The Edmonton Oilers have signed unrestricted free agent Kurtis Foster to a two-year contract worth $1.8M per year. Regular readers may remember Foster from Derek's excellent article on Father's Day. Derek told us about Foster's brutal leg injury when he was with the Wild, his comeback to the NHL last year with the Lightning, and then the tragic loss of his daughter as the season came to an end. In Foster, the Oilers have signed a tremendous person who should be able to help every person in that dressing room - young or old - keep life and hockey in proper perspective. He brings the kind of wisdom that comes with tragedy and loss and should inspire everyone around him with his perseverance. It's a great thing to believe that Edmonton is gaining not just a useful hockey player - and they are - but a wonderful person as well. More about Foster the player after the jump.
Kurtis Foster has played in 257 career NHL games, mostly in the Northwest Division when he played with the Minnesota Wild. His 2007-08 season ended with a gruesome leg injury. Despite the injury, the Wild signed Foster for the 2008-09 season, knowing that he would need most of that time to recover from surgery. In the end, Foster played ten games in 2008-09 and that summer the Wild and Foster parted ways, which is how Foster ended up with the Lightning. Tampa Bay started the year with a "Holy Mackerel" situation on defense, so Foster spent some significant time at forward which should let us know that his 16 even strength points really are too good to be true. The 26 power play points, on the other hand, are not. Foster is essentially coming in as a replacement for Sheldon Souray's big shot on the power play and he's a capable replacement. He finished second on the Lightning in points per sixty minutes (5.45) and was a mainstay on their top unit. Foster also had a power play role with the Wild, but didn't have as much success in terms of points. However, the Wild did generate more shots with Foster on the ice than with any other player. All in all, Foster would seem to be a very good power play defenseman and very capable of replacing that portion of Souray's game.
Unfortunately, aside from being huge (6'5'' and 220 lbs.) that's about all he does really well. In both Tampa Bay and Minnesota, Foster was a third pairing defender who kept his head above water. He didn't play a role on the PK in either city and he takes quite a few penalties, and his list of injuries is a long and winding road. He's basically an injury-prone Cory Cross, but good on the power play, and while that's admittedly a lot better than Cory Cross, I don't think it represents great value at $1.8M per season. That said, the term is very manageable, it's not a gross overpay based just on hockey skills, the Oilers needed a fifth EV defender and Foster seems like a great guy. And, honestly, "not an overpay" is a good deal when you're the thirtieth place team signing an unrestricted free agent.