Off-Season Targets: Alex Petrovic

John Tavares, Team Canada, World Cup of Hockey 2016

The Edmonton Oilers are in need of a right-shot defender and the Florida Panthers have a plethora of them with expansion draft issues looming. On the face of it, these two teams are a perfect match to make a trade. Yesterday I looked at Jason Demers and his potential fit with the Oil, but he isn’t the only Panther defender who could move.

Both Alex Petrovic and Mark Pysyk are pending RFA’s who have immense value to a team at their age. Both of these players are established NHL’ers and could conceivably fill a top-four role this coming season. Would the Panthers be willing to move either of them before the expansion draft so they don’t lose one for nothing?

Today, we’ll look at the Edmonton native Petrovic.

Why Is He Out There?:

Normally, the Panthers would simply sign Petrovic and really wouldn’t think twice about moving him. This, however, is not a normal off-season and the expansion draft creates a problem in South Beach. The Panthers have to protect Keith Yandle (NMC) and obviously will keep Aaron Ekblad moving forward. If they go 7-3-1, they can only protect one of Demers, Pysyk and Petrovic.

It’s possible they protect Demers and convince Vegas (via trade) to not take one of Petrovic and Pysyk. That said, it’ll be damn near impossible to keep Vegas from taking one of these rearguards. The only chance Vegas doesn’t? Florida trades one an recoups value.

Petrovic, who played only 18:09 per night last season, could be the man traded.

What Does He Do Well?:

Petrovic is a mobile defender who plays a shut-down style. He’s 6’4” and 206 pounds, so he has a solid frame, and is a very physical player. He fits the Chiarelli/McLellan template in the sense that he stands up the opponent at the blueline and is very hard to play against.

He’s got quick feet for a bigger man, as mentioned above, so speed shouldn’t be an issue here. Petrovic isn’t an offensive defender by any means (only 1-13-14 in 49 games) but can move the puck well enough that he isn’t a liability. He could certainly improve in that area though.

Essentially, Petrovic is a young shut-down defender who is still coming into his own and who is a right-shot. He’s not a finished product by any means, but he can contribute right now.

Off-Season Targets: Alex Petrovic
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Where Will He Play/Where Should He Play?:

As it currently stands, Petrovic would likely be a third-pairing defender in Edmonton this season. He’s not a better player than Adam Larsson, and personally I prefer Matt Benning to Petrovic at this stage. So, if Petrovic were to be Peter Chiarelli’s add this summer, I would slot him with Darnell Nurse to start the season.

As for where he should play, well Petrovic was essentially a third-pairing defender a year ago in Florida based on TOI (18:09) so that’s probably a good spot to slot him. As mentioned above, there is room to grow and an argument can be made that Petrovic is ready for a top-four role.

What Will He Cost?:

Florida is likely looking for goals, but I would not trade Jordan Eberle for Alex Petrovic if I were the Oilers. In fact, due to the contract difference, I don’t think the Panthers would make that move either. Trading Jesse Puljujarvi here would be poor value for the Oilers, and I don’t think I’d move Ethan Bear or Caleb Jones for a different defender at this stage.

Would Anton Slepyshev get the deal done? Perhaps Slepyshev and a mid-round draft choice for Petrovic?

As for a contract for the pending RFA, Petrovic made $1.050 M per year during the last two seasons in Florida. Has he earned a major raise on that? Not if you ask me, so perhaps a two-year pact at around $2 million per will get it done.

Closing Argument:

If Peter Chiarelli decides to go shopping for a long-term solution on the blueline, there aren’t likely to be many options for him. We’ve gone over the big names (Barrie, Faulk, Hamonic) but the more realistic names are the younger ones like Petrovic and Mark Pysyk.

Petrovic is a work in progress, but he could be an affordable shut-down defender who is still developing at the NHL level and who has his best years in front of him. I’d rather invest in that player, who will grow with Edmonton’s core group, than spend money on a long-term contract for a veteran who will without doubt decline.

It might not be Alex Petrovic, but Peter Chiarelli could look outside the box for defensive help this summer. This is as good a place as any to start.

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