The Edmonton Oilers are getting a little light on prospect forwards

Jonathan Willis
June 16 2012 12:14PM

Image by 5of7, via Wikimedia Commons

It is a fixture in conventional wisdom that the Oilers are heavy on talented forwards, while weaker on defense and in net. Looking at the NHL roster, this is undeniably true. However, looking at the Oilers’ farm system, the case is reversed: they’re very strong on defense and in net, and anemic up front.

The Personnel

We’ve talked about the Oilers’ roster of defensive prospects at length before, and even with the subtraction of Jeremie Blain it’s a very good set of players. There are at least four guys with the potential of playing top-four minutes in the NHL and a bunch of others who could have careers. Obviously they won’t all make it, but at this point it’s clearly an organizational strength.

In net, the Oilers are also in pretty good shape, and they managed it without spending high draft picks (the way they did back when Devan Dubnyk and Jeff Deslauriers were in the system together. Tyler Bunz has improved by leaps and bounds since draft day and has done as much as a junior goalie can. Next year, Bunz will join Olivier Roy in the professional ranks; Roy had a rookie season in Stockton (ECHL) that compares very favourably to Devan Dubnyk’s first year with the same team. Finnish goalies Samu Perhonen and Frans Tuohimaa didn’t have great years but are still players of interest.

Up front, things are a little sketchier. Magnus Paajarvi and Teemu Hartikainen are very close to full-time NHL employment, but after that pair things fall off. Anton Lander is a player the organization appears to be bullish on, but offensive production is a serious question mark – in 28 combined regular season/playoff games after his AHL demotion, he managed a total of three goals and nine points. Aside from Lander, Tyler Pitlick has excellent physical gifts but struggled to score, Curtis Hamilton struggled to score, Philippe Cornet has 60 points in 127 career AHL games, and Tobias Rieder has been very impressive but is still playing junior hockey. Things go downhill from there.

Now, lest I be accused of a starkly pessimistic outlook, it’s only fair to note that the Oilers have some young NHL forwards – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Sam Gagner – with scoring ability. They’ll add another one in Nail Yakupov if they draft him first overall later this month.

So What?

Given the group of forwards the Oilers have on the NHL roster, does this even matter? There are only so many roster spots to be had and with the four guys listed above plus Yakupov, Hartikainen and Paajarvi, things are covered, right?

The reason it matters is actually quite straight forward: because of the salary cap.

Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle will see their entry level deals expire in 2013. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ contract will be up in 2014. Whoever the Oilers take first overall this year will see his deal end in 2015. Over the last few years, when players of this caliber see their contracts expire, they’ve typically signed for ~10% of whatever the salary cap is at that time. Kane and Toews inked for a little over 11% each of Chicago’s cap space, Perry and Getzlaf were both around the 10% mark, Kopitar signed at 12%, and so on. The best example of a bargain contract of five years or more is John Tavares – his $5.5 million represented just 8.55% of the salary cap when he re-upped with the Islanders.

The point of all this is that the Oilers should be planning for between 35-40% of their salary cap space to be taken up by the contracts of Hall, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins and whoever they take first overall. The cap may go up and drive that number down a little, but even so those players will eat up a huge portion of Edmonton’s money. Some of that will be compensated for by expiring contracts (Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff) but then a bunch of that money will need to go into paying for a much-needed top defensemen. Then of course players like Gagner, Jeff Petry and Ladislav Smid will also get paid.

We can argue over the specifics, but the fact is this: once those entry-level contracts expire, the Oilers are going to need to be an efficient team in terms of getting performance for bottom dollar elsewhere on the roster. We’ve seen what happens in Chicago when deals expire – the Blackhawks have been leaking talent ever since their Cup win, despite the fact that they managed to get both Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith signed to long-term contracts with bogus years on the end of them (deals that would not likely be approved by the NHL today).

When it happens, the Oilers will need cheap, outperforming contracts to stay competitive (assuming that they get competitive between now and then). They may be able to find some of that money in net, the way Detroit has, though Edmonton has yet to embrace that model. For the most part, the learning curve of young defensemen means that it’s more difficult to get outperformers on entry-level deals (look at how many years it took Smid to really emerge as a top-four option), however, so that means they’ll need to land cheap supporting forwards.

For the next few years, when possible it is going to make sense to pick forwards early if there isn’t a clearly superior blue liner. The guys drafted this year and in 2013 will be the ones pushing for NHL jobs in 2015 and 2016. If the Oilers can restock their forward prospects over the next two drafts, it might go a long way towards keeping the team competitive when the elite talent gets expensive.

