Oilers Would Become More Dangerous by Adding Claude Giroux

It seems like this is the calm before the storm for the Edmonton Oilers. They’re frequently talked about in the rumour mill, but there hasn’t been any action, just yet. There’s the Evander Kane contract saga, the Jesse Puljujarvi situation and his uncertainty with the club, and there are also talks they’ll be involved in the Ville Husso or Jack Campbell sweepstakes to stabilize their goaltending.

Hockey insider Pierre Lebrun wrote about the latest Oiler gossip in a recent article stating that Edmonton has an interest in pending unrestricted free agent forward Claude Giroux. If the Oilers aren’t able to work out a contract with Kane, the team has internally discussed the merits of trying to sign the former Philadelphia Flyers’ captain (from ‘Lebrun Rumblings: Why Hasn’t Filip Forsberg Re-Signed with Nashville Yet? Claude Giroux to Edmonton?,’ The Athletic, 7/4/22).

Giroux has recorded a ton of mileage after 1,018 regular-season games, yet, his 65 points in 75 games last season proves there’s still plenty of gas left in the tank. He’d be the type of veteran player that could help the Oilers inch closer to becoming Stanley Cup contenders.

Why Would Giroux Consider Signing in Edmonton?

The Hockey Writers’‘ Mark Scheig recently wrote how Edmonton is starting to become an attractive option for free agents. For some players a motivation to sign with a team is money, but for others, like Giroux, a motivator could be to lift the Stanley Cup. He will be entering his 16th season in the NHL and the furthest he’s come to winning a championship was a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2010. According to CapFriendly, he’s made over $78 million in his career and at this point, money wouldn’t be the most important factor for him.

Claude Giroux Florida Panthers
Claude Giroux, Formerly of the Florida Panthers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Without a doubt, Giroux, like many others, took notice of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl’s legendary playoff performances, which elevated their status to “win now” mode. Their appearance in the Western Conference Final proved that they’re one of the teams close to winning a Stanley Cup and that’s something Giroux would certainly like to add to his already illustrious career.

Giroux’s Veteran Presence Is Ideal for the Oilers

General manager Ken Holland has shown that he likes veteran players in the lineup, as he circled back to Mike Smith last offseason when the Oilers struck out on Darcy Kuemper and signed the veteran goaltender to a two-year deal. He also traded for then 16-year veteran defenseman Duncan Keith for Caleb Jones and a conditional third-round draft pick.

Both players had instrumental moments in the Oilers’ playoff run, but equally, each player had their downfalls that led to crucial goals against. Their veteran experience and leadership were invaluable for a young Oilers core, but at times they were one step behind on plays, and at their respective ages of 40 (Smith) and 38 (Keith) they’re at a point in their careers where the Oilers are hoping for their retirements to free up cap space.

But with youngsters like Evan Bouchard, Ryan McLeod, and Kailer Yamamoto, teams need a mix of young players and veterans and Giroux has the perfect blend of experience (34 years old) and skill (923 career points) that every Stanley Cup contender needs. The longest-tenured captain in Flyers’ history could also serve as a vocal leader in the locker room. When he first joined the Florida Panthers last season, Jonathan Huberdeau said of Giroux, “He’s somebody special. He’s been through the playoffs and made the finals. We need that experience. When he speaks, people are going to listen to him.”

Giroux Could Be Dangerous in Many Roles for the Oilers

Giroux increased his points per game from .73 with the Flyers to 1.27 in 18 games with the offensively-loaded Panthers last season. Wouldn’t it be remarkable to see what he could do playing alongside McDavid? The Oilers’ captain has a history of players setting career-highs playing with him, like Pat Maroon (42 points), Zack Kassian (34 points), and Kane setting a career-high .90 points per game. Giroux’s career-high is 102 points when he finished second in the NHL scoring race, behind only McDavid in 2018. It’s unlikely he’d match that output, but he’d certainly flirt around a point-per-game playing with the reigning Art Ross Trophy winner.

Giroux has played on the wing the last few years, but he’s spent a good portion of his 15-year career playing down the middle. If the Oilers loaded up McDavid and Draisaitl on the same line and are in need of a new look throughout the season, it would be a luxury to have an offensive threat like Giroux taking the second-line center position, especially being right-handed.

In addition, Giroux’s excellent two-way game could also help the Oilers, especially on their special teams. According to Natural Stat Trick, he played 46 minutes on the penalty kill with the Flyers this past season, winning 71 out of 103 shorthanded faceoffs. The Oilers have more mobile players that can play the penalty kill, but he would be a definite asset to take shorthanded draws on the right side.

Moreover, the Oilers have had one of the league’s top power-play units in the NHL the last few years, but it’s all but guaranteed that a player with Giroux’s hockey IQ could help on the man-advantage. If Edmonton needed a different look on the top unit, he could replace Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on the left side. With him being a right-handed shot, he’d create a deadly one-time option to a power-play unit already loaded with offensive weapons. Alternatively, he could also run the second unit power play with his excellent puck distribution skills. To top it off, he’d be able to help the Oilers start with possession on the power play — he won 72% of offensive zone draws in 64 minutes on the power play with Florida last season.

Related: Oilers Quickly Becoming Top Free Agent Destination

The Oilers have just over $7 million in cap space to work with this offseason, and they’ll need to get creative to free up cap space, whether by trades or buyouts. It’s been reported that Holland wants to re-sign Kane, but he likely wants a long-term deal. If they swing and miss on Kane, signing Giroux would be a solid backup option.

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