Get that money

Jonathan Willis
August 26 2008 01:13PM

It's been a while since I've looked at the Oilers from a salary perspective. Outperforming contracts is very important in a salary cap era; since all the teams are playing on a relatively even surface, logically, the team that gets the most value for its money will be in the best position.

I've split the team into who I expect to be overpaid, paid market value and those who are going to be underpaid for the coming season. Please note that I'm not judging the contract in its entirety, just the dollars vs. expected performance for 2008¬–09.

Underpaid Oilers

Ales Hemsky - $4.1M - The best part about this contract is that Hemsky is locked in for the next four seasons.

Erik Cole - $4M - An unrestricted free agent next season, Cole is in line for a decent-sized boost in pay. For now, he's getting less money to be a better player than Dustin Penner.

Shawn Horcoff - $3.6M - He may not make this list next year with a bump up to 5.5M/season, but 3.6M for a top-30 centre is money well spent.

Sam Gagner - $1.625M - Gagner's offensive production this season will, in my opinion, be worth more than his salary, particularly if he winds up on the first powerplay unit.

Denis Grebeshkov - $1.5M - I think Grebeshkov eventually ends up back in the KHL, but a nice season this year could elevate his value to such a level that their will be too much demand for the KHL to compete. At 1.5M, he's going to outperform his salary this season.

Mathieu Garon - $1.1M - Even with minor regression, he'll easily earn his money. His contract will at least double and possibly triple in 2009-10.

Kyle Brodiak - $498K - Even if he doesn't rise above the 4th line, Brodziak's a good bet to cover his contract. Right now, I think he's the odds on favourite to play third line centre. Has underrated offensive ability.

Fairly paid Oilers

Lubomir Visnovsky - $5.6M - A very nice puckmoving defenseman, he covers his contract if he returns to form. A bad season would see him not being worth his contract. Long-term (he's signed for the next 5 seasons at the same rate), he probably ends up on the bottom list.

Steve Staios - $2.7M - Some players bring enough to the table to be worth much more than their counting stats would indicate. Staios is an absolute warrior and a stabilizing influence on the back end.

Fernando Pisani - $2.5M - This contract could be considered an over-payment, but Pisani is a crucial player on the Oilers because of his versatility and his elite checking skills. He fits well in any situation, with any linemates, against any competition. A coach's dream.

Robert Nilsson - $2M - I really liked this signing, but Nilsson probably won't overperform this season. 2M is a fair price if he can pick up where he left off in 2007-08, and a steal down the line.

Andrew Cogliano - $1.13M - Unlike Gagner, Coglaino doesn't have much chance of repeating his rookie year success as a sophmore. He's a good young player with blinding speed and will probably play a key role on the penalty kill, but I think his offense will drop, as will his even strength playing time.

Ladislav Smid - $915K - A third-pairing defender (to this point) making third-pairing money.

Marc Pouliot - $825K - Pouliot could end up having one of the nicer contracts on the team if he can take and hold the third line job. Otherwise, he's paid fairly for a 4th line role.

Rob Schremp - $780K - A question mark right now, but he doesn't have a big contract.

Zach Stortini - $700K - If Stortini picks up where he left off, he could also turn into a steal. A very nice 4th liner who brings fighting to the table, I doubt he has a high enough ceiling to seriously outperform his contract, but he's a good bet to cover it.

Jason Strudwick - $650K - Scott Ferguson with fighting.

Theo Peckham - $600K - He'll play in the NHL at some point this season, and probably not do much.

Liam Reddox - $508K - If he becomes a regular, he'll be doing enough that he's probably underpaid, but I'd be willing to bet he ends up as filler.

Overpaid Oilers

Sheldon Souray - $5.4M - Too much money, and also for way too long. Souray's a nice player, but he isn't a complete defender.

Dustin Penner - $4.25M - I imagine that he'll earn the money at some point over the course of his contract, but for 2008-09, Penner seems unlikely to earn his money.

Tom Gilbert - $4M - A potential contract, plain and simple. Lord Bob did a nice job pointing out how unlikely Gilbert is to maintain his production next season. He'll likely be worth the money at some point over the contract's duration.

Dwayne Roloson - $3.7M - Too much money for a backup in the Hasek age range.

Ethan Moreau - $2M - If healthy, Moreau likely brings a lot to the table in a 4th line role. He likely isn't capable of the tough sledding at this point, and his current contract was a loyalty signing by Kevin Lowe. He makes his current salary for the next three seasons.