This week by Jonathan Willis

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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 RomZ
June 16 2012, 12:28PM
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FIST?

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#2 CooCoo
June 16 2012, 12:32PM
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Affirmative

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#3 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
June 16 2012, 12:32PM
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Having most of your best forwards under 23 reduces the need for a deep group of forward prospects.

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#5 RomZ
June 16 2012, 12:47PM
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It will being extremely difficult to sign all 4 of these guys, assuming yakupov is taken with the first pick.

The big unknown is the exact details of the new CBA, and how it will affect the cap. In an ideal world the fab 4 will stay together, and we will be able to sign cost effective role players to make up the rest of the team.

However, this is wishful thinking, we will most likely have to deal one of the 4 to get help where its needed most.

I for one will be happy to see the oilers trade from a position of strength rather than pass off old broken down parts in hopes of landing legitimate NHL caliber help.

That being said I have no faith in our current GM's ability to pull any deal off and come out of it a winner, thats what scares me

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#6 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
June 16 2012, 12:53PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ OB1 Team Yakopov:

I definitely agree; all I'm saying is that the Oilers need to find some bargains and the best way is probably getting some value forwards on ELC's for when the kids expire, something that needs to start now.

Ya, hopefully in 2-3 years guys like Pitlick and Lander can cotribute in complementary roles for under 2 million per year... Then fill in the blanks with the Dom Moores of the world.

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#7 oilers2k12
June 16 2012, 12:56PM
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I wonder if Hall, RNH, Eberle, and if the oilers are smart and Draft Yakupov will look for Top dollar when their contracts expire or if they will look at the team and shoot for a dynasty..doesn't mean they wouldnt get paid an insane amount of money and be able to drive flashy cars, it just means that instead of getting 6mill they might need to settle for 5..or 6 instead of 7..

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#8 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
June 16 2012, 12:57PM
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A year ago we were all afraid of what these kids would demand upon renewals. Only 2 of the fab 3 of 2010-11 have made progress, Paajarvi has fallen off the map. Add Hopkins and Yakupov to the mix and we know for certain, not all of these kids will turn into superstars demanding mega type deals. They'll all make progress in their own time, it won't be all at the same time.

Edmonton won't have any trouble retaining any and all of these kids. The Oilers will be very fortunate if 2 out of the 3 lotto picks deliver as promised.

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#9 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
June 16 2012, 12:58PM
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RomZ wrote:

It will being extremely difficult to sign all 4 of these guys, assuming yakupov is taken with the first pick.

The big unknown is the exact details of the new CBA, and how it will affect the cap. In an ideal world the fab 4 will stay together, and we will be able to sign cost effective role players to make up the rest of the team.

However, this is wishful thinking, we will most likely have to deal one of the 4 to get help where its needed most.

I for one will be happy to see the oilers trade from a position of strength rather than pass off old broken down parts in hopes of landing legitimate NHL caliber help.

That being said I have no faith in our current GM's ability to pull any deal off and come out of it a winner, thats what scares me

I don't really think it will be that hard to sign the big 4, assuming they all continue to progress like we hope they do, they would worst case, what? 26 million cap hit? I haven't looked lately, but I'd bet there is lots of top teams with 25ish million in there best four players.

With any luck they'll pick one to go long term with a cap cap cheating deal and work that down by a million or two?

And even if they all become 8 million dollar players, (Stamkos caliber) we'll probably get one cup out of it and the unload 1 of them for a boatload of picks/prospects.

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#10 gongshow
June 16 2012, 01:06PM
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@ JW -

I posted this on your last Yakupov post, but was a little late to the party, so I'll repost here and hope that you provide your analysis/opinion.

You've shown the effect of Yak's injury on his pre/post-injury output, but how much of an effect do you suppose Galchenyuk's absence had on Yak's numbers?

Even with his startling level of pre-injury output, I wonder how much his numbers might have been if he had been playing with his team's true #1 center.

(Along the same lines of thinking as where would Patrick Kane's draft year numbers have fallen to if Gags had been hurt all year?)

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#12 RomZ
June 16 2012, 01:14PM
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Good point,

Lets just hope the cap rises under the new CBA.

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#13 oilers2k12
June 16 2012, 01:18PM
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@oilers2k12

Just gonna do a lil math..

In five years or so...

