It is wildly unfair to compare free-agent summers in the Craig MacTavish era and Peter Chiarelli’s additions. The biggest difference is Connor McDavid and (as is the case in all things) No. 97 changes the weather in a big way. When MacT was general manager, he had a video about ‘The Alberta Advantage’ and some nice young blue chip players and prospects. None of that can compare to Connor McDavid.
MACT’S FREE AGENTS
- July 5, 2013—Andrew Ference
- July 5, 2013—Boyd Gordon
- July 5, 2013—Jesse Joensuu
- July 5, 2013—Jason LaBarbera
- July 5, 2013—Ryan Hamilton
- July 6, 2013—Richard Bachman
- July 8, 2013—Denis Grebeshkov
- July 1, 2014—Benoit Pouliot
- July 1, 2014—Mark Fayne
- July 1, 2014—Keith Aulie
It’s easy to look back and dump on him for these signings (the Ference contract just got finished) but when you’re trying to shore up an NHL defense, veterans who can help have high value. At the time of his signing, Ference was part of a solid defensive group, the Oilers needed him to play inside the top 4D. That’s a bet we see NHL teams make every summer. When Ference signed, I said this about him:
- D Andrew Ference, 4 years times 3.25M. An overpay where he’ll play, Ference is ideally suited as a veteran pairing for Schultz the younger. He was 4th among Bruins in EV TOI (17:06) and fourth in PK TOI (2:13) and will probably play similar minutes with the Oilers. I think we should probably prepare for Ladislav Smid or Nick Schultz heading out of town (Ottawa or Philly is my guess) before training camp. The current LH depth chart is Smid, Ference, N Schultz, Anton Belov, Oscar Klefbom–suspect we’ll see a flip before fall. Source
He played 21:04 that first season, about 90 seconds a game more than he had in Boston. I think he was a reasonable bet, Boyd Gordon too, and for me the best bet was Benoit Pouliot (despite his being bought out this summer). I also believe Mark Fayne was a good signing. It didn’t work out but grabbing an NHL defenseman who can defend is something I’m always going to encourage.
CHIARELLI’S FREE AGENTS
- July 1, 2015—Andrej Sekera
- July 1, 2015—Mark Letestu
- July 1, 2016—Milan Lucic
- July 1, 2016—Mark Fraser
- July 1, 2016—Jonas Gustavsson
- July 3, 2016—Taylor Beck
- October 7, 2016—Kris Russell
- July 7, 2017—Jussi Jokinen
- July 10, 2017—LD Yohann Auvitu
How many of these players can be credited to the drafting of Connor McDavid? Does ‘all of them’ cover it? I think so, although Peter Chiarelli will get credit or blame depending on how things roll out. It is fair to say that Sekera and Lucic would not have been available to MacT and I think a player like Jussi Jokinen is also in that category (he said as much).
All of which is to say the following: With greater opportunity comes greater risk. I count Peter Chiarelli’s best free agent addition as being Andrej Sekera so far, but Matt Benning (not listed here) could end up being the best addition. As we move into this season, very important that the expensive signings (Sekera, Lucic, Russell) deliver in a big way. The verbal next summer, if RNH has to be moved while these expensive veterans have under-performed contracts, will be about free agents that haven’t worked out while also costing valuable assets.
I think this summer the Draisaitl/McDavid contracts were framed as being the culprits when it came to Jordan Eberle’s exit. I don’t think framing the issue in a similar manner next summer is going to work. These free-agent signings, in the days after the rapture, are going to tell their own story. The pressure is on. Now. My bet is that Milan Lucic recovers 5×5 and posts a strong season. I think he was probably challenged by the struggles of last season and will want to show fans he has more to bring. I bet he recovers 5×5 scoring in 2017-18. You?