January 03 2013 11:26AM
The twitterverse was buzzing this morning after Micheal Grange tweeted the NHL has agreed to two compliance buyouts per team for the 2013/2014 season. Sadly it didn't include Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr, but it still got most fan's attention. The interesting part is that the buyouts will allegedly come from the player's share of HRR.
Within in moments many were speculating how the Edmonton Oilers would appoach this scenario. I'm not sure two buyouts is likely, but one could happen.
Whether teams take advantage of both buyouts will depend on what next year's salary cap will be. All arrows point to it being around $60 million, which would be $10 million less than this year, and that would put a lot of teams in a cap crunch.
The Oilers salary situation for next year looks like this:
|Forwards (9)||Cap hit|
|Taylor Hall||$6 million|
|Jordan Eberle||$6 million|
|Shawn Horcoff||$5.5 million|
|Ales Hemsky||$5 million|
|Ryan Nugent-Hopkins||$3.75 million|
|Nail Yakupov||$3.75 million|
|Ryan Smyth||$2.25 million|
|Eric Belanger||$1.75 million|
|Ben Eager||$1.1 million|
|Justin Schultz||$3.75 million|
|Nick Schultz||$3.5 million|
|Jeff Petry||$1.75 million|
|Devan Dubnyk||$3.75 million|
|Total (14)||$48.625 million|
That means the Oilers would need to sign 9 players for $11.375 million. That would include Ladislav Smid who likely will be around $3.5-4 million, and another top-four D-man, possibly Ryan Whitney.
The obvious buyout for the Oilers is Shawn Horcoff. He has a cap hit of $5.5 million, but he will be owed $7 million. It would be a $4.69 million buyout (going off the 2/3 formula that currently exists for players like Horcoff). None of it would count against the cap.
Horcoff would have value on this team in the future because you need some veteran experience down the middle. If he was their 3rd line centre making $3 million I doubt many would complain. However, the problem is, he carries a $5.5 million cap hit and that is too much to pay your 3rd line centre.
The reality is you need strength down the middle to win, and if the Oilers buyout Horcoff they are pretty thin at centre.
The current list of free agent centres who would be available this summer, and who could fill a 3rd line role, isn't that long. Ideally the Oilers would sign a 3rd line centre with some size and a decent scoring punch, but there aren't many of those players available.
Drew Miller, Matt Cullen, Saiku Koivu, Boyd Gordon, Manny Malhotra, Matthew Lombardi, David Steckel, and Jeff Halpern would be available if they don't re-sign. I doubt Detroit lets Miller walk, so Gordon might be the most attractive but he hasn't shown much offensive flair during his career.
The Oilers could look at Nathan Horton and Andy McDonald, but they are more 2nd liners and both have a history of concussions.
Buying out Horcoff would make financial sense for the Oilers, but who they replace him with is the issue. They could promote Eric Belanger, but he'd need to rebound from a brutal 2011/2012 season for that to make sense. Anton Lander would need an incredible second half in the American League to get any serious consideration. I think Lander will be a solid 3rd liner in a few years.
The Oilers don't have a lot of depth down the middle, and while buying out Horcoff frees up a lot of cap space, it would open up another area of weakness on the team.
The other option might be trading Horcoff. A team that needs to get to the cap floor would love Horcoff's contract, because they pay him less money than his actual cap hit. The only potential snag with that idea is that he has a modified no movement clause this summer.
If they don't facilitate a trade, buying him out would make the most sense financially.