When the New Jersey Devils decided to place Colin White on waivers Monday afternoon, many Oiler fans were all but ready to have Steve Tambellini’s head if he decided to not put in a claim for the veteran rear guard. Tuesday afternoon’s deadline came and went and no NHL team had put in a claim for White…which came as no surprise. It was common knowledge that New Jersey was offering up White since the midway point of last season but no team was willing to take on his $3 million salary for the 2011-2012 season. Everyone knew that if White wasn’t claimed then the Devils would buy him out. He has been a good solider over the years so there was no need to embarrass the man and bury him in the minors.
Late Tuesday afternoon, New Jersey officially bought out White, which makes him a UFA. Now the question becomes, should the Edmonton Oilers make a serious pitch to bring in Colin White to help shore up the blueline?
White has always been a steady stay at home defenceman that while not offensively gifted, he would always find a way to chip in from time to time. In his first five NHL seasons, 2000-2006, he was a solid defender that would punish the opposition on a regularly basis and was not afraid to drop the gloves when needed. During that time period, he averaged 115 PIM a season with a very impressive plus minus rating of +65 but come 2006-2007 injuries started to hit. First a groin, then a hand and finally his back and once the 2007-2008 campaign was on the horizon, things changed drastically. He suffered a severe eye injury during training camp which forced him to miss 21 consecutive games. Once he returned to the Devils lineup he wasn’t the same player and his game has still not fully rebounded. While still being a somewhat physical player he is no longer the player that teams had to worry about being on the ice. Be it from a big hit or just wanting to drop the mitts and get something started. His next four seasons, 2007-2011, clearly show the difference in his game. There are some huge drop offs, averaged a mere 42 PIM a season and his plus minus fell to +17 over that span. While he is still decent in his own end, the combination of injury and slowing down with age is very evident in his game. The fact that he’s lost a step or two, isn’t as physical as he once was and has question marks surrounding his vision in his right eye, send up many a red flag for any team looking to acquire him.
So why is it that more than a few Oiler fans are wanting the team to take a flyer on White? I do find it curious and a little puzzling. Who exactly would it make sense to play him ahead of? I immediately say no to Ryan Whitney, Cam Barker, Tom Gilbert, Ladislav Smid and Theo Peckham…that leaves Andy Sutton and that is not even a sure thing. White is the better player but Sutton brings the physical element that this club badly needs on a nightly basis. If he won’t be playing top 4 minutes, what would be the point of brining him in?
For Colin White to want to sign with the Edmonton Oilers at this stage of his career seems unlikely at best. For the Edmonton Oilers to want to add Colin White to their current roster seems even less likely.