Question Period

RexLibris
February 11 2013 08:07AM

It seems the Oilers are entering a tipping point of sorts.

Scanning the intertubes I’ve noticed that fans are beginning to schism into two familiar, yet divergent camps.

There are the ones who are hoping for a strong playoff push. They see the Oilers as ready to lift themselves up off the NHL mat and throw a few punches back at the league that has beaten them down (and rewarded them handsomely for it) these past few years. These fans want the playoffs this year, or a whisker away from it at the very least.

On the other side are those who look at this team and, bourgeoning stars aside, see some areas of concern they would like addressed, preferably through the draft. These fans are comfortable with a finish between 13th and 15th in the West and will wait another year before putting their foot down on a playoff appearance.

Both groups of fans want nothing more than a parade with a big shiny silver chalice going down Jasper Avenue. So the disagreement at this point is more or less academic.

WHATS THE MOVE?

But it does raise some interesting questions. Are the Oilers best served by getting into a playoff race this year, pushing for a spot, and perhaps falling short by a few points but showing that they will be ready for prime time when the 2013-2014 season starts?

Or perhaps the Oilers would be best having their roster holes made apparent and facing the struggles this brings?

From where I sit this boils down to two perspectives: the first focuses on the development of the players while the second questions the development and decision-making of management.

If the Oilers look ready for a playoff jump this year might management move some assets to try and bolster a roster for a post-season push? It could certainly happen.

And if they fall out of the playoff picture by the beginning of March would management focus instead on addressing long-term needs by making decisions on expiring UFAs Ryan Whitney and Ryan Jones?

Will they be buyers or sellers? If buyers, how many chips do they cash in and to what effect? We all remember the Avalanche making the playoffs the year after they drafted Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly. The next year they were back in the basement and it appeared that management got the impression the team was better, or at least more advanced than they actually were. Could the Oilers make the same mistake if they got into the playoffs this year?

Were the Oilers to finish well outside of the playoff race, but still north of where they’ve sat these past three seasons (because south of, and adjacent to, dead last isn’t an option) they would be assured of a pretty decent draft order. And drafting good players is something fans can get addicted to.

I’ll admit that I tend to fall into the latter group here. I see holes in both the roster and development group. I hesitate to make any move that comes at the cost of the draft, but there are trades I would like to see worked out as well. Unless the Oilers make a decision to address organizational shortcomings by subtracting from their respectable stockpile of young and prospect-level players, I won’t hold my breath.

So which group do you tend to fall into?

Are you looking for a great season with some post-season promise in the hopes that it will help educate the young core on how to win in the playoffs? Do you want to see some moves made that would cash in some prospect chips for those veteran players that good teams always seem to have? Do you want the team to just keep on keeping on and draft a second line centre with size?

Is it too early to talk draft? I’m never likely to say no to that, but others might feel differently.

HOW ABOUT A TRADE

The Oilers are clearly entering the crucial window wherein a team that has rebuilt either starts filling the holes or loses young talent to attrition and continues to spin their wheels. I like to call that territory “the Long Island Mile”, a stretch of proverbial highway (to use Lowetide’s favourite metaphor) that sees a team either take the off-ramp to improvement or just keep rolling along on cruise-control.

So, to start things off, how about I propose a trade idea that might qualify as a “wow” sort of move. Keep in mind, this suggestion is just to signify the kind of move that I think the Oilers need to make. This would address two areas in which I feel the Oilers are struggling or are going to struggle in the near future but I hope also recognizes that it comes at a cost.

My target in this hypothetical is Phoenix because of the NHL ownership angle and due to their system needing an influx of prospects. The Coyotes cannot afford the luxury even of an abbreviated rebuilding phase due to severe financial concerns and the desperate need to grow the brand within their market.

In exchange for Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Kyle Chipchura and Henrik Samuelsson the Oilers would send back Magnus Paajarvi, Ryan Whitney (minus half the dollar amount on his contract through the Retained Salary mechanism in the CBA), Tyler Pitlick, Toni Rajala, David Musil and a 2nd round pick in this year’s draft.

