Yesterday, Lowetide and I discussed value contracts and if young Jujhar Khaira could potentially carry one next season as a full-time Oiler. Even though he's still a prospect, it's hard not to get excited about a player that the Oilers drafted and developed, and who has shown relatively well this season. My take is that he'll benefit from playing top line minutes in the AHL, especially as players return to the Oilers lineup from injury. Regardless of what happens, Khaira has taken some big steps and will be a prospect to watch going forward.
Now taking a look at current roster, only one contract signed for next season stands out as being troublesome, and that belongs to 29 year old winger Lauri Korpikoski. The Oilers will be paying him $2.5 million this year and next, as he completes a four year, $10 million contract that he originally signed with Arizona.
In 27 games this season, Korpikoski has averaged about 12 minutes per night at even strength and a minute on the powerplay. He has scored 6 goals and 2 assists in all situations, with his most memorable night coming against the Rangers on December 11th when he notched a hat track. He's played predominantly in the bottom six starting the season with Anton Lander, but after recovering from a head injury, is now playing with Mark Letestu and Matt Hendricks.
Below are his career numbers at even-strength sorted into different categories. I've also compared his career averages to the numbers he has posted this season.
We knew going into the season that Korpikoski had never been a real positive impact player when it comes to shots or scoring chances. But what's troubling is the fact that this season he's been worse than his career average.
Korpikoski has also seen time on the powerplay this season, averaging just over a minute per game with the man advantage. But when reviewing his Fenwick For numbers, which is a good predictor of goal scoring on the powerplay, he ranks near the bottom among forwards. Basically, when he's on the ice, the team does not generate enough unblocked shot attempts, and does better with him on the bench. It's a little puzzling that he still gets powerplay time despite his negative impact on the team.
Oilers Power Play (2015-2016)
What I found the most interesting was how Korpikoski does with and without his most common linemates this season. Below are the WOWY numbers when it comes to shot attempts (Corsi For%) at even strength.
Here we see that all of Korpikoski's linemates this season have done much better without him than with him. Teddy Purcell does get to play with the top line players now, so that does skew results. But the rest of the group are players who regularly play bottom six minutes.
And here's how Korpikoski has impacted the Oilers defensemen this season, listed from the most minutes played to the least minutes. Again, we see a pretty glaring trend where the Oilers defencemen do a lot better when it comes to shot shares without Korpikoski than with him.
I also looked into how Korpikoski impacted the forwards and defencemen last season as a Coyote. The results are just as bad.
Korpikoski has played very poorly this season, but it shouldn't come as a total surprise. He's been trending downward for a while, but will be making another $2.5 million next season. Based on the fact that the Oilers bottom six have struggled to produce and the fact that wingers are readily available in the off-season, I would either buy out Korpikoski's contract or consider burying it in the AHL.
Sources: War on Ice, Hockey Analysis, NHL.com, General Fanager