Home > Uncategorized > Oilers welcome another former Leaf, Mark Fraser, to fold

Oilers welcome another former Leaf, Mark Fraser, to fold

Fraser Fight

Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images
Former Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Mark Fraser, right, tangles with Montreal Canadiens pugilist Brandon Prust during NHL action earlier this season. On Friday, Toronto traded Fraser to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for forwards Teemu Hartikainen and Cameron Abney.

The Edmonton Oilers acquired Mark Fraser on Friday morning.

If your initial reaction to that trade with Toronto was ‘Mark who?’ ‘Fraser who?’ . . . fear not, you are not alone. Fraser is far from a household name at this point in his career, as a 27-year-old journeyman with only 162 NHL games on his resume over eight pro seasons to date.

All I really know is he’s big, he’s black (at least part black) and my girlfriend thought he was “kinda hot” when he fought Travis Moen of Montreal way back in the season opener on Oct. 1 . . . so he’s got that going for him.

Realistically, though, Fraser’s kind of a nobody.

But could he be a somebody? Maybe.

Fraser certainly brings a skill-set that Edmonton’s defence corps is currently lacking.

He’s big, as mentioned, listed at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds.

The Oilers’ back end actually has decent size these days, but their most physical blue-liner is also their smallest in captain Andrew Ference at 5-foot-11, 187 pounds.

Anton Belov had been the biggest defender at 6-4 and 218, but the 27-year-old Russian rookie doesn’t strike fear into anybody or play an overly gritty game. Paired with Fraser, they could be an imposing tandem and Fraser’s feistiness could rub off. But neither are too fleet of foot, so that could also be a disaster waiting to happen. Truth be told, they might be auditioning against each other — together or apart — for a spot on next year’s depth chart.

Martin Marincin, another European rookie at just 21 years old, is also 6-4, but he’s a string bean at 188 pounds and relies more on positioning to keep attackers at bay.

Corey Potter is 6-3, 204 and probably the second-most physical behind Ference, but he’ll likely find himself on the outside looking in — both present and future — with Fraser’s addition.

Jeff Petry is 6-3, 195, but doesn’t go out of his way to throw bodychecks and I can’t remember the last time he dropped the gloves. If he ever has as an Oiler? . . . Hockeyfights.com to the rescue, reminding me that Petry has fought once — just once — against Matt Calvert of Columbus last March.

Fraser has 26 NHL scraps under his belt, according to Hockeyfights.com, including three this season. His most recent opponents: Moen, Brandon Prust also of Montreal and Dalton Prout of Columbus.

Nick Schultz, who tips the scales at 6-1 and 203, plays a shutdown style as a smaller, older Fraser, but Schultz is an unrestricted free agent after this season and most don’t expect him back. Fraser, who is making $1.275 million this season, is also a UFA, as is the aforementioned Belov, so there will be some healthy competition for playing time — present and future, again — amongst that trio.

Justin Schultz and Philip Larsen round out the nine defencemen on Edmonton’s roster, but those two don’t have a mean bone in their bodies. They are offensive puck-movers and point-producers, who won’t impact Fraser’s chances of sticking with the Oilers.

To that end, Fraser has mustered all of 17 career points, including only three goals, to go with his more-noteworthy 204 penalty minutes. This year, Fraser had tallied just one assist in 19 games, with 33 PIMs.

As for the deal itself, the price was right — cheap and fair. Edmonton gave Toronto the rights to Finnish forward Teemu Hartikainen, who bolted for the KHL this year and was essentially replaced by fellow Finn Jesse Joensuu. The Oilers also threw in an enforcer type in former Oil Kings forward Cameron Abney, who is a long-shot to step foot on NHL ice.

Worst-case scenario: Nothing lost, nothing gained.

Ideal result: Fraser proves serviceable as a bottom-pairing defenceman with a chip on his shoulder.

Absolute best-case scenario: A modern-day Charlie Huddy.

So, no, we didn’t just land the second-coming of Paul Coffey, or even Kevin Lowe.

But Fraser could be a bit piece to the puzzle going forward.

Nobody knows that potential answer better than Edmonton’s rookie bench boss Dallas Eakins — having coached Fraser for parts of two seasons with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, and presumably having endorsed this deal much like he did in acquiring goaltender Ben Scrivens last month.

It should be cautioned, though, that being an effective AHL defenceman is entirely different than being an effective NHL defenceman. And Eakins’ scouting report on Fraser is from a minor-league perspective. Eakins, himself, is still getting his feet under him in the big league.

So time will tell whether there’s a long-term fit to be had here with Fraser. If not, there will be other UFA options and don’t forget Edmonton has a stacked cupboard in terms of defence prospects with first-round picks Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse not far off — not to mention potentially adding Aaron Ekblad as a top-three pick this June.

