The Canucks continued to make small moves to shore up their fringe-NHL/AHL depth today, adding a couple of depth forwards in Cal O’Reilly (yes, he is related to Ryan – Cal is Ryan’s older brother), and former Texas Star Dustin Jeffrey. Neither really look to have significant NHL upside and are probably nothing more than moves to strengthen what was a poor Utica Comets team last year, but both have had a cup of coffee in the NHL so we felt it’s at least worth mentioning them. Read past the jump for a quick look at Vancouver’s two newest forwards.
The elder O’Reilly (28 years old) began last year with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL before signing an AHL deal with the Comets about a quarter of the way through the season. He collected 7 goals and 38 assists for the Comets, finishing second on the team in scoring. It’s not so much of a signing then as a re-signing, as O’Reilly has been a part of the Canucks organization for a while already.
In terms of an NHL track record, there’s not really much there. He’s kicked around the NHL with stops in Nashville, Phoenix, and Pittsburgh, but hasn’t seen NHL action since 2011-2012. A small-ish skill guy (6’0, 188 lbs), he’s really not viewed as a 4th line player by NHL coaches, but more importantly, he hasn’t been a good NHLer over his career. Playing against weak competition, he carries a career 46.6% Fenwick, and posted a dreadful 41.8% mark despite a 55.8% ZoneStart% in his most recent NHL season. He’s essentially Tom Sestito without the facepunchiness.
This move will help Utica though, so yay I guess.
The big thing here is that as Ryan’s older brother, Jim Benning has clearly signed him to an NHL deal to entice the younger O’Reilly to break off all negotiations with the Avalanche and demand a trade to the Canucks. With the lack of leverage provided by Ryan, the Avs will be forced to deal him for Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, and a late 1st round pick. It’s foolproof.
A 26-year old former Texas Star and presumable Willie Desjardins favourite, Jeffrey is probably a more likely option to fill a bottom-6 role for the Canucks going forward. He’s been able to keep his head above water (50.8% Fenwick for his career) in a depth role with average zone starts against other 3rd and 4th line competition. He’s been an NHL black ace for the last few seasons and hasn’t seen any significant AHL action since 2010-2011, where he posted 45 points in 40 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
He did join the powerhouse Texas Stars later in the year and for their Calder Cup run, and presumably played a 2nd line role on that team, scoring well below his career AHL rate. He tallied 10 points in 21 regular season games, and added 12 more in 19 playoff contests, good for the 6th most on a stacked Stars squad.
Seeing as Coach Willie is familiar with him, he has more of a successful NHL track record, and brings more meat and potatoes to the table than O’Reilly (Jeffrey’s an inch taller, but nearly 20 lbs heavier), we’re probably likely to see Jeffrey in a 4th line role for the Canucks at some point this year. With a good camp, it also wouldn’t be surprising to see him make the big team as a 13th or 14th forward. And even if he doesn’t, he’ll make Utica better too.
Vancouver also confirmed the signing of Bobby Sanguinetti today, and you can read what we had to say about that here. Jim Benning also signed 26-year old Comets D Alex Biega to a two-way deal yesterday, according to the French Bob McKenzie, Renaud Lavoie. Biega is strictly an AHL signing, but he was probably Utica’s best defenseman last year in my viewings of them, and may be deserving of an NHL call-up at some point, but that’s doubtful.
There are still some intriguing UFA options on the market, so we’ll see what Jim Benning decides to do from here on out.