Friday, 28 March 2008

Edmonton Oilers - A Treatment

Edmonton has some issues. Even if one thinks the roster is strong the salary grid is strained to the breaking point. By that I mean both Cap and budget.

Immediate Notes

The chart shows that Edmonton has, in 2008/09, ~ 36.88 mill of next years Cap space allocated to 8 forwards, 5 defensemen and 2 goalies. This leaves some 3 or 4 forwards and 3 or 4 defensemen left to be signed.

Let's deal with one of those spots right away - the 12th forward (Stortini) will automatically be slotted in at 650k /year. The new total is ~ 37.53 mill for 16 players.

If next years Cap rises the 4 million some are predicting then the new Cap is 54.30. The difference is ~ 16.77 mill.

The RFA's

Stoll, Nilsson, Pitkanen, Grebeshkov and Gilbert

Stoll has had, by many accounts, a very poor season. On the positive side, this will serve to stall the inflationary effect of his 2005-06 season and prevent any RFA sheets from coming his way. On the negative side, he already gets paid a lot. If he remains with the team look for him to get a short-term 'prove-it' contract in the 2.5 mill /year range.

Nilsson, on the other side of the spectrum, has had a great year. He has been put in a position to succeed and has done so. A lot of players don't. Look for his agent to keep him to a 3 year deal that earns him between 2.0 and 2.5 mill /year.

Pitkanen is, despite the questions swirling around his headspace, the most talented d-man we have. He wants the money but doesn't have the counting numbers on his side. Less than 4 million and this is a 2 year deal. I expect 4 years in the 4.25 mill range.

Grebeshkov has justified the trade Lowe made to get him. By a fair bit. Luckily, he isn't one to score a lot. I half expect to see a 3 or 4 year deal in the 2.0 range but wouldn't be surprised if a crafty agent kept it to a cheaper, and shorter deal.

Gilbert is the kind of player coaches can only dream about. Pitkanen might have more talent but Gilbert possesses superior presence of mind. I have him pegged for a Carle style contract but an RFA offer may be his future.

One of the keys for Lowe will be to keep inflationary effects out of the contracts he signs the players to. For example, a contract for Nilsson at 2.15 / 2.25 / 2.35 is much better for the Oilers than one at 1.75 / 2.25 / 2.75.

The UFA's

Glencross and Reasoner

Glencross is this years Hejda. Not the kind of player the Oilers should lose for nothing. I have to think that Lowe that Lowe won't make the same mistake twice. I have to. I fear a Pisani style overpay but have it pegged much lower.

Reasoner will be here if Stoll is not and, I suspect, vice-versa. Reasoner won't be a big money signing. I would offer him a long-term deal at lower dollars but I expect that Lowe will offer a quickie at par.

Cap Flex and Maneuvers

Add it all up and the Oilers sit at ~ 53.58 million in Cap salary next year. This leaves some 700k or so for Lowe to play with.

In terms of Cap flex... I don't see a lot. Who would you not want on the roster? Even if a player or two is sent to Springfield I hope you all noted that I don't have Brodziak on the roster. Nor do I have Pouliot. It's gonna be tight.

So I hope Lowe knows a few maneuvers. He can jerk the Falcon around all he wants but if he wants to make a move later in the season he needs to jettison someone. One of Stoll, Torres or Reasoner is probable. Roloson might be on the outs as well but that assumes JDD is ready.

Not to be too snarky about it but whatever happened to a 10% buffer hmmmm?

Danger Is My Middle Name

The Souray contract is a given. He had better have a great year next year and the next year and the next year and... well... you get the picture. Somewhere along the way his contract has to be worth more than hot press and hot flashes (so sayeth the Hot Oil girls).

How about that Gagner eh? Cogliano? The future IS BRIGHT! Gotta love rookies who outperform expectations! Right! Right? Well, wait until you have to pay them. Gagner better be something extra special because his next contract could cost us Pisani.

