A quick look at capgeek.com reveals that the list of UFA centres has dropped to about a dozen actual NHL centres and a bunch of career AHL centres. That list of 12 drops to 2 if you look at centres in their prime and one of those guys is Colin Fraser. The other is Andrei Loktionov who has decent underlying numbers but has only played 1 "full" season so far in his career. Don't get me wrong because I'd be happy if the Oilers acquired Loktionov (especially because he'd probably come at a pretty rock bottom price) but as it stands right now he doesn't seem like an option.
On the other hand if one was to take a look at the list of RFA centres (including those going to salary arbitration) the list of
14 13 doesn't look too bad. That list includes 3 players that could be potential trade targets for the Oilers and could end up costing a lot less than you think.
Eller is headed to arbitration on Friday (July 25) and according to Elliot Friedman the two sides are quite far apart.
Eller (MON) requests $3.1M...Canadiens counter with $1.65M— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) July 23, 2014
If the arbitrator awards Eller $2.65M or more the Montreal Canadiens have the right to decline and Eller would become a UFA. Obviously Edmonton would have to offer more than $3.1M/season that Eller is looking for but he definitely has the potential to fill the 2C role in Edmonton.
Since entering the league Eller's CF% has hovered consistently around 50% even when facing tougher and tougher zone starts. Eller has also improved year over year in the faceoff circle and finished last season with a 53% faceoff percentage. Many of the possession numbers may be driven by the fact that his most common line mates included PK Subban, Andrei Markov and Alex Galchenyuk so that could very likely be a factor but the seasons that he had positive possession numbers those three weren't his most common line mates.
With the clock ticking on his arbitration hearing there could be a window of opportunity for the Oilers to jump in with a trade offer and grab a 2C for $3.1M/season. It may not even cost the Oilers much especially if Montreal is dead set on a low dollar amount.
Sutter will probably never be a 2C but he can definitely give the Oilers an extra option at centre since their options at this point are quite limited. In a fourth line role Sutter could give the team a chance to use the other 3 centres (Boyd Gordon, Mark Arcobello and Anton Lander) a chance to play a little higher up in the depth chart. If signed to a short term contract he also allows the Oilers give Leon Daisaitl another season in the WHL instead of trying to rush him into the NHL.
The biggest issue with Sutter is that ridiculous $2M+ contract from last season. If the Oilers were to trade and sign him he'd be looking for an increase in pay and for a third/fourth line centre that may be a bit of a stretch.
Eakin is coming off of his ELC and only has one full 82 game NHL season under his belt. His possession numbers have been decent even though his zone starts haven't been great.
Eakin has put up decent scoring totals over his past couple seasons 24P/48GP in 2012-13 and 35P/81GP in 2013-14. His and Dallas' biggest hurdle is going to be that the Stars just signed a 2C (Jason Spezza) and already have 1C (Tyler Seguin), that means the only option for Eakin is 3C but Dallas also has both Shawn Horcoff and Vern Fiddler that can fill that role as well.
Out of all of the players the Oilers could potentially target I feel that Eakin is probably the best fit. His age matches up with the rest of the team and his potential to be a 2C is better than the option they currently have available. The only problem is that Jim Nill is a smart man and could potentially hurt the Oilers in a trade.
P.S. I would also love to hear Quinn and DeBrusk losing their minds over the pronunciation of Eakins (Aikins) vs Eakin (Eekin).
Is this Really all That is Left?
The quick answer is yes. Unless the Oilers are willing to part with one of the wonderkins these are the best options available via trade. There are a few centres that become UFAs in 2015 that could potentially fill the 2C role but chances are that they won't be available until closer to the trade deadline and if Edmonton isn't in the playoff hunt come March 2015 then those possibilities become almost zero.