Hall-6 m RNH-6 m Eberle-6 m Yakupov-6 m Gagner-4 m Paajarvi-3 m Hartakainen-2.5 m Lander-2.5 m

Thats 36 million..eight players.. Add 6 million for the remaining 4 players to round out 12 forwards.. Total=42 m

Salary cap may be around 65 Thats 18 million left for defence and goal..

Top Pairing guy-6 m Petry-4 m Smid-4 m N.Schultz-3.5 m Bottom pairing guy-1.5 m

Thats 19 m, one million over the cap..

Still need to pay the goalies, Dubnyk-5 m Backup-1 m

Seven million over the cap, still need to pay extra forwards and 7th dman.. so alltogether about 8 million over if the cap is 65 million..

Someones gotta take a pay cut somewhere..we may not need a dman worth 6 million..we want the four superstars no matter what but maybe they each take 1 million below market value, already freed up 6 million..another two somewhere to go..

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#14 madjam
June 16 2012, 01:55PM
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We have to trade and upgrade on all our trades - something that has alluded us the last 3-4 years or so . If they can't , then rebuild will continue to be a bust . Don't kid ourselves , 29th is pittance for progress after 3-4 years !

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#15 vetinari
June 16 2012, 02:21PM
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The next three years will be huge in terms of testing our GM's cap management skills... I think that whatever MacT, er, I mean Tambi resigns Hall & Eberle at will set the bar for RNH & Yakupov.

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#16 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
June 16 2012, 02:40PM
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@Vetinari

They need to remove the Hemsky and Horcoff contracts first. These are the 2 current most damning benchmarks the Oilers have set for themselves. Both these guys need to be gone before a new world order can be established.

With Horcoff and Hemsky pulling down 5+ a year for multiple yrs, it's no wonder Ryan Smyth feels he deserves something closer to that amount. Considering he contributed more than those two this past season.

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#17 Doug
June 16 2012, 03:11PM
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Next up, is Connor McJesus. wrote:

@Vetinari

They need to remove the Hemsky and Horcoff contracts first. These are the 2 current most damning benchmarks the Oilers have set for themselves. Both these guys need to be gone before a new world order can be established.

With Horcoff and Hemsky pulling down 5+ a year for multiple yrs, it's no wonder Ryan Smyth feels he deserves something closer to that amount. Considering he contributed more than those two this past season.

Why would the Oilers want to trade Hemsky if they just resigned him this season? Or do you believe that was intended to be a sign and trade kind of move? Also, if the Oilers were to trade those 2, what do you think the Oilers could get for them? I think a top 4 dman for Hemsky is easily attainable, but Horcoffs contract seems like a boat anchor.

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#18 Tim S
June 16 2012, 03:12PM
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There is no point projecting until we know what the next CBA, will there be a rollback? Will there be a limit on 2nd contracts? 2 Years ago MPS was a sure thing, now a bit of a question mark.

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#19 DieHard
June 16 2012, 03:14PM
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Next up, is Connor McJesus. wrote:

@Vetinari

They need to remove the Hemsky and Horcoff contracts first. These are the 2 current most damning benchmarks the Oilers have set for themselves. Both these guys need to be gone before a new world order can be established.

With Horcoff and Hemsky pulling down 5+ a year for multiple yrs, it's no wonder Ryan Smyth feels he deserves something closer to that amount. Considering he contributed more than those two this past season.

Horcoff has what you could term as a legacy contract. Everybody hates those and understands they are not a template for future (it was a blazing mistake and everyone knows it and you can't do anything about it). Hemsky's contract was needed. He could have been lost for NOTHING. He is still young and may be worth it; it's short term; it's doesn't have a no-trade; will not get in the way of the first OV's next contracts. Neither one are true benchmarks.

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#20 striker777
June 16 2012, 03:22PM
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Totally agrre. Oilers are much deeper in D than forwards. They need to start dradting abrasive forwards with size and ability to pkay hockey. A mix between Hartikainen and Eager. We can't afford ti have only small players in the top 6. Somebody needs to create space for our skilled kids to score goals. This will also cut down on injuries.

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#21 T__Bone88
June 16 2012, 03:31PM
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I really do not see a problem quite yet for the Oilers. Predicting that the Oilers will end up like Chicago is a fairly poor argument. Chicago didn't have to trade players like Ladd or Buff. At the time it was basically poor cap management and most of the good players for the hawks were in need of a new contract. Plus the Blackhawks screwed up in dealing with the RFA's thus having to overpay each by almost double their value or risk losing to unrestricted free agency.