Fraser won’t make-or-break this season or next, but he could make things more interesting and make life tougher on rival teams. Stay tuned . . .

Fraser, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 220 pounds, take a jab at the 5-foot-9, 180-pound (soaking wet) Brendan Gallagher during their Original-Six matchup between Toronto and Montreal earlier this season. Fraser's truculence, pugnacity and belligerence, among other traits, could boost Edmonton's overall compete level and make the Battle of Alberta more entertaining with his former boss Brian Burke now the figurehead in Calgary.

Bernard Brault/La Presse
Fraser, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 220 pounds, delivers a stiff jab to the chops of 5-foot-9, 180-pound (soaking wet) Brendan Gallagher during their Original-Six matchup between Toronto and Montreal earlier this season. Fraser’s truculence, pugnacity and belligerence, among other traits, could boost Edmonton’s overall compete level and make the Battle of Alberta more entertaining with his former employer Brian Burke now the figurehead in Calgary. The Oilers and Flames next meet on Saturday, March 1 for a Hockey Night In Canada clash at Rexall Place in Edmonton.

Meanwhile, here’s my buddy Dan Nadeau’s short-but-sweet take on today’s trade. Thanks again for this contribution:

First off, let me say I don’t hate the trade, but I fail to see how it makes us better by adding another No. 4-6 D-man when we already have 5 of them.

We get toughness for sure, but I feel it’s in the wrong area. We need toughness on our top pair — you know, the guys who shut-down Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, the (Sedin) Sisters and those types. We don’t necessarily need a guy to be tough against Paul Bissonnette-type players; we have Luke Gazdic, and Ryan Jones has proved he is willing to literally fight to stay in the NHL.

No, we didn’t give up a whole heck of a lot and people will say look at return on investment. But we are getting a D-man who averages 10-15 minutes of ice a night and is a minus-8 — that’s disturbing to me, especially coming from a Randy Carlyle-coached team!

I guess time will tell if I will eat my words. I really hope I do as a loyal Oiler fan, but hey, it could be worse, it could be another KHL “all-star” bust (see Belov).

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Mark Magnus
    February 2, 2014 at 3:57 am

    Honestly, I’m a fan of just about any attempt Edmonton makes right now to shore up their porous defence. Next step, draft a defenceman this year instead of another skilled forward, I’m thinking possibly Aaron Ekblad.

  2. February 2, 2014 at 4:28 am

    Thanks for the comment Mark. I agree in the sense that Fraser will clear the crease and block shots and be a poor man’s Ladislav Smid for the rest of this season. Whether he earns a roster spot on the Oilers going forward will be up to him.

    Sadly, Edmonton has kind of become Toronto’s farm team, full of former Marlies and castoffs (Mike Brown, Ryan Hamilton, Will Acton, Ben Scrivens and now Mark Fraser). These are all Eakins “boys” and he’s willing to win or lose with them in the lineup it seems.

    You can’t judge Fraser on today’s game against Boston alone, but he certainly didn’t do anything special against an opponent he’s familiar with from the Leafs-Bruins rivalry. At the end of the day, he’s a depth guy, not a top-end guy, which is what Edmonton is sorely lacking.

    Ekblad could be that top-end guy in 3 to 5 years, but he won’t be that next year. Most Oilers fans are tired of waiting and aren’t willing to hang on for another 3 years to finally have a No. 1 defenceman again, so something will have to give.

    If Ekblad isn’t available at their pick or if they prefer a forward for whatever reason (likely one of the Sams, Reinhart or Bennett), then I’m fine with that as well. If you look at the prospect pool and at Oklahoma City’s depth chart, Edmonton’s future strength is already on defence. Marincin seems to have arrived and others are close behind (Klefbom, Nurse, etc).

    From a prospect standpoint, we are actually lacking in quality forwards because aside from the first overall picks not many of Edmonton’s selections have panned out or developed as expected. Tyler Pitlick and Curtis Hamilton are making strides and Greg Chase looks like a steal from the Calgary Hitmen, as well as Anton Slepyshev if he ever leaves Russia, but they could certainly use another top-end forward prospect, especially a centre if the plan is to move Sam Gagner before his no-trade clause kicks in.

    The future should still be bright in Edmonton, but I just think the fan base is bummed out because most thought this was the year the Oilers would take that step forward and seriously challenge for a playoff spot as opposed to another lottery pick.

  3. Mark Magnus
    February 2, 2014 at 7:51 am

    Touché, good points Larry. Yeah, the frustrated fan base (myself included) is getting tired of the “we should be really good next year” mindset it seems.

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