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Hall of Fame Debate, UFA Options, and More

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Photo credit:Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
9 months ago
We are one week away from the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, and there is a lot of buzz and chatter about trades. We are 10 days away from the free agency, and there are some interesting names popping up in conversations I’ve had. And today we find out who will be part of the 2023 Hockey Hall of Fame class.
Let’s dig in.
The HHOF debate is always fun. I prefer not to disparage anyone who is in the Hall. Players who made it 30 and 40 years ago were there based on what they did at that time. I think it is misguided to pick one player who was debatable to get in and use him as the guideline for the player you want in. I’d rather look at how they compare to the average, because if you want to use the bottom-end players as comparables, then someone could counter with Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Patrick Roy, or other truly elite players and claim the player you want in, doesn’t match their stats.
I think Alex Mogilny is long overdue. Henrik Lundqvist should get the call today. I’d also have Ken Hitchcock in as a builder. Jennifer Botterill has a very strong case. I also think Curtis Joseph should get a call today.
— You can only pick one of the following two players to get in the HHOF:
Player A: He had seven seasons where he averaged over 1.00 points/game. He had three 100-point seasons and scored 50 goals twice. He tallied 513 goals and 1,216 points in 1,363 games and averaged 0.892 pts/game. He also scored 54 goals and 122 points in 154 playoff games (.792 pts/GP). He was +153 in his career (didn’t play in era with GF% tracked). He played in four Olympics/World Cup/Canada Cup. Missed one due to injury.
Player B: He had six seasons averaging 1.00 pts/game. He never scored 100 points but had two 50-goal seasons. He scored 538 goals and 1,065 points in 1,201 games (0.886 pts/game). He added 28 goals and 56 points in 89 playoff games (.629 pts/GP). He was +33 in his career and didn’t play in an era with GF% tracked. He played in five Olympics/World Cups when NHL players were allowed.
These two players played in the exact same eras. Player A started two years earlier, while Player B finished his career one year after Player A.
Which player would you put in? Their identities are at the bottom of the article.
Zack Kassian was bought out by the Arizona Coyotes yesterday, and I noticed it led to people wondering if he or Ethan Bear, if he isn’t qualified, would fit in Edmonton. Bear isn’t a better option than Cody Ceci or Vincent Desharnais. If you compare Bear to Ceci you need to start with who they play against. Here is a quick look at their time on ice v. Elite, middle and grit players courtesy of PuckIQ.com.
Player       Elite       Middle       Grit
Bear          24%         32.4%       43.5%
Ceci          37.4%       37.1%       25.5%
They faced significantly different competition. Bear played 235 minutes v. Elite and was on the ice for 12 goals against. Ceci skated 493 min v. Elite and was on for 14 goals against. Bear is not capable of playing top-pair minutes, or top-four on a Cup contender. If you want Ceci to play fewer minutes, I can understand that, and he did struggle last year. The previous year he was excellent though in that role. Bear is more suited to play in your third pair, but I see him as a downgrade overall on Ceci.
Desharnais doesn’t move the puck as well as Bear, but he skates better and is significantly bigger. He fits the third RD pair better in my eyes. Desharnais has room to improve. He’s only played 35 regular season games. I think he has more potential in the next two years to be a second pair defender than Bear would on the Oilers’ backend.
Kassian had a terrible season in Arizona. I don’t see why Edmonton would consider him either. He might have to go to an NHL camp on a PTO and show teams he still has something left. I don’t see a fit in Edmonton.
— I’m hearing Tyler Bertuzzi will likely test the free agent market. Edmonton needs another top-six winger, but he likely will be too expensive, unless he is interested in a short-term deal and can cash in on a bigger deal next year when the cap goes up and he has a productive season playing with either Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl. I don’t expect him to sign here. I could see Carolina going after him.
— It seems more likely by the day Kailer Yamamoto will be traded. He’s smart, tenacious, and has good skill. He can kill penalties and play on your second PP unit. His size and style of play are the concern, because it leads to lots of head contact and potential concussion/neck issues. If Yamamoto made $1.5m I don’t think there would be any discussion of trading him. His cap hit is more of the issue.
