The Edmonton Oilers and the Salary Cap

Jonathan Willis
June 30 2009 01:29PM

lowe

If the Oilers make a big roster move in the coming days or weeks, it will involve a trade. The simple fact of the matter is that the Oilers don’t have the cap space to acquire a marquee player without sending at least one big ticket out.

Thanks to the decision to employ the 5% inflator built into the CBA, the salary cap will not drop next year, but rather rise to 56.8 million. That represents a 100,000$ increase from this season. Next season, the outlook is bleaker; the cap figure is as of yet unknown but it is certain to decline, perhaps steeply.

For the Edmonton Oilers, this represents two problems. The first is that with multiple restricted free agents (Denis Grebeshkov, Ladislav Smid, Liam Reddox, Gilbert Brule) left to sign, no starting goaltender, and a desire to add a top line player, Steve Tambellini has only 10-million dollars or so to work with (source: nhlscap.com). This is, however, a small problem compared to what Tambellini will need to deal with next summer.

With the cap in decline, Tambellini will see several players reach restricted free agency – with the critical two being Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano. Should those two players progress over the next year, they will certainly command large raises and both could be targets for an offer sheet. Only Fernando Pisani’s 2.5 million dollar contract comes off the books in that time. In other words, if Tambellini spends to the cap this summer, he is going to have no room to sign Ganger and Cogliano.

What is the solution? Despite suggestions from fans, I can’t see Daryl Katz spending millions to send a player like Dustin Penner to the minors. Ditto for Shawn Horcoff, the sole veteran centre on the team and a vital player, regardless of whether he’s worth his 5.5MM annual cap hit or not. Fernando Pisani isn’t the problem either; his contract comes off the books after this season, at which point he can be re-signed for less money or allowed to depart. Let’s take a look at the Oilers roster, ranked by position and annual cap hit, and see if there isn’t a solution to the problem. I’ve bolded players of interest.

Forwards

  • Shawn Horcoff – 5.5MM – A vital player for this team; moving him creates more problems than it solves.
  • Dustin Penner – 4.25 MM - He won’t be waived, but if the Oilers can trade him and bring in a different LW I think they will.
  • Ales Hemsky – 4.1MM – A bargain at this salary.
  • Patrick O’Sullivan – 2.925 MM - O’Sullivan may be dealt, but he really isn’t overpaid relative to his production.
  • Fernando Pisani – 2.5MM – Since Pisani’s contract comes off the books next season, moving him doesn’t help the long-term picture.
  • Ethan Moreau – 2.0MM – I’m generally critical of Moreau, but he brings necessary ingredients to this team and isn’t overpaid by much.
  • Robert Nilsson – 2.0MM - The Oilers gambled on Nilsson’s potential, and haven’t done well to this point. He would be a bargain if he could get back to scoring, but they may not be able to wait that long.
  • Sam Ganger – 1.625MM – A key player for this franchise for at least the next five years.
  • Andrew Cogliano – 1.133MM – The Oilers seem committed to keeping him; has goal-scoring potential.
  • Marc Pouliot – 825K – Cheap and versatile.
  • Zack Stortini – 700K – Not a problem salary-wise.
  • J-F Jacques – 525K – Ideally priced; jury is still out on his NHL effectiveness.

Defensemen

  • Lubomir Visnovsky – 5.6MM - High-priced defenseman is worth the money, possesses a NMC.
  • Sheldon Souray – 5.4MM - High-priced defenseman is worth the money, possesses a NMC.
  • Tom Gilbert – 4.0MM - Reasonably priced for his offensive contributions, Gilbert may still be moved because the Oilers probably need to take money off the back end.
  • Steve Staios – 2.7MM - Overpaid relative to his actual contribution, Staios is an obvious candidate to be moved – if anyone will take him.
  • Theo Peckham – 600K - Affordable, but as with Jacques the jury is still out on how effective he can be.

Goaltenders

  • Jeff Deslauriers – 625K – For all that the Oilers talk about their belief in JDD, I sometimes wonder if they aren’t just thankful to have a cheap backup option.

Armchair GM: My Solution

Assuming that a big package for Heatley is out (ideally consisting of Penner plus either O’Sullivan or Gilbert), there are a few other things worth considering:

Get a cheap goaltender. Tambellini and Co. seem committed to getting someone in the 3MM range to tandem with Deslauriers. I’m a little leery of some of the options (please not Clemmensen) but this is one of the few areas where money can be saved – either with Roloson or someone like Craig Anderson coming in on a cheap contract.

