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2020 NHL UFA Top 30: Sami Vatanen and T.J. Brodie

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 PuckpediaFull 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 16th ranked Sami Vatanen and the 15th ranked TJ Brodie.

Sami Vatanen

A few years ago, Sami Vatanen was a key part of a loaded Anaheim Ducks’ blueline. With so many quality defenders in the mix, the Ducks shipped Vatanen to New Jersey in exchange for Adam Henrique, addressing a major need for a quality forward.

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White Vatanen produced at a pretty good clip with the Devils, some difficulties with injury resulted in him not being the consistent, top-four option that New Jersey had coveted. Ahead of the trade deadline, the Devils sent an injured Vatanen to Carolina for a depth defenceman, a prospect, and a fourth-round pick. Vatanen wouldn’t play a game with the Hurricanes until the playoffs, where he recorded three assists in seven games.

Over the past two seasons, Vatanen has been limited to just 97 games. At a glance, his 40 points over that stretch is solid production, especially given the fact he played on a bad team, but only 25 of those points came at even strength. Further, the Devils got outscored 77-to-58 with Vatanen on the ice at even-strength over that period of time.

Contract Projection: Three years, $4,581,000 AAV.

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Should the Oilers be interested? Probably not. The Oilers need a veteran defenceman they can count on to consistently be in the lineup, especially given Oscar Klefbom’s injury issues. With Ethan Bear emerging on the right side in 2019-20 and Evan Bouchard on the way, an offence-first defender like Vatanen isn’t the right fit.

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T.J. Brodie

A long-time quality member of the Calgary Flames’ blueline, T.J. Brodie might end up becoming a cap casualty this winter.

Though Brodie isn’t the 40-point defenceman he was a few years ago, he’s still a very solid veteran option. Over the past two seasons, Brodie has played in 143 games for the Flames, averaging 21 minutes a night and has recorded 13 goals and 53 points.

Again, his boxcar stats haven’t been as impressive as they were in 2015-16 when he put up 45 points, but Brodie’s underlying numbers paint the picture of a defender who quietly makes his team better. Over the past two seasons, the Flames outscored opponents 138-to-108 when he was on the ice at even strength.

Some of that can likely be chalked up to the fact he mostly played alongside 2019 Norris Trophy winner Mark Giordano, but, even without Giordano, Brodie boasts a positive on-ice goal differential over the past two seasons.

Contract Projection: Three years, $4,909,000 AAV.

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Should the Oilers be interested? Yes. Given the uncertainty around Oscar Klefbom, the Oilers are now in the market for a quality veteran defenceman. Brodie isn’t as good as Klefbom, but he can immediately step in and fill a top-four role on Edmonton’s blueline. The benefit of signing Brodie for this situation rather than trading for somebody like Oliver Ekman-Larsson is that Brodie won’t warrant a massive contract and the Oilers won’t have to trade any assets to acquire him.