Sunday, June 28, 2015

Cap Consequences of the Reinhart Trade

Ordinarily, it is an enormous positive for a cap team to have a number of players on Entry Level Contracts (ELC), as their relatively small salaries give the team an opportunity to spend more money elsewhere on the roster.  However, an issue arises when a team has a number of players on an ELC with significant performance bonuses.  Teams are only allowed to exceed the cap via performance bonuses by a maximum of 7.5% of the Upper Limit, which for the 2015/16 salary cap of 71.4M works out to a 5.355M maximum. The combined bonuses for Nurse (0.85M), Reinhart (2.35M), Draisaitl (2.475M), Klefbom (0.35M), and McDavid, not signed yet, but assuming a max deal (2.85M) total 8.875M.  So what does that mean?  In a nutshell, should the Oilers start the year with all five of those players on the roster, the team will have an effective salary cap of 67.88M in order to preserve the required room for bonuses.1

 A few thoughts:

  • The impact this has on Edmonton's summer plans is hard to know, but it may have repercussions for free agent spending.
  • This is a not really an issue if both Reinhart and Draisaitl are in the minors, as the remaining bonuses wouldn't exceed the overage.  If one of them is in the minors at any given time, the Oilers would exceed the overage maximum, but only by about 1M instead of ~3.5M if both are in the NHL.
  • We don't know exactly what Marincin will cost, but for the sake of argument let's say he signs a one year deal for the same money as Reinhart.  In comparing the cap hits head to head, we might ordinarily say they cost the same, while noting that Reinhart has bonuses available that could result in a higher cap hit for the current year if Edmonton were not at the cap, or a cap penalty the following year, if achieved, were the Oilers at the cap - the overage talked about earlier.  However, assuming Edmonton would have already used all their overage room on the other four players, Reinhart carries an effective cap hit of the combined 3.21M vs. the 0.86M of Marincin. That is not the case if Draisaitl and Nurse, for example, are in the AHL - only if the bonus overage has already been exceeded.
  • There is a consideration for Draisaitl that does not exist for Reinhart.  If Edmonton leaves either Reinhart or Draisaitl in the AHL all year, an ELC year would be burned.  However, with Draisaitl, a year in the AHL vs. a year in the NHL results in him being a UFA in 2023 instead of 2022; Reinhart's UFA status is not impacted by whether or not he plays in the NHL.  When you combine that with Draisaitl having an effective cap hit of 3.4M (again, assuming the bonus overage is already maxed out), is it that hard to argue that Edmonton would be better off to sign a UFA W for 2.5M, save some cap space, save a year towards UFA status for Draisaitl, and let him play a full year as the #1C in the AHL?
  • For 2016/17, the Oilers would need to remain 3.17M under the cap2 once Klefbom's bonuses are off the books, with the potential for a bigger number if other players with bonuses were to crack the roster (for example, Slepyshev).

I don't want to get too far into the weeds here, regarding things like LTIR consequences and "impossible to earn" bonuses - perhaps that will be something to look at as the summer progresses and we get a better sense of any UFA's EDM has added, any trades/buy-outs, the contracts/cap numbers of any RFA's. But the quick takeaway is that the Oilers may not have as much money to spend in free agency as some might have hoped, or been expecting, depending on the number of players with significant ELC bonuses on the roster.

1 The calculations, to the dollar, are pretty complicated and beyond the scope of this article, but what it means, more or less, is that EDM has to stay at least 3.52M below the cap this year if all these players are on the roster.

2 This assumes that the 2016/17 cap is identical to the 2015/16 cap.  If the cap increases, so does the size of the bonus cushion.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Second Buy-Out Period

One of the difficulties with the current CBA, from the perspective of an NHL team, is that the first buy out period closes before the Unrestricted Free Agency (UFA) signing period opens.  For example, the Oilers might choose to buy out Nikitin (or Purcell, or Ference, provided no trade can be arranged) if they knew they could sign a different player via UFA1, but given that they may not be certain they can get someone signed, they may not want to buy the player out only to determine that they can't get a suitable replacement under contract.

There is a second buy out period available to NHL teams, in a specific situation -  that the Club has an arbitration case pending.  Currently, the Oilers have no arbitration case pending, but the possibility exists that they can create one by taking one of their eligible Restricted Free Agents (RFA) to arbitration in their July 5th-6th Club elected arbitration window.  So why don't teams do this all the time, to increase their flexibility with respect to buy outs?

