Sunday, July 31, 2005

Oilers Draft Review

Definitely a different draft for the Oilers than we’ve seen the past couple of years; one suspects there was some sort of shift in organizational philosophy with regards to the draft, but we’ll need to see future results to be sure. It could be a coincidence that EDM drafted mostly college bound players, at the same time that the new CBA allows the rights to collegiate players to be held for far longer than either CHL or European players. One can only hope that the Oilers weren’t passing up a chance to draft "better" players just so they could draft NCAA players. It’s worth noting however that "better" means better in the minds of the EDM scouting staff, and not better in any objective sense. Edmonton went with college bound players for their 1st 2 picks, but these were the picks with which Edmonton should be drafting purely based on BPA with less factoring of issues such as duration of player rights. Of course, if you have 2 guys roughly equal it still probably makes sense to take the college player, but in the earlier picks of the draft you are less likely to have players equal to each other than you are later in the draft.

In creating my top 50 list it’s clear that I had undersold players about to enter college, and I must confess to ignorance as the reason. I had thought, for some reason, that Europeans rights were to be held for 4 years post-draft, not the 2 years that I am now hearing. Obviously that can’t help but hurt the value of Europeans, relative to the old CBA when their rights could be held indefinitely, and even to the 4 years I had thought they could be held when creating my top 50 list.

I’m not going to comment too much on the style and player comparisions for the Oilers draftess, but here are a couple thoughts anyways:

#25 – Andrew Colgiano – this is a player I do like, and can’t complain about Edmonton selecting. I had wondered if teams might be willing to draft smaller players in anticipation of the rule changes, this could answer that the Oilers certainly are willing to especially when one looks at the last 2 years of Oilers draft picks in comparison to the size of the guys drafted this year. It appears as though the Oilers went for skill this year, a bunch of boom/bust players that will get time to develop in college, Cogliano being the first.

My pick: Having said that, were I in charge I wouldn’t have taken Cogliano, though he was close to the top of my list. I’d have taken Guillaume Latendresse, but thought seriously about Bertram. I think I would have gone with Latendresse in believing there to be a better chance Bertram would still be around at 36. Again though, no real complaint in Cogliano.

#36 – Taylor Chorney – at first I didn’t much like this pick, I thought there were better guys on board. And maybe there were. But I do like him much more now that I’ve read more about him.

My pick: I guess it wouldn’t have mattered which one I’d have taken at 25, since I’d have taken the other here at 36, in this case Dan Bertram (note – I know the entire path of the draft changes if EDM doesn’t take Cogliano at 25 etc, but this is just as a rough guide for comparison)

#81 – Danny Syvret – an overager who will likely step into the AHL, complicating matters for a player like Mathieu Roy who seemingly stepped up last year but may see his minutes taken by Syvret. If Syvret produces, and is big enough for the NHL game, then no complaints. Obviously he had an exceptional season with London, I’m unsure what his ultimate upside will be as a pro, but clearly Edmonton thinks he can adapt.

My pick: I would have selected Jakub Vojta. Istomin was the highest on my list, but I would have decided the odds of Istomin, Mikus, or Trunkho sliding until my next pick at 86 were good enough that I should take Vojta at 81.

#86 – Robby Dee – haven’t heard barely anything about this player, but I like his pick for a couple reasons. First, he’s a draft and follow type, who EDM will have the rights to for a little bit longer than an equivalent CHL or European prospect. Second, he has great stats. I know, I know, "you can’t judge a prospect by his scoring numbers", but I still say it’s better to have numbers in your corner than not, and I like the idea of going boom/bust once you get to this point in the draft.

My pick: Denis Istomin.

#97 – Chris Vande Velde – see comments on Dee.

My pick: I’d have selected Slava Trukhno. Mikus was one spot higher on the list I had posted earlier, but I had re-adjusted my rankings again since I posted my first set of "top 50" rankings, with Trukhno moving ahead, slightly, of Mikus. Though Mikus was still the next available player on my list, so it was pretty close in my mind.

