Top-10 UFA countdown: #10 – Johnny Oduya

Photo Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY Sports

This is a series counting down the top-10 pending UFAs. It will be posted across the Nation Network over the next month! Enjoy!

If you’re looking for a veteran presence that Chicago might be inclined to let walk, especially from that blue line, Johnny Oduya seems as likely a candidate as anyone. While he is part of the four-headed beast that arose in these playoffs because Joel Quenneville literally doesn’t trust anyone else to patrol the blue line, Oduya best matches the description of a guy who will probably be allowed to walk.

The reasons why should be clear enough: He’ll be 34 on Oct. 1, he probably wants one last multi-year deal, he probably wants a raise from his current $3.375 cap hit per, and he’s wrapping up a season in which he was vilified for much of the year by his own fans.

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Stan Bowman is a smart general manager and while it’s not totally clear how he’s going to address his blue line’s depth problems, giving a 34-year-old coming off a bad year multiple seasons and a raise doesn’t seem like part of the plan. So in other words, it’s very likely that Oduya is available to the highest bidder come July 1.

Track record

Oduya is the longtime pairing partner of Niklas Hjalmarsson, who’s one of the more underrated defenders in the Western Conference. When they are on the ice together, they dominate both scoring and possession, though obviously these are hallmarks of the Chicago dynasty to begin with.

And because Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith were given free range offensively, and log heavy minutes in those roles, it fell to Oduya/Hjalmarsson to play mostly defensive minutes, getting far more difficult competition and far fewer offensive zone starts. Obviously, the production isn’t going to be there in that case, and the underlying numbers aren’t going to be as glowing either. Nonetheless, Chicago still pushed around the competition when he was on the ice, and that’s really all you can ask of anyone, let alone your shutdown pairing.

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But again, he is getting up there, and his performances have been diminishing. His bests with Chicago on the chart below are highlighted in green, his worsts in red (this year’s numbers do not include anything that happened so far in the Stanley Cup Final).

Please note how much red there is at the bottom, which you’d expect from a 33-year-old being pressed into greater and less selective service because of the coach’s concerns about his depth:

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That’s not a good look for a guy about to hit the open market and ask for a lot of money, but it does highlight his performance over the last few years pretty convincingly: He plays pretty low-event hockey, and when used as he has been this year, especially at his advancing age, that seems to be a recipe for disaster. 

The fact that his best season in Chicago came in the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign says a lot about the ways in which percentages probably favored him — a GF% north of 61 but high-quality scoring chances in the 51 range screams, “He got lucky!” through a series of bullhorns —and the fact that this performance was three years ago is beyond worrisome.

Future performance

For that reason, any deal that takes him out of Chicago’s super-beneficial system and, potentially, puts him into a role of similar shutdown demands is basically asking for trouble. It’s hard to tell when the wheels are going to fall off for defensemen — sometimes it’s in their early 30s, and others it’s not until they hit 36 or even 38 — but “around 34 years old” is usually a pretty good guess.

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The good news for teams signing him is that they’re probably not going to expect much in the way of offense from him (that has, after all, never really been his thing, given career highs of just 7-22-29 in New Jersey, back in 2008-09).

The bad news is that even diminished expectations might be overly fair to him given what we know of his waning quality. Moving him away from Hjalmarsson probably won’t help matters very much at all.

Basically, anyone who signs him is almost certainly going to be inking a contract they will come to rue before it’s over. Unless it’s a one-year deal we’re talking about here. In which case, the chances they’ll regret it are probably only about 60 percent.

Contract outlook

Of course, someone is going to sign him, because that’s how this league works. Maybe they hope they can wring another year or two out of his body before he’s entirely incapable of playing at the NHL level.

Running the “similarity score” tool on War On Ice for Oduya’s numbers this year, keeping in mind his shutdown role, yields a lot of worrisome comparisons: Bryan McCabe in 2007-08, Robyn Regehr in 2008-09, Rob Scuderi in 2011-12, Kyle Quincey last season, etc. What’s interesting to note is that most of those guys were younger than Oduya in the seasons in question.

You would think that teams have smartened up by now and will steer clear of giving out truly horrendous contracts — like, say, what Brooks Orpik got from Washington last year — to guys who play this sort of game. The more the league learns about what is and isn’t beneficial in open play, the less likely guys like Oduya are to cash in at all, let alone when they hit this age group.

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With that having been said, I wouldn’t think money like what Scuderi got to return to Pittsburgh — about $3.4 million, the same as Oduya currently makes —would be an outrageous grab for him. Might even go up marginally from there to as high as $3.75-4 million, but I doubt it (or at least, I wouldn’t hope so for that team’s sake). Four years, though, probably isn’t going to happen. Maybe three at the max. But even that would be a ton.

The market for guys like this is just so hard to read. Nothing would really be a surprise.

    • TKB2677

      You have to think Petry’s contract bumps everyone else up by a million. He’s a career 20 pt, second pairing, right shot, maybe second unit PP guy. Green is a second pairing, right shot Dman that would QB the PP on basically every team and scores double what Petry gets in points yearly.

