As much as all hockey fans are anxiously awaiting the commencing of the Stanley Cup Final between the Florida Panthers and the Vegas Golden Knights, fans of the NHL’s 30 other teams have already begun dreaming of the offseason ahead. Granted, for some of these teams the focus on the future has been a more recent development than others, but regardless the creative juices have started flowing in the minds of fans speculating on better days ahead.
Among the vanquished, unfortunately, the Edmonton Oilers and their fans are among the many that was of the few. Each team has their own jigsaw puzzle to navigate, between objectives and circumstances, a checklist built on drafting and re-signing players, even before considering signings from outside and trades.
Players will fit differently in each organization, in fact, many players will have only a handful of teams that might be real options. One player that fans from a majority of teams are interested in is Connor Brown. At least in the court of public opinion the courtship of Brown is upon us. Let’s take a look at who Brown is as a player, and if a fit might make sense for the Oilers.
Brown’s NHL history
Conner Brown is a right shot winger, coming off of a season long injury as a member of the Washington Capitals. Just three and a half games into his first season as a member of the Capitals, Brown suffered a torn ACL ending his season. This was the last season of a three-year deal that Brown signed with the Ottawa Senators at a $3.6M cap hit.
At 29 years old, coming off of a major injury, and the middle class of NHLers eroding as the distribution of player salaries widens, Brown might see a decrease in pay on his next deal. With that being said, it was less than a year ago that the Capitals traded a second-round pick to the Senators to acquire Brown’s services.
Brown is a two-time 20-goal scorer and has a career high of 43 points, set in the 2019–20 season. A sixth-round pick in 2019, Brown worked his way up, scoring in volume with 128 points in his final year of Junior eligibility, followed by two near point per game seasons in the AHL.
His style of play
Brown is far from the biggest or the fastest on NHL ice, but still finds a way to be a valued contributor in several phases of the game. With dashes of smarts, compete, and skill, Brown is an honest and dependable player. Brown was even a big contributor to the penalty kill during his time with the Senators. Combined these elements saw Brown named an assistant captain on a young Senators team in 2021–22.
While Brown isn’t necessarily elite in any one area, he brings a volume of traits to the ice. At 6’0’, Brown is not necessarily undersized, but still goes into tough areas. This will show up with some tip ins from the mid slot. Brown has enough speed and skill to be effective off the rush, as well as a shot that can beat goalies with a quality opportunity. Brown has some playmaking abilities as well.
While these are a lot of positives it should be noted that Brown only fulfills them to an extent. We shouldn’t expect dazzling dangles, wristers from the tops of the circles, or elite level hockey I.Q. from Brown. In all, his game is functional, making his place in the lineup versatile to an extent. It doesn’t seem likely that Brown has the quality to maintain a spot on a line with elite level players, although anything can happen.
Does Brown have a spot on the Oilers roster?
To compare Brown to some current Oilers, it might be helpful to think of Brown as being somewhere in between Warren Foegele and Kailer Yamamoto. In terms of style, Foegele is a bit stronger, some muscle down low and at the net front, while Yamamoto is a bit more skilled, with a degree of agility and puck handling. All three are quality third line wingers who only see time in the top six in an injury pinch.
As it stands, the Oilers might not be able to afford the services of both Yamamoto and Foegele, among others. There are a lot of mock trades involving Yamamoto in particular of late, as expectations for his level of play are superseded by his cap hit.
If Yamamoto were to be moved, Brown might serve as a reasonable replacement. The hope for the Oilers would be that Brown’s contract would be substantially less than Yamamoto’s, on top of Brown choosing to come to Edmonton over other teams that vie for his services. Signing Brown to a cap hit under $2M is probably a great value add for the Oilers.
Seeing as fans from around the league, Brown could have his fair share of suitors as he hits free agency. We shall have to wait to see if GMs feel the same way, if so Brown might be in line to cash in big with a cap hit not too far off the $3.6M on his expiring deal. At that price a fit between Brown and the Oilers seems less likely.