Thursday, October 14, 2010

Changes to the ELC System

One thing has become clear through the vigorous debate surrounding Hall and Paajarvi this season, and that is the need for revision to the ELC system. Setting aside the question of whether there is a need for an ELC system at all in a capped league, what can be done to improve the current system?

Currently, situations can arise where the team would ideally like a player to be in the NHL, but decides to keep them out for contractual reasons. I’m assuming that the player would also rather be in the NHL at 18 or 19, instead of sent back to junior because of the current ELC system. By changing the ELC system for 18 and 19 year old players, both the player and the team can be helped. Eliminating the “slide rule”, and altering the ELC system such that an 18 year old player receives a 5 year ELC, and a 19 year old player receives a 4 year ELC would remove the incentive teams have to send an “NHL ready” player back to junior to massage the contract situation.

In negotiations, it is often important to consider the transaction from the perspective of the opposing party. It’s easy to see why the owners might like to control top rookies for a little bit longer, but the reason this could be a slam dunk is that it is (arguably) in the interests of the majority of players as well. When you want something, and realize the other party is either largely indifferent to, or mildly in favour of, that point of negotiation, often you can find a way to get the issue resolved at a lower cost to yourself than you might have initially thought. It is true that this change would be a further restriction on the earning potential of top end players early in their careers, but I believe the NHLPA would probably accept such a restriction; they’ve had no problem sacrificing the earning power of young players in the past. In fact, they’ve thrown rookies under the bus twice in the past 20 years: by allowing a rookie cap to be implemented, and allowing for further rookie restrictions in the most recent CBA. I would be surprised if many union members were particularly concerned with helping the few 18 and 19 year old players reach RFA status one or two years earlier than they would by sticking with the current system, if it were something the owners requested. After all, every dollar the rookies are denied is a dollar for everyone else, due to linkage.

For that matter, I don’t think the owners would have much of a problem convincing the players to remove the “7 years service” requirement for UFA status, which would change the UFA requirements to be a flat age 27 for all players. For a large majority of union members, the 7 year clause has no relevance so there’s no reason for them to get too concerned about keeping it for the small number of players that benefit from the “7 years service” rule.

So, if I'm the owners heading into the next CBA negotiation, I don't think I would have overly strong opposition if I were to ask for those changes to the ELC system, and that minor change to UFA qualifications.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Western Conference Projections

Having tackled the Eastern conference, it is time to move on to the West. Again, division winners are noted by an asterisk.

  1. Vancouver Canucks* - Art Ross winner, very deep group of defencemen, one of the best goalies in the league. A nice combination, in (at least arguably) the weakest division would seem to be a recipe for a great regular season.
  2. San Jose Sharks* - I suppose it’s possible the Kings could pass them, but I need to see it before I’m confident enough to put them ahead of a regular season juggernaut like the Sharks.
  3. Detroit Red Wings* - Everyone’s rested and healthy, Hudler’s back to add some depth. I wouldn’t count on another couple of 70 point seasons from Datsyuk and Zetterberg. The question is Howard, in my mind.
  4. Chicago Blackhawks – They’ve lost some depth, but the young core should still be improving.
  5. Los Angeles Kings – I look at the Kings as a pretty good bet to make the playoffs, but they’ve got a bunch of young players so they could take a leap forward or a slight step back. So I’ll split the difference and project them as the 5th team in the West
  6. Nashville Predators – this team is consistently underrated by many, myself included. But they’ve got good goaltending, a good D core, and a solid if not spectacular forward core. Looks like a playoff team, or failing that a team that’s close.
  7. Calgary Flames - I’m not nearly as pessimistic about this team as most. I don’t think they’ll challenge Vancouver, but I’d be surprised if they fall down the standings like some, barring injuries to Iginla, Bouwmeester and/or Kiprusoff. Then again, maybe I should be given the current injury problems?
  8. Anaheim Ducks – The defence might be a bit weak, but they’ve got a good goalie and pretty decent forwards. PP of Getzlaf, Perry, Ryan, Selanne, and Visnovsky should be very good. Can that carry a team through the regular season?
  9. Phoenix Coyotes – I need to see it again before I believe it, as far being a slam dunk for the playoffs. Their goaltending might regress a little, and with LA coming on, we’ll see.
  10. St. Louis Blues – Halak seems like he might be an upgrade, but a look at last year’s stats suggests this team already had pretty good goaltending, so I’m not sure they’ll get quite the boost some might think, even if Halak is a 0.920 sv% goalie, unless the rest of the roster performs better.
  11. Colorado Avalanche – Like many, I expect this team to step back a little bit, but I don’t expect them to slip all the way back to the lottery.
  12. Minnesota Wild – Not too much to say, but they don’t look quite as raw as the three teams remaining, and would appear to have better goaltending provided BAckstrom stays healthy.
  13. Dallas Stars – None of the three remaining teams have very good defences, on paper. Dal probably has the best forwards.
  14. Edmonton Oilers – I had a difficult time deciding between Edmonton and Columbus. Ultimately, my tiebreaker is that I project the NW to be an easier division. They could shoot quite a bit higher if a couple of the rookies are better than I’m expecting.
  15. Columbus Blue Jackets – I don’t really like having them this low, because I think they've certainly got the potential to be better than last. But, someone has to be. I’m not sure what to expect out of Mason.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Eastern Conference Projections

On paper I think the teams group, loosely, from 1-2, 3-7, 8-12, 13-15. Obviously it’s highly unlikely that’s how it will turn out, but I do think there is a bigger divide to start the year between 7 and 8 than between 5 and 6, or 9 and 10, or 14 and 15. Division Winners are noted by an asterisk.

  1. Washington Capitals* - I don’t think they’ll be quite as dominant this season as last, but still good enough to win the Eastern conference.
  2. New Jersey Devils* -Superior depth should help them edge out the Penguins, who I think will be second in this division. I’m not sure that, on paper, the Capitals are better than the Devils, but the Devils have a more difficult looking schedule so I’ll give the regular season edge to Washington.
  3. Boston Bruins* - I see the NE as being a relatively tight division, but I like the Bruins depth at forward, provided Savard returns at some point.
  4. Pittsburgh Penguins – It’ll be interesting to see what kind of numbers Comrie and Kunitz are able to post this season. Maybe it’s not surprising given the importance of goaltending, but to win the division I think they’ll need a great year out of Fleury.
  5. Buffalo Sabres - somehow I ended up with both Pominville and Vanek in my draft, so consider this pick a reach if you will. I don’t think Miller projects to be as good as last season, but I also expect more (perhaps erroneously) out of some of BUF’s forwards
  6. Ottawa Senators –incredible PP potential in Ottawa this season, with the addition of Gonchar and the potential maturation of Erik Karlsson, along with Spezza, Alfredsson, and the mercurial Kovalev. I would rank them ahead of Buffalo were it not for the difference in projected quality of goaltending.
  7. Philadelphia Flyers – The goaltending is a bit of a concern, but I suppose it’s not impossible that they make a trade relatively early if the goaltending is a problem.
  8. Tampa Bay Lightning – I don’t know that I see them as a markedly better team than those in this tier, but I like what Yzerman’s done so I’ll project them as the last playoff team. Kind of surprised Pouliot didn’t crack the team.
  9. Montreal Canadiens – Price will be one to watch this year. I’m also curious to see Eller and Subban, MON might be a fun team to watch this season.
  10. New York Rangers – If Gaborik’s groin acts up, this team could fall pretty sharply.
  11. Carolina Hurricanes – Not much to say with this team, hopefully for Carolina guys like Skinner and Boychuk can step up because the forward depth isn’t looking all that great past Staal and maybe Jussi Jokinen.
  12. Toronto Maple Leafs – How many games will Kadri play this season? I’ll go with 48.
  13. Atlanta Thrashers – Not really sure who’s going to score the goals for this team.
  14. New York Islanders – At least another year until this team pushes for the playoffs, especially with Streit and Okposo out for awhile. I think it’s “flip a coin” territory between NYI and FLA for last in the East, I went with FLA because I’m not sure what team looks like if/once Vokoun is traded, and I think that trade comes as soon as Tallon gets what he think is a decent offer.
  15. Florida Panthers – I think this team could surprise depending on Vokoun, but I also think if Vokoun is keeping them from falling right into the basement, Tallon may try to move him earlier than the deadline to ensure FLA finishes with a top 3 pick again this season.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

