Craig MacTavish apparently did a question and answer type segment last night with Oilers season ticketholders last night in which the issue of buying out Shawn Horcoff came up. As is summarized in these two tweets from Twitter’s @regwald. The gist of it is that Horcoff’s future in Edmonton isn’t certain and that the Oilers might buy him out. There seems to be some generalized concern about the effect of all the losing on his spirits.
That might be a way of putting a bit of lipstick on a pig of a situation. Horcoff, a guy who once dove face first in front of a slapshot to lock down a playoff win for the Oilers, was booed when he was introduced at the home opener this year. He has, unfairly in my view, come to be seen as sort of the face of what was wrong with the Oilers during the years in which there was something wrong. If he’s tired of people thinking his name is Shawn Horcoffscontractsucks, it’s perhaps understandable that he’d not be averse to moving along, particularly if he could go somewhere that’s good.
As far as buying him out though, that sure seems like a longshot to me. As I see it, there’s a pretty straightforward analytical process to go through in evaluating a potential buyout. The first is “Is this player untradeable?” I’m not sure that’s the case with Horcoff. He has two years left on his deal at $3.5MM per. His cap hit is higher but for teams that aren’t cap teams, that’s kind of irrelevant. Is he worth $3.5MM per year? I’m not sure you could do better for that money on the UFA market.
Even if a player is untradeable, you have to be able to do better with the cap space that’s created than you could otherwise do. In the case of the Oilers, I’m not sure that’s a realistic issue for 2013-14. According to CapGeek, they have $16.4MM to sign or otherwise replace Ryan Whitney, Nikolai Khabibulin, Sam Gagner, MPS, Mark Fistric, Ryan Jones and Lennart Petrell. That strikes me as awfully doable. If they want to take on money in a trade, maybe things get a bit tighter.
If the Oilers had a bunch of players knocking at the door to whom they wanted to give some playing time, I could see a buyout making sense. Is anyone comfortable with Anton Lander as a fourth centre next year, let alone playing higher up the order? Is Tyler Pitlick going to replace Horcoff? Looking around, I don’t see the internal options who are pushing him out the door.
The real killer though is that the Oilers wouldn’t actually save much money by buying out Horcoff. If they bought him out now, it costs them $1.167MM a year for four years – $4.668MM. If they kept him a year and then bought him out, it costs them $4MM for next year, plus two years at $1MM. So $6MM total. There’s going to be some small adjustment to that to account for the fact that you’re paying the money out over three years instead of four but the actual cash savings to the Oilers are pretty small: $1.332MM.
Of course, with Horcoff gone, someone would have to fill his roster spot. Overall, buying him out probably costs them more money than it saves them. If it makes sense to do it, that’s fine and well but it’s hard to see how it would make sense for them, outside of what I call the “soft” issues – the temperament of the team and the impact that Horcoff’s continued presence has on it. Unless there’s a big negative there, it’s hard to see how this would make sense for Edmonton.Email Tyler Dellow at firstname.lastname@example.org