Opinion

Off-Season Targets: Drew Stafford

Many people, myself included, feel that it is only a matter of time before the Edmonton Oilers trade Jordan Eberle for defensive help or cap relief. We can debate whether or not that is the right move, hell I feel like we all have a 1,000 times, but that’s not the point of this particular post.

If the Oilers move Eberle, they’ll need to replace him in the lineup. Some think that Jesse Puljujarvi can handle that role, while others think the Oilers would need to add a player via trade or free agency. Today, I’ll look at the first of a handful of potential targets to replace Eberle in Edmonton’s lineup.

Drew Stafford has been connected to the Oilers for what seems like years, and this July he will hit the open market as a free agent looking to reestablish his career. Is there a fit between him and the Oilers?

Why Is He Out There?:

Stafford had a simply horrible start to the 2016-17 campaign and found himself on the trading block as the Winnipeg Jets slowly slipped out of playoff contention. Stafford only registered 4-9-13 in 40 games with the Jets and played his way out of their plans moving forward.

Winnipeg dealt him to Boston at the deadline, a spot where he did show improvement. Stafford posted 4-4-8 in 18 games and added another two goals in six playoff tilts this spring. The change of scenery clearly helped this player become productive again.

That said, Stafford is a free agent and Boston only has a little over $10 million to fill out their roster and make improvements. With young forwards like Jake DeBrusk, Anders Bjork, Sean Kuraly and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson pushing up, Boston may elect to let the veteran sign elsewhere in just a few weeks.

What Does He Do Well?:

Even though he only scored eight goals a season ago, Stafford is known for his ability to put the puck in the net. He’d scored at least 15 goals in every 82 game season prior to 16-17 dating all the way back to the 2009-10 campaign. This is a pretty consistent secondary scorer.

He’s got a good size (6’2”, 214 lbs) and skill combination, while his skating is quite solid for a veteran who is best described as a ‘power-forward’. The Hockey News, in their scouting report, says that Stafford is at his best when he is “driving through the heavy scoring areas and uses his size”. That sentence makes me think he could be a perfect fit on a Todd McLellan team.

Stafford shot the puck 109 times last season and averaged 13:36 TOI per night on the campaign. He’s also a right-shot, which makes him a fit for this Edmonton club.

Where Will He Play/Where Should He Play?:

Stafford has been a third line forward for the most part over the course of the last few seasons. He moved up and down the lineup in Boston down the stretch and in the playoffs, but overall I’d say that he should slide into a team’s top-nine forward group next season.

In Edmonton, Stafford could play in a few different spots. If Leon Draisaitl shifts to center, Stafford could play on the top line with Connor McDavid and Patrick Maroon. He’d also be a good fit on the club’s second line and, if Leon plays right wing and Jesse Puljujarvi emerges, he could be a terrific depth scorer on line three. He’d be a versatile top-nine guy in Edmonton.

What Will He Cost?:

Stafford is coming off of a two-year contract that saw him net an AAV of $4,350,000 million. Without a doubt, after a tough season and at age 31, Stafford won’t be able to generate a contract like that on the free agent market this year. In fact, after such a tough run to end his Winnipeg time, Stafford may be willing to take a one-year deal to repair his value.

Would a one-year deal at, say, $1.5 – $2 million get Stafford under contract? I think it would.

Closing Argument:

Unless the Oilers get a replacement for Jordan Eberle back in the trade sending him out of town, the club will need to add another right winger this off-season. Drew Stafford certainly isn’t a game-breaker but he is a consistent player that will be motivated to bounce back and could come quite cheap.

For Edmonton to take the next step and compete, they’ll need to find cheap veteran options that both fit the system and can contribute. Drew Stafford is a perfect candidate to be one of those guys and very well could flourish with the Oilers.

If Eberle is dealt for a player like Travis Hamonic, then Peter Chiarelli should sniff around Drew Stafford as a possible replacement via free agency.

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