Just hours before the start of free agency the Oilers have decided to go shopping for a centre instead of a winger, trading Boyd Gordon for Lauri Korpikoski.
If you followed the Oilers closely last season you're probably a little surprised by this move. Gordon was the centre the Oilers turned to almost every time the puck was in their end of the rink. And even with the the ice tilted against him - he had a 20.4% offensive zone start, the lowest among Oilers forwards - he managed to keep his head above water posting a dCorsi/60 of 8.44. And that's just his work at even strength, the Oilers also leaned on him heavily when they were shorthanded, his average 2:24 of ice time per night with the Oilers down a man led the team's forwards. Basically Gordon was the guy the turned to when tough work needed doing.
Ultimately though, with a cap hit of $3M he was a very expensive fourth liner. If he brought even the tiniest bit of offence a case could have been made for him as a third line option but that simply is not the case. And so the Oilers decided that Gordon and his cap hit were just not a luxury that they can afford right now. And I agree with them. Korpikoski saves them $500k a season - he's signed for two more years compared to Gordon's one - and it's likely easier to find a cheaper replacement for Gordon than it would have been to find a better third line option than Korpikoski. So even though I like really Gordon this is a deal that makes a lot of sense to me.
Korpikoski, who's 28 years old, was originally drafted by the Rangers and played his rookie season with New York before joining the Coyotes; since then he's called the desert home. He's a strong two-way forward with a lot of speed (somethign I think the Oilers could use more of) and over the last three seasons has averaged between 0.30 and 0.39 points per game. Not big numbers but in the 25-30 point range over a full season. Strictly in terms of points, Korpikoski's low end is Gordon's high end. His possession numbers aren't what Gordon's are, in fact his Corsi% this past season was the worst of his last five, but in the right situation I think he's a better bet than the Oilers, especially after the dollars and cents get figured in.