#120 – Slava Trukhno – I think of this player as somewhat of an oddball in Edmonton’s day. He’s pretty much the only player one might say Edmont took after having a big slide, he’s 18 and from the CHL so his rights will only be held for 2 years, he’s Russian, I don’t think the Oilers like any of those things about him. I think they thought his skill and talent was simply too good to pass on, even though he doesn’t fit what they were trying to do.

My pick: Juraj Mikus

#157 – Fredrik Pettersson – I hadn’t heard much about him before the draft, but liked the little I had heard. I like the pick.

My pick: Risto Korhonen sure tumbled down the rankings, I like the sounds of him though and would have taken a shot.

#220 – Matthew Glasser – I know nothing about this guy, his numbers aren’t very impressive for a player his size coming from the AJHL, but it sounds like he’s a project, and he’ll have time to either develop or not at low cost. Another draft and follow, for a7th rounder that’s probalby just good sense.

My pick: I liked Mathieu Roy, he put up good numbers on a bad team in the Q, I’d have preferred him.

I actually like the idea behind the strategy of the Oilers, provided it doesn’t mean they are passing on clearly better players just to get college guys – if indeed a strategic shift has occurred, it could theoretically be a coincidence. It looks they they tried to stay away from Europe on the surface, but it’s hard to know for sure given that it was a weak year for Europeans. With the possibiity of losing Europeans after 2 years perhaps shying away from Europeans makes sense. On the other hand, one team who has a reputation of draft success, the Senators, selected 5 of their 8 players from Europe, obviously a sign that they aren’t too concerned about getting those players signed going forward.

Final comparison:

EDM’s picks:
Vande Velde

My picks:


I like my list better, no surprise of course as it’s my list. Though I must say when I look at the final shape I’m somewhat concerned to see so many Europeans that I could lose in 2 years.
Overall I think Edmonton had a pretty solid draft, though I’d have made a bunch of different picks I don’t much mind the direction Edmonton ended up going. It’s too early to judge, but at the moment I give the EDM draft a B.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Potential RFA targets for the Oilers

Here are some players that it might make sense for EDM to go after with RFA offer sheets, assuming the compensation reported by Tom Benjamin is indeed accurate (which I have no reason to doubt). Deciding which players to go after will likely depend upon which teams have cap room, which don't, which are against their self imposed budgets, and how much better the player you would sign to an offer sheet is than whatever UFA you can sign in his place.

All of the following are players that I believe Edmonton could use, but it's not going to be easy to get any of them unless they play on a team that will be pressed up against the cap and forced to make a difficult decision on which players to trade if they match, or whether they should simply let the player go. Additionally, any team that is close to their self imposed budget and not willing to spend above could be at risk to an offer sheet. One team in particular worth considering will be Ottawa with Spezza, Hossa, Havlat and potentially Vermette as notable RFA's. It wouldn't be surprising to see some team be able to pluck one of these players away from the Senators.

Jason Spezza - He is on the upswing, he's likely to be better than anything EDM can get on the UFA market unless for some reason they can sign Demitra or Forsberg. In either case, having Spezza as well wouldn't hurt either, if there's budget room. OTT appears to be close to the cap, that should help EDM in trying to sign Spezza away. Perhaps something like a 4 year deal averaging 4.99 mil - cost in compensation 2-1sts, 1-2nd, and 1-3rd.

In particular I think teams might look to target players in the 1.99-2.99 mil range, because teams close to the cap may not be able to match with these guys and the compensation isn't enough to stop a team from poaching these players with offer sheets. Any successful player who has finished his entry level contract would seem to make sense for GM's to contemplate signing, in particular those who play for teams close to the cap. One example might be a guy like Havlat, but it's hard to know how far OTT would be willing to go to keep him? At 1.99 mil, for sure they match. 2.99 mil? Yeah, if they have cap room? 3.99? I don't know if they have that kind of cap room.

Another example could be Mark Bell, who would seem to suit the Oilers well. Unfortunately, I don't think CHI would let him go, but it couldn't hurt to throw an offer sheet at him for 1.99 mil, compensation cost is merely a 2nd rounder. It would probably take more like 2.99 mil, with comp of a 1st + a 3rd to even get CHI to consider not matching. Is he worth it, even at that price? Would CHI still match?