There are a couple of potential reasons.  A team may not have an RFA that would allow them to do this.  That would be very rare, but it could potentially happen.  Teams might not have a player they are interested in buying out, in which case they may see no need to bother.  Additionally, a team might not want to use their one Club elected arbitration with a particular player just to open this possibility - they may want to save it for the future with that player (although there would likely be another player where they aren't worried about that issue, particularly if the player is close to UFA status).  But all those issues aside, perhaps the biggest is that a team can't be guaranteed that arbitration window will arrive.  It is possible that all of a team's RFA's accept their Qualifying Offers (QO) prior to that team getting the chance to take one of those eligible for arbitration to arbitration.  If that were to happen, the team would have the new player they just signed, and the player they were planning to buy out, and no way to buy that player out anymore.  I wouldn't imagine it to be particularly common that all QO's are signed by July 5th.  After all, a GM could call the agent of one of his arbitration eligible RFA's from the AHL and say "We are willing to give your player an increase to his AHL money, but the actual negotiations will have to wait until we're a week or so into free agency and we've dealt with the early UFA season."  What reason would the player have, in that circumstance, to sign their QO before they talk to the team again?  Worst case, they can always sign their QO at some point before July 15 when his QO would expire.  That said, it is a possibility and you would be taking a some sort of chance, even if a very small one.  A team would likely have a pretty good gauge on the status of negotiations with all their players, and could probably make some reasonable guess as to exactly how likely it would be that each/all of their arbitration eligible RFA's would simply sign their QO in place of negotiating any of a higher NHL salary, a one way deal, or increased AHL pay for those players looking at two way contracts.  If they are fairly certain that at least one of their arbitration eligible RFA's is extremely unlikely to sign their QO, at least by July 6th, then they may well feel comfortable banking on a second buy out window.

So is that a route the Oilers might decide makes sense?  Schultz, Pitlick, Davidson, Fraser, Aulie, and Curtis Hamilton are arbitration eligible RFA's (as are a few others, but my guess is those players are pretty unlikely to receive QO's), and it's hard to find a player you could be completely certain would not sign their QO - none of these players are the typical RFA worth two or 3 times the amount of their QO (for example, a Silfverberg in Anaheim - the kind of player that would have very little reason to simply accept their QO).  Schultz could well accept his QO.  If Pitlick, Fraser, Aulie, or Hamilton are qualified, they might well accept their QO, although it is possible that they would want to take a bit of time to either guarantee one way deals, or at least deals with more AHL money, in which case the Oilers may be very confident, based on the status of negotiations, that a QO won't be accepted prior to their right to take that player to arbitration. Davidson is perhaps the best candidate - he's an RFA who has arbitration rights (which Marincin does not) based on his age2 at signing, and is the kind of player that might try to negotiate an improvement to his AHL money, if not a one way deal, which wouldn't necessarily be in his qualifying offer.

One can make a reasonable case that at least one of Edmonton's RFA's won't accept their QO at all, and even if they do, likely not before July 5th when the Oilers would be in a position to use the arbitration process to open up a second buy out window3.  I don't think they can feel as comfortable about that as, say, Anaheim might with Silfverberg, so it is not without risk, but given the status of negotiations with their players, it might be a small and entirely acceptable risk.

1 Or Restricted Free Agency, if the rumors swirling around Hamilton are to be believed.
2 Based on the CBA definition of age in Article 12, which is a player's age on September 15th of the year they sign their deal (21 for Davidson), not their age on the day they actually sign (which was 20 for Davidson).
3 As I understand Exhibit 1, 13.c.ii, if a team files for arbitration, but the player accepts his QO after a team has filed for arbitration, this would still count as an arbitration filing, and the team would have a window for buyouts.  If that is not the case (I believe it to be, but if it isn't), then a team in Edmonton's position is less likely to pursue this avenue because they wouldn't want to be stuck with a player they can't buy out.  If a team like ANA were looking at the second buy out window, this concern would have no impact unless they had reason to think a guy like Silfverberg would accept his QO, which I would guess to be extremely unlikely.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Front-Loading Ference's Contract?

