Edmonton Oilers Free Agency Preview


The NHL Free Agent Frenzy on July 1st is looming and Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli has his work cut out for him.

Free agency is always a gamble for teams looking to make improvements to their roster. General Managers dig out their wallets and spend the moon on long term deals for top players in the  market. In the end, a common result is that a team gets imprisoned with an overpaid underachiever and are basically married to a lengthy, expensive contract.

Not to say that free agency is a bad route to go for a team looking to recruit new players, its just one has to always be aware of the risks when dipping into the free agent market. There is always a risk that you won’t get the player you paid for. However, there are still useful, quality players up for grabs in free agency.

Its no secret that the Edmonton Oilers lack the necessary pieces in which to become a true playoff contender. Large defficiencies on defence have exposed the Oilers weaknesses not only in the defensive zone, but in net as well. Although they are dying for a top pairing reargaurd, at least two top four defensemen are needed to fill the void on the Oilers blue line.

I can see Peter Chiarelli dipping his hands into free agency to address a majority of his teams needs on the blue line. A trade for a top flight defenseman is still possible, however it sounds to me like Chiarelli is leaning towards keeping his 16th overall selection, which undoubtably would be the main component in a trade of that nature.

At this point, Chiarelli is keen on adding a goalie either before or during the draft and he has second and third round picks to toss around as currency for a trade. Trading or signing a goaltender is a top priority for the Oilers. An upgrade at forward, particularly a big winger on the third line is something that should be addressed as well.

Two top four defensemen, a third line winger with size, toughness and skill and a goaltender are the main items on Peter Chiarelli’s shopping listing heading into free agency. In my opinion, with Anton Lander locked up for two years, Connor Mcdavid’s imminent arrival, Boyd Gordon under contract and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins signed long term, there is enough depth at the Oilers centre position for the time being. Chiarelli could swing a deal for a goaltender sometime in the near future, but I am going to assume that goaltending is still going to be an area to address on July 1st.

Top Two Options In Free Agency: Defense

Andrej Sekera – A smooth skating, responsible, two way defender in the prime of his career at age 29. Sekera would provide stability at the backend for the Edmonton Oilers. He is suited as a second pairing top four defenseman on a good team, but he can play on the top pair if necessary. On a team desperate for defence like the Oilers, he would almost certainly slot in on the top pair and fill the void as a number two defenseman. Sekera could command anywhere from 4-5 million per year on a long term deal. A team desperate for his services may be willing to offer north of 5 million. He will be a hot commodity on July 1st.

Mike Green – Offensive minded defenseman with tremendous skill with the puck. Green can quarterback the power play and provide an offensive punch to any teams defence. Known for point production, his defensive game is questionable sometimes but reliable enough. Green has an injury history which is a cause for concern but he has managed to stay relatively healthy the past few seasons and remain productive. The Washington Capitals cap issues will force them to not resign Green. He could get the same money he was making in Washington (6.25 million) on the open market. The Oilers could use his services on the top pairing unit and on the power play. Green is also an Alberta boy so there is a connection.

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Top Option In Free Agency: Winger 

Chris Stewart – Stewart is a prototypical power forward. He can score, hit and fight. His combination of size and skill makes for an intriguing, useful option as a top nine winger for the Edmonton Oilers. He would add a physical presence to the top nine and provide toughness. Peter Chiarelli has shown interest in Stewart in the past during his reign as Boston Bruins GM. Stewart could cost anywhere from 3-4 million a year.

A free agent worth noting is Anaheim Ducks’ Matt Beleskey.  I like what he brings in terms of goal scoring ability, two way mentality and size. He could be a decent fit for the Oilers in a top nine scoring role. He had a breakout 2014/15 season netting 22 goals, however I am concerned with the fact that he only has one great season on his resume. It is possible that Beleskey could be a one year sensation.

This mistake is always made by teams pursuing free agents because they offer an outrageous sum of money and long term to a player that had only one good season. Evidence of this is when the Toronto Maple Leafs signed David Clarkson to that laughable contract. You have to make note of the fact that Beleskey has played with star players like Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf on a powerhouse Ducks team so him coming to a weak, less deep Edmonton Oilers team has regression written all over it. I strongly suggest buyers beware.

Top Option In Free Agency: Goaltending

Antti Niemi – Some people will have mixed emotions and disagree with my justification for the Oilers to sign San Jose Sharks’ netminder Antti Niemi. He is a Stanley Cup champion and former Vezina Trophy finalist. Niemi is a proven number one goaltender. He would be an upgrade in net for the Oilers.

At 31 years of age, his prime years are behind him but he is certainly more than capable of still being a number one goaltender in the NHL. I see a duplication of the Jonas Hiller signing the Calgary Flames did last summer. That move worked out quite well for the Flames. The only difference is that the Oilers will have to offer more money. Something north of 5 million per year. Peter Chiarelli has money and cap space so why not pursue arguably the top goaltender available in the free agent market?

A free agent like Michal Neuvirth could be an option for the Oilers via free agency. He had terrific numbers this past season playing on a horrendous Buffalo Sabres team. At the ripe age of 27, he may be ready to take the reigns as a number one goaltender in the NHL. The Oilers have shown interest in Neuvirth during his tenure with the Washington Capitals. Maybe that interest is revisited on July 1st?

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  • I would entertain the idea of bringing Devan Dubnyk back to Edmonton if there was mutual interest between him and Peter Chiarelli, but I truly believe that the Dubnyk ship set sail a long time ago. There is no reason for Dubnyk to return to Edmonton when he can get the money he wants elsewhere and have a chance to win. Believe me, Dubnyk has moved on from his days as an Oiler and you can bet the Oilers feel the same way.

    Peter Chiarelli will be active on July 1st when the Free Agent Frenzy rolls around. He is open for business. The main idea is to be cautious of how much you are spending on certain players in the market because a deal made now could come back to haunt a team in the future. Chiarelli must be able land a defenseman or two, add a promising or proven goaltender and address the need for more size and grit in the top nine forward group. It ultimatley comes down to what Chiarelli does at the NHL Draft in Florida. Whatever moves he makes at the draft influences the decisions he makes next week on free agency day.

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