July 1st is the next big day for hockey fans: UFA-signing day. Last July 1st, Steve Tambellini (who never shows his cards) said that the Oilers wouldn’t be very active. So what happened? The Oilers signed five–5!!!–free agents: Ben Eager, Cam Barker, Corey Potter, Darcy Hordichuk, and Eric Belanger. (I’m sure you’re not shocked that none of these signings made my 10-best list–though the Potter signing was commendable.)
Actually, it was quite difficult to find ten good free agent signings in the Oilers’ history. My task was made even more daunting since I was a kid during the eighties, and it’s now hard for me to judge how good or bad the signings were back then. So feel free to comment below if you disagree with my list.
TRIVIA QUESTION: Name the former Oiler who twice in his career signed as a free agent with the Oilers (answer below).
Here are the ten best free agent signings in Oilers history.
10. Tim Thomas (June 4, 1998). Thomas probably doesn’t belong on this list since he never played a game for the Oilers. File this signing under “What Might Have Been.”
9. Ray Whitney (Oct. 1, 1997). The former Oiler stick boy only played 9 games for the Oilers during the 1997-98 season. The Panthers claimed Whitney on waivers on Nov. 6, and he went on to score 32 goals that season. Again, file this signing under “What Might Have Been.”
8. Marc-Andre Bergeron (July 20, 2001). Dwayne Roloson’s knee probably disagrees with putting Bergeron on this list. But he did have a few good seasons with the Oilers.
7. Matti Hagman (Sept. 11, 1980). This signing was a bit before my time. Hagman scored a total of 41 goals in two seasons for the Oilers. According to Wikipedia, he was also the first Finnish-born player to play an NHL game (with the Bruins in 1976). The irony: he was coached by Don Cherry.
6. Marty Reasoner (July 4, 2006). On March 9, 2006, Reasoner was traded to the Bruins with Yan Stastny and Edmonton’s 2006 second round draft choice (Milan Lucic) for Segei Samsonov (thus missing the 2006 playoff run). He must not have been too angry about the trade since only a few months later he signed up for a second tour of duty with the Oilers.
5. Steve Staios (July 12, 2001). Staios was a steady defenceman who provided years of valuable service to the Oilers. He was in the penalty box during game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals when Fernando Pisani score the shorthanded goal to force a game 6.
4. Craig MacTavish (Feb. 1, 1985). The Oilers took a chance on MacTavish, who had missed the entire 1984-85 season after being convicted of vehicular homicide. MacTavish didn’t disappoint. He would later serve as team captain from 1992 to 1994.
3. Randy Gregg (Oct. 18, 1982). The good doctor is one of only seven players to play on all five of the Oilers’ championship teams. Before signing with the Oilers he played for the University of Alberta, the Canadian National Team, and a team in Japan (as a player-coach)–not the conventional path to the NHL.
2. Craig Muni (Aug. 18, 1986). Muni was signed to help improve the team’s defence after the Oilers’ heartbreaking playoff elimination in 1986. He had played only 19 games over five seasons with the Leafs, but he blossomed with Edmonton. While with the Oilers, the stay-at-home defenceman’s plus/minus rating was +163.
1. Charlie Huddy (Sept. 14, 1979). Huddy was not drafted by an NHL team. Fans must have wondered, “Who is this guy?” The formerly unknown defenceman led the league in plus/minus rating during the 1982-83 season (+62). And like Gregg, Huddy also won five Stanley Cups with the Oilers.
ANSWER: Scott Ferguson.