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.
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.
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.
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.