What to do with Paajarvi and Hall?

Over the past couple days, there have been numerous articles discussing the potential demotions of Hall to the OHL, and Paajarvi to the AHL, in an effort to maximize the value of their ELC’s. It’s fair to say that, in general, I tend to be a believer that 18 and 19 year old players should be demoted barring the situation where they can be a true contributor to a team. That said, it’s not hard to see why this is potentially a pretty complicated issue for a GM; there are many angles to consider: Is the player’s development likely to be better, or worse, at the NHL level when compared to the alternative? Can the player still learn more at a lower level while retaining the ELC year? What is the current quality of the team? Can the player help improve a team? Is it in the team’s best interest to start this player now, or one (or two) years later? Does the team risk damaging its relationship with the player if they demote a “clearly ready” player? Is that risk worth delaying the contract? Do you need the player around to sell tickets?

I don’t know the answer to all these questions, though I have my opinions. I think if the Oilers had handled this a bit differently over the summer, they would be in a better position to frame a potential demotion. They never really came out and said something like “We’re happy to keep Hall and Paajarvi at the NHL level provided they can be positive, two-way contributors to our line-up. If they aren’t ready to play 16-18 minutes a night, we don’t think it will hurt Hall to go back to Windsor for a year and shift to C, or hurt Paajarvi to play in Sweden or the AHL for another year to improve the weaker areas of his game.” On the other hand, were they able to retain/sell 1,500-2,000 season tickets, by pushing the hype, the rebuild, and the “new direction”, that they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise sell? If so, at $100 a seat, you’re looking at something like $6 – 8 million they’d have been without, PLUS they then have to try to generate new season ticket holders, which most people would agree is harder to do than retaining the ones you already have. It’s easy to see the hockey argument for sending these players out, but teams aren’t necessarily run with hockey matters as the only consideration.

I think the argument that you might get a more team-friendly deal with a player that starts in the NHL at 18, instead of at 20, is with, at least some, merit. It’s true that the agent might advise the player not to sign a long term deal, but for a lot of people there’s value in certainty. If Taylor Hall starts this year and posts 40, 50 and 60 point seasons on his ELC, ending at age 20, he could conceivably have hit very few of his performance bonuses, let’s say 800 K-1.3 mil. That would put the player at $3.5-4 mil in salary earned over 3 seasons. Sure, it’s a lot of money, but a player would have to be pretty confident in his future ability to turn down roughly $25 mil in a 6 year deal. What if he stagnates, or regresses? What about injury risk? Is it that hard to imagine a player willing to trade some future earning potential for the certainty of $25,000,000 now? If he continues progressing and becomes a superstar, he’ll be a UFA again at 28 and can make his mint at that time. Yes, it’s speculation. No, we don’t know what sort of long term deal Gagner would have been willing to sign this summer. Would he have been willing to sign the sort of long-term deal Tyler had proposed earlier this summer? I don’t know, but I have to think it’s more likely he would than if he had started in the NHL during the 09/10 season and posted 55-60 points during years 2-3 of his ELC (which would have been the upcoming 2010/11 and 2011/12 seasons) than the ~45 point seasons he actually recorded during seasons 2 and 3 of his ELC.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What is the Plan? A Prelude

Over the next week or so, I’ll be posting a two or three part series titled “What is the Plan?”, trying to discover exactly what Edmonton is trying to accomplish this coming season. I had planned to have the first part posted earlier this week, but decided to wait upon hearing Edmonton’s GM was going to be appearing on “Oilers Lunch”, with host Bob Stauffer. That interview occurred yesterday, with Bob having Steve Tambellini on for an 18 minute interview, always a welcome event for ravenous Oilers fans looking for tidbits of additional information regarding the team. The entire interview is worth a listen, but being the self-important guy I am, I was most interested with a question near the end of the interview, since it (sort of) came from me. Bob was kind enough to ask a question paraphrased from an e-mail I had sent earlier in the day, and I thank him for that.

Bob paraphrased (1) my question as follows:

"How do you, do you have goals for this season coming up? And is there a concern that maybe goals for this season might be short term when you've got a long term vision planned for the organization?"

Tambellini’s response was:

"No, I think that you have to be aggressive and the fact that we were obviously, we've made numerous changes on and off the ice, and I really believe this has just, this has given the organization a chance to start again. And, will we be young in some places? Yes. Do we want to make the playoffs? Absolutely, that should be your goal every year. So, our goals are to be better at developing, more consistently obviously throughout the year, and we're going to demand a lot more of our people. And young people are going to be put into spots that maybe they will not be ready for, but maybe they will be by Christmastime. It's going to be exciting. I kind of wish it was a little closer to the start of camp, but I guess maybe I should relax and just wait."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pining for Pisani

Yesterday, Fernando Pisani signed with the Chicago Blackhawks, crushing the (perhaps unwarranted?) hopes of many, myself included, that would see Pisani return for another season with the Oilers. Other than a need for change, it’s kind of hard to figure out why management wouldn’t have re-signed him. He seemed like a great fit for many of Edmonton’s current needs at forward. Pisani is able to kill penalties, would improve the RW depth, and provide a veteran who can handle top opposition players. Further, he’s a player that, by all accounts, is well liked and considered a good teammate - he doesn’t really seem like someone management might consider a locker room problem.

I think it would be hard to argue he’s not a better player than some of Edmonton’s current top 14F, so what exactly is going on here? Was he not willing to sign in Edmonton for 700K or so? Or did the Oilers simply decide they didn’t want to have him back? I have a hard time believing he wouldn’t have been willing to play in Edmonton – he’s from here, he’s used to the organization. If the Oilers offer him $700,000 on a one year, one way deal on August 1st, I’d have been kind of surprised if Pisani passed on it given the apparent lack of interest in him on the UFA market. But, maybe he felt he’d be able to get the type of deal he did from someone, so no rush to sign that hypothetical offer from Edmonton?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What Counts as "Circumvention"?

