July 1st is Hockey Christmas with all of the free agents in play. If it’s not Hockey Christmas, it’s at least Hockey Thanksgiving, or another holiday where you likely eat too much and take a nap on the sofa.
Every team’s qualifying offers have been sent. Players who don’t accept a qualfying offer will become restricted free agents on July 1st. Ones who don’t receiver offers will become outright unrestricted free agents only July 1st.
The latter is exactly what’s happened to Marc-Andre Gragnani. Now, I realize that Edmonton is today making a pitch for Justin Schultz, the Wisconsin Badger who will likely be able to play some big time minutes on defence should he decide to suit up for the Oilers.
Should the Schultz deal fall apart (Toronto, NYR and Vancouver have all been reported as teams looking at the services of Justin Schultz), it’s good to have a contingency plan.
Enter defenceman Marc-Andre Gragnani.
Marc-Andre Gragnani was a third round draft pick in 2005 for the Buffalo Sabres. He’s spent considerable time at the AHL level playing for Rochester and Portland, both farm clubs of the Sabres at various points. His last season in the AHL was 2010-11 where he amassed 60 points (12-48-60) in 63 games as a member of the Portland Pirates. That’s not too awful shabby.
2011-12 saw Gragnani play a bigger role on Buffalo’s blue line. Save for the last two months of the season (where they tried but fell short of the playoffs), the Sabres had a less than stellar campaign. Gragnani was traded with Zack Kassian to the Canucks for Cody Hodgson and Alex Sulzer at the deadline. When Gragnani was traded, he had a +10 +/- on a team that ended up finishing 18th overall in goals allowed. Even after the Sabres got hot at the end, they still allowed 230 goals on the season.
WHY SHOULD THE OILERS HAVE ANY INTEREST IN GRAGNANI, THEY’RE GOING TO GET SCHULTZ
And if they do, that’s great. Schultz would be a nice piece. Even if they do get Schultz, they’re going to need at least two more guys. If we’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s that scoring goals is fun, but it’s not going to hold the wash if the defence contains three guys with a combined 50 NHL games between them.
Gragnani’s time on the NHL blue has been limited. He’s played only 73 games in the NHL, but I think the risk/reward here is high. Gragnani’s playoff experience is also limited, but he’s got a point in each of the seven games (1-6-7) he’s appeared in.
To qualify Gragnani, the Canucks would have had to offer him 660K. 660K! That’s nothing. Consider the fact the team is paying Andy Sutton $1.5M+. What do you think it would cost to get Gragnani, a guy who wasn’t qualified for 660K a shot at making this team’s blue come October? 800K? 850K?
So why did Vancouver not send a qualifying offer to Gragnani? Depends on how you look at it. Will they re-sign Sami Salo? Maybe. Are they trying to free up a roster spot for Justin Schultz? Could be. Although he’s a left defence, the guy is a point producing machine in the AHL, has success in his NHL playoff experience, and will come pretty cheaply.
If the Oilers aren’t able to land Schultz (and if they are able to land Schultz), this is a guy that’s worth a couple looks.
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