Gilbert Brule - $1.25M - If Brule makes the team, he would need to take a big leap in performance to be worth his salary. As it is, he's basically a serviceable 4th liner.

J-F Jacques - $700K - He isn't an NHL-calibre player to this point in his career, and he hasn't earned a one-way contract.

Jeff Deslauriers - $625K - See Jacques.

Mathieu Roy - $500K - It isn't a big deal, but it seems highly unlikely that Roy plays another game in Edmonton.

Overall

Overall, the Oilers are about 2 million under the salary cap, and will probably be fighting for a playoff spot until the end of the season. In other words, they're about average in how they manage their contracts

Totals

Underpaid: 7 players Overpaid: 9 players Fair value: 12 players

—Jonathan Willis is the owner of Copper & Blue, a blog dedicated to all things Oil, and a frequent contributor to OilersNation.com.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Nancy
August 26 2008, 01:55PM
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Minor nitpick here but shouldn't that be 12 fair value players and 9 overpaid?

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#2 Nick
August 26 2008, 02:06PM
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It's hard to say that 500K is overpaid, or even 700K. If Roy and Jacques make the team, they will live up to their near league minimum contracts.

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#3 mjsh
August 26 2008, 02:28PM
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Pretty solid analysis. The key to the Oilers season will be that you are wrong about overpaying three guys. Souray, Penner and Gilbert. If those three guys play up to their contracts, then Oilers win the division. I would likely be in the minority but I think Souray and Penner will produce to their salaries and Gilbert will not.Both Penner will come in well conditioned and have something to prove. Gilbert on the other hand will be outplayed by Grebeshkov. Also unlike many, I think with the potential of more new big contracts in the next year or so, this is the year the Oil have to go for it.

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#4 Dennis
August 26 2008, 02:30PM
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27's pact will only become of the value variety if the cap continues to rise.

And, even then, it's only if he's doing what he's doing while playing against tough opp or absolutely owning on the PP.

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#5 Jonathan
August 26 2008, 03:30PM
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27’s pact will only become of the value variety if the cap continues to rise. And, even then, it’s only if he’s doing what he’s doing while playing against tough opp or absolutely owning on the PP.

If he can play middling opposition and add value on the powerplay I would be pretty happy, and I think it's an attainable goal for him.

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#6 Fiveandagame
August 26 2008, 03:53PM
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2.7 for Staios is overpaid for what he does. He isn't half the stabilizing presence back there that Jason Smith was an 2.7 would be too much for him. It's a loyalty contract for an under sized under skilled heart and soul type d-man. I'll ask you this, how many times was your man Staios on the ice when the Oilers were scored on in the final minute of the game last season. Far to many for a supposed shut down guy.

Grebeshkov? Underpaid? I love this kid but 1.5 for a guy that will be on our third pairing, in his second NHL season? come on Willis really? How much can he do in those 8-10 mins a game? and second PP unit? I love to wear my Oiler coloured glasses as much as the next guy but come on. If the Oilers lose guys to injury he'll play a bigger role but if we're healthy, not a chance my blogging friend.

Nilsson, Cogs and Visnovsky are steals at their current salary, even if Cogs only puts up 30 pts he is still a steal for everything else he offers, insane speed and a wicked forcheck. Nilsson at 2m is a deal. As a comparable league salary Bernier in Van is 23, scored 32 pts and is making 2.5. Visnovsky on the open market this year would have landed a 7mil + cap averaged contract. If he consistently puts up 40+ pts and is a plus player, he's worth the money.

As for Moreau, how we quickly we Oilers fans forget this warrior when we miss him for a season. 2M for Moreau? He on an individual level raises the whole team up. He is the fire in the belly of the beast. He sets the tone, he leads by example far more then our beloved Stevie Staios.

Jonathan I am a huge fan of your analysis but on this one I have to give you a C-.

OILERS NORTHWEST CHAMPS 08/09

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#7 Jonathan
August 26 2008, 04:13PM
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2.7 for Staios is overpaid for what he does. He isn’t half the stabilizing presence back there that Jason Smith was an 2.7 would be too much for him. It’s a loyalty contract for an under sized under skilled heart and soul type d-man. I’ll ask you this, how many times was your man Staios on the ice when the Oilers were scored on in the final minute of the game last season. Far to many for a supposed shut down guy.

As Vic Ferrari at IOF pointed out, Staios was on the ice for 117 more defensive zone draws than offensive zone draws. The next ranked Oilers defender by this metric was Ladislav Smid at 56. Staios was one of three guys (Stoll and Reasoner were the others) who got thrown into the fire last season for the sake of shielding all the rookies on the roster. He's good value at 2.7 million, and if he'd been a free agent this off-season he would have been overpaid ala Mike Commodore.

