Johnny Oduya is a name that has fallen off most hockey fanatics’ radar this off-season, and perhaps there is good reason for that. Oduya is 35 years old and came off a brutal playoff performance in their sweep against Nashville. The league is certainly trending in the “what have you done for me lately” direction, so no one should be entirely shocked that he remains unclaimed this deep into July.
That said, it’s still conceivable that he has a bounce back year. For a bargain bin price, he’s worth taking a shot on. Although his dreadful 2016-17 outing had him finish with only 9 points and an uninspiring 46.8% Corsi For, he’d been above the 50% mark the prior 5 seasons. He can lo longer handle a ton of minutes, and he will need sheltering from top competition, as many bottom-pairing defensemen do. He only averaged 18:16 of ice-time through the year, but considering that 59.3% of his zone starts were in the defensive end, he managed to hold his own. As a veteran 6th or 7th defenseman, he may still have something to offer.
The Blackhawks are seemingly always looking to re-unite with names from their past glories, but the fit may not be one Stan Bowman is willing to try again. He looked sluggish and out of sorts, and got blown by on numerous occasion by the depth players of Nashville. That said, the team will likely need at least another defenseman on the roster, so it’s not impossible. But with Duncan Keith (34), Brent Seabrook (32), and Michal Rozsival (38) already making up half the defense, do they really want to get older still?
Oduya hasn’t been definitively linked to practically anyone. It’s quite possible he’s holding on to see what opens up as teams enter training camp. Teams like the Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers, and Los Angeles Kings could use another 6/7, and would be on the hunt for a bargain. The New Jersey Devils of course completely lacking on the back-end, and might want a mentor for 22 year olds Mirco Mueller, Damon Severson, and Michael Kapla. In truth, a good 50% of the league that could afford to take a chance on him for a single season, but the question remains, who will?
Ultimately, we aren’t likely to hear much chatter on this front until the arbitration period has passed. Teams want to have their organizational contracts set in stone before offering a contract to what will ultimately amount to a stop-gap defender solution.
Last month, we projected a one-year, $2.5MM deal for Oduya back with Chicago, but they certainly no longer have him in their plans. We had him ranked at a respectable 32nd in a weak UFA class, but even that may have been overestimating his remaining value around the league. Oduya will likely have to settle for a one-year deal to prove he still “has it”, and the monetary value of that contract will be far less. He could always decide to play in Europe, but at the bare minimum he’ll attract at PTO, much like Cody Franson. If he does sign before the end of summer, it will likely be for under $1 MM, quite the paycut from his 2016-17 AAV of $3.75 MM.