Scott Howson was on Oilers Now today and Bob Stauffer asked him about the plans for Ryan Jones. The exchange was awfully interesting:
Howson: With Ryan Jones, we haven’t decided yet exactly what’s going to happen with Ryan…
Stauffer (intrigued): OK.
Howson: Certainly, now we have the option to send him (to OKC) but out of respect for a player who’s played in the NHL for a long time, we wanted to put him out there and see if anybody claimed him but now that nobody’s claimed him…
Stauffer: So he has not been assigned as of right now?
Howson: He has not been assigned as of right now.
Stauffer: So he could end up back with this group?
Howson (in a skeptical tone): He could…
Stauffer: And one of the other forwards could end up, in theory (in OKC)
Howson: But the fact that he’s not here…
Stauffer: …is a sign…
Howson: …is a sign that probably we’re leaning towards doing something else. I think Craig’s going to talk to Ryan here over the next 24 hours and formulate a game plan for Ryan.
Stauffer (befuddled): Well, so would he go here to OKC? Is it even an option…is there an independent left that he could to?
No, no, if he goes to the AHL, he’ll go to the Oklahoma City Barons.
Stauffer (knowing): Is there a possibility for a trade?
Howson: Well, I think anything could happen. This weekend is decision time. We’ve all got games left, there could be injuries. Ryan’s a proven NHL player. I wouldn’t rule out anything right now.
There’s been a lot of handwringing about how the Oilers will make the salary cap. It sounds to me like the Oilers are still hopeful about getting Ryan Jones out of the organization, to the point that they aren’t assigning him to OKC yet but have him waiting in Edmonton to see what shakes down.
With Jones not having been claimed on waivers, we can probably assume that, absent the Oilers eating some money, there’s not going to be a market for him without a serious injury. I wasn’t surprised that he went unclaimed on waivers – a UFA signed three months ago who’s been poor enough in training camp to get sent down probably isn’t going to be attractive to teams who valued him less than the Oilers did in July.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Oilers are able to get out of this. If Jones goes down to the AHL and spent a full year there, he’d count for $575K against the salary cap. The Oilers aren’t incredibly pressed but that’s not ideal. They can eat a maximum of $750K if they move him to someone else. It seems to me that it would be an issue of how much they value the cash savings versus having a Ryan Jones in the AHL who they can call up if injury strikes.
If money’s not an object and the Oilers aren’t slammed against the cap, it’s difficult for me to see how it makes sense to move Jones in a deal that requires taking some money back. Keeping anything above $575K would be silly because you could send him to OKC and only count $575K against the salary cap.
The idea solution, from the Oilers perspective, would be a mutual agreement to terminate Jones’ contract. This has happened before in the NHL, with Petr Sykora and the Minnesota Wild agreeing to terminate his contract in 2009-10. It’s an awfully murky concept, as it’s not really spelled out in the CBA, and would make for an uncomfortable negotiation. The Oilers and Toni Rajala parted company this way in the summer.
Why might it happen? Well, imagine that there’s some team out there willing to give Jones $1MM for the year. If you’re the Oilers, you’d rather not spend $500K for nothing and have that money on the cap all year long. You might prefer to spend $1.5MM to have Jones in OKC, with $575K counting against the cap and Jones present as an insurance policy. If you’re Ryan Jones, you might prefer to play for $1MM in the NHL instead of $1.5MM in OKC. In those circumstances, it might make sense for the Oilers and Jones to part company and Jones to sign with Team X.
In any event, it caught my ear because it sounds a bit mysterious and because it’s hard to believe that there’s any sort of a trade market for Jones at $1.5MM. There’s a bunch of different pressure points here and, whatever happens, it’ll shed a little light on what the Oilers think of Jones and how well they can erase a mistake under new management.Email Tyler Dellow at firstname.lastname@example.org