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Keep or Walk: Shutdown defender Vincent Desharnais is a UFA one year after making his NHL debut

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Photo credit:© Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
Ryley Delaney
19 days ago
Unlike the forward group for the 2024-25 Edmonton Oilers, the defensive core is basically set in stone.
Free agency opens on Monday and the Oilers have a lot of spots to fill with not a lot of cap room. As it stands, they have a little under $13 million in cap space following Jack Campbell’s buyout and have to sign four or five forwards, as well as two defencemen. 
There are numerous forwards who are unrestricted free agents, as Corey Perry, Sam Gagner, Adam Henrique, Sam Carrick, Connor Brown, Adam Erne, Mattias Janmark, and Warren Foegele will be free to sign with whoever on Monday. Moreover, Dylan Holloway and Philip Broberg, both of whom had great postseasons, are restricted free agents.
Thankfully for the Oilers, most of the defence core is under contract for the 2024-25 season. Darnell Nurse and his $9.25 million deal until the end of the 2029-30 season is the largest and longest, but Mattias Ekholm has two more seasons at $6 million, while Evan Bouchard will make $3.9 million before becoming a restricted free agent after the end of next season. Cody Ceci and Brett Kulak are under contract as well, more on them later in the article though.
Despite only being in the league for two seasons, Vincent Desharnais is an unrestricted free agent, so let’s take a look at his stats in 2023-24, what he could make on his next deal, and if there’s a role for him on the 2024-25 Oilers (spoiler alert, there is).

Vincent Desharnais’ 2023-24

Vincent Desharnais is no Evan Bouchard. In his debut season, he picked up five assists in 36 games, as well as two assists in 12 postseason games. Playing a full season for the Oilers during the 2023-24 season, he managed to score his first goal – with no celebration, as well as 10 assists for 11 points in 78 games. Moreover, he had a single assist in 16 postseason games.
Desharnais played every postseason game in the first two rounds, where he had the assist, but was a -5 in 12 games played. The 28-year-old right-shot defenceman played the first three games in the Western Conference Final, where he was a -3 as the Oilers went down 2-1 in the series.
Well, they took him out of the lineup and inserted Philip Broberg in. The young Swede scored his first postseason goal in Game 5, as the Oilers won three consecutive games to end the Dallas Stars’ hopes of the Stanley Cup.
Desharnais wasn’t included in the lineup for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, where the Oilers were outscored 3-0 and out-hit 57 to 32 by the Florida Panthers. The Oilers made a change for Game 2, sitting Cody Ceci and reinserting Vincent Desharnais. In that game, the 28-year-old was a -1, picking up 10 penalty minutes and three shots on goal.
Sadly, this could possibly be the last time we see Vincent Desharnais in an Oilers jersey, as he didn’t play again in the Oilers comeback and eventual defeat in Game 7.

Vincent Desharnais’ contract projection

Although there were certain times when Desharnais stepped up to the second pairing to play alongside Darnell Nurse, the 28-year-old defenceman is a third-pair defenceman through and through.
And AFPAnalytics believes he’ll be paid as such. Desharnais is predicted to earn a one-year deal that has a cap hit of $1.120 million (or $1,119,637.90 to be exact). In all reality, this is a perfect contract, and the Oilers could even offer around $1.5 million for two seasons, and I’d still be fine with that.
While every 2023-24 defenceman but Desharnais and Broberg are under contract for next season, that doesn’t mean that the defence core won’t see changes. The Oilers need cap space, and while trading Evander Kane and/or Jack Campbell are the obvious options, the Oilers could potentially look to move Cody Ceci or Brett Kulak.
After all, Broberg showed he is not just ready but capable of playing a significant role for the 2024-25 Edmonton Oilers. Moving Kulak would not just free up cap, but the third pairing left defence spot. Alternatively, the Oilers can move Ceci to free up cap, but allow Broberg to play on his off-hand on the second pairing as he did at times during the postseason.
There’ll be a lot of options for the Oilers this season, but I just can’t see them running back the same defence core.

Should the Oilers re-sign Vincent Desharnais?

With that being said, Desharnais has a role on the 2024-25 Oilers. He’s a good, and more importantly, a fairly cheap, third-pairing defenceman who kills penalties and is often a plus player. He and Brett Kulak have formed chemistry thanks to playing on the same pair for the past season and a bit, and the Oilers more than likely would love to have him back.
Moreover, he should be rather affordable, especially if the contract prediction is correct. Desharnais isn’t the fastest player and was exposed at some points in the past two postseason runs, but overall, he’s a good option for the Oilers to bring back.

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