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.

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.

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:

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 1.42.28 PM

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.

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.

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.

  • Harry2

    Small and old……… thanks.

    We need to take a page out of Montreal’s books……….there has to be another Petry out there!

    If Mac T has any brains, he will think about how he treated Petry……..most GM’s would have been fired for this but MacT is very, very, lucky!

    • clrsnldvc81

      I agree MacT had a big brain fart here… but i think sometime’s we fail to take into consideration certain factors that COULD contribute to performances spiking…

      Petry was challenged and he passed with flying colors…

      1) He is in a contract year 2) He got traded to a top 5 team 3) He got to play with actual NHL dman which put him in his proper slot (3-4 pairing) 4) he was playing meaningful games… It does wonders for confidence and energy when you know you are playing meaningful games whether its rec leagues, beer leagues or the Pros

      Jultz vs Petry will go down as MacT’s biggest mistake but let’s say he gave petry 4×4 nothing changes…

      Petry is playing top pairing minutes on our team… which is not his calling… We aren’t a playoff team so the energy boost to play at a higher level won’t be there…etc etc

      5.5 for Petry… Pass…

      obtw guess who is thanking MacT the most for his bridge “challenge” contract?

      Jeff himself

    • The GREAT Walter White

      The good news: There ARE other Petry’s out there……..but unfortunately for the Oilers, there are no other MacT’s out there…….


  • The Last Big Bear

    Yeah, 3 years at about $4m would be about right for a team that needs a defenceman, on the understanding that contract will almost certainly be a liability by the 3rd year. But them’s the shakes when you want to add a veteran player without giving up any assets.

    He is basically this year’s Ference though.

    And I agree with Lambert in that there is really nothing he could get that would surprise me.

  • Harry2

    Instead of constantly hearing about who we shouldbt target why doesnt someone write about who we should.

    This is getting old. Week after week hearing about who wouldbt be a good fit for Edm.

    News flash! Have a look at our defensive depth chart. Oduya would instantly be on our top pairing. A little dose of reality is needed in the Edm fan base

    • Cofred24

      Just like Ference was instantly on our top pairing?

      The Oilers do not need another aging defenceman who came from a very good defensive team loaded with stars, only to spend their remaining years on a bad contract in Edmonton, underperforming.

  • tdese

    Johhny seems like he would be a decent pick-up as a veteran 5-6 Defenceman who will generally play reduced minutes but can play top-4 in a pinch. A front-end loaded deal in the 2-3 year & 2.5M to 3.0M range would be appropriate.

  • tdese

    Oilers may have to take what they can get… That means paying the premium.

    Hopefully they can get some NHL defensemen period… and if they overpay…hopefully its not longer than 2-3 year deals.

  • Igor Ulanov 55

    Pass. Another Ference. Might be top 4 on a team with a good system and good partners, but on Edmonton he’d be a 5-6. We don’t need another one of those.

    • al rain


      Lambert raised some hackles on this site (Flames Nation) with his condescending attitude and arrogance, mostly on the subject of the Flames lousy underlying numbers vs fantastic run of luck this season. Readers probably remember a bit of a sour, cranky I-told-you-so, I’m-smarter-than-you killjoy.

      But here, he’s talking about Oduya and his value. (And as an aside, those who want to see “who we should target, not who we shouldn’t”, figure it out for yourself – what do you want, everything spoon fed to you? This appears to be the first of 10 in a series. Jeesh.). I’m calling this piece informative and eye-opening. I learned some stuff and I’ll look forward to the next hit.

      If I had more time I’d draw a parallel between your attitude of judging Lambert on his previous stuff rather than what he’s done today and the practice of overpaying free agents on the downward side of their careers.

      Give the man his due.

  • tdese

    what are we talking “muiltyear” i think he would be a good pick up for 2-3 years. He is a guy that could teach alot to a guy like nurse and klefbom. might not get the dollar value in ppg but the knowledge he might leave with the kids on D might be worth money.