According to the arbitration decision arbitrated by Richard I. Bloch, it was the position of the NHL that the last 6 years of the voided Kovalchuk deal constituted a circumvention of the salary cap, even though according to the letter of the CBA there was no single part of the contract that specifically contradicted the agreement. This is interesting, to me, as it might suggest the NHL was arguably more worried about the structure of the deal than it was with the length. What I mean is, they specifically mention the last 6 years, not just the 2 years that takes this deal beyond the Hossa contract. The arbitrator noted that all the factors (length, structure, NMC/NTC) combined to allow him to reject the deal, but in reading the document it seemed to me that the structure was his biggest problem with the deal. I could be mistaken on that, but that was my sense in reading the decision.

The NHL may be able to pick and choose what they pursue as far as circumvention goes, going forward. I'm not exactly sure what they will, or even should, do as far as somewhat similar contracts like those mentioned in footnote 23 of the brief, but it doesn't feel quite "right", to me, to allow the Savard deal after having pointed out that it wasn't only the last year or two of the Kovalchuk deal that bothered you, but the last six years.

I’m also interested in exactly how “competitive fairness” or “competitive balance” factors into circumvention - I don’t know how I feel about Bloch potentially opening that Pandora’s Box. Who is to judge which cap manipulating manoeuvres qualify as “circumvention”, and which ones don’t, if contracts that act in opposition to “competitive balance” and reduce a player’s cap hit are deemed to be circumvention? If a player and team agree to sign a contract for far less than market value in an effort to give the team more cap room, does this represent “circumvention”? Suppose it’s a certainty that the other 29 teams would have offered Sidney Crosby a max contract if he went RFA in the summer of 2008. Does that mean, based on the NHL’s rationale - with which the arbitrator apparently agreed, Crosby and the Penguins are both equally guilty of cap circumvention since they signed Crosby for less than his market worth in an effort to “artificially” create more cap room for the Penguins to fill out their roster?

Are teams guilty of circumventing the salary cap when they send a waiver-ineligible player on an ELC to the AHL 30 times in a season to avoid having their full salary count against the cap? Sure, that team might have followed the letter of the CBA by moving a player between the AHL and NHL 50+ times in a season, as they have that right under the current waiver system., but why did they do it? I think it’s reasonable to suggest they did so with the intention of reducing their cap hit, keeping them below an upper limit they would have otherwise exceeded. Is this not somewhat analogous to the NHL’s position with Kovalchuk? That they followed the letter of the law, but they did so while trying to game/circumvent the upper limit of the Salary Cap?

What other moves affecting "competitive balance" could be looked at as circumvention in this way? Does the Malakhov trade count as an "artificial" reduction meant to circumvent the Upper Limit?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Art of Negotiation

Last summer, I wrote a brief post mildly lamenting a small overpay I felt the Oilers made with Jason Strudwick, and instead of re-posting the thing I've chosen to save a bit of time by providing a link here.

I guess I just don't understand this sort of deal. I'm not sure why management gives a raise to this type of player. Was it REALLY necessary to give Strudwick a $25,000 raise to retain his services for next season? I'm not in the Oilers room, or Strudwick's agent, but I have a hard time seeing which other NHL team would have even given him a one-way contract, nevermind a raise to $725,000. He played the 10th most TOI per game among Edmonton defencemen last season. Admittedly, one could make an argument that he was more like 8th in ATOI, since the Johnson/Staois and Whitney/Visnovsky pairings were never on the team at the same time. Even given that, why did the 8th defenceman on the worst team in the league deserve a raise?

Maybe I'm way off in assuming the Oilers could have signed Strudwick for $500,000 as a UFA, or signed Jacques for $550,000 and Deslauriers for $700,000 on one-way deals if they had declined to qualify both players and looked to re-sign them as UFA's. Or used their leverage with Dubnyk to get him signed for $700,000, given that he had no guarantee of a one way contract, Khabibulin and Deslauriers (in this hypothetical) ahead of him on one-way deals, and isn't a stone cold lock to get picked up on waivers this fall. But that represents a real savings of $690,000, and it seems to me that money that could be better used than giving end of the roster players slight overpays that don't seem particularly likely to generate enough goodwill to influence potential future contract negotiations. Better used for things like signing a couple college free agents, hiring more scouts, signing higher quality AHL veterans, or incremental money that could be used to sign a UFA F or D this summer for 2.2 mil instead of 1.5 mil, with an eye towards getting a better quality player that can be flipped for a 2nd at the deadline.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Creating Your Own Problem & The Return Of The Three Headed Monster?

It sounds like the Oilers have come to terms on a two year deal with goaltender Devan Dubnyk, on a one way deal with a cap hit around $800,000 per season. IF the Oilers have decided Dubnyk is their guy, a two year deal is not unreasonable since it can potentially help the Oilers avoid a Group VI free agency with Dubnyk in the event he doesn't play enough games this season (like Schneider in VAN). That said, there are two problems with the deal in my opinion: the yearly amount, and the timing of this deal.

The main problem here is you've created a favorable comparable in arbitration for Deslauriers. If I'm JDD's agent, I don't think I need to work very hard to show that (a) Edmonton thinks Deslauriers is better, since they gave him the majority of starts last year after Khabibulin went down and (b) Deslauriers had a better performance last season than Dubnyk, by whatever measure you want to use (Wins, starts, SV%, SO) in the best environment possible for a direct comparison - the same team. His agent has another decent comparable in the aforementioned Schneider, a goalie with 10 career starts that was given a one way deal at $900,000 for the 2010/11 season.

The other problem I have with this deal is that $0.8 million is more than the Oilers probably should have needed to spend to get Dubnyk under contract for two seasons. Dubnyk and his agent have surely seen the market - there are a lot of goalies available for nothing. Yes, it's possible he could be claimed on waivers this fall if EDM were to send him down, but it's not a certainty. You'd think management would have been able to leverage that uncertainty to get Dubnyk to take a lower wage than $800,000 for the certainty of a one way deal, but perhaps his wage suggests that both parties feel his value around the league is higher than I imagine it to be?

As noted at the fantastic CopperNBlue, it's not impossible that the arbitrator listens to one of the strangers hearings imaginable, in that the Oilers might be arguing for a higher award so they'll be able to walk away, while Deslauriers seeks an award just below the amount required for Edmonton to have walk-away rights. CopperNBlue suggests that somewhere around $1.3 million is the line above which the Oilers could theoretically walk away from Deslauriers, and I, more or less, agree. If anything, I think the magic number might be more like $1.4 million. That would be right around the salary of another potential comparable, Jonas Gustavsson. So, if Deslauriers is awarded a salary above the walk away point, the Oilers might be able to get out of this problem unscathed, but it would seem to be an unintentional "victory" - if the Oilers were worried about this possibility, you'd think they'd have either (a) not qualified Deslauriers, and tried to sign him as a UFA afterwards if they wanted him back, on their own terms or (b) waited to sign Dubnyk until they find out exactly what happens with Deslauriers.

