With Martin Gerber gone, the Oilers are down to three goalies. I’m kind of interested to see what they end up doing because I’m pretty sure that I know who’s going to be the odd man out – JDD. Devan Dubnyk going to the World Championships was a pretty significant tell, I think, as to which one the Oilers prefer. That’s a pretty plum assignment, I suspect that the Oilers had a fair amount of say in terms of who got it and when you pick the guy who was the backup over the guy who suffered behind the Oilers all year…well, it seems to me to say a lot. If the consensus is right, and the Oilers aren’t able to trade Deslauriers, the decision to sign him to a contract will basically amount to having paid $950K to have him at training camp. You can find AHL goalies for $100K or so. The Oilers will be paying him $950K on top of that. It’s not my money but $950K is $950K.
That’s a lot of money to blow for a chance to take a look at Deslauriers again in training camp. If the decision to go with Dubnyk was already made – and, to be honest, I would expect that the Oilers wouldn’t weight what happens in training camp too heavily. It’s simply too small of a sample, particularly in light of the pretty substantial body of work that the two of them have already produced for the Oilers’ examination.
This is a decision that I think should have been made earlier. The Oilers probably should have made it before they were required to qualify one of them. It’s a point I’ve made before about Tambellini specifically – he likes to assemble as much information as possible, seemingly without regard for the costs of doing so. Delaying in making decisions has costs. I can understand the difficulty created by Khabibulin’s uncertain status over the summer but, given where the Oilers in the success cycle and the fact that the goalie market is pretty obviously a buyer’s market these days, qualifying Deslauriers still strikes me as a pretty expensive decision.
If the Oilers are unable to find a market for him (assuming he’s the one who’s gone), he goes on waivers. I suspect he’ll clear waivers. Barring injury, that will probably be the last the Oilers see of him, as he’s an unrestricted free agent next summer. It would surprise me if he wanted to sign with the Oilers without first testing the market if this season establishes that Nikolai Khabibulin and Devan Dubnyk are ahead of him on the depth chart.
Steve Tambellini was on Tencer’s show tonight and kind of waffled on whether the Oilers are going to go with three goalies or not – I got the sense that it’s something that they haven’t ruled out. I suspect that he really wants to get something back for one of the goalies. This is not necessarily a bad trait on Tambellini’s part, particularly given the Oilers’ history of not extracting a ton of value when forced into an awkward position – Kevin Lowe, outside of the Comrie situation, basically had a policy of “Surrender if necessary and necessarily surrender” in these sorts of circumstance.
These gambles are expensive though, if you get them wrong. If Tambellini has misread the demand for Deslauriers’ services in the event that Deslauriers doesn’t make the team, that’s a $950K gamble (one that, IMO, had poor odds to begin with) lost. I’ve seen some suggestion though that the Oilers aren’t going to try and move Souray through recall waivers but, instead, have him play the season in the minors and then try and move him next summer, when there’s one year left on his contract. This is sort of a similar thing.
I have to say, I have considerable respect for them if they’ve come up with this, as it’s rather clever. If you assume that Souray would go on re-entry waivers now (and, presumably, would go again next season if you had to), it boils down to a gamble of $2.25MM. By putting him on re-entry waivers now, the Oilers lock in their loss at $4.5MM – half his salary for this year and next. By waiting until next summer, they might be able to reduce their loss to something less than $4.5MM.
Although they would have paid Souray all season to play in the minors, if they get something back with positive value like a draft pick, they will have reduce the amount of the loss by whatever the draft pick is worth. If they’re wrong, and nobody is willing to give up anything for him next year though or take him on waivers, they’re then sort of stuck in a position where re-entry waivers would seem to be the only route possible, at a cost to them of $2.25MM, leaving them with a total bill for not having Souray for two years of $6.75MM.
If this is what they’re doing, I instinctively think it’s a better gamble than qualifying Deslauriers but I’m still not sure that it’s one which I would make. I’m not entirely convinced that it will be easier to trade Souray with one year left on his deal instead of two, particularly when he’s a year older. If teams perceive that he has a positive value at $4.5MM a year, I’m not sure why the extra year would make all that much difference. The Oilers carry the risk of Souray doing something like blow out his shoulder, which would render him immovable. The return would, I think, be small, even if they got one – a mid to late round pick, maybe. The risk is actually a bit greater than the $2.25MM – if he got hurt and nobody claimed him on waivers or re-entry waivers the following year, the Oilers could be stuck with the entire tab for him. I am innately conservative about some things and I wouldn’t want to carry the risk here for what I perceive as being probably a pretty minimal return.
In the bigger picture though, I think that this is a somewhat encouraging thing about Steve Tambellini. He does seem to be focused on extracting the most value possible from players who the Oilers have signed. The Vandermeer for POS trade and getting anything in return for Staios are similar examples. While I question whether he has measured the risk of qualifying JDD and of keeping the risk associated with Souray on the Oilers books properly, I like that he appears to at least be trying to look for ways to get the most out of players who aren’t in the Oilers’ plans.