— It is crazy to see how the development curve of players varies significantly. Some are NHL ready at 19 or 20, others need a few years in the AHL, while others don’t find their stride until their mid-to-late 20s. I was searching around players in Europe, and came across Marko Dano. He was the 27th pick in 2013. He showed some signs of offence early on. He tallied 13 goals and 31 points in 69 games split between his first two NHL seasons in 2015 and 2016, but he played on three different teams in Columbus, Winnipeg, and Chicago. He battled injuries and inconsistency from 2017-2020 and played only 72 NHL games and scored 6-8-14. He also played 103 AHL games and scored 16 goals and 51 points.
Last season in the Czech elite league he popped with 29 goals and 51 points in 51 games. He turns 29 in November. He could be a candidate for a two-way deal for an NHL team. Maybe he’s a late developer. A two-way deal is low risk for an NHL team.
— I don’t see him as an option for the Oilers, but Alex Killorn is an appealing UFA to me. I wouldn’t go longer than four years, but Killorn has only missed a total of four games in the past eight seasons. He is very dependable, he is 80th in goals the past eight seasons and 63 in EVG. He has solid possession numbers, and he knows how to win in the playoffs. Often UFAs get overpaid, but if a team can remain composed with their offers, he’d be a good addition.
— Another intriguing UFA is Tomas Tatar. Could Ken Holland convince him to sign a one-year deal? Tatar would be a solid complementary winger. He had 15 goals and 35 points at 5×5 with the Devils last season. He’s had six seasons with 13+ goals and 30+ points 5×5 between Detroit, Montreal and New Jersey. He’s coming off a two-year, $4.5m AAV with New Jersey, so how much of a reduction in salary will he take? If he is still available on July 2nd or 3rd, then the chance to play with 97 or 29 becomes much more intriguing. The one issue is he shoots left. He can play RW, but the Oilers could use a right-shot in their top-six. It isn’t a must, but it presents a few more options in the offensive zone at times when you play with two lefties. The other concern is could he produce in the playoffs? He only had 7-6-13 in 52 playoff games.
— Many of the best free agent value signings occur after July 1st. It is rare to sign a value contract on day one. It happens, but not very often. Every year, we see players signed on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th or later to much lower AAVs than players with similar skillsets receive on July 1st. I’d be surprised if Edmonton was heavily involved, at least on higher AAV deals on the 1st. On Saturday, I outlined some bottom-six forwards who could make sense for Edmonton. Some people asked: What if Klim Kostin or Warren Foegele don’t return, is there anyone on the market who could be an option?
I still think Kostin stays in Edmonton. I like Foegele. I really liked how he and Ryan McLeod played in the playoffs. Foegele has good speed, plays fast, and while he isn’t a great finisher, he is rather consistent. He will chip in 12-14 goals. When looking at left wingers similar in size, who skate well, are physical and will have a low cap hit, one player who fits that bill is Adam Erne. He scored 8-10-18 in 61 games for Detroit. However, his possession numbers weren’t great. Not many players with Detroit had great numbers. None of the 14 forwards who played at least 300 minutes at 5×5, were on the ice for more goals for than against. When Erne was in Tampa his possession numbers were better. Being on a good team helps almost any player’s possession stats. He made $2.1m the past two seasons, but if he signs with the Oilers it would be closer to Mattias Janmark and Derek Ryan’s $1.25m from last year. If either Kostin or Foegele depart, then Erne might be an option.
— Player A was Jeremy Roenick and player B was Keith Tkachuk. I’ve seen a big push for Tkachuk, but at their peak, I think Roenick was a better player. More dynamic and a better play maker. He’s much more outspoken and has rubbed some people the wrong way, but looking at their hockey skills, I’d have Roenick ahead of Tkachuk. What about you?
Who do you think gets the call to the hall today? Who would you like to see get in?

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