The structure of Ference's contract has yet to be released, but I would not be surprised to discover that the Oilers frontloaded the contract to the fullest extent possible, so as to increase Ference's "tradeability" in the later years, should they so desire.  If everything goes to plan three years from now, both Klefbom and Nurse will be in the NHL, and along with Smid still under contract, it very well could be the case that Ference would fit outside Edmonton's top 6D.  In that case, front-loading Ference's contract could increase his appeal to an acquiring team for the 2016/17 season.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Trading Down From The 7th Overall Pick

Moving down in the draft is viewed with trepidation by some Oilers fans, probably largely related to the Parise/Pouliot move at the 2003 draft. I would argue that trading back can be a reasonable way to extract value, particularly when the player a team likes, and would select at their original position, would still be available at a later position.  But given that this is the last time (hopefully) in a while for Edmonton to select a player with a somewhat high probability of being a cornerstone player, it makes sense to me that the Oilers use that opportunity to select whomever of Monahan, Lindholm, or Nichushkin remains.  They already have two 2nd round picks to build depth within the system, and if they feel they need even more depth, they could always trade down next year at a time where they are less likely to be giving up an impact player by doing so (assuming they draft 10th-18th or so next season).

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

If Colorado Is Willing To Trade The #1 Overall Pick, How About This?

There has been a bit of chatter today hinting that the Avalanche may be willing to move their 1st overall pick.  Who knows how seriously they might look at that option, but if they do, I wonder if they might consider the following deal:

Monday, May 27, 2013

Trading Up From The 7th Overall Pick

Not unlike the build up to most Entry Drafts, it seems as though many Oilers fans are clamoring for the team's management to trade up.  The only time I can remember the Oilers trading up in the first round was the 2007 draft, when Edmonton traded the 30th (Nick Ross) and 36th (Joel Gistedt) picks to Phoenix in exchange for the 21st pick (Riley Nash).  Even though the Oilers haven't moved up all that often in the past, I do think it's reasonable to wonder if Edmonton's at least a little more likely to move up this year based on one of GM MacTavish's answers regarding the upcoming 7th overall pick, given during a season ticket holder's conference call (transcription from that conference call courtesy Dan Tencer).
Our wish list in the draft would be to draft a centerman and/or a defenseman with that pick in that area. The higher end centermen, not to divulge too much about where we're ranking players, but if you look at the public rankings like Red Line or Central Scouting, there are really three very high end centermen available in this draft. Nathan MacKinnon from Halifax, Monahan from Ottawa and also Barkov, who played in the Finnish men's league. I think that those three centermen, relative to some of the public rankings, we would finish just out of the realm of getting one of those three centermen if we didn't move up.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Valeri Nichushkin

Like many Oilers fans, I was checking the reverse standings daily near the end of the season to see where the Oilers might be slotted to pick in the 2013 Entry Draft.  At the conclusion of the season (and after the lottery had no impact on Edmonton's selection), the Oilers were slated to choose 7th, a rather fortunate position in my mind since many observers of the draft, myself included, have surmised there to be a tier of 7 prospects at the top of this year's draft.  Well, "a tier" is probably the wrong way to put it; most seem to have it organized as a group of 3 followed by another group of 4, or 4/5 players followed by 3/2 players.  That group of 7 includes Jones, Drouin, and MacKinnon, who are generally seen as the top 3, followed by some order of C Barkov, C Monahan, C/W Lindholm, and W Nichushkin*.  In any case, picking 7th assures that Edmonton will receive one of the players in this "top tier", should they view the draft in the same manner.  I would argue that the most likely group of players to be selected in the top 6 is Jones, Drouin, MacKinnon, Barkov, Lindholm and Monahan.  That isn't to be confused with a guess that it's more likely than not those 6 players will in fact be the first 6 drafted - maybe they will be, or maybe they won't, I'm only guessing the aforementioned group of 6 players more likely to be the first selected than any other single group of 6 players.  I would be a bit surprised to see another player crack the top 6, but at the same time it isn't unusual to see a surprise or two near the top of the draft, like Hickey in 2007, or Fowler, Couturier, and Forsberg sliding in 2010, 2011, and 2012, respectively.  If that group of 6 is in fact selected as the top 6, it would leave Nichushkin for the Oilers**.  The problem, if you want to call it that, is that some of the circumstances surrounding both the Oilers and Nichushkin might conspire to move him down Edmonton's list.  I'm going to attempt to make the case that, in spite of those potential pitfalls, it would be in Edmonton's best interest to draft Nichushkin if he is the player left available from that group of seven, "warts" and all.