The Edmonton Oilers have jumped into free agency early this year, and signed Ben Eager to a three-year contract. Eager comes with a cap hit is $1.1M per season, but he'll make $1.0M in the first year, $1.1M in the second, and $1.2M in the third year of the deal (thanks Bob McKenzie!). That seems a bit steep for a guy who's a lock to play on the fourth line, but - and Derek's going to kill me for this - I actually like the deal.
To my mind, one of the most important things to do as the general manager of a hockey team is know your coach, and for better or for worse, Tom Renney loves guys that can fight. He loves them so much that when an old-school guy like Pat Quinn threw Steve MacIntyre on waivers, Tom Renney brought him back. He loves them so much that MacIntyre actually played the Oilers twice brought great-guy-bad-hockey-player Steve MacIntyre. In New York, he had both Colton Orr and Ryan Hollweg taking a pretty regular shift. Heck, one year Hollweg and Orr both played at least 70 games and averaged over 7:45 per game! The man craves guys who can fight.
Steve Tambellini's given him one, and as an added bonus, he's given him one that can actually play the game of hockey a little bit too. In each of the last three seasons, Eager has played at least 60 games in the regular season, and he's been up over 8:00 per game in each time. He's also been a plus player at evens each time, and was good enough to dress for 18 games in Chicago's run to the Stanley Cup, a team that was very deep at forward - Bryan Bickell, Tomas Kopecky, Colin Fraser, and Adam Burish were all sitting out healthy more often.
A look at his possession numbers shows us that he's a guy who needs sheltering, but who can make it just fine if he's given that protection. His Corsi rate looks ugly this year (-9.49 per 60 minutes), but I think it's important to remember that he spent half of his season with the Atlanta Thrashers, who weren't one of the stronger teams in the league in that area. In his two full seasons in Chicago, Eager was given heavy shelter (60%+ of his end-zone starts in the offensive zone and easy competition), but he responded with a hard physical game and a positive Corsi number both times (+7.42 in 2008-09 and +10.65 in 2009-10), so it's not like he gave it all back.
Finally, Eager is just a little bit crazy. I've watched him quite a bit in the playoffs over the last two years, and the guy knows his job. He understands that, for him, forechecking is about punishing guys by consistently slamming them into the boards. He understands that, for him, intimidation matters, and that dirty play one way will be met with dirty play the other way (I'm sure many of you will recall him slamming Daniel Sedin from behind to get even for Kevin Bieksa's spot-picking, and his four-game suspension for sucker-punching Colby Armstrong to get even for what he felt was a dirty hit by Armstrong). Say what you will about that kind of thing (it's garbage, and we all know it), but the Edmonton Oilers now have an enforcer who will enforce, and in the form of a player who isn't a facepalm waiting to happen when he has the puck.