In the last few weeks many NHL insiders have speculated that Ales Hemsky and Andy Sutton were the Oilers most likely to be moved at this season's trade deadline. With news this morning of a contract extension we can take one of those two players off the likely to be traded list. Unfortunately, the player in question is not Ales Hemsky. The Oilers still don't have one of the best forwards to ever play for the franchise signed to a new deal but have now gotten another bottom pairing defenseman locked up. Sutton's extension (according to Bob McKenzie because the Oilers still refuse to release financial details) is worth $1.5M with a $250k bonus for games played.
After the jump I'll take a look at Sutton's season, the value of this deal, and what this means for the Oilers going forward.
Sutton was acquired by the Oilers on July 1 last year in exchange for Kurtis Foster and has played in 33 games this season, scoring three goals and adding six assists. Sutton's value isn't found in his point totals but the physical aspects of his game, something his 56 penalty minutes points to. That physicality has resulted in his first season in Edmonton being interrupted by two suspensions - the first was for five games and then a second for eight more. He also suffered a groin injury that caused him to miss another seven games.
When Sutton has been in the lineup he's been okay. At 36 Sutton is nothing more than a bottom pairing defenseman at this point in his career and that's how the Oilers have used him this season. He's played most of his minutes at even strength against easy competition when compared to the rest of the Oilers defense corps. The good news is that Sutton has fared well in that role. Based on his relative Corsi and his zone starts/finishes he's managed move the puck in the right direction which is certainly a good thing.
But at $1.5M, even for one-year, I can't say that this is a good deal. This is a player that was a healthy scratch twice last week and the Oilers just signed him for $1.5M; try to wrap your head around that. Sutton has been serviceable this season, but bottom pairing defensemen who will be 37 next season don't make $1.5M. At a minimum this is $500k more than he should be making, and while that $500k won't make or break the Oilers next season, it's another example of the Oilers not understanding market value and choosing to overpay everyone, all of the time. The Oilers held all the cards in this negotiation and still managed to overpay. I'm sure the media will write about how this is a good example of locking up a player who wanted to be part what the Oilers are building but who in their right mind wouldn't want to work somewhere that pays them 50% more than they're worth?
What is most terrifying about this deal though is what it means for next season. With the Sutton extension that means he will be back along with Tom Gilbert, Ryan Whitney, Ladislav Smid, and Corey Potter. Assuming that the team qualifies Jeff Petry that gives the Oilers six defensemen returning next season, which would be fine if the blue line hadn't been a total disaster this season. Derek has been told that the team is interested in bringing Cam Barker back as well, which would leave the team just a qualifying offer for Peckham away from bringing the whole gang back for next season. That's almost as crazy as bringing back a general manager who will have steered his team to three straight lottery picks.