The Oilers have a wealth of prospects at many positions, but need to acquire two key positions for their future, that of a defensive partner for Justin Schultz and a potential future 2nd or 3rd line centre. This addresses both those needs.

The assets Phoenix acquires aren’t insignificant and diversify their prospect pool immediately. The financial aspect of the deal would see the Oilers on the hook for Ekman-Larsson’s next contract (he is an RFA at the end of the year), as well as retaining half of the remaining money of Ryan Whitney’s contract. Chipchura coming the Oilers’ way is solely to balance the contracts on the reserve list for both teams, the Coyotes currently sit at 49 contracts and GMs are very hesitant to remain at the 50-contract max for long.

The Oilers could also flip Daniil Zharkov for Alex Bolduc to appease Don Maloney in this regard, but the Coyotes could just as easily trade an expiring UFA for a draft pick at the deadline and solve their own problems more to their liking.

So, what do you think? Which camp do you find yourself in, anxious to see some progress or patient for this year? Do you have any faith in the management group or are your concerns primarily with on-ice issues? How about the proposed trade idea? Go on, tear me a new one in the comments section, or propose your own trades or player-types that you’d like to target. I’ll set the over-under at the number of comments before someone proposes a Sam Gagner trade at 1.5.

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#101 Bonvie
February 11 2013, 02:56PM
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John Chambers wrote:

Okay, looking at it this way:

2014 Season Payroll

Hall - $6M, Ebs - $6M, Nuge - $6M, Schultz - $5M, Dubnyk - $5M, Yak - $3.5M, Gags - $4M, Smid - $3M, Petry - $3M (if we're lucky).

That's 5 forwards, 3 D, and a goalie for $41.5M.

In '14-'15 let's say the cap is $67.5M, we need to pay the bottom 8 forwards, 4 defensemen, and a backup goalie an average of $2M apiece.

The point is: Hemsky becomes an unaffordable luxury, as would be Yandle, Getzlaf, Stephen Weiss, or anyone else commanding a salary in excess of $4M ... unless we trade one of the kids.

That is where depth in the organization to fill out your 3rd and 4th line on entry level contracts or cheap contracts becomes important. The same goes for 7 and 8 Dmen. This is where the smart GM's use the UFA market, the value contracts are out there every year but most GM's are busy chasing the big fish and will overpay. UFA should be used to tweak you lineup by adding role players. If you do that you can still keep your Hemsky.

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#102 GVBlackhawk
February 11 2013, 03:47PM
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John Chambers wrote:

Rex,

Great topic for a discussion. Obviously a lot of healthy debate to be had.

THE CHAMBERS PLAN :) With Dubnyk, Petry, Nuge, and the younger Schultz up for big raises after '13-'14, the Oilers can't waste years where their young core is affordable and able to make a run. The Oilers should be willing to trade picks in the 2nd round (we have two!) and beyond, along with middling prospects to fill out the roster NOW and leg out the competition for the playoffs. The kids will benefit immensely from the experience.

Ultimately we'll have to trade someone like Hemsky for a young, affordable Dman like Sekara or Nikitin, get rid of Whitney, buy out Horcoff in the offseason, and fill ou the roster with solid 2-way players (like Belanger, Fiddler, Winnik, Moen, etc) on good contracts.

The fans have waited long enough. The players are eager to show the league what they're made of - the time is now for management to compliment the core ... of course without dealing any of our BEST prospects (Musil & Klefbom) or 1st round picks.

I have two issues with the CHAMBERS PLAN. The first is Petry's big raise. He is performing mediocrely which should temper his raise. Same goes for Smid. The second issue I have is the reluctance to deal high-end prospects. Musil, Klefbom, even one of the wonderkids should all be available for the right return.

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#103 OEL
February 11 2013, 03:56PM
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@Bonvie

I'm sure you've already been ripped about getting OEL for Pajaarvi and spare pieces, but come on. Even I can see how lopsided the deal is in the Oilers favor, as much as I'd like to see that deal.

