It's been a crazy few days of activity around the NHL, and that usually means some of the under-the-radar moves, which get obsessed over in slower times end up getting short shrift. One of the under-the-radar moves for the Oilers that I found particularly interesting was a deal that sent Kyle Bigos to the San Jose Sharks for Lee Moffie.
A few of the writers here quite liked Kyle Bigos. He was a big, mean player that the Oilers drafted out of the NCAA who seemed to be developing well at Merrimack College, where he helped the team to a #1 ranking in the country during his junior year while leading the NCAA in penalty minutes, and then wore an "A" for his senior season suggesting a relatively important role on the team. In the last edition of the Top 25 Under 25, our panel had Bigos ranked 20th, and there was some thought he might get an immediate shot with the Barons after his NCAA season ended. When Michael Parkatti wrote about Bigos in February, he noted that we'd learn a lot about Bigos once he turned pro:
In all, we don't really know a hell of a lot about Bigos. I'm sure not many of us have actually seen the man play. He takes penalties, is known for hitting guys, has progressed slowly through college, and isn't terrible at offense. Out of any of the top 25, I'd say he's the least known quantity. But his size alone will likely give him at bats in the majors.... Huge (not merely big) men are given opportunities to have careers simply by not being awful (see: Cross, Cory). Bigos has that chance, but a lot is dependent on how he shows next year in a professional league.
But then a strange thing happened. After his college season came to a close, it came to light that the Oilers weren't interested in signing Bigos to an entry-level contract, and that there was some chance no one else would either, in which case the Oilers would invite him to training camp. Then when Edmonton's development camp began, Bigos was missing from the list of participants, further suggesting that he wasn't in the organization's plans.
Now, the Oilers are as likely as the next team to give huge men opportunities -- especially huge men that cost them a draft pick -- so their souring on Bigos came as a pretty big surprise to me. Given their predilection for size and toughness, I'm inclined to trust Edmonton's judgment here. After all, you've got to think that the team that signed Cameron Abney for three years would have been willing to sign Kyle Bigos for one if there was any kind of reasonable chance of Bigos making it to the NHL. At the very least, the club clearly thinks that Lee Moffie's chances are better.
Moffie played his college hockey with the University of Michigan. At 6'1'' and 207 pounds, he's not the imposing physical specimen that Bigos is, but he brings substantially more offense and is a couple of years younger. He had a particularly good season in 2011-12 when he scored 32 points in 41 games, good enough for 11th in points per game amongst NCAA defensemen, and especially impressive given his splits by game state (4-19-23 at evens; 2-6-8 on the power play; and 1-0-1 shorthanded). I don't know much about David Thicke, but his brief scouting report after the 2011-12 season indicated that Moffie "played on the team's shutdown pairing later in the season with Jon Merrill" and that he would "be expected to play a bigger role on the team's specialty units" as a senior. At that point, you've got to think he's a pretty good propsect.
Unfortunately, his 2012-13 season was decidedly less impressive. He scored just 13 points in 40 games as a senior, suggesting that, despite his being given an "A", he probably played a lesser role on the team as the year progressed. This is no doubt the reason that the Sharks had seemingly decided not to offer Moffie a contract as, like the Oilers with Bigos, they were required to make a decision on the blueliner before August 15th.
With this trade now being completed, it seems likely that the Oilers will sign Moffie to an entry-level contract before the August deadline, and have him compete for a roster spot in Oklahoma City. With Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin, Taylor Fedun, Brandon Davidson, Martin Gernat, David Musil, Brad Hunt, and Joey Leach already in the mix (and some veteran help possibly coming) it should be an interesting battle for ice time for as long as the Oilers defense remains healthy.