Edmonton Oilers took care of the first of four Restricted Free Agents on Thursday when they announced a two-year contract extension for utility forward Drake Caggiula.
The devil is in the details, specifically that pertaining to cap hit. To this point no terms have been made public beyond the two-year duration of the deal. (Why the clubs don’t routinely announce this critically important fact in the cap era escapes me entirely, but no doubt word will seep out eventually..) Until the cap hit it is known it is tough to evaluate; for now I will stick with my conclusion in yesterday’s post about the Oilers’ roster that I’m “not sure [he] has enough leverage to demand much in the way of a pay raise.
Caggiula was signed in the spring of 2016 as a free agent from University of North Dakota, where he had produced a slendid senior season on a line with NHL first-round draft picks Brock Boeser (Vancouver) and Nick Schmaltz (Chicago). All three quickly became full-time NHLers, with Caggiula himself making the Oilers directly out of training camp his rookie season. Over the course of his two-year Entry Level Contract he never spent a day in the AHL.
Just 5’10 and 185 pounds, Caggiula is a fearless player who will stick his nose into any situation. By eye he is a speedy player, more of a darter than an end-to-end speedster. He is an opportunist who gets his share of scoring chances, converting 13 of them into goals in 2017-18. That was good for fourth place among Oilers who finished the season in Edmonton, behind only the big three of McDavid – Draisaitl – RNH. A sad state of affairs when your top goal-scoring winger has 13 measly goals, but so it is in Edmonton just now.
Those 13 goals were the high point of what was a mediocre sophomore season. Caggiula managed just 7 assists in his 67 games, with his points-per-game output of 0.30 remaining flat from his rookie campaign.
His underlying numbers were less than impressive. Among the 14 forwards who played 300+ minutes at 5v5, he ranked 13th or 14th in all on-ice shot metrics (Corsi, Fenwick, shots on goal) as well as Goals For %. He was also bottom-three among forwards in all four categories when measure on a “Relative to teammates” basis. His traditional plus/minus of -13 was the worst of any forward who finished the season in Edmonton.
It wasn’t for lack of opportunity. He spent plenty of time in the bottom six but also got his looks up the line-up. His three most common linemates on the season were Ryan Strome, Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. His numbers with #97 were particularly eye-popping; in 146 minutes together the Oilers got outshot by 111-69. That’s over 45 shots against per 60 minutes, a grisly number for any combination, let alone one that includes a mega talent of McDavid’s calibre. It is worth pointing out that they played together during the nadir of McDavid’s illness in November, but suffice to say that Caggiula wasn’t the guy to pick up the pieces on the defensive side of the puck.
Ditto on the penalty kill, where Caggiula played some 50 minutes during which time the Oilers got lit up for 11 goals. His PPGA/60 rate of 13.32 was the worst on the team.
He did play a feisty game, as his 147 hits ranked second among Edmonton forwards. Creating chaos is a big part of his game. Getting to the point where the majority of that chaos happens at the good end of the ice remains a work in progress. With today’s announcement Oilers fans can look forward to a further two years to monitor that progress.
More to come.