One reason that many suggested as a possible rational for the decision to not qualify Potulny was the unwillingness to get stuck with an arbitration award that was perceived to be worth more than Potulny could negotiate on the open market. I have no idea if that's why the Oilers decided against qualifying Potulny (and perhaps Pouliot), but if that was part of their reasoning, I don't see why they wouldn't have extended that reasoning to include Deslauriers, and chosen not to qualify him either. Presumably the Oilers knew two weeks ago that Dubnyk was in their future plans, there is/was no reason to get stuck with a ~ $1.1 million contract for a goalie you don't really want when you can just sign a comparable replacement on the UFA market for $0.6 million if you develop a need for another goaltender.

So, it wouldn't be terribly shocking, if after Deslauriers' arbitration hearing in a couple of weeks, the Oilers have the following three goalies on one way contracts:

Khabibulin - 3.75 mil
Dubnyk - 0.8 mil
Deslauriers - 1.1 mil

Thursday, June 24, 2010

2010 Draft Top 40: 18-40

18) Etem
19) Pysyk
20) Howden
21) Schwartz
22) Sheahan
23) Pitlick
24) Merrill
25) Weal
26) McIlrath
27) Tinordi
28) Nelson
29) Coyle
30) Toffoli
31) McFarland
32) Faulk
33) Bennett
34) McKegg
35) Galiev
36) Pickard
37) Petrovic
38) Kabanov
39) Spooner
40) Marincin

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

2010 Draft Top 40: 11- 17

I never mentioned why I put an * beside both Johansen and Niederreiter in the 3-10 list, so I'll mention here that the * refers to a player with a "late birthday" (in this year's draft, those born between July 1st, 1992 and Sept 15th, 1992), who in my opinion can carry a bit of extra value over a roughly equivalent prospect that doesn't have a late birthday, since the team can theoretically have that player play his 20 year old season in the AHL while controlling his rights for 7 years before he hits UFA status, while a player with an "early birthday" (a first year eligible player born before July 1, 1992) would be down to 6 years of controlled rights before hitting UFA. This doesn't matter too much earlier in the draft, when you might project a player to be ready for the NHL less than 3 years after the draft, but for the longer term prospects, the extra year down the line can't hurt.

2010 rankings: 11-17

11) Jeff Skinner - There's a lot there, hard to believe THN has him at 25 OV while RLR has him as the 5th best F and ISS at 9 OV; that's a lot of variation for a guy that early that plays in the OHL, you'd expect that more from a Russian, for example. Skating would appear to be a concern, but that's an awful lot of production to ignore once you get past pick 10 or so, IMO.

12) Jack Campbell - I agree with YKOil, this goalie appears to be a better prospect than the top goalies the past couple seasons. I hesitate a bit having him even this high, but I think most of the "sure things" are gone by this point already; he's probably worth the risk and time invested in a goalie at this point.

13) Derek Forbort - He kind of reminds me of Oliver Ekman-Larsson when I read about him, not sure how accurate that is having never seen either player pre-draft. Maybe OEL's ceiling was seen to be higher in his draft, although, I have read Redline suggesting that Forbort might have the highest potential of any D in the draft.

14) Evgeny Kuznetsov - really like the sound of this player, I don't actually expect him to go this high.

15) Alex Burmistrov - It's one thing to expect a player to put on 10-15 lbs post draft. 30 lbs is a different story.

16) Nick Bjugstad* - This is a projection pick, but there's a lot of potential to project. Bjugstad is a late birthday, July 17, 1992, meaning he won't be a UFA until the summer of 2020 instead of 2019 like the majority of his draft class, so a team can be patient with him, leave him in college for 3 years, and see what develops.

17) Austin Watson - This is another projection pick, it really depends how much you take from his time in Peterborough after the move from Windsor. I like the sounds of the player, but am a bit hesitant because, while 20 pts in 10 games is great (22 pts. in 14 games including playoffs), it's a pretty small sample size.

The rest of the top 40 will come in one grouping, I think it's a bit muddy beyond this point. That makes it sound like I think there's a notable difference between 17 and 18, which I guess isn't really the case, but I do think there's a better case for Watson to go nearer the front of this group than the players who will follow him.

Monday, June 21, 2010

2010 Draft Top 40: 3-10

It seems like a strange second tier, roughly 9 players deep, this season, in that each guy has a question mark or two, but in this group I think you could make some kind of argument for any of these guys to be picked as high as 3. Having said that, certain guys appear likely to be selected higher (Gudbranson, Gormley, Fowler) than others (Granlund, Tarasenko, Connolly).

Fair warning: every year I underrate D and G relative to F, in terms of where they are actually drafted, because I’m of the opinion that forwards are generally better value from the draft than defence or goaltending.

2010 rankings: 3-10

3) Mikael Granlund – I'm a total sucker for hockey sense, and I probably overrate small players, but what a player!

4) Vladimir Tarasenko – Doesn't seem like an awful lot to dislike about this player. I don't necessarily think any of the three forwards grouped here will go top 5, but wouldn't be shocked if any did; I think they represent good value if they are still kicking around at 10.

5) Brett Connolly – I think this ranking is too high, but I'm largely ignoring the "injury factor" here, with the caveat that if there are injury concerns he drops. He's only rated five-ish with a clean bill of health, and I'm not sure if that outlook is grounded in reality.

6) Brandon Gormley – As mentioned earlier, I generally rate D and G lower than most, but even given that I'm of the opinion that the D are a little bit overrated this season. That said, the consensus group (if Gormley, Fowler, and Gudbranson are the consensus top 3 D) do seem to have less "bust potential" from what I've read than the 3 forwards I've rated ahead of them, but I'm not sure their upside is high enough to justify passing on potential star forwards.

7) Cam Fowler – love the sound of this player, but do get a bit worried about the reported lack of willingness to battle physically. I'm fine with that if it's because he's positionally sound and doesn't really need to, but if he "plays scared", maybe it's a reasonable concern?

8) Nino Niederreiter*
9) Ryan Johansen* - I grouped these two together because I'm not really sure how to break them apart. I gave the tiebreaker to Niederreiter, I think largely because he came less out of nowhere than Johansen.

10) Eric Gudbranson – Everything I read about him makes it sound like he's a pretty good bet to be a solid NHL D, but IF that's his upside, I don't know that I like passing on potential top 2 line F's to select him. I kind of don't like having him even this high, but I think he's too consistently highly thought of in the various rankings for me to feel comfortable dropping him much past this, especially when coupled with the mono he suffered from this season, which could be a mitigating factor in his play this year vs. pre-season expectations.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

2010 Draft Top 40: 1-2

This has been talked to death around the various Oilers blogs, so I'm not gonna continue with an overly long post here. But to start my top 40, I might as well post a couple Hall/Seguin thoughts, as these two players seem to constitute the first tier of talent in the 2010 draft.