No question, the Oilers (and us fans) have a great team forming up. Keeping it together is what will be the problem. Call me a pessimist but Lowe's contract negotiations, to date, haven't led me to believe that this will be handled well.

The next big issue is that of goaltending. Sure, Roloson is done near future. How long, and for how much, will the team be keeping Garon around for? JDD is not tearing up the AHL and Dubnyk still needs a couple years full shot so the ride rests on Garon for now and in 2009-10 his price goes up - regardless of whether or not he can carry the load. And wants to do so here.

Lastly we come to the issue of depth. What issue you say?

Well. While it is true we have an embarrassment of riches on the forward lines right now, try thinking about AFTER we have purged all our proven veteran depth. I see Nash as probable and Vande Velde as mostly possible but after that the difference maker list gets a bit thin (Reddox?). That is a far cry from what we had happen this year.

Do not dismiss the issue of depth lightly. Having 3rd/4th line guys like Pisani, Stoll and Reasoner step up so that guys like Gagner and Cogliano can play against weak opposition is a gift not to be taken for granted.


The future looks bright. And scary. There are a LOT of good, smart decisions that will need to be made between now and 2010/11 and 2011/12 (the last two Hemsky years) to lock in the gains made this year and work a system that looks a lot more Detroit/New Jersey than it does... well... Edmonton Oilers post 1990.

Edmontons gains this year mean that the team build took a huge leap forward. Because of Cap issues however that leap may involve a rather awkward landing. The overpricing of certain contracts (Souray, Roloson, Penner and Moreau among others) means that Lowe has little or no flex to work with and to get that flex he will have to trade players (Torres, Reasoner and Stoll) he would actually be better off keeping.

It's a high price to pay. My hope is that that is as high as it goes.


Have a great evening everyone.


Jon G said...

Lowe will definitely need to be creative in the coming years. I really do not like how when Moreau and Horcoff come back we are paying our 3rd line in excess of 7 million (Stoll, Pisani, Moreau). I think that Lowe needs to attempt to move some of those overpriced contracts. But, when you look at it a team like Detroit got a sweet heart deal from Zetterberg and I do not see him making under 3 million for the majority of the rest of his career.

Mr DeBakey said...

This started with Havlat over at IOF. Yes, his $6mm is very difficult – some salary would have to be moved.

- I do not like Grebeshkov at $2mm. Frankly, I’m so-so @ $1.5mm. Would they be further ahead with Josef Melichar or Angel Krstev @ $750,000?
- what’s the minimum raise for a RFA? That’s what Stoll gets offered - 5% is $2.31mm
- Bobbie Nilsson over $2mm per…Hmmmm. I’d like to see more than 20 good games first. How about $3.5 over two? Or, twice that over four?
- Pitkanen & Gilbert $7mm total per, which is about what you said.
- I like $1.5mm over two years for Reasoner. I think that’s fair for both.

What I’d like to see is Stoll traded for someone’s Marc Pouliot – a stalled, but with upside, prospect. I don’t know if that’s Hennessy in Ottawa, the Ranger’s Bourrett, Skille in Chicago or whomever. Save a few bucks in salary, hope you’ve acquired another Nilsson.

YKOil said...

I'll get to it in another post (one day) but Stoll is a dangerous trade to make. Trading him to a team in the Western Conference is out of the question.

Zetterberg's sweetheart deal ends next year so I expect a 6.7+ out of him soon enough.

Pisani is too effective to let go. I am a firm believer that he should retire Oiler crest intact. Cost is the issue.

Of the three guys, Moreau is looking like the bait. Simply put, his upside to a play-off contending team is high enough that his return (in trade) will be high enough to justify sending his 'intangibles' away.

heh. That sounds wierd when I read it back to myself.


As for the salaries at play (per Mr. d) there is a lot to be said for skillful management and appropriate offers. I like Grebs at a 2 yr deal for 1.5 per or a 5/6 year deal at 2.25 to 2.50 (a la Colin White). Same kind of situation with Nilsson. Gilberts is too close to UFA to do that with.