Hopefully the Oilers can find some gem's in the draft or free agency that can play decently for less than 2 million a year. The Oilers should do like Detroit and have a unwritten rule that you can not make more than our best player ie. Hall and Ebs. Once the oilers set that benchmark for their salary neither Nuge or Yakupov can make more.

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#22 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
June 16 2012, 03:43PM
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@Doug

Hemsky, either way Ales gets what he wants. He's probably on board with this reality already. From his actions leading upto the trade deadline he was fine with the idea of leaving Edmonton for greener pastures this summer. Once he lands where he lands he can work on an extension if he wants. The game turns on a dime in the offseason, anything can happen, it's a business.

Horcoff will be easier to move after this coming season. With 11 million in cap hits over the following two yrs, it would be one of the easier deals to make finding a floor team to take on 11 mill in cap hits for only 7 million over those two yrs. By this time next summer the Oilers may even get a second rounder for Horcoff. Along with getting out from under those two 5.5 cap hits.

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#23 moreses
June 16 2012, 04:15PM
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This is a very good point jon. I think its safe to say that the Oilers are in very good shape with defensive prospects and Goaltenders. One of the most difficult things to do in the NHL today is to get bargain offense. The Oilers are going to have to hope they sign both Eberle and Hall after the CBA lowers the salary cap, and hope they take a little bit of a home town discount. RNH will be in the same boat. This team is a long ways from the Bargain offense of the Bruins (Marchand, Lucic, Peverly etc) of last year and the Blackhawks of 2010 (Versteeg, Ladd, Byffuglin). Boston has been able to sign many cap friendly deals for there high end talent. Chicago had to make some tough decisions. I am not sure if the Oilers have that sort of high end secondary scoring in the system. Its something that mgmt needs to focus on this draft year if the goal is to win a cup in the next few seasons.

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#24 Chris
June 16 2012, 04:26PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ OB1 Team Yakopov:

I definitely agree; all I'm saying is that the Oilers need to find some bargains and the best way is probably getting some value forwards on ELC's for when the kids expire, something that needs to start now.

Hopefully ELC's get bumped up from 3 years then!

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#25 Dave Casselman
June 16 2012, 04:34PM
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oilers2k12 wrote:

I wonder if Hall, RNH, Eberle, and if the oilers are smart and Draft Yakupov will look for Top dollar when their contracts expire or if they will look at the team and shoot for a dynasty..doesn't mean they wouldnt get paid an insane amount of money and be able to drive flashy cars, it just means that instead of getting 6mill they might need to settle for 5..or 6 instead of 7..

Wow, such a receptive chord you do strike. If you were to ask the Boys on the Bus the same question, bet not one of them would opt for the bigger dollar. It's a question of internal makeup and it's a question of youth. I for one do not want to cry again, I don't want to wonder how many Cups they would have won before indifference or age set in, and sure as Squirrel and Moose I don't want to see money again interrupt what could be manifest destiny.

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#26 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
June 16 2012, 05:37PM
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oilers2k12 wrote:

Just gonna do a lil math..

In five years or so...

Hall-6 m RNH-6 m Eberle-6 m Yakupov-6 m Gagner-4 m Paajarvi-3 m Hartakainen-2.5 m Lander-2.5 m

Thats 36 million..eight players.. Add 6 million for the remaining 4 players to round out 12 forwards.. Total=42 m

Salary cap may be around 65 Thats 18 million left for defence and goal..

Top Pairing guy-6 m Petry-4 m Smid-4 m N.Schultz-3.5 m Bottom pairing guy-1.5 m

Thats 19 m, one million over the cap..

Still need to pay the goalies, Dubnyk-5 m Backup-1 m

Seven million over the cap, still need to pay extra forwards and 7th dman.. so alltogether about 8 million over if the cap is 65 million..

Someones gotta take a pay cut somewhere..we may not need a dman worth 6 million..we want the four superstars no matter what but maybe they each take 1 million below market value, already freed up 6 million..another two somewhere to go..

What on earth would make you think the cap will be 65 million in 4 years,

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#27 David S
June 16 2012, 06:39PM
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striker777 wrote:

Totally agrre. Oilers are much deeper in D than forwards. They need to start dradting abrasive forwards with size and ability to pkay hockey. A mix between Hartikainen and Eager. We can't afford ti have only small players in the top 6. Somebody needs to create space for our skilled kids to score goals. This will also cut down on injuries.

We have 3.5 actual NHL'ers at D - Smid, Petry, Schultz and Whitney (the .5er).

By that measure we must be totally screwed at forward.