They MIGHT let OEL go for one of the wunder kids, anything short of that and you're dreaming. OEL has top 10 NHL D-man written all over his game. He's almost there already.

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#104 OEL
February 11 2013, 03:57PM
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Not sure why that was @Bonvie...it was definitely @RexLibris

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#105 John Chambers
February 11 2013, 04:01PM
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GVBlackhawk wrote:

I have two issues with the CHAMBERS PLAN. The first is Petry's big raise. He is performing mediocrely which should temper his raise. Same goes for Smid. The second issue I have is the reluctance to deal high-end prospects. Musil, Klefbom, even one of the wonderkids should all be available for the right return.

Yeah this is where the GM'ing gets tough. Attention to detail becomes key.

Like Bonvie suggests, organization depth and some value in free agency will either enable the team to be really competitive, or force us to shake things up a bit.

I doubt ST trades any of the core 5 players or Dubnyk, but I could definitely see a Gagner, Hemsky, or Petry get traded to fill other holes, and to your point Musil, Klefbom, Paajarvi or other should be offered if we net a high-quality return. Another $5M + player doesn't seem in the cards, however.

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#106 GVBlackhawk
February 11 2013, 04:53PM
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You can comfortably pay 6 players $5M+ and get away with it under the existing cap. The team obviously needs to get more bang-for-the-buck for some of the money they are currently spending. Horcoff 5.5M, Whitney 4.0M, Khabibulin 3.75M are the three obvious examples. 13.25M for a 3C, a 7D and a 2G are glaring problems. 5M should be the budget for these three positions.

I think that a trade is ideal at this point to address the obvious deficiencies at D and C. Unfortunately, it is still too early. The Oilers will have to wait until certain teams are out of the playoff race to unload veteran talent. They could always wait until trade deadline, but I fear it will be too late for the Oilers by then -- they will be out of the playoff race.

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#107 Old Retired Guy
February 11 2013, 05:53PM
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Its a riddle wrapped inside a cunudrum...

Making the playoffs adds invaluable maturity to everyone on the team.

One last top 10 top 12 type of pick would fill one more hole.....

Solution....keep your picks and finish 8th place in the West

But seriously, I think that finishing in the playoffs is more important than where we pick.

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#108 Old Retired Guy
February 11 2013, 06:13PM
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I think that the situation is way more fluid than I can piece together....So many variables in play...cap space, aging vets, term of contract, player development (Pajarvi), sell high, offer sheets, UFA's, whose available that we don't even know about? etc. Plus many more variables than those listed here.

My sense is it will probably be gradual and incremental, fill one hole at a time. (But I do remember getting Pronger and Peca either on the same day or in the same week).

There's probably 7 or 8 players here now that won't be here 3 years from now.... and generally there will be a surprise or two in that group...( and I mean a possible big surprise like a Yak or a Klefbom)..and more than a few surprises as to who else gets added.

I doubt that we'll move our first round pick this year.

I'm in the camp that says make at least one move this year...two would be better...cause we ain't gonna win nutin without more GRIT.

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#109 Smythyyy
February 11 2013, 06:21PM
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I'm trying to negotiate the math here. I think we'll be OK as far cap is concerned; we'll just need to be more frugal on how we spend on other roster spots.

In '14-15' season, here's what the cap picture probably looks like :

Hall-Eberle-RNH $18M Gagner($4M)-Yak($3.5M)-(Hemsky or replacement $3.5M) $11M Pajaarvi-Hartikainen+ 3C ($7M) 4th line ($3M)

= $39M for forwards

JShultz + 1D $11M Smid+Petry = $7.5M Bottom Pair = $2.5M

= $21M for defenders

Dubnyk/starting G = $4.5M

That comes down to around $57M. Depending on what the cap would be that year (it should go higher), we can play around with $7-10M for other roster spots (2G, 7/8D, etc.) and for inaccuracies on what the projected salaries will actually be and it's doable. We should just stop overpaying some positions. Right now we have a lot of big contracts in the bottom 6 forward positions and the last pairing D. We should pay for what those position are actually worth.