Taylor Hall was the favorite to go #1 overall at the start of this season, and is still the player favoured by most scouting agencies. He has a fierce determination to win puck battles. He is a fantastic skater, fun to watch, and often described as "dynamic" and "explosive". I don't know how much weight I put into a player being "clutch", but Hall is the kind of guy who might convert skeptics. He certainly hasn't had any trouble producing in "big games" so far in his career. Taylor has the reputation of being a better goal scorer, though in fact Seguin scored more goals this past season. I suppose there might be some concerns that the player has stagnated, but I'm not sure how well founded they are given the increase in his offensive production, season over season. His goalscoring certainly hasn't increased, it has been more or less flat over his 3 OHL seasons, but his assist totals have steadily risen. Hall is sometimes knocked in terms of hockey sense, relative to Seguin, but then again I would guess that pretty good hockey sense would be a needed for a player to be able to lead a league like the OHL in assists. Some observers suggest that there is a nagging question regarding Hall's projected long-term health, given his (reckless?) style of play. I'm not sure exactly how much one should worry about that, but I do agree it's something to consider.

Seguin was slated to be a first rounder in 2010 draft, at this time last year, but he has climbed the charts considerably since. Most accounts suggest a cerebral player with great hockey IQ, capable of making the players around him better. He differs from Hall in that Seguin is seen to be more calculating and methodical in assessing a given play than Hall. That is, Seguin prefers to wait for an opening while Hall tries to create the opening. I have some reservations about Seguin's huge offensive spike this season. I certainly wouldn't suggest that Seguin's season is simply the product of an unsustainable shooting percentage spike, but he did increase from 21 to 47 goals, and as I have no shot data I don't think it unreasonable to at least wonder what's going on. Seguin is supposed to be the better playmaker, though in fact Hall had more assists. However, that may not be too surprising given that Windsor scored 86 more goals than Plymouth this past season.

Choosing between these two players is probably more difficult than the decision at #1 most years, and is interesting because there are so many different ways to compare these players. Center vs. Wing (although both have played a bit of both)? Upside vs. Established level of Talent? 3 years junior vs. 2 years junior?

Personally, all else equal, I generally prefer a center over a wing, and the player with better hockey sense, which would appear to be Seguin. But with Hall, I think there's simply too much proven to ignore. Seguin may end up the better player, but he may not, and the general consensus seems to be that Hall's downside is higher than Seguin's.

1) Taylor Hall
2) Tyler Seguin

That said, if the Oilers go with Seguin, I think the pick is defensible. If the Oilers pass on Hall, they must see one heck of a player in Seguin. I don't know that either one is well clear of the other, so given the right offer, moving down could be reasonable even if you don't get the guy at the top of your list, or if you aren't really sure which guy heads your list. I do however think there's probably a slight separation here, if not a major one. Of course, since BOS probably also has them rated fairly evenly, it wouldn't surprise me if they aren't terribly willing to pay much to secure whichever player they prefer. Additionally, Hall is the easier pick to sell, and while that's not necessarily a good reason to pick him, if all else is equal, you have to use something to break the tie.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Why the Oilers should trade up for a late first round pick

In my mind, there could be a couple of motivations for the Oilers management in moving up from #31 at this year's draft.

First of all, the most obvious motivation would be selecting a player they are concerned might get snapped up in the late first round picks, before they start day 2 of the draft on Saturday. They do have a bunch of picks beyond the 2nd round if they want to move up to secure such a player. This is just a guess, but it wouldn't surprise me if the teams that trade up in any given draft are the teams that have extra picks, which the Oilers do.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Trading for Spezza?

Last summer, I was somewhat opposed to the rumored Heatley deal, though not as strenuously as some. This season, all considered, I think I would tend to be more in favour of a similar deal involving Spezza.

If the trade package rumoured in the Heatley deal summer were enough to land Spezza this summer, the Oilers would be giving up a little bit less value now than they would have been then. Yes, Penner had a very good season last year, but he's only got 2 years left instead of 3. Cogliano's ELC is over(and he didn't appear to take any huge steps forward in development), leaving him an RFA under team control for 4 years instead of 5. Smid is signed for one more year, after which he'll be a UFA in the summer of 2013. In exchange, the Oilers would get a 27 year old C at a 7.0 mil cap hit vs. a 28 year old LW at a 7.5 mil cap hit, both signed for 5 years at the time of the deal. Pretty similar players that way, but I like watching Spezza more. Very informed and educational, I know.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Is It Too Late In The Rebuild Cycle To Draft For Defence?

It has become apparent to many Oilers fans that there is a glaring need for defencemen within the Oilers organization. Some have suggested that EDM might want to use their two 2nd round picks (31 and 48 OV) to shore up that area of need, or even trade up into another first round slot, maybe 10-15 OV. Myself, I'm opposed to that strategy for the Oilers, even though I agree that defence (and goal, I suppose) is the area most lacking depth in Edmonton's prospect pool. I don't think the Oilers should necessarily be targeting defenders with their 2nd round picks, or 1st round pick next year - in fact, I think they should continue to select forwards because I think drafting forwards, at this point, fits better with the "cluster" of upcoming talent in Edmonton's organization.

It's extremely likely that, by the time any D drafted in 2010 and 2011 are ready to be positive contributors to the top 4 of the Oilers, all EDM's top F prospects will be finished their ELC. I'm not necessarily one to jump on the bandwagon of "assemble your team in the mold of the current Stanley Cup winner/finalist", but given EDM's current organizational strengths and weaknesses, if they are planning to follow one of PHI or CHI's defence building strategies, I think it would make more sense to go the PHI route. Of the Flyers top 4 D, none were drafted by PHI. Coburn, Carle, and Pronger came via trade, as did Timonen (though he was a trade-and-sign just before July 1st as a pending UFA).

There is no real way for EDM to follow the CHI strategy, because Chicago's most significant drafted defencemen, Keith and Seabrook, were drafted 3 or 4 years before they drafted two of the key components in their top 6 forwards (Keith 02, Seabrook 03 vs. Toews 06, Kane 07), which allowed the forwards and the defence to mature at the same time. The Oilers aren't as likely to have that luxury, since players like McIlrath and Pysyk might not be positive contributors to the top 4 D for 4 or 5 years, by which time (hopefully) players like Hall, Paajarvi, and Eberle will cost much more than their combined cap hits for the next 3 seasons.

The advantage of continuing to draft forwards is that they, generally, arrive quicker than do defencemen, and I think that is somewhat important if Edmonton is going to try to compete at some point in the near future. They already have two of the top four defencemen they'll need to compete relatively soon, in Gilbert and Whitney. I think it would be easier to trade for the other defencemen they need, and continue to draft forwards, hoping that the forwards you draft now can fill F lineup spots earlier as necessary going forward. If the Oilers really want to use a 2nd round draft pick on a defenceman, it might make more sense to sign a guy like Hjalmarsson to an offer sheet at ~3.1 mil, and fill one of their D slots that way.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Detroit's Development - Defence

In reading comments and posts throughout the Oilogosphere, one recurring theme I have seen over the last year or so has been shifting to the "Detroit model" of developing prospects slowly. A recent, brief exchange at Lowetide's has inspired me to investigate a bit further into Detroit's reputation as a team that brings their prospects along slowly. I wanted to see if that is indeed an accurate assessment of their development model, so I have examined Detroit's handling of their prospects (in this post, their defense), and in a future post will compare it with Edmonton's, to see if the prospects have been handled differently, or if they have instead simply turned out differently.

LT wrote:
... One of the things the Detroit model shows us is the value of developing defensemen by sundial.