Grebeshkov? Underpaid? I love this kid but 1.5 for a guy that will be on our third pairing, in his second NHL season? come on Willis really? How much can he do in those 8-10 mins a game? and second PP unit?

Denis Grebeshkov averaged (including his spot duty work early in the year) 16:52 TOI per game last season. He was also the only Oilers defender with a positive plus/minus.

Nilsson, Cogs and Visnovsky are steals at their current salary, even if Cogs only puts up 30 pts he is still a steal for everything else he offers, insane speed and a wicked forcheck. Nilsson at 2m is a deal. As a comparable league salary Bernier in Van is 23, scored 32 pts and is making 2.5. Visnovsky on the open market this year would have landed a 7mil + cap averaged contract. If he consistently puts up 40+ pts and is a plus player, he’s worth the money.

Of course Bernier only got that money because of an RFA offer sheet. Nilsson's decent value, but for now he brings offense and outscoring in a shielded role; he needs to improve to be a steal, IMO. If Cogliano matches last years totals I think he's a steal, but if he performs the way I expect him to he'll be fair value. As for Visnovsky, if he'd gotten that contract as a UFA (and I think he would have) he would have been overpaid. He's basically a second-pairing guy who brings elite-level offense; i.e. not quite a complete defender. I'm happy with what he brings for 5.6M, but I'm not confident it'll be a steal unless he rebounds.

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#8 Dr. Wanye Gretz
August 26 2008, 04:26PM
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OH SNAP! That just happened fiveandagame!

This is why we no longer question Willis, except to say "How is your day Sir?"

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#9 Jonathan
August 26 2008, 04:29PM
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This is why we no longer question Willis, except to say “How is your day Sir?”

Or to ask who managed the Manitoba Moose, and when ;)

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#10 Fiveandagame
August 26 2008, 05:18PM
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Grebeshkov averaged 16 + mins a game while the Oil d-corps were decimated by injury. Having a healthy Souray and adding Visnovsky to the depth chart greatly reduces his ice time. I am not saying he's not valuable but underpaid? not by a long shot.

Nilsson is only making 1.833 next year BTW. Not bad for a second line winger.

Saying Visnovsky is a second paring d-man is like saying Brian Campbell is a second pairing d-man. He is a top 10 defenseman in the league who put up fantastic numbers on a crap team. He is instantly a better player with the Oil then he was in LA because he has more support in all areas of the game, including coaching.

No matter what statistic you want to throw out there in defense of Staios (I like the guy I do, and the money was thrown at him to keep him here instead of exploring free agency) But blocking shots is not worth 2.7. At just over 200 lbs he's to small to handle the big power forwards and thusly has a problems breaking the cycle down low, he's not a fantastic skater nor does he poses a great shot, nor is he a great passer. Commodore isn't even a comparable player as Commodore is bigger (4 inches and 20 + pounds), younger ( 6 years)and similar point totals and a better plus minus. Yes Staios was out the to protect the rookies when the D were injured but at 2.7mil, he should be effective at it. Staios is great I love him on this team, I love his commitment, his heart, but 2.7 is overpriced, cause man if you think Moreau is overpaid for what he does?

I personally don't think as fans we should be basing our opinion of a player based on their salary. Like the signings of Pisani, Roloson after our cup run show, sometimes you have to overpay to keep your puzzle pieces together. Or risk losing them to stupid GM's on Long Island. BUT if the player is going out and competing night after night and is solid in whatever roll they are cast in, then who cares what they make as they are being effective in what they are asked to do.

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#11 Jonathan
August 26 2008, 05:48PM
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Grebeshkov averaged 16 + mins a game while the Oil d-corps were decimated by injury. Having a healthy Souray and adding Visnovsky to the depth chart greatly reduces his ice time. I am not saying he’s not valuable but underpaid? not by a long shot

His ice-time will increase this year because MacTavish will have confidence in him from the seasons' start. Visnovsky gets Pitkanen's minutes, so his addition is a non-factor. Souray's healthy but Tarnstrom's gone from the start of the year.

Saying Visnovsky is a second paring d-man is like saying Brian Campbell is a second pairing d-man. He is a top 10 defenseman in the league who put up fantastic numbers on a crap team. He is instantly a better player with the Oil then he was in LA because he has more support in all areas of the game, including coaching

At evens Brian Campbell is a 2nd pairing defenseman, at least in terms of responsibility. An elite defenseman (i.e Lidstrom, Pronger, Niedermayer, etc.) plays both offense and defense. Visnovsky's pretty good, but he isn't and better than, say, Staios in the defensive end.