Ideally one would like to "attack" tems within the division, because you play them so often and are competing directly with them for the division crown. For the Oilers that means looking to sign players from CAL, COL, VAN or MIN in particular.

Minnesota will be a particularly invulnerable team as they have tons of cap room and enough revenue to match any offer EDM might make. Nonetheless, maybe it wouldn't hurt to force them to match an offer to PM Bouchard, instead of allowing them to spend the money they'd save from a cheaper Bouchard on UFA's that EDM might be competing for with the Wild. It is worth noting that MIN, or any team, might "retaliate" and try to sign the Oilers players, and perhaps that's a reason not to try to sign RFA's. On the other hand, you can respect the previous convention of not signing offer sheets and STILL have someone else attack yours, so maybe it's prudent to just make whatever decisions make sense for you and worry about the retribution when it comes, and not before?

CAL might be easier to steal from as they reportedly won't stray very far from their budget, whatever it is. Perhaps Langkow is a decent target? Kobasew? Iginla?

VAN could be near the cap. What about guys like D.Sedin, H.Sedin?

COL will be near the cap. The Oilers want to add a puckmover. JM Liles to a 1.99 mil offer sheet? Would COL match that? Would they have the necessary cap room? What about Tanguay - can you make offer he would accept? Hejduk might be too close to UFA age to convince him to sign an offer sheet, but Tanguay might be a chance to hurt the Avalanche while improving the Oilers.

Some other possibilities, league wide:

Datsyuk and Zetterburg in Detroit - have they opened enough cap room to be able to match your offer sheets?

Luongo, VanRyn, and Weiss in FLA - they would seem to be longshots, as one might expect FLA to match. Maybe not with Weiss, depending on cost and projection?

Legwand, Hartnell, and Hamhuis in NSH- Edmonton could definitely use Legwand, what kind of offer might he take for NSH to let him go?

Mara in PHX - puckmoving defenceman, how much cap room does PHX have available? Would a 1.9 mil offer sheet do the trick with Mara? What about 2.9 mil? Is he even worth that, financially?

Tons of intriguing possibilities, all of which also make a guy ask "Which Oilers could be signed away?"


And what about Hemsky? Edmonton probably had planned on getting him signed for 1.0 mil, or thereabouts. Under these RFA rules, it wouldn't be that hard to believe Hemsky's agent can find a team willing to bid 1.99 mil in an attempt to win Hemsky's services, at a compensation cost of a 2nd rounder. Even though EDM would match it would still take 1 mil out of their UFA spending money. Would they match at 2.99 mil, or take the 1st and 3rd, thinking that 2.99 mil can be better spent on UFA's? How about at 3.99 mil, or take the 1st and 2nd and 3rd?

I had predicted Edmonton could sign their remaining RFA's for ~12 mil before the news of these RFA compensation levels, leaving them something like 8 mil to spend on UFA's (assuming a 33 mil budget). Maybe it will cost them more like 16 mil if teams start to throw a couple RFA offer sheets at EDM RFA's, cutting EDM's UFA budget in half.

I can't wait for August 1st to arrive, just to see how this new CBA initially pans out...

Monday, July 25, 2005

Top 50 draft prospects

It's hard to know what impact the changes in draft rules and UFA age will have on the way teams operate at the draft, but here's my draft list nonetheless. I reserve the right to revise this list, and probably will, just in case I feel like changing my mind but also because of any potential draft re-entries.