Move Souray to California. Rumours persist that Sheldon Souray would like to be closer to his children. His market value has never been higher, and if that is indeed his desire than a team like Los Angeles would seem to be an ideal fit. If the Oilers could bring back a player like Frolov, so much the better.

Clear out the deadwood. Staios and Nilsson both have some things working for them as players, and there may very well be interest from different teams in one or both. If not, Nilsson’s 2MM contract isn’t quite as much money to burn in the minors. Both could be easily replaced with bargain-bin free agents.

If all else fails. Assuming that Souray doesn’t want to be moved and Staios and Nilsson don’t attract any interest at all, there are precious few options left. One or more of Gilbert, O’Sullivan, Grebeshkov or Penner would need to be moved – and moving any of those would likely involve taking on salary in return.

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
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.
Avatar
#1 mattmarcin
June 30 2009, 01:55PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Scary stuff.

Avatar
#2 Antony Ta
June 30 2009, 01:57PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

The question is, does Souray want to move?

Avatar
#3 Souby
June 30 2009, 02:00PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

All these rumours and no action is getting to me. Someone stop this emotional roller coaster!....Oh no....I just threw up in my mouth.

Avatar
#4 Jay Gray
June 30 2009, 02:01PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Informative article, a good read. Things like this make me a everyday visitor to this site.

Avatar
#5 mattmarcin
June 30 2009, 02:14PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Yeah, great article. Does that mean the Oil are keeping the same roster minus Betts. Wow.

Avatar
#6 sns2
June 30 2009, 02:18PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Discouraging when the freaks down the highway may be about to announce the signing of another Edmonton born and raised star. Excuse me while I join Souby in emptying the vomit from my mouth.

Avatar
#7 Ender the Dragon
June 30 2009, 02:19PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@ Antony Ta: I've read several sources that say yes. Perhaps they're all just quoting one another and perpetuating the rumour, but if you think about it, it would make sense to Souray. Back with his family, out of the spotlight, beautiful climate, same job, same money; what's not to like?

Avatar
#8 cm
June 30 2009, 02:21PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

I've come to teh sad conclusion that the only fate of an oiler fan is dispair.

If Bouwmeester signs outside of alberta it will have been a good off season for the oil.

Avatar
#9 Clarkenstein
June 30 2009, 02:22PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Thank you Kevin Lowe!!

Avatar
#10 dragon
June 30 2009, 02:23PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Good summary, Jonathan. Do you know where Pat Quinn's preferences go? I'm only assuming he's got a bit of a say in this...

Avatar
#11 Thorn
June 30 2009, 02:25PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

There's no question Tambo has his work cut out for him! It seems that more than ever we need to offer players some intangibles to come play in the beating heart of hockey. I wonder if Katz is willing to offer an all expenses paid trip to his summer home in (wherever) via his private jet as some incentive? If Calgary ends up signing JBo and moves Phaneuf for Heatley...I may just bitch slap the next loudmouth flame fan I see!

Avatar
#12 Harlie
June 30 2009, 02:26PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Waive bye bye to Steady Steve.

Avatar
#13 Jonathan Willis
June 30 2009, 02:26PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Calgary isn't exactly out of the woods cap-wise either. I can't imagine them being able to land Bouwmeester and Heatley.

Avatar
#14 humantorch
June 30 2009, 02:30PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Clarkenstein wrote:

Thank you Kevin Lowe!!

I said it before, but I'm sure in 10 years we'll look back on the Lowe regime post-lockout as easily the worst-managed period in franchise history.

Avatar
#15 cm
June 30 2009, 02:35PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@ humantorch: except of course for the wonderful summer of 05 and the great deadline of 06.

That first year was a beauty, not a single bad trade for the oil. since then there have been only a handfull of trades that have pointed the ship in the right direction.

Avatar
#16 Harlie
June 30 2009, 02:37PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@ humantorch:

with the benefit of 20/20 vision you can see how our team went from greats to goats

Avatar
#17 JRocks247
June 30 2009, 02:37PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

The rumours of Penner, Souray and Nils going with Heater, JJ and Wayne Simmonds coming back would be just fine by me. I'd like Betts coming our way too and MAP would have to look for another team...maybe a 3 rounder in return? Unfortunately it saves us only 653,000 and that's without Betts.

Sign Grebs and JJ for about 3.5 each, sign Smid for 1.5 and Rollie for 3 and were at 54mill with Brule, Struds, Potulny and Schremph to go...and then Betts? Tough...we need to move Staios I guess

Avatar
#18 I'm a Scientist!
June 30 2009, 02:38PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

humantorch wrote:

I said it before, but I’m sure in 10 years we’ll look back on the Lowe regime post-lockout as easily the worst-managed period in franchise history.

