Jim Matheson takes a look at the work that the Oilers have to get through during the off-season:
Ethan Moreau is on the clock, starting Tuesday. It may be the same story with Patrick O’Sullivan and Robert Nilsson.
National Hockey League teams have a two-week window from June 15-30 to buy out players, but the Edmonton Oilers aren’t going to rush into anything.
They will try to trade their captain first, just as they tried at the deadline in early March. A contending team may be interested in Moreau for a draft pick.
O’Sullivan and Nilsson, while 10 years younger, will almost surely be shopped first, as well, off their lukewarm stats last season, and with one year left on contracts that pay them $2.9 million and $2 million, respectively.
If trades can’t be worked out, Moreau would be bought out at two-thirds because he’s over 26; the other two at one-third.
I will believe that there’s a trade market for Ethan Moreau if and when I see it. The only teams I could plausibly see being willing to trade something for Moreau are those teams which were out of the race in 2009-10 and think that they’ll be in it next year. Otherwise, why not acquire Moreau a few months ago and get the bonus of an extra playoff run? I don’t see how there might be a market for him.
The pros and cons of buying out these guys have been kicked around ad nauseum. Here’s the thing though: it probably makes the least sense to buy out Moreau. He’s going to cost $1.75MM in cash next year with a $2MM cap hit. If the Oilers buy him out, they have to pay him $583K in 2010-11 and 2011-12; they’ll have to pay someone at least $500K to take his spot on the team as well, so you aren’t looking at very much in the way of cash savings – less than $100K. To get those savings, you have to start already cutting into your cap space for 2011-12. If he’s such a great guy who is good to have around and warrants being well treated, keep him around. Otherwise, send him to the minors.
O’Sullivan and Nilsson are somewhat different. They’re both young enough that they might have years that restore their value. I’m not exactly sure what the plan is for next year’s Oilers, whether they intend to compete or what, but buying out O’Sullivan and Nilsson costs about $800K in cap space for 2011-12. I’m not exactly sure what better options the Oilers have, or are likely to have, to eat those minutes this year. If they were to have rebound years, maybe the Oilers could move them for something at the deadline. If they were to flatline again, you can walk away from them at the end of the year with little lost and the cap space going forward being clean. I’m really not sure what the point of buying any of these guys out would be. Presumably then, it will happen.
Tambellini has to decide between Deslauriers and Dubnyk for the backup role to Nikolai Khabibulin. He’ll be trading one of the young goalies.
“I don’t want to go to camp with three goalies,” said Tambellini. “It’s not healthy doing that.”
I’m still thinking that the status of the qualifying offers for the goalies will have a lot to do with the outcome of the evidentiary hearing in Phoenix for Nikolai Khabibulin. I’ll be shocked if there’s a trade market for Deslauriers, who I assume will be the odd man out. If and when that happens, well, like I said when they traded Mathieu Garon:
here I think the trade looks terrible is if JDD stinks in the remaining games he plays this year and then doesn’t end up becoming the kind of NHL goalie that you’re willing to burn a shot at the playoffs on. I’m not particularly wild about JDD moving forward but the Oilers brass seems to be. If he plays well for the rest of the season, they can say that they got away with it. If he plays poorly the rest of the season but turns into a number one goalie down the road, they can make a more tenuous argument that it was worth it. If he doesn’t play well down the stretch and then never pans out…well, that’s going to be awfully tough to justify, in my opinion.
The Oilers’ solution to this problem in 2008-09 was to simply not start Deslauriers in any games. As far as I can tell, MacT started Roloson in every game that mattered after the trade went down. JDD played some low leverage minutes in a blowout and then started after the Oilers were eliminated. It’s tough to say, therefore, that he cost them a playoff berth, although if you buy into the physiological stuff that Doogie2K points to from time to time, there’s a case to be made. In any event, his career as an Oiler looks to me like it might hang on a finding that Khabibulin’s constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches was violated. Tambellini’s decision to risk two seasons on the guy turning into a number one goalie does not look particularly good.
Jacques is a question mark because of two back surgeries. When he’s banging into people, he’s a force, but he’s been hobbled the last couple of years, which has stunted his growth as an NHLer. “But he’s been training, doing the rehab. I’m hoping he’s OK,” said Tambellini.
The fascination with JF Jacques mystifies me. One of the things I’m looking for is to see whether the Oilers qualify him. If they do, they’re not serious about getting better. He’s a waste of time as a player. Let him go back and be the most dominant player in AHL history – he’s had a pretty long run of doing nothing in Edmonton. There are better uses of the roster spot.
Larry Brooks has a lengthy column today in which he discusses the NHLPA’s forthcoming decision on bumping the salary cap. The NHLPA has, in effect, a decision to make every year about where the salary cap should go. There is a 5% escalator that can be applied. The players hate paying escrow, so by avoiding the 5% escalator, they can limit the amount of escrow that they have to pay. Brooks writes:
Following a round of PA conference calls conducted during the week, a half-dozen player reps and engaged union members told Slap Shots that the outcome of the vote appears too close to call, though one veteran suggested he thought it remains more likely than not that the union will hold to precedent and enact the five-percent bump.
If the union votes it down, next season’s cap will all but certainly go down, too, a first for the league that is coming off a blockbuster playoffs. If the cap would increase approximately $2M to $58.8M including the bump, as Gary Bettman has previously suggested, it appears as if the cap would shrink to approximately $56M if the player reps become consumed with limiting escrow while missing the bigger picture.
I’d be inclined to vote against this if I was one of the thirty player representatives. Brooks paints a picture of the importance of the expanding cap to the large market teams but the flip side of that is that the players in small budget teams or on lousy teams are subsidizing the free spenders when they permit the cap to go up. Why does Shawn Horcoff, the Oilers’ rep, want Chicago to have an additional $2.8MM in salary cap room when Chicago is awesome and Edmonton is terrible? Even if he does want that, does he want to be taking money out of his pocket to pay for it?
Once you’ve got an agreement that you’re going to receive a fixed percentage of revenues, any mechanism that permits some teams to spend enough that you have to cough up money to make the owners whole is a terrible, terrible thing. The players would probably be better off with a cap at the expected midpoint – guys playing in Tampa and Florida wouldn’t be subsidizing the team that Chicago iced last year that way.
This is an issue that’s really only important to the guys who are UFA’s now – if you have a deal for next year, you’re just taking money out of your pocket. If you’re an RFA, you’re getting paid based on comparables. I took a look at the NHLPA’s list of player reps on Wikipedia and noticed that George Parros, Shawn Horcoff, Bryan Allen, Robyn Regehr, Erik Cole, Mike Commodore, Nick Shultz, Chris Phillips, Scott Hartnell, Shane Doan, Max Talbot, Andy McDonald, Vincent Lecavalier, Mike Komisarek and Brooks Laich all have deals for next year. That’s fifteen. Wikipedia’s list is going to be somewhat out of date – Chelios is listed as the Red Wings’ player representative – but there are 15 guys who, in between listening to competing arguments from their teammates, are also going to be keenly aware that increasing the salary cap will take money out of their pocket next year. Self interest is never a bad thing to bet on.