I replied:
I don't know about that LT. Can't we just as easily argue they've had some late developing prospects and a pretty good D on a pretty good team, making it tough for youngsters to crack? As opposed to some conscious choice to hold players in the minors longer than some might deem necessary for development purposes?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Backstrom an Offer Sheet Candidate?

A couple days ago I had suggested, at MC79's site, that a team (not necessarily the Oilers but some team) might be interested in signing Capitals C Niklas Backstrom to an offer sheet. I had been thinking that Washington would be pinched to the cap and might not be able/willing to keep Backstrom at a price of, say, $8,500,000. I can't speak towards their willingness to spend that much on Backstrom, but a quick look at their cap position for next season suggests they could indeed fit Backstrom at that price, but probably not while keeping everyone they'd like. WSH currently has 36.7 mil committed for the 2010/11 season, on 7 F, 5 D, and Varlamov. So, including Backstrom at 8.5 mil, they would have 45.2 mil committed while still needing to sign 4 F, 2 D, and a G, with notable unsigned players including Fleischman, Fehr, Morrisonn, Jurcina, and Schultz. So they can keep Backstrom, but it would cost them a chunk of that depth (barring other moves they might like to make). So, I don't think the Capitals are as vulnerable to an offer sheet as I had thought before really examining their cap situation.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bring Paajarvi over to end the season?

There has been a lot of talk of bringing Eberle up for 9 games or less this season, but I think it would be good idea, if Paajarvi is interested, to sign Paajarvi and bring him over to the NHL/AHL for the remainder of this season. Paajarvi's season could potentially be over this weekend; Timra needs to win its last game to qualify for the playoffs. Provided you can play him in the NHL or AHL without exposing him to waivers, it seems like a no lose proposition to bring him over for the rest of the season if Timra's season is over shortly.

Article 13 of the CBA is the section discussing Waivers. 13.1 says that there are three kinds of waivers: Regular Waivers, Re-Entry Waivers, and Unconditional Waivers. 13.4 of the CBA has a chart explaining which young players are exempt from Regular and Re-Entry waivers. If Paajarvi (and Lander, for that matter) were to sign NHL contracts tomorrow, then according to this article they should be ineligible for waivers. However, perhaps contradicting this is Article 13.23, which says, more or less, that players who have played in Europe during the NHL season must clear Waivers before they are eligible to play in the NHL, where "NHL" is specifically written (not NHL or AHL). This section does not distinguish between the three waiver types, it merely refers to "Waivers". I think it's reasonable to guess that they mean "Regular" and/or "Re-Entry" waivers in this context, since "Unconditional" waivers seems to be a formal step taken only before completing a buyout of a player's Standard Players Contract, but it is just a guess.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tyler Seguin's Shooting Percentage

In July of 2009 I wrote a post musing about Magnus Paajarvi Svensson's shooting percentage. Paajarvi recorded a 6.8% shooting percentage (SH%) in 2008/9*, and I hypothesized that the scouting reports suggesting he had "an inability to finish" could have been mistaking "bad luck" for such an inability; it was possible that Paajarvi's true talent for finishing was higher than it appeared based on last season's SH%. This season's shooting percentage* of 7.8% isn't suggestive of Paajarvi having a much better true talent SH% than his 6.8% from the previous season (although it doesn't conclusively disprove the theory either), but quickly revisiting this topic for Paajarvi allows me to point out an opposite possibility for potential Oiler Tyler Seguin.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Trade Deadline 2010 - Visnovsky and Staios

"Analysis" of the Grebeshkov trade and the Jones waiver claim are found here.

(3) To ANA: Visnovsky
To EDM: Whitney, 2010 6th round pick (ANA?)

Never let it be said that the Oilogosphere is overrun by like-minded group-think; there are those both satisfied and unsatisfied with the deal. Myself, I don't really understand the trade. I can see some advantages to it, but I see more disadvantages; I wouldn't have made the deal at this point unless there is some reason to believe Visnovsky is unmovable this summer. And even that assumes I'm set on moving Visnovsky, which I'm not, although I can see the arguments for such a position.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Trade Deadline 2010 - Grebeshkov and Jones

(1) To NSH: Grebeshkov
To EDM: 2010 2nd round pick (NSH)

This is a bit of an odd deal to me, in that I'm surprised Grebeshkov could only garner a 2nd on the trade market. Like MC79, I'm not as opposed to this trade as many seem to be. I don't think the value is actually that far from Grebeshkov's "true" worth (if such a thing exists), I'm simply surprised someone wasn't willing to pay more in the (sometimes) seemingly irrational NHL trade market.

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I'm coming around on the deal because I think it is beneficial for the Oilers in potentially unintentional ways. First of all, I don't precisely know how much it will/would cost to buy a replacement for Grebeshkov on the UFA market , but I don't think it would be sizeably more than Grebeshkov's 3.15 mil QO. For that matter, maybe they'll get lucky and find a Jan Hejda? Secondly, dumping Grebeshkov for a pick hurts the current team which should help the team finish last, ensuring a first or second overall draft pick. They probably will finish last anyways, but the marginal drop in expected points must have some indeterminate value to the Oilers. Lastly, replacing Grebeshkov with Peckham for the rest of the season saves the team ~$530,000, which is obviously valuable in and of itself. But, instead of depositing the money in the bank, the savings could be spent on the signing bonuses for a couple additional NCAA UFA prospects. This seems like a reasonable use of money for a rebuilding team. Alternatively, the money could be spent on a couple other high priced AHL veteran talents to help the AHL team improve next season, if you think that improves the development of all your AHL prospects enough to be worth the increased spending.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Preliminary Look at the 2010/11 Oilers Roster: An Overview and the Defence

One of the benefits to managing a rebuilding team is the lack of immediate expectations. If the team performs poorly, one can suggest that was the plan. If the team surprises and makes the playoffs, even better. Talk about a no-lose situation!

I've mentioned earlier that the Oilers should clear as much cap room as possible in any case. Tambellini has two potential avenues before him. One, he can plan for a longer term rebuild, which would involve positioning the team for another* top 3 pick in the 2011 draft. Two, he can attempt to "reload" and make the playoffs next season. Both plans would likely involve shedding a ton of payroll, if possible, this summer. I like the second alternative, because I think it's possible for the Oilers to make the playoffs, but also because once you've cleared as much salary as possible, if it looks like the UFA markets won't allow you to make the moves you need to be a playoff team, you can always just go with what you've got and say that you're rebuilding.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Preliminary Look at the 2010/11 Oilers Roster: Goaltending

I will be assuming the Oilers are trying to make the playoffs next season in projecting their roster. This may be an erroneous assumption, but it's what I would be doing if I were in charge, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I think it's attainable. With a few solid moves I think the Oilers are at least in the hunt for a playoff spot. Secondly, I'm not convinced the Oilers are likely to be as bad next year as they have been this year. "Tanking" makes more sense when you are a projecting to be an awful team, worse than I would guess the Oilers are projecting to be next season anyways. Admittedly, that prediction for the team might change, depending on the deadline and early offseason moves. If the team can't get any UFA's to sign, except on longer term and higher priced contracts, maybe it makes sense to use what you have and let things play out. But, at this point, I don't think the Oilers should be planning to be awful again next season.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Power of the One Way Contract

One approach the Oilers might take to determine whether they can expect to qualify for the playoffs next season would be to slot their players into the hypothetical positions they would fill on a true playoff team. Take a realistic view of their team and players, and designate those players into the role they might fill on a current Cup contender - not a borderline playoff team. Don't base the assignment upon vastly improved projections, or how good the player was 5 years ago. I plan to go through the roster in this fashion over the Olympic break, to see if it's reasonable to expect the Oilers can become a playoff team for next season.

