Heading into July 5 the Oilers have a glut of needs to address. While we all dream of the A-List names to fill these roles, its just not possible to outspend all the GMs in the league in this sparse market. MacT and Co. will need to adapt and allow cool heads to prevail as prices for the top names become too costly to the future flexibility of the club. Presented here are a number of forward options outside of the most talked-about names who could provide better value and are lower-risk propositions than the big ticket stars.
Top 6 Winger:
These two Power Forwards have received much attention heading into July 5, probably an indicator that they'll receive a lot of the money from desperate clubs on July 5. If the Oilers don't want to go into the 7-8 Year or 6+ Million/year range for these risky forwards here are some other options.
Fun cool options who won't get huge paydays:
Brenden Morrow- "Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated" When Morrow was sent packing to Pittsburgh on the trade deadline, there was an apparent consensus that Morrow didn't have the chops to play a top 6 role any longer. Despite being on the downside of his career, Morrow recorded more points than Clarkson and Horton in the lockout shortened campaign.Morrow won't command the term or the dollars of Clarkson or Horton and if he can continue producing at a similar clip, he could produce more value than those other two.
Dustin Penner- Because 6 foot plus wingers who have scored 30+ goals, have multiple cup rings and are 30 years of age rarely have a lower stock than seasons after they score 2 goals and perceived character issues.
Jaromir Jagr- Though Jagr had a fairly quiet playoff with the Boston Bruins, he proved himself a valuable player throughout the 12-13 campaign. His overtime winner where he manhandled Ryan Whitney and his papier mache ankles and beat the Oil in overtime. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45jQ7Kuh-KI (skip to 2:25) The well-traveled mercenary plays the type of puck-possession game the Oilers have sorely been lacking the last few seasons, and has been linked to Edmonton before.
The Centres (Players like Shawn Horcoff but who aren't named Shawn Horcoff) :
Names often bandied about: Tyler Bozak, Stephen Weiss, Val Filppula
These 3 names have received much of the attention leading up to July 5, and that has me worrying that the contract will be too rich for the quality of player the team is getting.
In Tyler Bozak's case. I would not give a player who has barely scored over a .5 PPG while playing with Phil Kessel close to 5 million dollars, especially when Bozak doesn't provide much defensive value.
Weiss is a bit of a wildcard, as he possesses the talent and resume of a top 6 centre, but is coming off of injury-riddled 2013 and is probably the biggest name centre on the market. I wouldn't trust him in a defensive role, and his name will probably get him a contract which necessitates top 6 production. Given his age and question-mark-raising 2013 season (4 Pts in 17 Games),he's too big of a risk at the price tag he will command.
Val Filppula has long been "the next one" in Detroit to follow in Zetterberg and Datsyuk's trail to stardom from the late round obscurity of the NHL Draft. He's had a weak contract year (41GP,9G,8A), and only one season of 60+ points and 20+ goals (2011-12). He's reportedly looking the neighborhood of $5 million a season and that is a steep price to pay for spotty production and undelivered upon potential
Fun Cool Options:
Mikhail Grabovski: Sure Grabo is not big and he doesn't PK, but he is a proven offensive player and showed that under Carlyle he was more than competent in a defensive role. He had an offensive zone start % nearly 6 percent lower than his offensive zone finish %. Bozak's Offensive zone starts were actually higher than his offensive zone finishes. Grabovski played tough minutes (10th among centremen in Relative Corsi Quality of Competition across the entire NHL) as the 4th line Coke Machines Frazer Maclaren and Colton Orr couldn't be counted on. I am confident that Grabovski's struggles in the boxcars are a result of deployment as a defensive forward and small sample size related bad luck (988 PDO on a Team with a 1032 PDO!). To repay the down-on-his-luck centremen the Oilers should reward him with a handsome contract. Also, Grabovski is impressive in the smallest sample size of all: Highlight reels! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z95870EtMmM
Peter Mueller- Mueller is 4 years younger than Filppula and provided similar production while being 4" taller and 10 lbs heavier. The big C/RW had underwhelming boxcars in the 12-13 season for the Florida Panthers(43GP,8G,9A) but brings size and skill. Only 25 years old still, the oft-injured Mueller played 43 games was 2nd on the Panthers in Corsi among those who played more than 18 games. A PDO of 950 did him no favours either. Unless his puck luck stays as abominable as his injury luck has been thus far, Mueller could be a solid top 9 cog for whichever team picks him up. Could slot in anywhere in the Top 9, and though I haven't seen much of him defensively his Corsi has been positive every year except for his sophomore campaign while playing primarily as a centre. I'm led to believe from this that he could be a defensively responsible presence as a forward that is missing from the Oilers current stable of forwards.
Boyd Gordon: The causal fan probably doesn't give much credence to the difference between a fairly useless player like, oh say almost every Oilers bottom 6 player last season (Eric Belanger, Ben Eager, Mike Brown, Lennart Petrell) and players who thrive in that role like Gordon. Gordon's Offensive Zone starts were nearly identical to Eric Belanger's in the 2013 season (32.6% vs. 33.3%), but Gordon's CorsiRel was 20.7% better than Belanger. All while Boyd matched up against above average competition and Belanger against below average competition. Upgrading from a player who was on the fourth line by virtue of no longer being a capable offensive player (Belanger) to a player who is in the league because of his excellent defensive acumen (Gordon) would have countless positive effect on the team, such as the ability to shelter scoring lines and overall decrease in workload of top forwards because tough minutes are eaten up by pluggers
Although there are a lot of mistakes made at UFA time, there is smart money to be spent. Fans are torn between wanting the Clarksons and the Hortons of the world on their team, and fearing what consequences UFA prices may have on their team in the future. Signing some of these players may not be the sexy or BOLD moves that some fans are hoping for, but they may facilitate a blockbuster when the time is right.
-Stats courtesy of hockeyDB and behindthenet.ca