Okay, so if you’re reading this just now–expecting news, again, this is more of a ‘what if’ type of blog post. It seems to be widely regarded that the Oilers are one of the few teams that spend to the NHL salary cap–yet have what is also regarded as a ‘mediocre’ roster of players and lack much in elite talent or veteran depth. Look no further than the recent article from The Hockey News entitlted, “Oil Drop Unlikely to Reverse” for confirmation of this opinion. At the Oilers’ old OMB (Oilers message board), there were no shortage of fans pointing their respective fingers at no other than Kevin Lowe for the fiduciary issues of cap mismanagement.
To be fair, Kevin Lowe put together a very good roster of skaters for the ’05/’06 season–though we had the worst goal tending in the league which was not addressed until the late addition of Roli. Whether the rejection coming from a fellow defensemen (Chris Pronger or Chris effin Pronger as he’s known by Oilers’ fans), sent Kevin Lowe on tilt, we’ll never really know. What we do know is that in spite of our highest cap hit–Shawn Horcoff being only $5.5 million, we’re still eerily close to the NHL’s salary cap.
From my perspective (albeit not as sophisticated as Lowetide or Johnathan Willis), I see a few unique ‘issues.’ For one, in terms of point production, am I the only one that it strikes as odd 4/10 (excluding Kotalik who’s gone) top producers are defensemen? Especially when you considered that Visnovsky only played part of the last season with 50 games played. I mean assuming Visnovsky played closer to a full season that leaves Grebeshkov at 8th with a total of 4 defensemen in our top 8 point producers.
Certainly, though we lack a true stay at home defensemen, it does seem that moving one of our offensive defensemen for some scoring depth up front sounds like a pretty good idea. The rumors of this type of trade occurring have been circulating for a while and continue to do so.
Here’s where things start getting ugly. On the one hand, we’re very fortunate to have owner Mr. Katz who’s willing to spend to the NHL salary cap. It’s not a far look back in a rear window to recall the bleaker days as an Oiler fan–back when Colorado and Dallas were loading up on free agent star players and freely spending till their rosters were absolutely stacked-while we were struggling to just ice a full roster. Yet on the other hand, as Lowetide recently pointed out, Mr. Katz is not getting much value in terms of results for all of the money he is spending. In my mind something has gotta give. I can’t imagine that a man who has experienced every level of success in seemingly all areas of his life does not want to have a winning hockey team. Again, with respect to our new coaches, Lowetide again perhaps said it best:
Now, Quinn may be a little less intense than he was as a player but he didn’t come here to wear his ass for a hat in the standings.
Given our cap constraints, it seems the only tenable solution is to buy out some less attractive contracts. Unfortunately, we’ve missed the window of opportunity on buying out player contracts. Apparently, buyouts can only take place between June 15th/30th and 48 hours after a salary arbitration takes place.
Buyout Misses: (Numbers fom capgeek.com)
1. Robert Nilsson — Contract $2 million, buyout cap hit $375,000 (2009/2011/2012), cap credit $175,000 (2010)
- Why? We have too many small, skilled, young forwards who are not exactly offensive juggernauts.
- The combination of his boxcar numbers and having the worst 5v5/60 on the team among forward skaters.
- The cap savings of $1,625,000 this season would have allowed the Oilers to sign a 3c/Penalty Killing player like Manny Malhotra or Betts.
- Why not? Our GM not wanting to make a mistake and banking on his ‘potential.’
2. Steve Staois — Contract $2.8 million, buy out cap hit $733,333, $1,333, 333, $833,333, $833,333.
- Why? $2.8 million is simply too much to spend on a 3rd pairing defenseman.
- Why not? He’s a leader on the team and the buyout may not be great from a PR standpoint.
3. Ethan Moreau/Fernando Pisani
- Fernando’s one of the few solid 2-way players on the team who also has a decent shooting %. He only has one year left on his contract as well.
- thecaptainethanmoreau–though the optics of $2,000,000 on a potential 4rth line player look bad, he has 2 years left on his contract and the actual cap savings are not tremendous.
- Additionally, from a PR standpoint, the buyouts on either one of these players would look terrible and the minimal cap savings that would result simply are not worth it.
4. Dustin Penner –$4.25 million x 3 more years, buyout cap hit of $1.417 million x 6 years
- Why? 17/20/37 number do not reconcile with his paycheck, he’s known to mail it in with respect to effort (take nights off), he’s known to not only be ‘lazy,’ but also soft.
- Why not? First, he was part of the Heatley trade which made this impossible. Secondly, a buyout would force management to admit their initial mistake and waste of draft pics with the offer sheet deal. As well, the buyout numbers do not look great as his buyout cap hit will hinder the team for 3 years past the expiration of his contract. Proponents of Penner often cite his excellent plus/minus as well as Corsi and other advanced stats. Lastly, there’s still some hope that he might excel under the new coaching regime.
Well, given that we’ve missed the proverbial boat on a potential player buyout. There are basically two potential options to make a roster change prior to the ’09 season. One, we can look to trade one of our expensive and offensive defensemen, for some scoring support up font. Two, we can look to finally sign a Malhotra type player and send Nilsson down on waivers to the AHL. As for option one, rumors of this have been circulating for quite some time. I am sure that Tambellini would pursue this option if a viable one does become available. As for options two, it seems less likely based on the current lack of action or recent PRs.