For now, I want to examine the end of the roster in terms of forwards. Just one man's opinion, but I think if your 12-14 forwards are three of Potulny, Stortini, Stone, Pouliot, you aren't eliminating yourself from playoff contention. As such, if they can be signed for reasonable, or better yet cheap, terms, I don't think it would be a horrible plan to lock a couple of these players up for 2 or 3 years. This idea isn't new, in fact YK Oil wrote about this general idea in a fantastic article about a year ago*. Maybe there's an argument to be made that the Oilers would be better off to clear out the one-way contracts and let players battle for the spots. Or that they should bring in some veterans for at least one of those roster spots. I think it depends how much money the above players are willing to sign for (Stortini excepted, as he's already under contract for a 700K cap hit next season).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Kovalchuk’s Next Contract and the Max Salary Debate

There has been considerable discussion regarding what exactly might have led to Kovalchuk turning down Atlanta's 12 year, $101 million offer. Some have hypothesized that he was more than willing to play in Atlanta, but not without making as much as he could over as long a term as possible to compensate for the team's lack of projected near-future competitiveness. Others have suggested that he simply didn't want to play for the Thrashers any longer, but also didn't want to unnecessarily burn any bridges. Instead, he simply asked for a number Atlanta wouldn’t pay so he could turn around and say “I wanted to stay, but we couldn’t make the money work." I like option "C", the “I’d like to play for a winner, but I’d also like to make as much money as possible so why sign with ATL now before I hear whatever other options might exist. I can probably go back to ATL if I don’t receive a better offer from some other team, and if some team in the KHL throws $15 million per year at me I wouldn't mind living back home either.”, but then again I’m not a mind reader.

I'm not sure what I'd be willing to pay Kovalchuk if I were an NHL GM, but I'll suggest that Kovalchuk* would not necessarily be overpaid if he signs for more money than Crosby or Ovechkin. To be fair, I’m not really arguing that Kovalchuk is worth $11 million per season (maybe he is, maybe he isn’t, but I’m ignoring that discussion here), but more for the general case that a player can, in theory, be paid more than Crosby or Ovechkin and still be worth his money. Being worth that money would only require that Crosby and Ovechkin are underpaid at their current salaries. My guess would be that they are. That said, how much are they “really” worth? Is Ovechkin worth $13 million/season? $15 million/season? Even more?

Elliot Friedman, in discussing Atlanta's options when it came to Kovalchuk**, wrote " Plus, it’s borderline impossible to win with one guy taking that much of your space." This bit of conventional wisdom has been circulating for awhile now, probably since the lockout, and I'm not really sure why. In fact, I think the suggestion is kind of bizarre when you consider how easily it can be dismissed with a simple look to the top of the NHL's standings. The 1st overall team in the NHL, the Washington Capitals, have the highest cap hit player (Ovechkin at ~9.6 mil) in the league. True, he's isn't making the max, but the Capitals aren't spending to the cap either. If Ovechkin were paid 2 mil more per season to bring him up to the current maximum salary, the Caps still wouldn't be over the cap. If Friedman meant Kovalchuk specifically when he wrote "one guy", maybe that's fair enough, but don't the 2009/10 Capitals "prove" that a team can be competitive paying one player the 20% maximum?

I don't know exactly how to quantify the worth of the superstar class player, if such a thing is possible. I also don't know how many players in the league (if any) may be worth the 20% max. All this Kovalchuk contract talk did lead me to wonder about the following questions, none of which I see any easy answers for.

What compensation is appropriate for a star player?

How much do they have to be paid before it's too much?

What factors, besides on ice production, affect "reasonable compensation" for a star player?

Can a truly elite forward be overpaid in this CBA?

*Kovalchuk is probably a poor example because I don’t think he’s as good a player as Crosby, Ovechkin, or Malkin at making his linemates better.

** This article was, I believe, written just before Kovalchuk was traded to the New Jersey Devils.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Waivers prior to the Olympic break


I don't expect to see the Oilers to make much use of the waiver wire before the Olympic break, but I think it would be an interesting approach for the Oilers nearing the deadline. Maybe they can get ahead of the trading and move a player through waivers while not having to pay them over the Olympic break.

The two players I'm looking at are Staios and Moreau. Obviously if Tambellini has heard that there's a positive trade market for either of these players, waiving them doesn't make much sense, so I'm assuming there may not appear to be much interest in either player. I'm not sure either player would be claimed on waivers, but I think it's worth it to find out. Who knows, maybe there's a team out there that would claim one of them, but are just trying to get as good a deal as possible and don't think EDM would waive one/either of them. If EDM management is concerned about public perception, maybe it wouldn't hurt to send the message to fans that the Oilers are serious about remaking the roster, by waivers if necessary.


Depending how bad the trade offers are for Moreau, re-entry waivers might be a decent option. I'm not sure it makes as much sense with Staios, but with Moreau perhaps re-entry waivers, prior to this season's deadline, makes sense when compared to buying the player out this summer or keeping him for next season?

It would probably make more cap and financial sense to lose him on re-entry waivers than with a buy-out. It would cost an extra 333K in cap room next season, vs. a buyout, but the cost in actual cash is lower and there would be no 667K buyout cap charge in 11/12. That assumes that someone would claim him on re-entry, but if they don't you could always buy him out come the summer.

Before it gets to that stage, Edmonton will likely consider the option brought up by Darren Dreger of TSN, but they should be considering the options in their back pocket (buyout, re-entry waivers in the summer)

I would guess, financially, it probably makes sense to deal Moreau and a 3rd for Exelby and a 7th; the value of moving 4 rounds down in the draft is likely not worth keeping Moreau for another season if he can be replaced with a player making 700K for 10/11. But it may be a tough sell for the fans if they are giving up a third round pick, roughly 61st-65th, while a big chunk of fans are antsy for a rebuild. If the best offer they receive for Moreau were something like Moreau and 2nd/3rd for Exelby and 7th, I'm not sure the Oilers would make that deal even if it makes marginal financial sense, preferring to keep the pick for drafting. In that case, the decision to buyout, place on re-entry waivers, or keep Moreau for another season becomes more relevant.

* - Does anyone have a link to an article that monetizes the value of each draft pick?

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Oilers at the Deadline: Part 4 - The Rest of the Roster/Summary

In parts 1, 2 and 3, I assessed the majority of the Oilers roster with respect to classes of "tradeability" for the upcoming deadline. This brief, final section will feature those who are not easily tradeable (for one reason or another) along with players who have little trade value coupled with a low cap hit. I'd be pretty surprised to see the Oilers move any of them.