I don't count the "wealth" in OKC until they show they can be actual NHL'ers. If we had more substance on the back end of the big club that wouldn't be a problem.

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#28 justDOit
June 16 2012, 08:01PM
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Sure Smid's development was quite lengthy, but it was also slowed by injury and playing on one of the worst teams in NHL history. Not trying to start a war with that comment - it hurts me to even type it out, but it's the truth.

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#29 DSF
June 16 2012, 08:02PM
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David S wrote:

We have 3.5 actual NHL'ers at D - Smid, Petry, Schultz and Whitney (the .5er).

By that measure we must be totally screwed at forward.

I don't count the "wealth" in OKC until they show they can be actual NHL'ers. If we had more substance on the back end of the big club that wouldn't be a problem.

This.

This is what defensive depth actually looks like:

Hamhuis

Bieksa

Edler

Salo

Ballard

Alberts

Rome

Gragnani 73 NHL GP

Tanev 58 NHL GP

Connauton (AHL All Star)

Yann Sauve 5 NHL GP

That's 11 players who could reasonably be in the NHL next season.

Suggesting the Oilers have "depth" at the position is ludicrous.

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#30 Bucknuck
June 16 2012, 08:09PM
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Wasn't everyone freaking out three years ago about how they were going to afford to keep Cogs and Nilsson and Gagner? JW is right when he says bargain contracts for high end youth is just smart management. I hope they get some depth at that position in this draft, but with the amount of d-men available I think forwards will be at premium, so this may not be the year to stock up. Hopefully they see it as a need.

Hemsky get 0.9 PPG, and the only one of the three who is above that mark so far is Eberle, who has yet to beat Hemsky's top year. I would not be surprised to see Hemsky's name at the top of the stats page for the Oilers next year, so five million for that type of player is just fine in my book. Trading him would be stupid when you have the cap room to keep him. People suggesting to trade Hemsky right away are pretty short sighted. Let's make sure our draft pick doesn't turn into Stefan first.

As it stands now the only players on this roster who have proven they can get 70 points in a season are Horcoff, Hemsky, Smyth, and Eberle. I would love to see What the Old three can do if some of the hard minutes are taken by the "big three".

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#31 madjam
June 16 2012, 09:33PM
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I see we have draft picks as 1,32 (only one in second round ),63 and 91 (via L.A.),123, 153 . Needless to say only number 1 will be a player for us anytime soon . We have to trade to get better in all positions. To date i see nothing of that happening .

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#32 ed in mada
June 16 2012, 10:00PM
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Wasn't everyone freaking out three years ago about how they were going to afford to keep Cogs and Nilsson and Gagner? JW is right when he says bargain contracts for high end youth is just smart management. I hope they get some depth at that position in this draft, but with the amount of d-men available I think forwards will be at premium, so this may not be the year to stock up. Hopefully they see it as a need.

Hemsky get 0.9 PPG, and the only one of the three who is above that mark so far is Eberle, who has yet to beat Hemsky's top year. I would not be surprised to see Hemsky's name at the top of the stats page for the Oilers next year, so five million for that type of player is just fine in my book. Trading him would be stupid when you have the cap room to keep him. People suggesting to trade Hemsky right away are pretty short sighted. Let's make sure our draft pick doesn't turn into Stefan first.

As it stands now the only players on this roster who have proven they can get 70 points in a season are Horcoff, Hemsky, Smyth, and Eberle. I would love to see What the Old three can do if some of the hard minutes are taken by the "big three".

Fly By has actually averaged 0.77 ppg in his NHL career (431 points in 559 games). Would you still say Hemsky cannot be traded if the Oil could get a legit 1/2 defenceman for him? IMO any player is tradeable if the deal is right

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#34 DonDon
June 16 2012, 11:45PM
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Romz noted: "That being said I have no faith in our current GM's ability to pull any deal off and come out of it a winner, thats what scares me."

Totally agree. Add the woeful job the professional scouts have done in not only being unable to recognize talent but unable to recognize value talent.

As for figuring out the cap two to three years out not knowing the terms of the new CBA is hypothetical. If anything, the cap will drop as the league has overpriced tickets and more money from TV contracts is unlikely in our economic times, particularly the US.

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#35 Wax Man Riley
June 17 2012, 01:37AM
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oilers2k12 wrote:

Just gonna do a lil math..

In five years or so...

