The Other Guys: Free Agent Scrap Heap

Updated: January 11, 2018 at 2:11 am by jeanshorts

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Free agent frenzy has come and gone, and for the first time in history the Edmonton Oilers got the most coveted guy on the market! However there are still plenty of NHL players languishing in free agent purgatory right now. The Oilers would be smart to shore up their depth with the addition of some NHL veteran presence, and today we’re going to take a look at a few guys still looking for a good home, that could potentially be a fit for the Oilers. 

SAM GAGNER

The former Soon-To-Be Oilers captain had his worst pro season last year, putting up a paltry 16 points while only suiting up for 53 games with the Flyers, in between stints in the AHL, his first time ever playing in the minors. Drafted and used as a center by the Oilers, it appears Sam’s time at pivot is all but over, as his 35.1 faceoff percentage was only .1% better than noted non-center Milan Lucic. Hell, even Coyotes GM Don Maloney said “at the end of the day we just didn’t think he could play center for us at the NHL level” after trading Gagner to the Flyers for the ghost of Chris Pronger. 

His points per game have been steadily decreasing since 2012, but he still intrigues me as a bottom six winger option. His 16 points last season were more than both Matt Hendricks and Iiro Pakiranein, and while he plays a wholly different style of game than either of those two, it wouldn’t be the worst thing to have a guy with legit offensive touch playing some of those tough minutes, while also being an option to move up the lineup when the inevitable injury bug decimates the Oilers as it does every year. His possession numbers are also stellar, so while he may not have become the top line center Oiler fans dreamed of, he should still have plenty of value to a team like the Oilers. 

WHAT’S HE WORTH?

Gagner is coming off a 3 year deal with an annual cap hit of $4.8 million, and while in Arizona he showed he can still be a 40 point player, I’d only be willing to give him maybe half of that. A two year, $5 million deal would be around the ballpark I’d be comfortable with. 

INTANGIBLES/SPECIAL SKILLS?

About to turn 27 years old (I KNOW RIGHT SHOULDN’T HE BE LIKE AT LEAST 35 BY NOW??) Gagner is already entering his ninth NHL season, which puts him right in the wheelhouse of younger veteran players like Milan Lucic, who have plenty of NHL experience (over 600 NHL games) that the Oilers have been missing for years. 

BUT more importantly his wife is a beautiful doctor. What better example to set for young bucks like McDavid and Draisaitl, than showing them the benefits of finding a woman with both beauty AND brains! 

Sam-Gagner-Girlfriend-Rachel-Linke-pic

Also this, this, and this

JAMES WISNIEWSKI

He’s 32, missed the entire 2015-16 season (sans 47 seconds) after tearing his ACL, and had the last season of his contract bought out by the Carolina Hurricanes of all teams. HOWEVER he’s a veteran, right shot defensemen, only two years removed from a career high 51 point season. Since 2010 he’s averaged about 12 powerplay points, and as of right now the Oilers are still in need of a QB for their first powerplay unit, so on paper Wisniewski seems like a good fit. 

WHAT’S HE WORTH?

He’s nearing the end of his career age-wise, and we all know what can happen to a once useful defenseman after they suffer a serious lower body injury *waves at my BFF Ryan Whitney*, so I’m a little leery about all that. He’s coming off a 6 year deal with a cap of $5.5 million, and I’d be looking at him to play a hybrid role of a 5-6 D-man/powerplay specialist, so somewhere around a one year, $3-3.5 million dollar deal would be my ceiling. Perhaps Chiarelli could look into a lower AAV, but load the contract with bonuses for games played, powerplay points, etc. 

INTANGIBLES/SPECIAL SKILLS?

His mime routine may not be family friendly, but it’s pretty hilarious when directed at noted sentient bag of garbage Sean Avery

BRANDON PIRRI

Pirri is a 25 year old, 6 foot, 185lbs centerman and former second round pick, who was buried beneath the weight of unbelievable depth in the Blackhawks organization, before being shipped off to Florida for a couple late round picks. He found his footing as a solid bottom six centre for the Panthers, putting up seasons of 25, 24 and 29 points over the last three years, but has only found himself playing over 60 NHL games in a season once, playing 61 last year between the Panthers and the Ducks.

He matches up pretty favourably against Anton Lander (WHOM I STILL THINK IS DUE FOR A BREAKOUT ANY DAY NOW) putting up better offensive numbers and similar possession numbers, while Lander still has an edge in career faceoff win percentage (50% to Pirri’s 46.1%). Best case scenario he challenges Lander and Letestu for a bottom six center role, or perhaps even a winger role on the third or fourth line. And worst case scenario the Oilers are able to add another depth forward to shore up the ranks down in Bakersfield (Pirri put up 75 points in 76 games for AHL Rockford in 2012). 

