one-year deal in New Jersey, where he’d manage just 24 points in 61 games before getting dealt to Buffalo where he put up one point in seven games.
Now 32 years old, it seems Simmonds’ best days are behind him. He can surely still contribute in a bottom-six role and he does bring value as a great leader, but expecting Simmonds to crack the 20-goal plateau again would be wishful thinking.
Contract projection: Three years, $3,474,000 AAV.
Should the Oilers be interested? No. The Oilers have a fair amount of players who can play in checking roles in their bottom-six and they need to spend the cap space they have available on a third-line centre upgrade.