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UFA Option: Dmitri Kalinin

A number of commentators around the Oilers end of the internet have stressed the need to acquire a veteran defenseman. The UFA crop is short on distinguished veterans, so if the Oilers are going to acquire one, it may be in the same manner as the Steve Staios signing- i.e. picking up an underrated player on the cheap. Could Dmitri Kalinin be such a player?

Kalinin (career stats) had a forgettable season in 2007-08, and is hitting unrestricted free agency at the wrong time. After four seasons of good offensive numbers, stretching back before the lockout, he scored only one goal and seven assists in an injury-plagued campaign that saw him play in only 48 games.

Kalinin ranked 5th on the Sabres in TOI/60, averaging 14:00 at EV, 1:15 SH and 2:04 PP. According to Behind the Net, he also played among the easiest minutes among Sabres defensemen at even strength, recording an extremely low 1.91GFON/60. His defensive number (2.20GAON/60) was nice, but not good enough to offset the lack of offense. Although he ranked second in TOI/60 among Sabres defensemen on the powerplay, the powerplay only scored 3.81G/60, an absolutely abysmal number. To top everything else off, he had the worst number (7.10GAON/60) on the penalty kill among Sabres blueliners.

Looking at his 2007-08 performance, Kalinin seems like a bottom pairing defenseman who can't play on special teams. We already have Greene and Smid, and at least they have the excuse of physicality and potential.

One is on the verge of writing Kalinin off as being of no benefit, but that's where his 2006-07 stats come in. Here, again, we find him ranked 5th among Sabres defensemen in ice time, on an incredibly deep team (for comparisons sake, Jaroslav Spacek ranked 6th in TOI/60). Kalinin played 15:10 at EV, 3:18 SH, and 1:01 PP. Here are the significant statistics, again according to Desjardins:

Kalinin played the 3rd toughest minutes (behind Tallinder and Lydman), with a GFON/60 of 3.45, and a GAON/60 of 2.68. His powerplay number was still poor (3.93GFON/60), but his shorthanded number improved (6.04GAON/60). The goals against number shorthanded was basically the same as what Ladislav Smid had this season.

A picture emerges of a defenseman who has been miscast as both a powerplay performer and a defensive specialist on the penalty kill, but one who has been consistently productive (until last season) at even strength, even when matched against decent opposition. Is this the kind of player the Oilers need? There isn't room for him on the PK, or on the PP, but even at 5-on-5, I have doubts. The only Oilers defensemen that he is clearly ahead of at this juncture are Smid and Greene, and frankly I don't think it's worthwhile to replace Smid with a player who isn't that far ahead of him, and he plays a different game (i.e. non-physical) than Greene, who if replaced needs to be replaced with someone equally gritty.

So, despite the fact that I still feel a veteran defenseman is a need for the Oilers, I think it's clear that Dmitri Kalinin is not a player of interest to the Oilers.