Late Wednesday afternoon, it was announced that the Edmonton Oilers and Devin Shore had agreed to a two-year deal with an average annual value of $850,000. Usually, depth signings don’t gain much attention, but this one is generating a ton of buzz as some see it as the Oilers failing to address their bottom lines with higher talented, scoring players. In my opinion, those people are wrong, which I will get into. But first, let’s look back at the past year for Shore.
Making the Most of an Opportunity
In late December of 2020, while we were still waiting for training camp to begin, the Oilers signed Shore to a professional tryout offer. He was coming off of a season in which he put up a combined five goals and 12 points in 45 games split between the Anaheim Ducks and the Columbus Blue Jackets. At the time, this didn’t garner much attention given that he was a pretty unknown name, but he did have two back-to-back seasons from 2016-2018, in which he recorded north of 10 goals and 30 points.
The 26-year-old clearly made an impression on the Oilers coaching staff in camp, as he was rewarded with a one-year, $700,000 deal. This signing had a lot to do with the taxi squad that was put into place last season, a place in which Shore spent some time on throughout the 2020-21 campaign.
However, as the season went on, he started getting more opportunities and once again made the most of them, as his hard-nosed style of play was noticeable nearly every shift he was on the ice. His work ethic was clear every time he was on the lineup, and he played with a noticeable physical edge when called upon, finishing the season fourth on the Oilers roster in hits per 60 with 10.55.
While his offensive production of five goals and nine points in 38 games was nothing to marvel at, he wasn’t on the team to be a point producer. When he was signed, it was to be a depth role player, and he did that exceptionally well, averaging 1:11 minutes per game on a penalty kill that ranked ninth in the NHL with an 82.5 percent success rate.
Much like the regular season, Shore was in and out of the lineup for their quick four-game series versus the Winnipeg Jets, which is what depth players on all teams throughout the league do. Head coach Dave Tippett had him suit up for two playoff games in which he was able to record one assist.
Dissecting Complaints From Fans
As mentioned previously, it seems that one of the main problems Oilers fans have with this deal is that they should be finding better players to fill out their third and fourth lines. That statement is certainly true, but this signing doesn’t prevent that from happening. Lots has been made about the cap space Ken Holland will have to work with this offseason, and a contract that carries a cap hit of just $850,000 won’t change that.
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This deal does not mean that Shore is penciled in to a roster spot when the season begins. He will have to earn it just like all other depth players do, and it won’t be easy as Holland will certainly be adding some more forwards, likely ones with higher skill, to the roster once free agency begins. However, carrying a player like Shore as a 13th forward to draw in and out of the lineup is not a bad option. After all, there is a reason he had played in 282 career games before coming to Edmonton.
Another complaint seems to be the term of the deal, as signing a depth player to a one-year option is the preferable method. Once again, this is correct, but often times adding a second year helps slightly decrease the overall cap hit. Of course, that is a completely hypothetical, but one that is often the case in these types of deals. What isn’t hypothetical, however, is that this contract is extremely easy to bury in the AHL if need be. If for whatever reason, the Oilers decide they don’t need and/or want Shore any longer, they can put him on waivers and see what happens. If he goes unclaimed, he can play in Bakersfield, and if he gets claimed, he’s off the books completely.
Expectations for 2021-22
For next season, as long as Shore is able to play with the same energy as this past year, I believe he will be in a similar role where he comes in and out of the lineup, depending on the situation. While some may not like to hear that, it is evident both the coaching staff and management like the player. Plus, when talking about depth scoring, a player who was on pace for 11 goals over a full 82-game schedule doesn’t seem like the worst option to have, especially at a cap hit of just $850,000.