Three From The Field: Prospective Free Agent Defencemen

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No whales. Photo courtesy Penguin Publications

Over the past half decade, I’ve gotten the feeling that being a fan of this hockey club is like being a member of some sort of support group.  We get together for pot luck suppers only to talk about the good times that were, to revel in our future riches, and eventually…without fail, lose our minds at something that we can’t control.


We’re entering a critical time of ‘the rebuild’.  2012-13 is the final year on the entry level contracts of Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi and Jordan Eberle.  To be quite candid with you, I’d like to show these guys that winning is OK, and getting into the playoffs for one of these years where they’re not pulling down trillions of dollars would be nice.  That whole “commitment to win” argument is one I’d like to trot out at this time, but I think you see where I’m going here.

For me, it boils down to one of two things:  defence, or goaltending.  You can get all angry at goaltending if you’d like (Khabibulin’s save percentage is over 4/10 a point better this year over last), but the bottom line is that the defence has to get better if this team wants to compete for something other than the basement in 2012-13.  This team will get markedly better if two actual NHL defencemen are signed to play with the team for the next couple of years.

So what are the criteria for signing defencemen?  Just throw a bunch of money at some guy?

There are a few self-imposed criteria I have for signing a defenceman.  This is kind of like a self-imposed cap, except self-imposed caps are stupid.

  • No whales.  If you think that throwing ten million dollars at a guy to come play for the Oilers doesn’t look desperate, you’re wrong.  Look at Heatley, and look at Hossa if you need some refreshing.  The Oilers were able to sign Sheldon Souray in 2007, and while he was able to perform for the team at varying degrees of capacity, he mouthed off and was promptly sat.  Now he’s contributing on Dallas, which silently says a lot.  So how about a cap of $3M per player?  This would make these players 3-4 on the pay scale, and would be nice if they fit into the 3-4 slots.  This may not be true for each player we review, it’s just a guideline.  Oh, don’t think I didn’t remember that this team typically has to overpay their free agents, or “hometown markup” as I like to call it.
  • A two year minimum contract.  Signing Jim Vandermeer was a nice stopgap last year, but it did nothing in the grand scheme of things.  If you’re going to get a contract, let’s keep you around long enough to make an impact.  Hopefully, you’re impact enough to not be scratched on occasion.  If you’re making $3M, you ought not to be.
  • Age at contract is not more than 33.  Typically, players who are 35 years of age tend to drop off statistically compared to when they were 25 or 30.  This isn’t a news flash by any means, but signing a guy at 33 for two years is a lot different than signing a guy at 36 for two years.

So now that we’ve restricted 70% of the league, let’s see who I think would be a good value buy for the next couple of seasons…

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  • Oil_Drop

    @OilOnWhyte I’m all in for Fistric, if for no other reason that he pounds the hell out the Oilers every time they play the Stars.

  • OilBaron

    I think we need the big fish.  It isn’t the bottom end that is the biggest concern, easiest to fill the holes.  It is the op end defenseman who can move the puck and eat minutes.

    • OilOnWhyte

      What makes you think this team can acquire a big fish?
      My second question:  What makes you think a big fish would be happy to play for a team like Edmonton?  Should this team fork over 9M a year for a guy like Weber to play here?  
      Finally, what is this team going to give up in order to get a 1D who isn’t a UFA?  Start at this year’s number one, add Gagner, probably another roster player and a prospect.  
      It might not be the ‘fix all’, but if this team gets enough duct tape to put together a defence that doesn’t leak every night, they’re in the playoffs come 2013.  

      • OilBaron

         @OilOnWhyte I’ll start with the trade, sounds good to me.  The right pieces.  This team needs help on the blue line now, not 3 years from now.
        There’s room for bottom end help.  But, if they are the only help this team is in the same position next year at this time.
        Why can’t this team acquire a big fish, and why wouldn’t a big fish want to join a young offensively gifted team?  I’m sure you don’t mean it in the usual defeatest attitude that a lot of Oilers have.  There are a limited number of these types for a reason, they are super valuable.  They play big and important minutes and they are multidimensional players.  As such you pay for them.  Do I pay 9 milion per, no.  A deal for Weber in the 10-12 year range for 65-80 million is fair.

        • OilOnWhyte

           @jayparrpearson I agree with you that the team needs help now.  I think there’s more to it than just signing a big fish.  
          How many years should a guy like Weber be willing to donate to ‘the rebuild’?  Guy is 25 right now.  Two?  Three?
          If you give him the heavy part of your numbers (12-80), he’d be making less per year than he is right now. at 7.5.  The team would have to unload the coffers to this guy.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get 8 to 9 M.  How many ‘elite D’ exist on the free agent front?

        • OilBaron

           @OilOnWhyte I think that Weber is part of the solution to get back in and even help draw in other talent.  Years? He will let them know.