August 14 2012 06:24AM
Over the next 24 months, the Edmonton Oilers management group will sign the future. How many years should they wrap up these kids? Is Taylor Hall--injuries and all--worth the risk of a 7-year deal? What does that do to Nuge negotiations a year from now? Should Jordan Eberle receive a matching deal?
At some level I imagine the Oilers' brass would have been perfectly happy waiting for the new CBA. Cost certainty, contract limits in terms of years, the list of possible advantages for ownership/management in the new agreement is substantial based on what the owners want from the players.
However, the signing of Jeff Skinner puts Edmonton in a situation where waiiting may end up making them look foolish. Negotiations are a two-way street, and if the Hall camp ends up signing a deal inferior to Skinner's under the new cba well that's a lot of possible discontent.
On the other hand, a deal signed now would also be susceptible to rollback should the new deal impose a lower cap limit. It's a sticky-wicket, as the British say.
WHAT TO DO?
My own feeling is that Hall is the one you secure this summer with a long term deal that could serve as an outer marker. Signing Hall to a deal similar to Skinner's gives Edmonton a chance to set the bar and then slot in Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov as their contracts become eligible for renewal.
He's the best player in the group of gifted forwards, already pushing the river against ever stiffening competition. I understand that his injury history is a concern, but Hall's signing sends a clear message to the young impact players on the club: the Edmonton Oilers are committed to you for the long term.
After getting Hall's name on a contract, the Oilers would have time to find a fair price for Jordan Eberle and perhaps establish the template for signing the Nuge and Nail Yakupov in future seasons.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Take it from an old guy who saw the glory days and then watched all those young men leave town: it takes the wink of an eye to go from unknown quantity to an out of reach icon. There are only so many ways to cut the pie, and Edmonton management is blessed in one important way: their best player is also the guy whose contract comes due first. Meaning the club can sign him to a (say) 7-year, $44M contract and have that serve as their contract "line in the sand": no one goes beyond it.
If gathering all this talent and then keeping it for as long as possible is the plan, then now might be a very good time to sign Taylor Hall.