Horcoff and Khabibulin are players that probably generate no interest on the trade market, due to their cap hits and health. Hemsky is out for the year and therefore unlikely to be of interest at the deadline.

The remaining roster players (Stone, Potulny, Pouliot, Jacques, Deslauriers, Dubnyk) group fairly similarly, in that none of them seem like players you'd really expect to see a contender pick up, and aren't the kind of guy you expect to see moved at the deadline. I suppose it's possible that one of them might be a body moving back in some sort of deal, but they are unlikely candidates for a move since they are probably more valuable to the Oilers going forward than they would be to an aspiring Cup contender at the deadline.

To summarize all 4 parts, it would be in the best interests of the Oilers to discover whether they can re-sign Pisani and Comrie to reasonable extensions. If they can, great, if not move them at the deadline along with whichever of Moreau, Souray, O'Sullivan, Staios, and Nilsson prove movable. Moving all 7 would be a difficult, if not impossible, task (as MC suggests here), even if it were management's goal, but doing so would open up ~17.5 mil in cap room heading into the summer.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Oilers at the Deadline: Part 3 - Value Players of Interest Around the League

The players mentioned in Part 3 are those I would expect other teams may call about, but aren't players EDM really needs to actively shop in an effort to clear cap room at the moment. I think one could make a reasonable argument that O'Sullivan fits in this group. I think it's more clear that these players are either more worth their money, or are younger and therefore have a bit more potential for the Oilers to extract value from going forward.


Penner and Visnovsky are players that Edmonton should hold onto for next season if they plan on competing for a playoff spot. They are positive difference makers producing, at the least, a reasonable contribution to the team given their salary/cap hit. I don't think it's clear that either could be replaced, bang for buck, on the UFA market next summer, and the Oilers clearly don't have an internal replacements at the ready. That said, they are close enough to UFA, and have enough potential warts that if the price were right, moving them at the deadline might be advantageous long term, even if it hurts the team next season.


These 4 players may or may not be considered core players by the Oilers brass, but I'm not sure any of them are likely to carry higher value now than they will in the summer. I wouldn't be surprised if the Oilers received calls about all these players somewhat regularly, and one wouldn't be terribly surpried to find they are considered part of the core. Even if they aren't, you don't ordinarily see need-based trades made between clubs at this point in the season. If the Oilers are planning to move Cogliano for a D, or a bigger forward, or as part of a package, it would seem more likely to be consummated in the summer than now, IMO.


I'm tempted to group these players with the 4 forwards above; I'm probably oversorting by separating these two defencemen. I would guess it's a bit more likely that one of them/they move vs. the 4 players above IF the team acquiring them is looking to add a D for a playoff run. Generally veterans, both at F and D, are more likely to move as deadline deals, but these two D are a bit older and more seasoned than those listed above, and may hold more appeal to a team both looking at bolstering this year's D for a cup run AND their D going forward.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Oilers at the Deadline: Part 2 - Moving Contracts

Many Oilers fans seem to be of the opinion that a 3 or 4 year rebuild is required for Edmonton to become a “true contender”. I don’t believe it has to take that long, generally agreeing with Lowetide's take. With the right moves at the deadline and this summer, Edmonton can reasonably expect to be in the playoff hunt next season with an eye towards continually improvement over the next 3-4 seasons. It remains to be seen which approach the Oilers will take; they generally seem to take a different route than I would were I in charge. For instance, I was a big proponent of completely rebuilding under the old CBA when the Oilers were locked in their seemingly endless series of 7th thru 10th finishes. I’m not a fan of a complete rebuild through youth in this CBA. As I have previously stated (how time flies!), I think it’s a strategy that cannot work as well as it did under the old CBA. Actually, I probably need some clarification here. A team forced to operate at the cap floor, with the liberalized free agency in the current CBA, may have a difficult time competing without some sort of old-CBA style rebuild, even though it won't be as effective as it would have been in the old CBA. A team that is spending at the cap ceiling has no reason to rebuild like that in the current CBA. It is unnecessary at best, and at worst a way for management to set low expectations and shrug away poor results for the next season or two. That isn't to say that it couldn't work, of course it can - just that it takes longer than I think is necessary for a team willing to spend to the cap.

I agree with the general consensus amongst fans of the Oilers that gaining cap space for this summer/next season is paramount. To do so would require moving a bunch of players, perhaps more than the Oilers will be able to move at the deadline. In addition, it’s probably an open question whether it makes more sense to move some of the following players now or in the summer. I would move all of these players now if I could; it's not worth the risk of being unable to move them later IMO.

Two questions Oilers management should consider asking themselves about each of their non-core players heading into the deadline are:

"Do I have an internal replacement ready for next season?"


"Can I reasonably expect to replace this player for similar money (or less) on the UFA market this summer?"

If the answer to either question is yes, this player should be traded before the deadline, should they prove tradeable.

To my mind, the players that qualify are:

Moreau (2.0)
Souray (5.4)
Staios (2.7)
O'Sullivan (2.9)
Nilsson (2.0)

Obviously the more you can get in return for each player, the better, and some of these players would seem to be worth more in trade than others. But I would prefer to have the cap room (15.0 mil) over the players. I don't expect the Oilers to move all five, along with Pisani and Comrie - I don't know that a team has ever moved out 7 players at the deadline. But a year with many teams in the race and few sellers is as good a year as any...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Oilers at the Deadline: Part 1 - Pending UFA's

Over the next week or so, I'll be sifting through the Oilers roster, explaining how I would approach the deadline if I were the Oilers management. I'll do so by grouping the players, and hopefully will cover most of the team in 3-5 groupings.

The first group will be the most traditional deadline group for NHL teams, the pending UFA's. The Oilers have 3 such players:

(1) Mike Comrie
(2) Fernando Pisani
(3) Jason Strudwick

Jason Strudwick will presumably have no value on the trade market, and as such is an unlikely candidate for a trade prior to the deadline.

Comrie and Pisani are both unrestricted this summer, and both could potentially be "value" signings for the Oilers if the team is trying to make the playoffs next season, as I would be if I were GM. Pisani in particular, as he isn't currently duplicated on the roster in the same way Comrie is. In trading either player, the Oilers would need to balance the potential return from a deadline trade vs. the potential value in extending the player at X dollars for Y years. Obviously there's no need to weigh those factors against each other if the player won't sign an extension, or has no trade value. But, if you can only get a 6th for each player at the deadline, and can get them signed for ~ 1mil each for a year or two, I'm not sure dumping them at the deadline would be the best move. With Comrie, it may depend on your other moves; you may not choose to keep Comrie if you are planning on keeping Nilsson, Cogliano, Gagner, bringing in Omark and Eberle, etc.

To summarize, I would certainly be on the phone to see what (if anything) would be available for each of the three players. I wouldn't expect to move Strudwick, and would expect to be able to move Pisani and Comrie. That said, I probably wouldn't move Comrie or Pisani if I could extend them at favorable terms AND wouldn't get much for them in a trade. Even if I ended up trading them, I suppose talking about an extension would give me a chance to let them know I'd be interested in re-signing them in the summer, at the right price.