Hmmm, i don't know. Sure he took some gambles, but imagine if Penner became a 35 goal scorer and actually used his big body to hit some people? What team doesn't have a few bad contracts? We all want the best players available and sometimes there is a price to pay to get them. Lowe took some gambles to try and lock up players at a cheaper rate before they reached their potential. Look at Hemsky... wonderful contract! Anyway, we'll see what happens down the stretch...

Avatar
#19 boris
June 30 2009, 02:40PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

What the Oiler's management should do is write this season off and put themselves into a better position to manage the cap going forward. Sign a couple of cheap, older vets at forward on one year deals, deal or stash Nilsson in the minors and get Grebs, Smid, and Roli signed (Roli to a one year deal as offered, Grebs and Smid to reasonable deals) and somehow deal Penner and Souray over the upcoming season for some younger talent or picks, the team will be much better off in the long term. It may be a long season again but... short term pain for long term gain is what I say.

Avatar
#20 Ogden Brother
June 30 2009, 02:44PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

A few things that seem to always be missed when presenting the "doom and gloom" of the Oiler salary situation:

1. Most teams that can spend, have spent and are in the same situations. Alot of those that can but haven't will be blowing their wad 18 hours from now. Run down the list of haves in a week or two and you will see almost everyone is in the same situation

2. Ties into #1 a little but... We have more players signed then most teams. 18 guys for 50 million > 13 guys for 50 million

3. Most contracts were signed under the assumption of a consistantly rising cap. Their will obviously be blips in the map (but this was an abnormally large one). Over the short run a flat or dropping cap is likely, but over the long run a rising cap is all but guaranteed.

4. We like to punish mangement for not foreseeing what looks like the 2nd worst financial melt down in modern times

5. Our top 6 is VERY young, I'd bet they are in 5 youngest in the league, for the most part they should be improving simply with time. Most of the holes that do need filling are bit positions that aren't that expensive.

6. The potential dropping cap MAY be blown way out of proportion by those looking to drum up controversy (what is it? 90% of posts now start with "with the cap droppin)

A. The 09/10 revenue figures used to determine the 10/11 cap are just now begining to be earned, no one really has any idea what they will be

B. The economy is actually firming up nicely, credit markets are all but back to normal, economic data has flattened out and business is starting to go "back to normal". The average reccesion is about a year in length, the extreme are usually less then two. Thiers no set date as to when this started, but it appears to be a year+ already, we are very likely in the 7th inning of the reccesion.

C. I have yet to see which of the two primary parties (teams/players) benifit from a large reduction in the salary cap ceiling... how often do you see parties maintain a contract where both sides lose?

Avatar
#21 I'm a Scientist!
June 30 2009, 02:58PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@ Ogden Brother: Well put!

Avatar
#22 druds
June 30 2009, 03:01PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

If the Cap goes down next year don't the player's salaries also drop accordingly , is not that what the escrow fund is for? I thought if the cap drops 15% so do all the contracts as well.

Avatar
#23 equinox
June 30 2009, 03:04PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

I'm still amazed by the amount of blame that makes it's way to Kevin Lowe. I'm not even a Lowe supporter, but think we as fans might want to look in the mirror in respect to some of our contracts that we so easily bash him for. Did we sign the contracts? No. But did we help pressure them being written up? Perhaps...

Penner was a reaction to crying fans that the Oilers took no action improving their top six. Was it a mistake? Maybe, but we don't know as he could pot 30 goals and be that way for the next 3 years.

Nillson was a steal compared to the year he had that earned him that money. None of us would have thought he'd dip so badly.

Horcoff was an odd one, and an error, but was having a career year before he was injured and we use it far too often to judge Lowe's entire tenure as GM.

The Pronger trade which we are so quick to say we got hosed on, was ironically identical to the Pronger to Philli trade which so many people seem to think was a huge overpayment by the Flyers. I belive it was a huge overpayment, but feel Pronger had more value now than back then with only 1 yr left. Gives the team who has him cap options should things dive.

We can't attract players here. It's simple. We had a coaching staff the players stopped listening to and a style players were tired of and as fans we demanded a change every summer. Perhaps while we can't say Lowe was in the top 10 GM's, we can cut the guy a little break here. This is a tough place to be GM and Tambellini is starting to find that out.

