When the Oilers signed Klefbom to a 7 year deal (worth 4.167 million a year) many thought it was a huge risk. His injury history alone was enough to cause alarm but while many penciled him in as the Oilers top left shot player on the backend before the season had started we had yet to see how he could handle being a top pairing defenseman.
So far he's knocking it out of the park and I think there is a pretty reasonable argument to say he might have one of the best value contracts in the NHL.
Let's breakdown a few things about Oscar and his breakout season. Out of all the defensemen in the league...
- Klefbom ranks 2nd in even strength goals
- Tied for 11th in points
- Averaging 22 minutes a game
Klefbom is scoring at a spectacular rate especially when you look at his average TOI. In fact of the players who have scored more goals than Klefbom, every single one averages more minutes a game.
While his powerplay numbers aren't anything special, Klefbom also has yet to be used as the teams top powerplay defenseman as the "Shinpad Assassin" is still in that position. Klefbom averages about 2:07 a game in PP time. Compare that to a guy like Weber (3:22) Shattenkirk (3:09) or Karlsson (3:44). Being on the Oilers second unit Klefbom has also been away from Draisaitl and McDavid; two huge powerplay contributors.
So this even strength production must be a result of an unsustainable shooting percentage. Wrong. Klef is shooting just over 7% on the year, which is down from the 11% last year.
What's different this year? A couple things. First off I believe Adam Larsson has had a huge impact. Larsson is a shutdown player which allows Klefbom to focus on moving the puck up and allows him more opportunities to pinch in the offensive zone. This leads to more offensive chances as opposed to when he had to sit back when he was playing with Justin Schultz. Secondly Klefbom has played less than 200 games. Defensemen take much longer to develop and we are starting to see him turn into the player we hoped.
Taking a look around the league at long term defensemen contracts (not including ELC's) the Klefbom deal has to be one of the 5 best. I put Muzzin, Ekholm, Hamonic, Maata in the same category.
There are Hart discussions for McDavid and maybe a nomination for Talbot for Vezina and while I don't think Klefbom will come even close to a Norris nomination I do believe his season has gotten enough press. It's nice to finally see the Oilers have some weapons on the back end.
Thanks for reading!