Lowe REALLY needs to pull off a Zetterberg style signing this off-season.

Where a Stoll deal REALLY does actually work for me is with a team like Atlanta. Penner, Stoll & stuff for Kovalchuk or Stoll, Schremp & Anaheim 1st for Atlanta 1st (if it is a top-3 pick). I expect overpay city but Atlanta lacks depth in a big way so it is worth colling about.

With Stoll, Lowe may offer 2.31 but I expect the signing will be for 2.5. Lowe hates hold-outs with a passion and typically compromises sooner rather than later.

PunjabiOil said...

Solid post.

With regards to Nilsson, unless he's tended an RFA offersheet, I can't see him getting between 2-2.5M. I'm looking closer to 1.5M

Gilbert started well, but he's been really struggling in 2008. Wonder how that will play out.

Grebeshkov I too think will get lower (~1.5M)

As for Stoll, use him in a package trade in my opinion, or use him to move up 10 spots at the draft.

Of course that's just my opinion.

Vic Ferrari said...

Good stuff again. Not much to add, other than to say that it doesn't seem like a good idea to be trading players after an off year or an injury riddled year.

Lots of teams end the year hot with young rosters, PJO mentioned this the other day, and it's true to my memory. They'll need the vets when the pucks stop going in, and the Oilers have over half a dozen guys who've been finishing at a clip that would embarrass Joe Sakic (over the past four weeks). History is screaming at us, saying it can't carry on. History will prove herself right, I'm sure.

They've got some good young players, for certain. But your point about the experienced players really hits the nail on the head, to my mind anyways.

The last game I checked Reasoner (v COL) was on the ice for 14 faceoffs in his own end, 2 in the good end of the rink. And only a couple were vs the bottom six. Raise your hand if you want to see any of the kids hoeing that row? Raise both hands if you think that the kids would be looking better than the vets if the roles were reversed?

I dunno, I'd like to see the Oilers really add a difference maker. Sensibly, imo they should probably stay with the cards they have ... if it goes well, good. If it doesn't ... draft well with a good pick, and reassess in June 2009.

namflashback said...

A couple of items for consideration
- No doubt the Souray deal is bad, but we are only 2 seasons away from his NMC being finished IIRC it was 3 yrs with NMC and 2 without.
- Stoll is the perfect candidate for team initiated arbitration. Sets the clock back, lowers him on the grid, and allows for the "show me."
- Nillson and Grebeshkov are indeed interesting cases -- very solid production, but both with a developmental roller-coaster. Stability (NHL job) may be more attractive to these players than straight $$ and the team may be able to claim the need to mitigate the risk
- Roloson comes off when Garon needs his re-up -- I think the dollars spent on goalies is reasonable.
- Torres and Pisani are in their UFA years at the same point that Gagner and Cogliano need re-ups. (see trade deadline 09-10) They will either be heroes during an 09-10 run, and then re-signed at a market for a reasonable cost or walk into UFA. It looks like the major dollars are going to go Savings go to the young-uns.
- Now may be the time to switch to "market-fair" salaries for younger RFA's but for shorter terms. If the effect of the offer sheet hunt was to put more salary towards the younger players and away from the older players, then maybe you play against the dynamic where risky deals are getting locked-in for longer terms -- then arbitrate down if the player fails to meet the expectation. Only a small handful of your players will be needed over the longer term -- so they are the ones that get the Hemsky style deal. This leaves better flexibility and places to insert or integrate new players to the team.

This is a big test to see if the new capologist Rick Olcyk knows what he is doing.

Dennis said...

Looking at one of NFB's points, it just came to me that by 2011 -- which is the first season that both 13 and 89 will truly be getting paid -- those guys are going to be making so much that they'll have to be able to play PVP along with the 83-27 combo; there's no guarentee Horc will still be with us at that time.

So that means our bottom six will be on the super cheap and it's gonna be minor league guys or draft picks seeing very limited responsibility; at least not when our coach has the last change at home.