  • HarryB

    Kevin klien would be the perfect alternative to oduya. 3 years left at 2.9. 30 years old(33when his contract expires). Right shot. Just hit a career high(26 points in 65 games, plus 24). A deal for marincin would save newyork 2 million. Former first rounder has only played for good defensive systems(Nashville and newyork).

    Sounds like my guy for a 3/4 to pair with a young klefbom who’s been through everything klefbom will go through.

    My dream offseason would be to get alzner as well and pair them in our top pairing to give our kids time to develop.

  • clrsnldvc81

    Sign him and we have a good mentor. 4 years at 4.5 a year. Then Marincin or Nikitin for Seabrook. Throw in a third rounder. Anything more is too much. Give him 7 years at 7.5 million. Sign Mike Green for cheap and give Scrivens for Talbot. We will then win at least 5 cups in 7 years. I feel sorry for Jenny and the boys in Calgary. This will get ugly.

  • RedMan

    Oduya is probably better than our current defensemen , and probably a good veteran addition that could show good rewards over his time here . Seems to fit the criteria of a veteran with diminishing talent that could still help the team develop the youth on our team . Reasonable term and dollare would make him a viable option at this stage , if club is not planning of ridding the contracts or trading of Nikitin and Purcell this year .

  • RedMan

    as far as i am concerned, picking up guys this age if free agency right now is jumping the gun by a couple years on the rebuild. patience. stay the course, bring in and develop as much young talent as possible over the next couple year… then start considering FA

  • RedMan

    as far as i am concerned, picking up guys this age if free agency right now is jumping the gun by a couple years on the rebuild. patience. stay the course, bring in and develop as much young talent as possible over the next couple year… then start considering FA

    • Tomas Oppolzer

      Signing a guy like Oduya could do wonders for Nurse and Klefbom. It is clear the defense will be built around them so it wouldn’t hurt to surround them with experienced veterans. It would also push players down the depth chart

  • Zarny

    Oduya could help any team; just not in the same role as Chi.

    Oduya is no different than any player – price and term dictate perception.

    3 yr @ $3M/yr would be a good deal for teams like Cgy and Edm. 4 yr @ $4M/yr? Not so much.

    If history is an indicator someone will overpay on July 1st.

  • RedMan

    I will give you that he as demoted. Although, finishing 5th in team scoring is still pretty good. Carlson came out of nowhere and earned that spot.

    I do not think Seabrook plays tougher minutes against tougher competition though. Oduya, Hjalmersson is the tough minutes shut down line. Keith and Seabrook get favourable zone starts against second line competition.

    As for Petry being compared to Green, Pa Lease! Petry’s best year is worse than Greens worst year, incuding the ones he was injured. And that’s not even PPG, just points.

    I personally do think Seabrook is the better fir for Edmonton, but if you factor in cost, age, ect ect, well, Green might just be the best option for what’s available. I still think Burns, and pay whatever it takes to get him, but I seem to be alone there. I would rather have Green than Franson as I think Green has made a resurgence whereas Franson seems to have regressed.

    • clrsnldvc81

      In the playoffs Oduya and Hjalmersson have been getting the tougher minutes but that’s doesnt mean seabrook couldn’t and wouldn’t.

      Seabrook vs Green at 7 million for 5 years on the Oilers i guess is the better argument here.

      Green i don’t think can carry the load being in the top pairing where Seabrook could.

      The comparison to Petry (i dont think i did so much) is maybe saying that if Petry fetches 5.5 then a guy like Green could get more?

      Unless we’re trading for a stud dman on a decent contract, a big overpayment might be in the stars for the UFA crop of dman this year.

      you think Nikitin’s contract looks bad… (i won’t finish this sentence)

      • clrsnldvc81

        – true, but he’s not used that way even int he regular season.

        – Seabrook is going to get more than 7 mill, and I bet Green will too. But unlike Seabrook, who won’t start that contract until he’s 31, Green would likely take a 5 year contract as oppose to the 6 or seven year Seabrook will want to ride out the rest of his career.

        – Green has carried that load before, and was demoted due to a better option.

        – Sorry, might have misread, yes that follows. Green will not be cheap, but then no good option ever is.

        – Any overpayment for a UFA is going to be really difficult to cover on. Not many top billing UFA’s lived up to their contract. Maybe Suter? Even Gaborik got overpaid on what was considered a discount contract. It just seems to be the nature of UFA. The trick is to get a player on the rise, or who maybe devalued themselves a little bit and just needs a change of scenery.

        – In that vein, I look forward to hearing about Erhoff.

  • clrsnldvc81

    Imagine KD Lang singing “Hallelujah”, now replace that with Oduya. I always sing that in my head when I see or hear Oduya’s name or hear that song. Haha

  • FlamesRule

    oh god this really makes me fear Gios contract. anything over 4 years gets me worried about the teams real future. he deserves front loaded 5 yr deal. I hope it gets done. But anything passed 5 years is going to be a anchor in the future. I love Gio but i love the flames first