The Edmonton Oilers took a bold approach to free agency, giving money and term to a couple of fancy stats darlings.
Numbers Game breaks down the signings of Benoit Pouliot and Mark Fayne..
The Oilers Get: LW Benoit Pouliot, D Mark Fayne and D Keith Aulie.
Pouliot, 27, has been a hockey nomad, bouncing from team to team in recent seasons, but he's been pretty good at each stop along the way. While playing for four different teams (Montreal, Boston, Tampa Bay, N.Y. Rangers) in the past four seasons, Pouliot has put up strong possession numbers in each stop and he's been a pretty effective goal-scorer in limited time. He had a career-high 36 points in 80 games for the Rangers last season.
The issue that crept up with Pouliot, and was particularly notable during the Rangers' Stanley Cup run, was his alarming tendency to take offensive zone penalties and that lack of discipline can be frustrating but, in the grand scheme, Pouliot has been drawing more penalties than he takes. He has good size and plays enough of a physical game to get under the skin of the opposition from time to time and Pouliot's willingness to go to the net could give him a shot at a 20-goal season if he ends up playing a bigger role in Edmonton.
Where Pouliot fits with the Oilers is a bit of a question. He looks like a third-line left winger -- that's the role that he's handled effectively -- and the Rangers do have enough talent on the right side that they could have some decent offensive production out of their third line.
While Pouliot is lauded by those who appreciate advanced stats, most would do a double-take before signing any third-line winger to a five-year contract. Maybe five years and $20-million was the cost of doing business, but that does seem like a serious commitment, particularly if there isn't room for Pouliot among the Oilers' top six forwards.
The Rangers have some holes to fill up front, and knew that they would not be able to get him re-signed at market prices, especially when the Oilers were willing to spend at this level.
Fayne is a 27-year-old defenceman who has good size (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) and plays a sound defensive game, something that is sorely needed in Edmonton. There were two defencemen in the league who played tough opposition, started more shifts in the defensive zone yet finished with a better shot differential per 60 minutes than Fayne. One was Zdeno Chara and the other was Fayne's frequent partner, Andy Greene.
The interesting part of that possession success is that, last season, Fayne was the weak link in that pairing -- Greene had much better possession stats (54.2 Corsi%) without Fayne than Fayne had (47.2% Corsi%) without Greene -- but that was a flip of the year before, when Fayne was at 57.2% without Greene and Greene was 54.4% without Fayne.
Ultimately, Fayne has been a reliable defensive defenceman who should upgrade the Oilers and, signed for $14.5-million over four seasons, he's not unreasonably priced if he can handle top-four minutes in Edmonton.
The Devils have some young defencemen on the way up, including Jon Merrill, Eric Gelinas and Adam Larsson, that can take over some of the minutes that Fayne had been playing.
25-year-old Keith Aulie is a 6-foot-6 defenceman who has played 136 career NHL games, but has been crushed in possession terms, over his four NHL seasons. Hard to imagine that he's anything more than a spare part, even for the Oilers.
While Pouliot and Fayne aren't marquee names, they have been quietly solid players for several seasons. While the Oilers went long on Pouliot's term, they were aggressive to acquire a couple of players that ought to make them more competitive.
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.