Only way to mitigate this is if you jump -- and I'm certainly not advocating this -- and give security to your 12, 37 and 77 guys, then you're probably paying them a low enough amount per annum that you have room for maybe one overpriced bottom sixer.

In any case, it's probably not a huge cause for concern because does anyone here really want to bet that by 2011, 12 and 89 won't be able to hold their own against tougher comp? I'd bet that they'll be doing just fine.

YKO: Heard about this post and jumped on over and I like the look of it. I'll keep coming back to this as the draft approaches and Lowe starts making moves.

My only problem with it, and that's not really the right word, is you have all the guys listed like Moreau and Torres and there's no way both those fellows will be here come camp. I'm sure you know this so I probably didn't have to point this out:)

But with 12 liking it here, 27 tied up longterm and 20 about to get a new deal, there's no way we're carrying a depth LW making two mill.

As for the point of 14 and 34 playing their last FA year in 2010, right it I say. That's the last year before we start paying Gags and Cogs and once we start paying them, they'd better damn well be ready to start playing top six tough opp OR absolutely kill the soft opp.

Getting back to the point re-touched on by Vic about sheltering the kids, there's no way you can get rid of both 16 and 19 and I'd elect to keep 19. I know it's bad business to deal off 16 given his value but I believe that 78 or 51 being highlighted by the 14-34 combo is enough to do a decent job with the tough min. And if either of those kids can't win the big draws -- and they probably can't -- then that's where Reasoner comes in. But I also don't think you can keep both 16 and 19 either. You have to ask yourself just how many min there's gonna be for these guys going forward so do you want to retard the development of the likes of 51 and 78 and in the process use so much payroll doing so?

I think the first mistakes Lowe makes is choosing Moreau over Torres and then we'll see it breaking down a little from there.

namflashback said...

Dennis -- too true. All on-ice indications and sound bytes from 13-89 and even 12 gives indication that part of the teaching has helped the young players understand that somebody on the team has to win each situational matchup. (vs other team best, PP, PK, 4x4, depth matches)

I can only hope that none of them is a prima donna like Comrie who wants the plum counting stats icetime and dollars WITHOUT the responsibility.

Not sure that the agents will care, but maybe the tightness in the room that was just built will help them want to stay together with resonable team-building contracts.

Vic Ferrari said...

Damn, good thread. Turns out the Oilogosphere still has legs. :)

I'm hoping for Torres over Moreau too, Dennis, but somehow i don't think it happens.

There is still hope though, I heard a radio interview with MacTavish pondering Torres, and you know MacTavish is a 'play never dies with him guy', and Raffi doesn't have that as his trump suit ... still, he was theorizering on why Raffi keeps ending up near the top in EV +/- on this team.

Came up with a "gets the puck out of his own end quickly" reason, and even though that seems like a stretch to me, by eye ... I think it's a positive thar results that matter are being publicly acknowledged.

If it comes down to it, the decision on Raffi vs Ethan will say a lot about this Oiler management team, imo.

YKOil said...

A few notes based on the commentary.

1. The Souray deal is worse than bad. It is just plain awful. The NMC is bad enough but when you consider that the last two years (without the NMC) only carry a 900k differential -- Cap to cost -- it hamstrings the ability to dump the contract to a low budget/high Cap offload team.

I have more to say on salaries but that will be for another day.

2. The more I think about Glencross the more I think I have it wrong. I will agree with anyone who mentions Scott Fraser and Curtis Glencross in the same sentence.

I don't see us keeping that player. Again though, I will bring this up in my salary post on a later date.

3. Like Dennis I see Moreau being here longer than Torres. I have only two words for this.

Nigel Dawes.

4. Like Vic I am a believer in keeping the veterans. IF Glencross can be signed to a decent deal I think this team needs to be kept together next year. Too many fragile parts, too many below market trade parts and too many young parts. All hands will be needed on deck.