Avatar
#24 Ender the Dragon
June 30 2009, 03:07PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

I'm a Scientist! wrote:

@ Ogden Brother: Well put!

Seconded. Good points all, OB.

Avatar
#25 DUANE
June 30 2009, 03:10PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@ Ogden Brother:

WELL WRITTEN BROTHER!!!!

Avatar
#26 equinox
June 30 2009, 03:10PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Of course it has been reported now that Gomez has been traded to Montreal for Chris Higgins.. there goes Heatley.

Almost guarantees that Sather now has the cap room to make that deal

Avatar
#27 Jorge
June 30 2009, 03:13PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

I wont agree for a second that the fans have to hold some of the blame for the bad contracts lowe made. Every team wants to get better after a year of not reaching the playoffs. No body I know told lowe it was a great idea to go get Penner from the ducks. It seems only the biggest fan aka Katz can be blamed for the huge raise Horcoff got. But do not blame the everyday fans if anything we pay the bills so maybe we should see some blame for continuing to support such a mess the last 3 years.

Avatar
#28 oilguyry
June 30 2009, 03:16PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

At least we're not Montreal taking on Gomez they must be insane at a 7.3 million cap hit insane

Avatar
#29 Mike Krushelnyski
June 30 2009, 03:17PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

DUANE wrote:

WELL WRITTEN BROTHER!!!!

Was I supposed to read that in a Hulk Hogan voice or was that just a happy coincidence?

Avatar
#30 dyckster
June 30 2009, 03:18PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

The Habs picked up Scott Gomez - http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=283329

Have they given up on Vinny?

Avatar
#31 equinox
June 30 2009, 03:20PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@ Jorge: My point was that if you think that mess is directly Lowe's fault, we should stop for a second consider where this team is located and the circumstances under which each contract was signed.

Yes, I did admit that Horcoff was a mistake. I'm sure when you read what I wrote, you'll see that. However, it's well known we are not an ideal desination for a number of players in the NHL. Tons of travel, weather issues, an unbeliveable hockey market that while some players like Jay-Bo might like in doses, becomes a bit much for many players.

We see this with a number of teams, not just the Oilers, but our GM's are faced with issues that don't face a number of other teams, so I'd rather not just decide to blame Kevin Lowe for a situation other teams find themselves in as well.

As for Penner; when he was confirmed as an Oiler, there were in fact a ton of fans and Edmonton local sports personalities that thought it was a good move by the team. It may not have proved to be so yet, but that doesn't mean it won't.

Avatar
#32 Librarian Mike
June 30 2009, 03:21PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

oilguyry wrote:

At least we’re not Montreal taking on Gomez they must be insane at a 7.3 million cap hit insane

Basically they are taking a Koivu clone and paying him more money, aren't they? I'm not saying that the Oilers will be great or anything next year, but Montreal is in for quite the season unless they get bigger.

Avatar
#33 Mike Krushelnyski
June 30 2009, 03:25PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@ Librarian Mike:

And they gave up Higgins who is pretty damn productive for a 1.7M cap hit. That's a head-scratcher

Avatar
#34 RossCreek
June 30 2009, 03:37PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

And the Habs gave up Ryan McDonaugh in the deal? WTF?

Avatar
#35 Mike Krushelnyski
June 30 2009, 03:39PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

And now the Rangers have the cap space to take on Heatley :(

Avatar
#36 oilguyry
June 30 2009, 03:41PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

I wouldn't trade horcoff and penner for Gomez

Avatar
#37 Ogden Brother
June 30 2009, 03:42PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

So now that the Rags have trade Gomez for a decent 2nd/3rd line guy and a pretty good prospect, can we quit playing the "our contracts aren't movable" game?

Avatar
#38 oilguyry
June 30 2009, 03:44PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Gomez had 58 points last year and is signed through 2014 at a 7.3 cap hit Montreal will need heatley or the sisters to make him look good

Avatar
#39 RossCreek
June 30 2009, 03:44PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Eklund seems to be insinuating there's a 2nd part to this deal and Gomez won't be staying in MTL. We'll see. Was gonna say bye-bye to Sedins in Montreal... is it possible Van swaps rights to Sedins for Gomez? Or is it more possible that Eklund is a f*%#up (e4)?

Avatar
#40 mattmarcin
June 30 2009, 03:55PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Eklund is a f*%#up (e5)

Avatar
#41 Jolene Fendelet
June 30 2009, 04:01PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

i REALLY REALLY DO NOT LIKE THE SOURAY TALK CAN NOT LOSE HIM THIS IS A EMONTION ROLLER COASTER. PEOPLE TO GET RID OF NILSSON PENNER PLEASE NOT SOURAY..

