The Oilers like a certain type of player: fast, smart, and skilled (or just a Coke Machine). Tambo v3 has added another wrinkle to that portrait, and he is looking for those with Canadian junior experience. A lot of digital light has been employed, by bloggers, bemoaning the lack of an experienced penalty killer / veteran centre on the Oilers’ roster. As well as, fans continuing to mercilessly chant the mantra of “youth and more rebuilding” since drafting the primary figure in the Oiler’s divine trinity. These statements are contradictory in nature, and I have been on the side of signing veteran players and trying to make the playoffs. I have found a solution to solve this contradiction and it even fits into the brass’ vision of the team.
Its name is Martin Hanzal. He is a former first round pick (2005, seventeenth over all) from Czech Republic, but came over and played for the Red Deer Rebels in his nineteenth year after birth (and posted some decent numbers too: 26 goals 59 assists for 85 points in 60 games with another 94 PiMs).
So he fits the young rebuild model and the Oilers’ archetype of player: a 23 year old former first round draft pick that as a European spent time in the USHL and the WHL before showing up in the desert. He is also 6.06 and 228lbs, so he counts as a Coke Machine too—what is not to love?
These WHL numbers did not translate into exceptional NHL offence (in 227 games he has only 30 goals, 69 assists for 99 points or 0.436 points per game). His real value, at the NHL level, comes on the defensive side of the game as Derek Zona has demonstrated over at Copper & Blue. If you have not read his series of posts about the Best Forwards in the NHL, then it would be surprising to find Hanzal in top 16 players that face the toughest competition over the last three years. It is even more of a testament to his ability because Hanzal has only played three seasons in the NHL and has been playing the best opposition the NHL has to offer since he was a rookie. Oh, did I mention that he is a centre and won 50.6% of his 1104 faceoffs last year?
He is also that ‘veteran’ (and I use the term loosely) presence that the Oilers need to help shelter the rookies. In his rookie season 2007-08, Hanzal had the second toughest QualComp on his team (including only forwards that had a minimum of 40 games) at 0.032. In his sophomore season he had the most difficult of QualComp—same conditions—at 0,032 again. In the most recent season he lead all forwards in the desert with QualComp of 0.049. So we know he can play the vault, and according to Derek he does a damn good job of out scoring. He can also be relied to take defensive zone draws since in his three-year period he had a zonestart of 197 with a normal corsi/60 of 2.34. He was never a first option of special teams play in Phoenix but did post 2.06 TOI/60 on the penalty kill and another 2.05 on the power play (and his 18:28 TOI/G was the second best on Phoenix last season, only behind Shane Doan).
Overall, Hanzal is a type of player that the Oilers need! He fits the youth movement, and has the pedigree the Oilers always look for in players. So he can grow into the core that is mainly younger then him. He is big, strong, and plays centre (leading the Coyotes in hits last year with 175). He can play tough minutes and take defensive zone draws. He is reliable. But why would a player like this (especially at age 23) be available?
Recently a report that Hanzal has had some difficultly signing a new contract has surfaced. He is coming off his entry-level deal that paid him roughly one million dollars a season (which is damn low for a first round draft pick). It is supposedly over the dollar amount of the contract not the term. This suggest to me that Dan Maloney is low balling him on the money side but offering a one or two year deal. This presents an opportunity for the Oilers to find one of the key pieces that they are missing, but how to go about cashing into this opportunity. I have two options.
Trade: A good comparison for this trade would be the Mueller/Wolski trade or Latendresse/Pouliot. Phx trade Muller (a former first round pick with some offensive struggles) and Kevin Porter (an smallish fourth round pick) to Col for Wojtek Wolski (another former first round pick struggling in the Mile High City at the time). Latendresse and Pouliot where both former first rounders that struggled on their respective teams and found new life elsewhere. This sets the price of a struggling first rounder as another struggling first rounder, but if one player is doing better then a sweeter is need to make the deal. So what about a swap of Andrew Cogliano for Martian Hanzal? Obviously there would have to be a sweeter added by the Oilers, would Milan Kytner or Taylor Chorney push this deal over the top. What about a little out of the box thinking like a conditional draft pick: a fifth if Hanzal is not signed by training camp, a third if it is a one year deal, and a second if it is a multi-year deal?
RFA Offer Sheet: This is the route I would go, and we know the Oilers have gone this route before. Would you think that Hanzal would accept a five-year deal that pays him 3 million dollars a year? Best yet this contract would only cost the Oilers a second round draft pick next year! Hanzal would get 15 million dollars and only give up one year of UFA status, which is a lot for his type of player. A list of other 3 million dollar men include: Byfuglien, Little, Bourque, Kotalik, Hejduk, Brassard, Ott, Hudler, Weiss, Ponikarovsky, A. Kostitsyn, Frolov, Vrbata, Versteeg, Armstrong, and Knuble. Most if not all of those players have better offensive numbers then Hanzal has over the last three seasons, and most of them got that contract in their UFA years as well. Is a 3 million dollar contract too low and allow the Desert Dogs to match it? It would be foolish to give up any more money since that gets into first round pick compensation (and we would not want to pull a Burke). Plus we would still have Cogliano in the trade-chamber which we could attempt to take down a real defenseman with.
So is three million dollars too much to spend on a bottom six forward? In the new NHL you need to have contracts that players will out perform to be successful, and I don’t know if Hanzal’s traditional boxcars will ever rational a three million dollar cap hit (but his advance stats sure think he is worth it). The other advantage is that during the first three years of the deal the Holy Trinity is still on entry level contracts, and by year four and five hopefully the salary cap will be going up (making his cap hit a smaller percent of the total salary cap). His contract would come up the same time as Horcoff’s current deal, so these centres would have the longest contracts on the Oilers.
It is a step towards competing this year, and it is not a step back in the rebuild.
Come on Tambo make the OilDiasporia’s year!