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#110 Smythyyy
February 11 2013, 06:24PM
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Oops, I guess my arithmetic is wrong... that's 64.5 million just for starting roster... we're screwed!!! :)

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#111 Taylor Gang
February 11 2013, 06:38PM
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Call me crazy here, but I think Yak should be more expendable than Gagner. Let's face it, as good as Yakupov will be in the upcoming future, he is the last thing that the oilers need right now: a speedy high scoring winger. On the other hand, Gags is our 2nd line center, and despite what you may think, there aren't many better options. (with the exception of o'reilly, though I don't think he's worth 5 million) Also, bear in mind that Yakupov has much higher value than Gagner. As much as I hate the thought of it, the only way we'll get a top pairing D man is by trading one of the kids, and Yak seems like the odd man out.

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#112 Citizen David
February 11 2013, 07:05PM
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I'm very unsure of what I think the oilers should do, mostly cause there are problems with every path. In the salary cap era you cannot over pay. This rules out trading for weber or signing Getzlaf. Please don't go for Getzlaf. People who consider the big 5 un-touchable, what else do we really have to trade? Petry? Puts a big whole in our d for the next three years. Gagner? Who would be our number 2 center who's leading our team in points? Hemsky? Maybe, it would definately hurt us this year. You can't trade small skill for big just as good skill. If we trade Gagner or Hemsky it will be for not as good players. And for the people who consider trading Yak, why would you trade yak before Eberle? He will be better than Eberle in 2 years, and at the moment Eberle might fetch more in return?

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#114 Oilertown
February 11 2013, 08:05PM
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That would be a mistake of epic proportions I would honestly trade Hall before Yak he is going to get more points is tougher and less susceptible to injury.

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#115 Oilertown
February 11 2013, 08:05PM
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That would be a mistake of epic proportions I would honestly trade Hall before Yak he is going to get more points is tougher and less susceptible to injury.

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#116 Oilertown
February 11 2013, 08:06PM
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Comment was directed at Hall for prez comment 111

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#117 Dog Train
February 11 2013, 08:36PM
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We are a flawed team but seriously, enough is enough. Winning breeds winning. Losing breeds losing. Let's not become the New York Islanders or Columbus Blue Jackets.

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#118 Walter Sobchak
February 11 2013, 09:14PM
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Here is my issue with Hartikinanen, Eager and Jones. What you see with them is likely all they got.

Hartikinanen will not fight, Jones will not fight and Eager is one punch away from LTI.

Gregor made an excellent point on his show today, who on the Oilers would scare anyone? There is not one player on the Oilers who can intimidate the opposition.

So the question should really be what is a guy like Clowe, Getzlaf or Weber worth to the Oilers?

Huge, not financially, but so much more identity more then anything, these players have the ability to take over a game in all area's of the game.

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#119 DonDon
February 11 2013, 10:26PM
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Retired Old Guy stated:

"I think that the situation is way more fluid than I can piece together....So many variables in play...cap space, aging vets, term of contract, player development (Pajarvi), sell high, offer sheets, UFA's, whose available that we don't even know about? etc. Plus many more variables than those listed here."

He could have added the need for balance in rosters as to type of players required. With the Oilers, what has been missing in balance is size, grit and better centres.

Yes, this situation is evolving in the NHL due to the economics and CBA and it is highly questionable that the Oilers' present management team is equal to the task of addressing all these variables and complexities. Other organizations may be in the same position (Calgary Flames). The smart NHL organizations will become successful under the changing circumstances.

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#120 6zeppelin6
February 11 2013, 11:03PM
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Without reading anyone elses comments: Where did they find this poster?

And where does he buy his drugs?

Seriously I could come up with a better proposal on bath salts and heroin, which coincidently is what it would take to get phoenix to even sniff at this BS.

What happened to having standards to posting on this site? I can't wait to hear his Crosby for Horcoff proposal next week.

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#121 Walter Sobchak
February 12 2013, 01:11AM
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Never mind that last comment Rex, I thought it was a great article and got us all thinking about what we have in organizational depth and what might be.

A positive article regardless of what happens before the trade deadline or this summer.

Cheers.

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