Avatar
#42 Cam
June 30 2009, 04:01PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

oilguyry wrote:

I wouldn’t trade horcoff and penner for Gomez

If Horcoff and Penner play up to their potential and Hemsky plays like he has been playing for the last four years our first line is actually pretty good. A 25 Goal scorer 75 point dude (Horc), a 75 point playmaker capable of 25 goals (Hemmer) and a feisty Penner who pots 30.

Wouldn't that be great! :-) Yay. I am going to go read some more fantasy novels. ta ta

Avatar
#43 RossCreek
June 30 2009, 04:03PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Matt Marcin has just broke BIG news mattmarcin wrote:

Eklund is a f*%#up (e5)

(cause no one else has "broken" that one yet, he'll take full credit)

Avatar
#44 I'm a Scientist!
June 30 2009, 04:07PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Jolene Fendelet wrote:

i REALLY REALLY DO NOT LIKE THE SOURAY TALK CAN NOT LOSE HIM THIS IS A EMONTION ROLLER COASTER. PEOPLE TO GET RID OF NILSSON PENNER PLEASE NOT SOURAY..

Shhh shhhh shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, there there, they are only rumors...no need to yell...

*hands a bowl of ice cream to Jolene to help console her in her time of need*

Shhhh.....

Avatar
#45 Jonathan Willis
June 30 2009, 04:07PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

1. True, to some extent, with L.A and Toronto being obvious exceptions for the moment. 2. True. 3. Yes, but it doesn't make signing Gagner or Cogliano any easier. 4. Not so much. We like to punish management for offering contracts that were overpays at the time to loyal soldiers and callow youths. Besides, at the same time Lowe was shovelling out money to Moreau and Staios he was letting Smyth walk because he was worried about the cap. 5. Except for that 1st line LW hole. And the improvement of the youth is part of the problem; they don't have long-term contracts. 6. Maybe, but it isn't hard to imagine a pretty steep drop given the world economic situation. A. Except that we know they'll be bad. B. None of which helps the Oilers in 2010-11. C. The owners. Given that there are a few big budget teams who have allocated their sheckels wisely, and a whole ton of other teams (Anaheim, Atlanta, Buffalo, Carolina, Colorado, Columbus, Florida, Minnesota, Nashville, NY Islanders, Ottawa, Phoenix, St. Louis, and Tampa Bay) who will almost certainly want the cap to continue to decline, I see no reason why any of them will want to a) give their high-spending opponents a competitive advantage and b) raise salaries when they aren't making much money as it is by discarding the current CBA. Now that times are good in Edmonton, we seem to forget about the days in the none-too-distant past where we all wanted the salary cap.

Avatar
#46 Jimbob
June 30 2009, 04:16PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Lowe doesn't need to be kicked around by the armchair GM's here in Edmonton...You show me just ONE manager in the NHL who hasn't made mistakes!!! K-LOWE worked his ass off for this organization even tho he was parachuted into the GM role with NO EXPERIENCE!! Give him a Pat on the back instead of a kick in the Ass.

Nuff Said

Avatar
#47 Jonathan Willis
June 30 2009, 04:26PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@ Jimbob:

I don't think anybody questions Lowe's character or his effort during his time as General Manager.

Just his ability.

Avatar
#48 J.L.
June 30 2009, 04:26PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

The emontion roller coaster just derailed for habs fans.

Avatar
#49 RicoNotFata
June 30 2009, 04:31PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

It is my understanding that another reason the Oil have difficulty attracting free agents is because the culture sucks (remember MacT saying that?). Could it be that Souray wants out because of the "meh" attitude by some of the other players. I've heard one such whisper. If culture is really the problem, it is my hope that Tambo recognizes who the cancers are and removes them. Every July 1, I get pumped about the idea of landing a big fish, but this year, maybe it won't be the best idea. However, I'm with Thorn, if Darryl signs J-Bo and gets Heatley, I too may have to practice my bitch slapping skills.

Avatar
#50 Jason Gregor
June 30 2009, 04:32PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

THe Oilers can sign a guy and then trade a contract before the start of the season, they are allowed to be over the cap by 10% in the summer, but the Oilers, like many teams are going to be in a cap crunch very soon.

And with the Gomez deal, the Rangers have put even more heat on the Senators to land Heatley. The Rangers were one of his top three choices, so they have that advantage as well. Murray really wants this deal done before midnight.

Comments are closed for this article.