Top 50

Sidney Crosby
Jack Johnson
Benoit Pouliot
Bobby Ryan
Gilbert Brule
Anze Kopitar
Ryan O’Marra
Alex Bourret
Marek Zagrapan
Martin Hanzal

Jack Skille
Marc Staal
Guillaume Latendresse
Nicklas Bergfors
Carey Price
Dan Bertram
Ryan Stoa
Devin Setoguchi
Kenndal McArdle
Tuukka Rask

Radek Smolenak
Ryan Parent
Chris Durand
Andrew Cogliano
Luc Bourdon
Dennis Istomin
Jakub Kindl
Jakub Vojta
Juraj Mikus
Slava Trukhno

Brendan Mikkelson
Brian Lee
Michael Blunden
Matt Lashoff
Risto Korhonen
Ondrej Pavelec
Justin Abdelkader
Paul Stastny
Mathieu Roy
Patrick Davis

Mikko Lehtonen
Daniel Ryder
Mathieu Aubin
Vyacheslav Buravchikov
Blair Jones
Matt Niskanen
TJ Hensick
Petr Kalus
Ilja Zubov
Mason Raymond


Matt Pelech
Evan Brophey
James Neal
Sasha Pokulok
Dustin Kohn
Chris Lawrence
Scott Jackson
Vitaly Anikeenko
Adam McQuaid
Vladimir Karpov
Joe Barnes

Thursday, July 21, 2005

On the off chance the Oilers win the lottery...

I wonder how it might affect their decisions regarding which UFA's to sign?

IF they win the lottery, I suppose they might line up their forwards something like:

Smyth Horcoff Dvorak
York Crosby Hemsky
Moreau Reasoner Pisani
Isbister Stoll Laraque

- Torres, Harvey, and maybe Rita could be candidates for the pressbox, though instead I'd imagine Lowe to trade someone and make room for Torres

In that case I think it would be hard to argue that whatever UFA money they spend will likely go towards defence, getting the puckmover they seem to desire. Who knows exactly what they mean by "puckmover", maybe it's not the same as "offensive defenceman"? I'm not particularly sure they need to come up with an offensive defenceman, but since MacT ices 2 D on the PP more than most it only makes sense for Lowe to acquire a D, of whatever type, that can perform on the powerplay. For example, not Brewer.

There have been rumors about Niedermayer. In order to sign him I think it will cost more than he's worth, and they'll probably have to sign him for a longer term than is advisable, given how many teams will likely be trying to sign him. For the 7+ mil you'd have to spend on Niedermayer I think the Oilers would be better off trying to sign 2 defenceman (I'm specifically thinking of Hamrlik and Rathje, but I'm sure there are other guys who would fit as well) coupled with trading Brewer - a player I feel is overrated, not to mention close to UFA (isn't everyone now, maybe it's unimportant that he's only got 2 RFA years left with the Oilers) and not really a guy that seems like he'd like to stick around (my uninformed gut feeling, and nothing more. I could well be mistaken) - for another C. I'm not sure what kind of C the Oilers could get for Brewer, would Handzus be setting the bar too high? Low? No matter, I'll use him as an example for the purposes of this hypothetical lineup:

Smyth Handzus Dvorak
Horcoff Crosby York
Moreau Reasoner Pisani
Isbister Stoll Hemsky

Torres, Harvey, Laraque

Hamrlik Smith
Rathje Staios
Bergeron Semenov

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Lowered UFA age as it relates to the draft

Even before the old CBA had expired I had some questions about how teams approached the entry draft. I had wondered if having amateur scouts was truly any more productive that taking an average of whatever publicly ranking sources one could find available, Central Scouting, Redline, and ISS. And whether the investment in amateur scouting could be better spent elsewhere within an orgainzation.

Those questions become more pointed with the drop in UFA age from 31 to 27. Any investment in a draft pick will now result in, at most, 7 years of service before UFA , as opposed to the potential for 13 under the old CBA. As a practical matter few draft picks cracked the NHL before 22 under the old CBA, meaning that most successful draft picks had their rights held by the team who drafted them for 9-11 years before UFA; under the new CBA that would change to 5-7 years. It's hard to see how this could increase the value of any given draft pick, pre-draft. I suppose one could argue that when you are successful in drafting a player, given the draconian entry level cap, the player is worth more now than under the old CBA. I don't know how one would go about testing such a scenario, I can't imagine how it could be true, but I haven't tested it or seen anyone do such an examiniation (how could anyone at this point?).

