Radek Bonk is a UFA this summer. He's not the best checking center available on the market this summer, but he's got size and experience.
One problem with the Oilers 2008-09 squad that keeps being mentioned is the lack of a "true" 3rd line checking center. Throughout the year, that post was filled by a myriad of players, from Andrew Cogliano to Fernando Pisani.
Steve Tambellini is definitely going to want to add a veteran checking center with experience to his lineup. Maybe the Oilers should consider signing even two - since this would allow Kyle Brodziak to play a bigger role in other areas of the team, perhaps successfully filling the role that MAP never could. However, keep in mind that Tyler Spurgeon and Ryan Stone are also good dark horses for the 4th line job this training camp.
Here's a list of 2009 UFA checking centers:
John Madden, 36
2008-09 Salary: $2,938,540
There's little doubt that John Madden has formed the core of a formidable New Jersey defensive system for a long time now. But at age 36, he would not be a long term solution for the Oilers. In the short term, however, he would be a good fix. My bet is on Madden resigning in New Jersey, though.
Todd Marchant, 35
2008-09 Salary: $2,660,000
Most people were surprised about Marchant and his Ducks in their ability to compete this post season but the former Oiler has still got it. I believe he's entering the last year of the contract that the Columbus Blue Jackets gave him when he left Edmonton and he's got plenty of experience in the faceoff dot and in a checking role. Resigning him would reunite the Marchant-Moreau duo but I don't believe Marchant is what Tambellini looks for on a team that already complains of too many speedy small forwards and not enough size and grit.
Bobby Holik, 38
2008-09 Salary: $2,500,000
Never say never when it comes to skilled veterans but at age 38 I think Holik will never be an Oiler. He's got skill and size but can he keep up with competition in the Northwest Division? If Brent Sutter came to Edmonton Holik would be a familiar face but I think it's a good bet that Tambellini goes with someone younger.
Rob Neidermeyer, 34
2008-09 Salary: $2,000,000
Rob and his brother Scott (pending retirement?) are cousins of current Oiler Jason Strudwick. Rob Neidermeyer is in the midst of what should be considered a pretty successful playoff run so far and combined with Todd Marchant have pretty much made a skilled checking center like Sami Pahlsson expendable. Rob has got some size and plenty of experience. Rob would look great in Oiler silks.
Steven Reinprecht, 33
2008-09 Salary: $2,000,000
The Edmonton native Reinprecht has filled something of checking role in Phoenix but has at times in his career had a very confusing role. He's sometimes more offense than defense and more defense than offense. He's not a guy that can fill the role of a "true" checking center.
Radek Bonk, 33
2008-09 Salary: $1,600,000
Bonk may not be the most physical defensive forward - but neither is Fernando Pisani. But hey, that's why we have Ethan Moreau and Zach Stortini, right? I don't know if Bonk is what Tambellini is looking for but he's certainly a better candidate for the position than Andrew Cogliano is.
Manny Malhotra, 29
2008-09 Salary: $1,500,000
Manny started his career as an offensive prospect and has since filled a more defensive role on teams like the Columbus Blue Jackets. He's really filled out in the role even though the Jackets were wiped off the map by the Red Wings in the past first round series. Not really Manny's fault though, since it was a team fail. Malholtra is a curious case as he's entering the prime age for checking forwards and his salary range expectancy is pretty decent. He doesn't have the experience of other checking centers but he does have pluck and did play a good deal with Mike Peca (not on the same line).
Samuel Pahlsson, 31
2008-09 Salary: $1,400,000
This fellow was deemed expendable by Anaheim and his job was (and is) being carried out amiably by Marchant and Neidermeyer. Part of the reason is that Pahlsson is more of a pest than a checking center and a good pest at that since he doesn't take many stupid penalties the way a Jarkko Ruutu player does. Hence, he's really more of a supporting defensive player in an Ethan Moreau type of role than a "true" checking center.
Mike Peca, 35
2008-09 Salary: $1,315,000
Most people would agree that Peca isn't interested in returning to Edmonton but I hold out hope that he changes his mind. His veteran play was a key part of the Oilers run in 2006 and he would be a stabilizing presence on the 3rd line. He doesn't have size but he's truckloads of experience and nobody doubts his pluck.
Steve Begin, 31
2008-09 Salary: $1,300,000
Steve Begin finishes his checks and his a gritty forward. I can't remember the last time he won a fight and he's not that big but he's a good checking forward. Good candidate for the 4th line position.
Chris Gratton, 33
2008-09 Salary: $1,250,000
The big man has never really filled the role in a "true" kind of way but he's got great faceoff skills and great size. With the right support on the wings, he could be a great pickup at his price.
Labels: checking centers