Milan Lucic wasn’t the only unrestricted free agent sighting in Edmonton this week.
UFA blue-liner Jason Demers — a right-handed shot defenceman the Oilers have been desperately coveting — visited Edmonton on Tuesday to tour the city and the franchise’s new arena.
“He got the Oilers treatment on Tuesday, got the tour of Edmonton,” TSN hockey insider Pierre LeBrun said. “He’s a guy that would fit in perfectly, let’s face it. The Oilers are desperate for help on defence.”
The Oilers are familiar with Demers, who once played for Todd McLellan in San Jose before being shipped to the Dallas Stars. Demers had his best season under McLellan’s watch, scoring five goals and 29 assists in 75 games during the 2013-14 season. While his offensive numbers have declined, Demers would still be a serviceable blue-liner on an Oilers team starving for defencemen.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) June 28, 2016
The question now is, will the Oilers open up their wallets? And, if they do, how much are they willing to pay to bring in the 28-year-old.
Demers won’t solve general manager Peter Chiarelli’s most pressing need of adding a No. 1 defenceman, but the six-foot-one Demers can be used on a second pairing.
Chiarelli must be careful not to overpay for Demers, who made $3.65 million last year and is looking for a raise in the ballpark of $5 million per season. If Demers and the Oilers could meet somewhere in between, say on a three or four-year deal, the signing all of a sudden doesn’t look too bad.
The Oilers are reportedly also kicking tires on Kris Russell — Demers’ teammate with the Stars — who ranked second in the league in shot blocks with 210 during the 2015-16 campaign.
Russell comes with a cheaper price tag, as he’ll be looking for a slight bump in salary compared to the $2.6 million he made last season.
Here are five other potential UFA defencemen the Oilers may pursue on July 1:
1. Dan Hamhuis
After missing a chunk of last season with a jaw injury, Hamhuis will be looking for a fresh start — perhaps with a new team and city. Hamhuis could automatically play in the Oilers’ top four and would be an integral part of Edmonton’s penalty kill. Not a big point producer, Hamhuis is still capable of chipping in offensively. At 33, Hamhuis will be looking for a similar deal that paid him $4.25 million with the Canucks.
2. Kyle Quincey
Not the No. 1 defenceman Chiarelli is looking for, but can fill a void offensively as a third or fourth paring and can produce on special teams. The 30-year-old made $4.25 last season and could be signed for a bargain with his stats taking a hit over the last couple years.
3. Tom Gilbert
Gilbert had his best years in an Oilers uniform and even though he’s now pushing his mid-30s, he would fit in nicely in McLellan’s system. Gilbert earned $2.8 million last season and will probably remain in the same pay scale, only on a shorter term contract.
4. Luke Schenn
He won’t give you the offensive production, but Schenn is a rock in his own end — something the Oilers wouldn’t mind having. Sure, Schenn hasn’t lived up to expectations since the Maple Leafs drafted him fifth overall in the 2008 NHL Draft. But he was a productive blue-liner on the L.A. Kings’ second pairing. He’ll remain in the $3-million per year price range.
5. Brian Campbell
A longshot here, but Campbell could be a short-term power-play specialist for the Oilers — at the right price, of course. Campbell is coming off an eight-year deal that paid him north of $7 million a year. Now 37-years-old, Campbell will make significantly less on a shorter-term deal. The question is does he want to go to a contender or finish his career with the rebuilding Oilers?