But what about when you draft a player in the 2nd round, he joins the NHL at age 21, plays on your 3rd/4th line until UFA age? Under the old CBA this player still had good value to you, because you couldn't find a replacement on the UFA market for anything close to the rookie's salary. Will this be true in the new CBA? It's still unknown how teams will structure their payroll. Personally, I imagine the top players to still continue to get their money, and the 7-14th forwards squeezed, along with the 4th-7th D, will be squeezed. What if his replacement, as a UFA, costs 800-900K? Does that change your approach to the draft ? Is the home run swing now more viable in the first 3 rounds of the draft than before, given how much easier it would be (under those assumptions) to replace 3rd/4th line players?

And in the scenario where a team evaluates a player pre-draft and is "convinced" this guy will, in 3 or 4 years, be a solid 3rd line guy who can maybe play 2nd line, what round is he worth a pick? That player used to easily be worth a 2nd round pick, in the new CBA he will cost you at least 450K no matter where you select him, probably something like 600K in the 2nd round. If a capable 3rd line equivalent only costs 800K-900K mil as a UFA, where do you take him?

What about F vs. D vs. G? Most would agree that, on average, a forward will enter the NHL earlier than a defenceman or goalie, and will play to his peak potential earlier. If you have a forward and defenceman ranked evenly in the first round, how can you take the defenceman higher if you project him to be a year or two behind an equivalent forward in both reaching the NHL and playing up to his potential? When deciding between 9 years of a D and 10-11 of a forward under the old CBA one might have been more willing to look past "projected years played before UFA", but if the trade-off is between 4 years of a D and 5-6 of a forward one might imagine you will be leaning towards taking the forward more so than before.

RFA offer sheets

One aspect of the new CBA that we haven't heard anything from the media about has been RFA compensation if there is an offer sheet? Will offer sheets be a part of the new CBA, and if so are there any changes to RFA compensation? Will those changes, combined with the rest of the changes to the CBA, either increase the number of offer sheets we will see going forward?

If teams value their 1st round draft picks less than before perhaps we will see an rash of RFA offer sheets, assuming compensation rates remain the same as under the previous CBA? Might there be a team that evaluates the worth of first round draft picks and decides that, unless they project their team to the bottom 5 within the next year or two, there is no reason to use their1st round picks selecting players in the draft again? That they would receive better value finding teams pressed to the cap, or unable/unwilling to spend, with high quality RFA talent and using their first rounders to acquire them instead of selecting players in the draft. Alternatively, perhaps RFA offer sheets will still be infrequent/non-existent given the drop in UFA age? Not only would you be giving up 5 1st rounders to sign, say, Spezza, away from OTT, but you'd also have to pay him enough so that OTT wouldn't match (I've picked them as an example given that they look to be pressed against the cap). Meaning that Spezza costs you 5 first rounders in addition to his salary which could be spent on UFA's. Given what Spezza would cost, perhaps teams would decide that yes he is incrementally better than the UFA they can get for the same 5 or so mil, but not so much so that he's worth 5 - 1st round picks in addition to his salary.

Under the old CBA some said the reason teams didn't offer more offer sheets was that it wasn't worth 5 1sts in addition to what you'd have to pay the player (when you could sign someone else for the same money from the UFA market). Others said it was because teams would always match your offer, meaning that 5 1sts wasn't enough. These don't seem to mesh very well, but I suppose when teams hold different goals they will act differently, and not unreasonably, even if both were faced having to match identical offer sheets.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Budgeting with Escrow

Let's pretend the Oilers plan on spending 33 mil over the year. Let's also imagine they have some opinion about how much league revenues will be, and how much teams will spend on players. Perhaps they project Revenues of 1.7 B, as the league does, meaning that teams will collective spend 918 mil, after escrow adjustment.

Suppose the Oilers actually believe team spending around the NHL will total 968 mil (before the escrow adjustment dropping salaries to 918mil) . That means that 50 mil will be returned, collectively, to the owners. The Oilers portion would likely be their payroll divided by the total league payroll, multiplid by the total amount overspent. (33mil/968mil)*50 mil, or 1.7 mil.

