Last summer, the Columbus Blue Jackets bought out forward Scott Hartnell due to salary cap issues. Hartnell snagged a one-year deal with the Nashville Predators, but failed to move off of the club’s fourth line. He played in 62 games for the team, and found himself scratched at points in the playoffs.
That said, Hartnell still posted pretty solid numbers for a depth forward, and wasn’t a drag on possession for Nashville. He’s a veteran of the game and one of the more respected leaders in the sport who can still contribute on a nightly basis in a depth role.
The Edmonton Oilers are looking for leadership and looking to revamp their bottom-six forward group. Could Hartnell be a part of that moving forward?
Why Is He Out There?:
After being bought out by the Blue Jackets last June, Hartnell got a one-year deal from Nashville on July 1st. While he played in 62 games for the club, he was relegated to a fourth line role and really wasn’t counted on in the playoffs, getting into only four games.
Nashville has a strong system and many young players pushing up from junior hockey, Europe and the AHL. While Hartnell was fine for them in the regular season, odds are there will not be room for him next season. As a pending UFA, it’s very likely Hartnell gets left out in the cold by the team that drafted him in 2000.
What Does He Do Well?:
Hartnell is one of the more respected leaders in the NHL, having been in the league since the 2000-01 season. He’s been around the block, has ample experience, and has held leadership roles on multiple teams. For an Edmonton team that believed they missed Matt Hendricks this season, Hartnell scratches an itch.
He’s also still capable of producing enough offense to not be a black-hole in this regard. Edmonton had far too many players who simply were non-factors when it came to offense this season, especially on the wing. Hartnell registered 13-11-24 in 62 games while averaging just 12:01 TOI-per-game.
Hartnell was fine in possession, posting a 51.1% Corsi For while starting 50.9% of his shifts in the offensive zone.
Offensively, Hartnell posted 37 points (13-24-37) during his final year in Columbus, so there could be more to this player still with a larger role. That said, at 36-years old and showing signs of slowing down, this past season’s role and production is likely the new norm for Hartnell.
Here’s a look at Hartnell’s scouting report via The Hockey News.
Assets: Loves to crash and bang, and also gets under the opposition’s skin regularly. Complements skilled players well. Has good offensive instincts and some defensive ability. When needed, he can be a quality finisher.
Flaws: Some of his antics are questionable, and are at times reviewable by the league. He’s not a natural shooter. Doesn’t always drop the gloves when challenged by opponents. Can lack consistency on offense. Is in decline.
Career Potential: Quality, agitating complementary winger in decline.
Where Will He Play/Where Should He Play?:
Hartnell, at this stage in his career, appears to be nothing more than a serviceable fourth line forward. That’s fine, because Edmonton’s fourth line was atrocious last season and certainly needs some help.
With Jujhar Khaira likely sliding to center on that fourth line, Hartnell would fit in nicely on the left side of that trio with Khaira and Zack Kassian.
At 36, Hartnell very likely won’t be around for the Seattle expansion draft in 2020. In the event that he is, he would be eligible but would likely be a spare part by then, meaning he won’t really impact that process.
What Will He Cost?:
After the buyout, Hartnell was given a one-year deal worth $1,000,000 in Nashville. I’d wager an identical one-year deal at $1,000,000 gets it done for a player clearly in decline and adjusting to a depth role at the NHL level.
The Edmonton Oilers need to address their bottom-six forwards, Peter Chiarelli has even admitted that to the public. They’ll need wingers on the cheap that can chip in some offense, not get shelled possession wise and help out on special teams.
Scott Hartnell is such player, and could also fill the leadership void that Edmonton believes it has.
Money is tight, but Hartnell should still be getting a call from the Oilers should he reach the legal tampering period. He could help this group and come at a very cheap cost.