Edmonton Oilers: 5 Ideal Free-Agent Signings
Armed with a new GM in Craig MacTavish and new head coach in Dallas Eakins, the Edmonton Oilers are in yet another period of transition heading into the NHL entry draft and free-agency period beginning in July.
MacTavish has promised bold moves, which could involve trading one of the Oilers’ current young superstars, but could also involve making a splash in the free-agent market.
Ideal free agent signings in Edmonton are players who can help the club improve in three major areas: size, grit and defensive depth.
Here are five ideal free agent signings for the Edmonton Oilers.
Honorable Mention(s): Offer Sheets to Restricted Free-Agent Defensemen
The field is pretty thin regarding unrestricted free-agent defensemen heading into the summer this season, so if the Oilers are looking to make a big move and add a top-tier defender, their only routes would be through a trade or offer sheet.
With the cap going down next season, teams will have some tough decisions to make this summer regarding some marquee names that are currently restricted free agents.
Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo of the St. Louis Blues are both restricted free agents and are both in line for a big raise from their $1.3 million and $3.16 million contracts, respectively.
Pietrangelo has established himself as one of the top defenders in the game, so despite a large offer sheet, the Blues would be likely to match. Shattenkirk, however, poses an interesting dilemma.
If the Oilers were to offer a substantial contract to Shattenkirk, St. Louis would have be hard-pressed to match given that Pietrangelo is likely to get a raise as well. The Blues could collect the draft picks from Edmonton and continue building toward what looks like a very bright future.
While Iginla managed to provide 12 points in 15 playoff games for the Pens, the gritty forward mainly scored in lopsided victories, was nowhere to be found in the close games and was a shell of his former self against Boston.
It was clear when Iginla left Calgary that he wanted to chase a Stanley Cup, but a move to Edmonton would make sense on quite a few levels.
Iginla is from the Edmonton area, so a move to Oil Country for family reasons would make sense, but Iginla is the type of leader that could really help mentor the young stars in Edmonton and help groom a player like Taylor Hall as captain material for the Oilers.
It would be a long shot, but Iginla can still contribute in a slightly diminished role—and while his speed and scoring ability has tapered off in the last year or so, he still provides a physical presence while on the ice and has the grit and determination that the Oilers so desperately covet.
Nathan Horton is a rugged forward whose combination of size and skill would make the winger a great addition to the Oilers’ second line should the team move Ales Hemsky this offseason.
The only knock on Horton—and it is a major one—is his extensive history of injuries and significant time missed. From concussions to a recent shoulder injury sustained in the Stanley Cup Final, Horton will represent a huge risk that may scare off potential suitors.
When healthy, Horton has proven he can be a valuable member to any team; his plus/minus rating of plus-22 in the playoffs this season can attest to that. But signing a contract with an extended term may come back to haunt a team like the Oilers, who will be pressed for salary cap space as soon as the end of next season, when players like Justin Schultz and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will require new contracts.
Ryane Clowe is coming off of a miserable 2012-2013 season, which may be a blessing in disguise for a team like the Edmonton Oilers that is looking to add some tenacity and grit to their forward ranks.
Clowe would be an excellent addition to the Oilers' third line. While it may have appeared that he lost a step last year, Clowe would represent an upgrade in skill and toughness over former Oilers’ third-line players such as Ryan Jones or even Ryan Smyth.
Due to his struggles, it is unlikely that Clowe would command a comparable contract to his expiring $3.625 million deal, but the left winger will still get a lot of attention once free agency finally starts.
If the Oilers can lock up Clowe for around $3 million for a two- or three-year deal, the team would be adding a significant piece that has been missing from its current rebuilding puzzle.
Bryan Bickell is going to cash in big-time after the Stanley Cup Final is over, and if the Fernando Pisani contract from the Oilers’ 2005-06 Stanley Cup run is any indication, Edmonton may just be the team ready to throw its money at the burly forward.
At 6’4” and 233 pounds, Bickell is the big, bruising depth forward that the Oilers have lacked for years, but Bickell is going to get a significant raise from the $500,000 he currently earns and may price the Oilers out of contention.
It is risky to pay for one dominant offseason (re: Pisani), but Bickell’s size and strength are exactly what the Oilers need, and Craig MacTavish is likely to at least talk with Bickell about joining the Oilers next season.
Bickell has proven that he can play with skilled players, having lined up with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane during the playoffs. This will be a huge selling point for the Oilers, who could consider playing Bickell with smaller forwards such as Nail Yakupov and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins while not sacrificing much offense or skill.
David Clarkson will be one of the most sought-after free agents this summer, and the Oilers are almost certainly one of the teams that will be courting the former New Jersey Devils winger.
At 6’1” and 200 pounds, Clarkson isn’t the biggest forward, but his style of play more than makes up for whatever he may lack in size.
Clarkson is a tenacious forward who relishes the physical aspects of the game and whose high hockey intelligence will allow him to serve many different roles with whatever team he lands on this summer.
Clarkson also demonstrated last season that he can chip in offensively, registering 24 points in 48 games with the Devils.
Clarkson would be an excellent complementary piece in Edmonton who could help establish a secondary scoring unit as well as a legitimate penalty-killing presence.
A raise is most certainly in the cards for Clarkson, who should see a decent increase from his current $2.66 million contract.
The Oilers have the money available to make a significant offer and could definitely utilize his services as they continue to round out the roster under new GM Craig MacTavish.