The Case For Not Buying Out Anyone

Jonathan Willis
April 07 2010 10:48AM

In his article today, Jason Gregor mentions a pair of moves that have been widely speculated for some time: buying out Patrick O’Sullivan and Robert Nilsson.

Gregor brought this up in the context of explaining why Ethan Moreau shouldn’t be bought out; here’s the quote:

Many fans and media have debated the merits of buying him out this summer, but I don’t see the Oilers buying out three guys, and with Jordon Eberle, Linus Omark and their first pick coming in camp next year, those guys are going to replace Robert Nilsson and Patrick O’Sullivan, not Ethan Moreau.
You could buy out both O’Sullivan and Nilsson for a little more than what it would cost to buy out Moreau. Sure, Moreau struggled for most of this season, but he’s given more to the organization than O’Sullivan and Nilsson combined and that should count for something.

This will probably surprise some people, but I think Gregor’s absolutely right: the Oilers shouldn’t buy out Moreau. It doesn’t make any sense, given that this team is going to continue the rebuilding process next year and is unlikely to compete: why not pay Moreau next year, get it over with, and call it a day rather than push his payments out over coming years when the Oilers will need the cap space?

The speculation that O’Sullivan and Nilsson are slated for buyouts has been around for a while, and I think it’s at the point now where we all expect it to happen this summer. From CapGeek.com, here are the cap hits for buying out those two players:

Nilsson

  • 2010-11: -$83,333
  • 2011-12: $416,667

O’Sullivan

  • 2010-11: $935, 417
  • 2011-12: $397,917

That’s a combined cap hit of about $850,000 next season and $815,000 the year after that. On the other hand, as it stands right now both of those players would play for full price next year (a little under $5.0 million) and then cost nothing in 2011-12.

Certainly there’s some financial incentive to ownership to buy out these players; if Daryl Katz has his general manager buy them out he’ll only pay one-third of the dollars he would pay to these underachievers otherwise.

In fact, assuming that the Oilers are going to continue their rebuild next season (i.e. not set the playoffs as a goal) this could be cast as a hockey decision vs. a money decision. On the one hand, Katz can save some money by buying these players out, money he’s under no obligation to spend next season, and in fact which it would make no sense to spend next season. On the other hand, he does this at the cost of a little over $800,000 in cap space two years from now, when his team will likely compete.

I know the decision I’d make in his shoes: I’d buy those guys out and save some of my money. I also know the decision I’d make if I were solely interested in the on-ice welfare of the Edmonton Oilers: I’d keep them around for another season, perhaps with Nilsson in the minors and giving O’Sullivan one more chance (and history shows it might not be a wasted chance) in a season that doesn’t matter, and then clear the books in 2011-12 when my team starts competing again.

Just to make it clear what I'm driving at here: I don't begrudge Daryl Katz the chance to save some of his ill-spent money.  But if the team is rebuilding, and the Oilers decide to buy these players out, this is a financial decision, not a hockey one, and that's how it should be viewed.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, 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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#101 Archaeologuy
April 08 2010, 12:39PM
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@Crash

What I do like about Hall is that under pressure he hasnt backed off at all.

I think it would be a little unfair to say that Seguin disappeared under pressure because he clearly did well in the 1st round of the playoffs and he is really the only offensive talent of note on his club, BUT Hall hasnt stopped performing one bit.

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#102 Crash
April 08 2010, 12:49PM
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@Archaeologuy

For the record I don't mind Tyler Seguin it's just that I don't understand the love and fascination of him over Hall given all the evidence to date over the last 3 yrs...

If we end up with Seguin I'm sure it'll be fine...I just have this feeling that Hall has superstar ability and if we pass on him for Seguin we'll regret it...

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#103 Archaeologuy
April 08 2010, 01:02PM
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@Crash

No matter what happens they're probably going to get a Ovechkin vs Crosby treatment until one proves to be better than the other in the NHL.

I know I'll be watching what the other one does over his career.

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#104 Crash
April 08 2010, 01:05PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

What I do like about Hall is that under pressure he hasnt backed off at all.

I think it would be a little unfair to say that Seguin disappeared under pressure because he clearly did well in the 1st round of the playoffs and he is really the only offensive talent of note on his club, BUT Hall hasnt stopped performing one bit.

Oops almost forgot...I don't really know a whole lot about Plymouth's roster but I do know that they have a couple players from the gold medal US Jr team so I don't think Seguin is the only offensive talent of note on his club....

The Whalers picked up Phil McRae at the OHL trade deadline and I believe they also have AJ Jenks who was a good player on the US team. Both McRae and Jenks outshone Seguin on their own team during these playoffs.

I'm not sure of the other players but they can't be all that bad to have finished 4th in their conference.

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#105 Crash
April 08 2010, 01:09PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

No matter what happens they're probably going to get a Ovechkin vs Crosby treatment until one proves to be better than the other in the NHL.

I know I'll be watching what the other one does over his career.

No doubt...I imagine we'll all be watching both especially if we have our choice of which one we want....maybe not as much if we're forced to take whichever one is left.

I'll be watching the other one as well.

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#106 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
April 08 2010, 02:30PM
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Crash wrote:

Nice to see you have me pegged as to what I do as an occupation and what I do in my free time....

There sure are a lot of condescending people on this site...are you really a cable guy? You shouldn't be degrading those that put in an honest days work mopping at wal-mart which is what your comment comes across as.

I haven't seen either one play live. My opinion of Hall is totally related to his consistency as a hockey player, his accomplishments at the junior level, the type of player that he has been described as, his showing on the world stage and the fact that he handed Seguin his lunch during the recent playoff series...

I guess from what I'm hearing Central scouting bases their opinions of who is rated #1 based on what they think things will look like 3 or 4 years down the road....I'm not really sure there is a science to that and can't understand how a player who has shown and accomplished as much as Taylor Hall can be rated lower than a guy with virtually no history to back up this #1 rating other than one year of good junior hockey...

So tell me are the scouts that watch these kids so much always right in their assessments? How do some of these kids go from being rated high by these same scouts in October and drastically drop 6 months later? Some of them virtually drop right off the board. And this is just over 6 months. I'm supposed to believe that these same scouts know which of the two players is going to be better 4 yrs from now?

I'll stick with the guy that has head and shoulders proved himself over and over and also shows up during the biggest games...and the guy who is better right now...

thanks for helping me not waste any of my time.

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#107 Crash
April 08 2010, 03:02PM
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cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan wrote:

thanks for helping me not waste any of my time.

No problem now you can get back to delivering pizza's

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