I hope Jim Matheson is paying attention, because this one is for him. The Edmonton Oilers need cheap scoring depth on the wings heading into next season, and they are likely to find candidates on the free agent market. Dipping into the bargain bin, with their salary cap situation, is the best way to go.
Drew Stafford has had a lot of success in the NHL throughout his career as a secondary scoring option. He’s scored 20 goals as recently as 2015-16, and looked very good in a short stint with the Boston Bruins at the end of the 2016-17 season and into the playoffs.
After signing with the Devils last summer, Stafford has cooled down in a big way. He’ll be on the market again next month, however, and will be looking for a chance to show he can still play at this level.
Why Is He Out There?:
After struggling big time with Winnipeg to start the 2016-17 season, Stafford was dumped to Boston on deadline day, where he promptly jumped into Boston’s top-nine and played solid hockey through the club’s first round playoff loss.
He earned himself a one-year deal with the Devils, but never could seem to catch on with the young New Jersey group. He appeared in just 59 regular season games and only drew into a pair of playoff contests.
He’s not likely to get re-signed as the Devils look for options to help push them to the next level.
What Does He Do Well?:
In his prime, Stafford was a solid goal scorer with the Buffalo Sabres. He posted three 20 goals seasons, and scored a career high 31 during the 2010-11 season. Stafford enjoyed a nice bounce-back with the Jets, tallying 21 goals during the 2015-16 season, but he’s slowed down since then.
In 59 games with Jersey, he scored just eight times while adding seven assists for 15 points. He went pointless in a pair of playoff contests, registering ten penalty minutes in the process. Stafford did show well in Boston post-deadline in 2017, scoring 4-4-8 in 18 games and adding two goals in six playoff games.
The 6’2” right winger averaged 13:52 TOI-per-game with the Devils this past season, while posting a Corsi For of 47.8%. Stafford, interestingly, only started 48.2% of his shifts in the offensive zone. You’d think a complimentary scorer like him would get a bit more of an offensive push. (Stats via Hockey-Reference)
Here’s a look at Stafford’s scouting report via The Hockey News.
Assets: Owns an impressive size/skill package. Can score goals and also play a physical game from the wing position. Is at his best when he drives through heavy scoring areas and uses his size, puck skills and sneaky-fast shot.
Flaws: Must prove he can play a consistent brand of hockey in all three zones, since he tends to disappear for stretches. Takes shifts off from time to time. Could stand to diversify his game a little to keep defenses guessing.
Career Potential: Big, inconsistent scoring winger.
Where Should He Play/Where Will He Play?:
Stafford is more of a third line option at this stage of his career. He doesn’t score like a top-six guy anymore, but also doesn’t have the defensive ability you’d like from a fourth liner. Regardless, he’s a bottom-six option that can put the puck in the net and be a depth piece on the powerplay.
In Edmonton, the right-shot winger would likely slide onto the team’s second line behind Ty Rattie. Bottom line is, unless the Oilers give Jesse Puljujarvi a push, they don’t have much on the right side of the depth chart.
Stafford will be eligible for a Seattle expansion draft. That said, I don’t think he garners a multi-year deal this off-season and I doubt he’d be protected anyway. He shouldn’t impact a team’s plans in this regard.
What Will He Cost?:
Stafford agreed to a one-year deal wroth $800,000 with New Jersey last summer. After a tough year, I suspect another one-year deal with a similiar AAV gets the job done. Let’s say $850,000 to get him to move back to Western Canada.
As Peter Chiarelli goes hunting for bargain options, he’ll likely be aware of veteran players looking for one last chance. In Boston, Chiarelli acquired players like this by the boatload. Some of them worked out in a big way, while others were out the door almost as fast as they came in.
Drew Stafford isn’t the player he once was, but he’s a decent bet to help in terms of secondary scoring. If Todd McLellan and staff put Stafford in a position to succeed with some skilled players, he could turn out to be a value contract.
Boston used Stafford in that kind of role and got decent results from him less than two years ago. If the wing position isn’t addressed later this summer, keep this name in mind.