Ken Holland’s number one priority this off-season is to improve the offensive depth of the Edmonton Oilers. He wants to build a bottom-six that plays hard, competes and can occasionally kill penalties. That said, Holland knows his top-six forwards were not good enough in 2018-19. If Edmonton wants to make the playoffs, and that is the goal, they’ll need to add higher up the depth chart too.
Many GM’s will bring people with them that they are comfortable with. That will happen in Edmonton too. Over the course of the summer we will see many scouts and executives with connections to the new Czar of Hockey Operations flocking to Northern Alberta. There could be players following him as well.
One of those former players fits the hole in Edmonton’s top-six. Although Holland dealt him at the deadline, he’s got a good relationship with Gustav Nyquist and knows what the skilled forward can do.
Why Is He Out There?:
The San Jose Sharks made a play for Nyquist at the trade deadline, bringing the veteran forward over in hopes of getting out of the West. It didn’t work out in the end, but Nyquist was very good for San Jose and provided an offensive spark outside of the top line.
The Sharks are in a cap crunch, magnified by Monday’s contract extension to All-Star D Erik Karlsson. The Sharks now have $79,366,667 committed to their 2019-20 roster. That’s less than $4,000,000 in space with multiple holes to fill.
It stands to reason that Joe Pavelski is now the top priority in Northern California, and that Nyquist will get the chance to test the open market starting on Sunday.
What Does He Do Well?:
Nyquist enjoyed a career year in 2018-19, hitting the 60-point plateau for the first time in his career. He drove possession on a poor Red Wings team, then fit right in on a juggernaut Sharks squad. In all, Nyquist finished the season with boxcars of 22-38-60 in 81 total games between the Wings and Sharks.
Although his 60 points is an outlier, Nyquist has been a consistent offensive producer since emerging as a top-six forward during the 2013-14 campaign. He’s scored at least 40 points in every season since then, with four years over 45 points.
He’s not a game-breaker, but he’s a consistent offensive piece that produces points and is always over 50% by most possession metrics.
Nyquist posted a 53.4% Corsi For percentage at five-on-five in 62 games with the rebuilding Red Wings this season, well above team average. Nyquist, at the time of his trade, had a positive Corsi Rel of +7.1% (!!). That’s outstanding.
Nyquist was positive relative to his teammates in San Jose as well, posting a 55.2% Corsi For at five-on-five in 19 games (+1.5%).
Although he isn’t the biggest skater, the slick Swede is quick and elusive. His game is an offensive one, as his biggest asset is his skill. He’s a smart player and has the ability to score at both even strength and on the powerplay. He’d be a huge help to Edmonton.
All stats via hockey-reference.
Here’s a look at Nyquist’s scouting report via The Sports Forecaster.
Where Should He Play / Where Will He Play?:
Nyquist is a top-six forward in the NHL and I’d argue is a top-line winger in the league. This is a very good player that can have a big impact on just about any team. He’s arguably the most underrated player on the market this summer.
In Edmonton, Nyquist would be the club’s best natural winger. He’d easily find a spot next to McDavid on opening night, and would give Edmonton a fourth top-six option. In addition, there would be ample powerplay opportunity for him in Northern Alberta.
What Will He Cost?:
Nyquist earned an AAV of $4,750,000 with a real salary of $5,500,000 in 2018-19. After the best season of his career, the expectation is that the Swede will earn a raise. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him collect between $5,500,000 and $6,000,000 on the contract he signs in the next few weeks.
Term wise, Nyquist is likely to command a deal in the four-to-five year range. At 29, that should give him some protection during the likely decline he will deal with in his early 30’s.
My personal favorite fit for the Oilers this off-season is Brett Connolly. I think he will be affordable and that he’s established himself as a top-six forward. I think Nyquist is the best free agent forward on the market, however.
He can drive possession, delivers offense in all game states and is young enough to contribute for a few seasons. Guys like this rarely hit the free agent market, and when they do they usually pan out.
Holland has a relationship with the player, and if he can parlay that into another contract it would be a huge win for the Edmonton Oilers. Nyquist would be a massive get for this club.