The Edmonton Oilers got busy on Canada Day, making the first day of NHL free agency count with two signings. First, they hooked up defenceman Andrej Sekera to a six year deal worth $33 million. Then, they added centre Mark Letestu to a three year deal worth $5.4 million.
“At the start of the shopping period, we had [Sekera] on our list and began talks with his agent,” Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli said. “It was at that point that there was interest and there was a little bit of recruitment from that period and dialog. He’s a really versatile [defenseman] and really strong. He can play on our top pair if need be. We’d like to spread it out a bit so he can kind of be the linchpin of that second pair.”
The 29-year-old defenceman started last season in Carolina and was traded to Los Angeles in February for a pick and a prospect.
In 73 regular season games, Sekera had 23 points and finished a minus-3 with 14 penalty minutes and 100 shots on goal.
The Slovakian blueliner joins a somewhat crowded Oilers group on the blueline. Justin Schultz, Mark Fayne, Nikita Nikitin, Andrew Ference, Oscar Klefbom, Griffin Reinhart, and Eric Gryba will all be vying for position. The latter two players were acquired earlier in the week as the Oilers continued their remodeling process. One could also pencil in a spot for Darnell Nurse, by the way.
Letestu brings depth at centre and that’s a good thing.
“What we wanted was a right-shot centre who is good on faceoffs. That was the general premise behind it,” Chiarelli said. “It’s another tool that your coach has, you can put a right-hand or a left-hand centre out there for draws. There was some familiarity for Mark, and that was the driving force behind that.”
The 30-year-old centre had seven goals and six helpers in 54 games with Columbus last season and in 318 career games he has 58 goals and 69 assists.
The Oilers have been active in the off-season, drafting Connor McDavid, trading for goalie Cam Talbot, scooping Reinhart from Long Island, and picking up Lauri Korpikoski from the Arizona Coyotes. Now they can add Sekera and Letestu to the list.
“It’s always a feel-good time around the draft and free agency when you draft people and you sign people, so generally speaking there is a general optimism,” Chiarelli said. “We had a checklist and went down it. Normally, you don’t hit on all the things and we didn’t hit on all of them. But we got a lot of the pieces that we wanted.”