WHAT’S HE WORTH?

Pirri did not receive a qualifying offer from the Ducks, which would have been worth just north of $1 million a year (I’m probably wrong about this. Please correct me if I am). A three year, two-way deal at $1.5 million per is a reasonable gamble to me, on a guy who could be a valuable bottom six player. 

INTANGIBLES/SPECIAL SKILLS?

Brandon Pirri loves fans so much so that he once gave his game used stick to a little boy IN THE MIDDLE OF A SHIFT! 


What a guy! 

KRIS RUSSELL

Arguably the most devise free agent on the market, Kris Russell is beloved by old-school hockey types (HE BLOCKS SO MANY SHOTS) and derided by analytics crunchers (HE BLOCKS TOO MANY SHOTS BECAUSE THE OTHER TEAM ALWAYS HAS THE PUCK). Russell had back to back great offensive years for the Flames in 13-14 and 14-15, putting up 29 and 34 points respectively, with 12 and 14 of those points coming on the powerplay. His numbers fell this year, as the Flames came crashing back to earth after laughing in the face of the analytics gods in 2014-15, and he was shipped off to Dallas, where he underwhelmed in the playoffs. 

WHAT’S HE WORTH?

Look, I know most of you really don’t like Mark Fayne, OR analytics for that matter, but in my opinion despite slightly better offensive numbers, Russell is a MUCHB bigger liability in his own end, and the numbers back me up on this. 

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 1.10.36 PM

Combine that with the rumour that Russell is looking for a 5 or 6 year deal worth somewhere around $30 million, I’d avoid him like the plague. That being said, if he were to accept a DRASTICALLY reduced contract, in both term and AAV, maybe I’d kick the tires a little. A two year deal worth $2.5-3 million a year (Mark Fayne money as we call it in Edmonton) wouldn’t be great, but Russell has shown some offensive touch, so perhaps he could find himself being a decent contributor in a bottom pairing role? This would also allow the Oilers to shelter guys like Nurse and Reinhart, rather than continuing to throw them to the wolves. Either way I’d rather the Oilers look elsewhere for veteran defensive help. 

INTANGIBLES/SPECIAL SKILLS?   

Almost single handedly reignited the Analytics V. Old School debate on Twitter, before it was completely co-opted by the PK Subban/Shea Weber trade. 

NIKITA NIKITIN

LOLOLOLOL JUST KIDDING!!! 

SHAWN HORCOFF

While many, MANY people argue he was massively overpaid after the Cup Run Of ’06®, Shawn Horcoff was always an incredibly solid player for the Oilers. The Oilers are only JUST NOW starting to finally recover some actual center depth they slowly dismantled after MacT, in all his infinite wisdom, traded Horcoff for *sighs deeply, rubs temples* Philip Larsen. Horcoff turns 38 in September, and had the worst offensive season of his NHL career since his rookie year, but the numbers show our heterochromia carrying friend still has a bit of tread left on those tires. His 51.29 faceoff percentage puts him right in line with Mark Letestu, and you know he’s gonna go out there and the kill the hell out of penalties for you. 

Obviously he’s a former Oilers captain, and was one of the veteran guys who helped take Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano under his wing when they were just little NHL babies. He’s got the leadership and veteran intangibles that would be great to add into this still relatively young Oilers locker room. 

WHAT’S HE WORTH

Horcoff is coming off a one year, $1.75 million deal. I would be okay with the Oilers giving him an identical deal, and having him play a Boyd Gordon-esque role this year for the Oilers. Plus how great would it be to see Horcoff end his career back where it all started? 

INTANGIBLES/SPECIAL SKILLS?

He’s got two different coloured eyes and looks very reminiscent of Sloth from the Goonies. Plus, now that he’s been suspended for PEDs he can use that experience to teach the young Oilers (how not to get caught taking PEDs). 

IN CONCLUSION

It’s not a murderers row of talent by any means, but there are a few guys still out there looking for contracts, who could be very valuable additions to the Edmonton Oilers. Edmonton has a projected $8.3 million in cap space going into the 2016-17 season, and a few shrewd signings by Chiarelli could go a long way to giving the Oilers some depth the likes we haven’t seen in probably a decade. Did I miss anyone you think would be a good fit? Let me know in the comments!