Under those circumstances, if the Oilers could forecast them, the Oilers could budget and spend about 34.7 mil on salaries during the year, and receive enough back at the end of the year through escrow redistribution to bring their true budget in line at 33 mil.

That all leads to a question, which is:

In the case of the upcoming season specifically, can the Oilers, actually go ahead and spend 35 mil or so and REASONABLY assume they'll get a 2 mil check at the end of the year so that they'll have spent their budgeted 33 mil? That would require as mentioned above an escrow check returning about 5% of their payroll at the end of the year.

I can already hear the objection that this would be too "risky". "Why should we risk projecting, let's just play it conservative, spend what we spend and if we get money back at the end of the year, great. "

The problem with this approach is you are implicitly making a projection, by not projecting. You would be speculating that, league wide, teams will spend exactly 54% of revenue on player salaries. To relate it to the forecast above, not factoring escrow into your budget calculations would be exactly the same as saying " I believe revenues will be 1.7 B, and teams will spend 918 mil. This means that my 33 mil actually spent on players will be corrected via escrow to 33 mil. Another way of saying no escrow alteration is required, and the players get all their money back".

Furthermore, how conservative would it be to spend your budget without concern for how others are spending in a linked world? What happens if all teams combined pay 53% of league revenue to the players? Wouldn't that would mean (with the caveat that I don't know the exact details of the linkage at this point) that the owners still owe the players money, forcing Edmonton over their 33 mil budget?

I am not saying that projecting both league revenues and league wide salaries would be easy. But just because it's hard to predict doesn't mean one shoud bury his head in the sand and ignore the problem. For revenues the team might well be best off by simply using the league's revenue forecast. Player salaries shouldn't be as hard for a GM to forecast. It might be hard to forecast particularly accurately in July, before UFA season, but come January it should be fairly clear what teams will spend, collectively, on players. This will allow an astute GM to factor escrow into his budget, and affect his decisions with regards to adding/removing salary from his payroll as the season progresses, and as his team's place in the standings and chances of winning the Cup become more apparent.

I stand corrected

Edmonton Sun article

"We'll have every opportunity to compete for the $7.8-million player," Nichols said, talking about the maximum salary under the cap.

Proves me wrong. Brownlee states that the Oilers wil have a 33-35 mil budget, but I notice that isn't a direct quote from Nichols. One might assume that's where Brownlee got the budget information, but perhaps not.

In any case, I still don't like the artificiality of the 20% cap on an individual salary; I don't really like the idea of a salary cap either.

But if the Oilers are wiling to go far enough to spend the cap on a player then the 20% rule will not harm them. In fact it could well help them. Suppose there is a player who would, in the case of equal offers, choose Edmonton. If he were able to be offered 10 mil by some other team while EDM wouldn't go past 7.8 mil, Edmonton might be out of luck. In that case, the artificial cap would probably deliver said player to the Oilers.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

20% cap on individual player salary? Why?

How can this sort of restriction help the Oilers, or any lower payroll team, that can't (won't) spend up to the 20% cap maximum on a single player?

Toronto Star Article

According to the above link, Joe Thornton will be unrestricted next summer, I'll use him as an example to illustrate.

If EDM can't afford to sign Thornton next summer for 8.3 mil (I will assume that to be the 20% cap figure) it would be better for the Oilers if there were no limit on what an individual player can be paid. If the team who successfully lands Thornton was willing to go to 10 mil, but is capped at 8.3 mil, that will open 1.7 mil in payroll/cap room to spend on other players they would not have available without that artificial restriction of 20%.

They will offer that "extra" money to players the Oilers can afford, and need, like Pisani, Dvorak, Markkanen, etc, perhaps poaching these players when the Oilers would otherwise be able to sign them.


With a new CBA seemingly (hopefully? begrudgingly?) to be signed by Friday, now appears to be a great time to start my blog, given that it will primarily relate to the Edmonton Oilers and the National Hockey League. But when other topics arise in my mind I'm not sure I'll be afraid to post them as well.