Nilsson is only making 1.833 next year BTW. Not bad for a second line winger

The initial TSN report wsaid that Nilsson's contract is 1.5M-2M-2M, but that turned out to be incorrect; Olczyk stated the contract is actually 1.5M-2M-2.5M. The cap hit is 2M. Some of the salary sites show the first and some show the second set of numbers.

I personally don’t think as fans we should be basing our opinion of a player based on their salary.

I agree. Fans should be basing their opinion of their general manager on player's salaries.

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#12 Fiveandagame
August 26 2008, 05:59PM
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"I agree. Fans should be basing their opinion of their general manager on player’s salaries"

Spot on Willis. That we can agree on!

So would you say that Brian Campbell is overpaid by roughly 1.5mil per year?

"Visnovsky’s pretty good, but he isn’t and better than, say, Staios in the defensive end"

Don't think I didn't notice you giving those props to Staios:)

Just Curious, what do you think the defense pairings will be because I think this is where the major gap is in our thinking about certain players? And for that matter the the forward combinations?....hmmmm me thinks this could be the subject of another Oilers Nation blog....

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#13 Jonathan
August 26 2008, 07:23PM
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Already did one actually (http://www.oilersnation.com/index2.php/2008/07/25/interview-with-the-minister-of-defense/).

Charlie Huddy projects the following pairings:

Souray - Staios Visnovsky - Gilbert Grebeshkov - Smid Strudwick

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#14 Dav
August 26 2008, 10:59PM
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I agree with where Moreau is for now but the intangibles that he brings to the game can't be quantified. You can't measure qualities like leadership but when he is healthy he sets the tone of play for the Oil and can quickly advance up that list if he stays healthy.

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#15 James
August 26 2008, 11:18PM
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A little off topic, but did you guys take a good look at the schedule??? A hell of a lot of back to back games, and 3 in 4 nights. Holding on to Roli would be a VERY wise decision at this point. We will need him to play 1 out of every 4, and steal some. Managing Garon/Roli to the point where both are fresh and playing well will be the difference this season IMO.

Looking at the schedule having 2 solid stoppers makes me sleep easier. How many of you would be comfortable with JDD having to play 20-25 games, and be expected to win 15 for us to make the 2nd season. Roli has some magic left....I hope. I'm confident Garon will do his part and give us 55-60 good games.

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#16 Fiveandagame
August 26 2008, 11:48PM
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"Charlie Huddy projects the following pairings:

Souray - Staios Visnovsky - Gilbert Grebeshkov - Smid Strudwick"

Mr. Willis, you seemed to have contradicted your own point. How may third pairing d-men in the league average 16+ mins a game? Grebeshkov's role this year will be greatly reduced from what it was for us at the end of last year (Barring injuries of course). This is by no fault of his own but the plain fact that the Oilers have two guys ahead of him on the depth chart that weren't there last year. This isn't hit and miss Pitkanen we're talking about in front of him either it's two guys that have broken the 60pt plateau in their career. He's very solid and 1.5 mil is the perfect amount to be paying this emerging defenseman in his role as the third pairing next year.

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#17 Jonathan
August 27 2008, 06:42AM
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How may third pairing d-men in the league average 16+ mins a game?

Lots of them.

Edmonton's top-seven last year all played 16:41+

Last year, Detroit had 7 defenseman who played 65+ games. They were all 16:28 per night+.

Calgary's top-six were 18:49+

Generally, if there's lots of disparity between the top end and bottom end, the top pairing will get around 24 minutes, the second pairing 20 and the third pairing 16. Plus, there's always injuries, meaning that I expect Grebeshkov to average out to 18-19 minutes a night by season's end.

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#18 Fiveandagame
August 27 2008, 03:00PM
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"Generally, if there’s lots of disparity between the top end and bottom end, the top pairing will get around 24 minutes, the second pairing 20 and the third pairing 16. Plus, there’s always injuries, meaning that I expect Grebeshkov to average out to 18-19 minutes a night by season’s end"

Well if your crystal ball is accurate Grebby would be a steal at 1.5

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#19 Separated Oil
August 27 2008, 03:42PM
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Hey - that sure looks like Mike Grier...

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#20 Wanye Gretz
August 27 2008, 04:17PM
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Hardly, that's Slick Rick. He is an icon.

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