New Oilers GM Ken Holland has, multiple times, said that improving the forward corps and building the bottom-six are both keys to the off-season. It stands to reason that the additions at the bottom of the forward depth chart will come via free agency.
There will be cheap players on value deals sitting on the market. The key to Edmonton’s success next season very well could be how many of those low-risk bets pay off. There is also enough room to add more established, proven pieces.
Joonas Donskoi has been a consistently strong presence in San Jose’s lineup since coming to the NHL in 2015. The pending UFA forward is likely to test the market, and could be a great fit for Edmonton.
Why Is He Out There?:
Donskoi, as mentioned above, has been a consistently strong piece for the Sharks in their middle-six. He’s a responsible forward with an offensive touch, proven by his back-to-back 14 goal seasons.
For the first time in his NHL career, Donskoi has the chance to test the open market. According to Kevin Kurz of The Athletic, he is leaning towards doing just that.
This can always change, but sounds like Sharks pending UFA Joonas Donskoi is leaning towards at least seeing what other options might be out there when the interview period opens on June 23 #SJSharks— Kevin Kurz (@KKurzNHL) June 15, 2019
With the Sharks throwing everything at Erik Karlsson to try and re-sign the franchise defender, it stands to reason that Donskoi is not a top priority for the club right now. He very well could slip through the cracks.
What Does He Do Well?:
For whatever reason, Donskoi found himself in the doghouse of Peter DeBoer this past season. Although he matched his career-high with 14 goals, Donskoi struggled late in the season and couldn’t hold a consistent spot in the lineup.
In 80 games, Donskoi posted boxcars of 14-23-37. Ironically enough, it was a career-high in points for the Finnish forward. Not much of a presence on the powerplay, Donskoi scored 13 of his 14 goals at even strength this past season.
Possession wise, Donskoi has never had a season below 53% Corsi For five-on-five. In 2018-19, he posted a CF% of 54.4%, the second best mark of his career. That was right in line was a San Jose team that finished the season with a 54.5% Corsi For percentage.
Donskoi was strong by Fenwick as well, posting a 55.1% Fenwick For five-on-five that was +1.2% relative to his teammates.
In addition to his strong possession metrics and solid middle-six offensive production, Donskoi is a smart player who is strong defensively. His two-way acumen would be very helpful to a team like Edmonton that is looking to cut down on the goals against.
He can play both wing positions, making him a versatile option. Interestingly enough, Donskoi didn’t play much on the PK for San Jose a season ago.
All stats via hockey-reference.
Here’s a look at Donskoi’s scouting report via The Sports Forecaster.
Where Should He Play / Where Will He Play?
On a Stanley Cup contender, Donskoi is best suited to a third-line role at even strength. His offense is line with that role, and his skill-set makes him a perfect fit for a potential checking line.
In Edmonton, Donskoi would likely see a role higher up the lineup. I can’t help but think he would be a good fit on a line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, another responsible two-way forward.
What Will He Cost?:
Donskoi carried an AAV of $1,900,000 on his previous contract with San Jose. If he is testing the UFA waters, odds are it will require a raise to pry him from the Sharks.
Does a three-year deal at $2,950,000 make sense? I’d be willing to go as high as $3,250,000 per season for Donskoi.
I can’t help but think that Donskoi would fit in very well with new head coach Dave Tippett. He’s versatile, possesses speed, can play a middle-six role on a playoff team and has the ability to chip in around 15 goals per season. When Holland and Tippett talk about adding depth, this is exactly the kind of piece they mean.
If Donskoi reaches the UFA interview period, don’t be surprised if the Oilers are one of the teams calling right away.