Hall-6 m RNH-6 m Eberle-6 m Yakupov-6 m Gagner-4 m Paajarvi-3 m Hartakainen-2.5 m Lander-2.5 m

Thats 36 million..eight players.. Add 6 million for the remaining 4 players to round out 12 forwards.. Total=42 m

Salary cap may be around 65 Thats 18 million left for defence and goal..

Top Pairing guy-6 m Petry-4 m Smid-4 m N.Schultz-3.5 m Bottom pairing guy-1.5 m

Thats 19 m, one million over the cap..

Still need to pay the goalies, Dubnyk-5 m Backup-1 m

Seven million over the cap, still need to pay extra forwards and 7th dman.. so alltogether about 8 million over if the cap is 65 million..

Someones gotta take a pay cut somewhere..we may not need a dman worth 6 million..we want the four superstars no matter what but maybe they each take 1 million below market value, already freed up 6 million..another two somewhere to go..

I'd re-check that math....

...and why is Dubnyk making $5M?

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#36 TigerUnderGlass
June 17 2012, 09:34AM
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Average cap hit of the top 6 salaries on some good teams:

San Jose - 5.89M.

Pittsburgh - 6.08M

Vancouver - 5.27M

Philly - 5.36M

LA - 5.33M

NYR - 5.58M

Bos - 5.04M

Chi - 5.85M

NJ - 5.22M (Assuming only 6.5M for Parise and no Brodeur)

Kings of cap management Nashville assuming only 6.5 each for Weber and Suter - 5.53M

STL is cheap but they have to resign everybody but Backes, Steen, and the goalies over the next 2 years.

PHX is going to have to come up with a bunch of money after next year too.

Most good teams have over 30M in cap hit tied up in their 6 best players.

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#37 DSF
June 17 2012, 09:43AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Yeah, the Oilers don't have depth in actual NHL defense - just a crap-load of prospects that are three years away. They lack that at forward.

Sure makes you wonder how a team that has missed the playoffs six years in a row and been dreadful for the better part of two decades is so thin in depth all over the place.

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#38 RexLibris
June 17 2012, 10:03AM
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Hi Jonathan,

This February when the Hemsky trade rumours were going I was thinking about whether he could have been moved to Detroit for either Tomas Jurco or Tomas Tatar.

Last June I noticed that the Oilers forward depth, especially center and RW, was pretty weak. After Hamilton, Hartikainen, Paajarvi, Reider and Pitlick there aren't many half-decent depth scoring threats in the system. I'm focusing on the replacement players who will be available for promotion after this team starts to find its feet.

The Oilers may lose Pitlick, for example, through trade because we can't afford his supporting-player salary. In that case the Oilers will need to rely on ELCs for that position and they'll need two things: first, to get a good return on trading those support players (eg: Mikael Samuelsson and Kris Versteeg), and two, we'll need some good 2nd and 3rd string wingers to take his place.

Looking at the regular rate of attrition on successful teams, with Chicago as the worst-case scenario, I think that the depth at forward is going to be a crucial factor.

That is why, outside of acquiring Carolina's pick and perhaps drafting Cody Corbett if he's still there in the 3rd round, I would like to see the Oilers focus on a forward-heavy draft this year. Samuelsson, Frk, Sissons, Moroz, and so on as draft targets.

I really appreciate the article, it was something that has been bugging me, but I wasn't sure if it was just me.

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#39 Ryan2
June 17 2012, 10:22AM
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Good post JW. This is exactly why everyone that is saying "trade/package MPS for another 1st round pick OR a top pairing D-man", after a down year where a 2nd year player struggled with confidence and was misused by the coach, are clueless on how to build a team. As they say, you can't teach the size and speed which MPS has, but you can teach a player how to do things differently. Outside of MPS, Harski, Lander and maybe Pitlick, there is not much depth at all.

The Oilers need to take Yakupov and set things up so they have four of their top 6 players already in place for the future. They are still 2 to 3 years out from being a consistent playoff team/contender IF Hall/Ebs/Nuge/#1 develop as hoped, so the focus needs to be on building a solid pool of forwards that can fill the 2nd and 3rd line roles, and having a few to spare on the farm.

Then, IF the young core is ready to take a jump, the Oilers will hopefully have a competent GM that can add top end UFAs and veteran role players where needed without wasting young prospects and draft picks.

Also, re-signing Smyth will be a huge waste of development time and money for the team. I would rather see them with MPS and Harski on the team to start the season to assess where they fit for the future. Why pay even $2 million a year for a small 3rd line winger that is not great defensively, slow, and only plays 1/4 of a season effectively?

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