Show ’em the money

(Are these new deals for other Oilers the pits for Joni?)

The term “overpayment” is relative.

When you’ve increased one player’s pay stub almost 10-fold, as Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe did with his offer sheet to Dustin Penner, who’s even going to blink at the 500 per cent raise Tom Gilbert got today with his six-year deal worth $24 million?

If you read my off-season predictions three days ago, you know I’m not a bit surprised Lowe sees the 25-year-old Gilbert as the cornerstone of the Oilers defence for many years to come. I told you Gilbert, along with Robert Nilsson and Denis Grebeshkov, were the priorities among the restricted free agents Lowe has to sign.

I am surprised, however, Lowe was willing to pay so handsomely to make it happen. Is the market under the new CBA such that a player like Gilbert, who scored 13-20-33 and led all NHL rookies with 159 blocked shots this season, gets a raise from $835,000 to $4 million?

Apparently so.

“It’s a very important signing for the organization,” Lowe told assembled media at Rexall Place this morning.

“Tom has developed into an upper-echelon defenceman. This contract, particularly the length, gives me a great deal of satisfaction knowing he’s going to be here for a lot of years. He’s a real pillar of the franchise.”

With Lowe on the hook for four more years of Sheldon’s Souray’s five-year contract for $27 million, Gilbert had better be the real deal because the boss has $51 million tied up in two defenceman before talks even begin with future Norris Trophy candidate Joni Pitkanen.

When I got word early this morning the deal with Gilbert was done, I was thinking three years for something in the neighbourhood of $9 million—maybe $2.5 million in year one, $3 million in year two and $3.5 million in year three. Lowe obviously had a more upscale neighbourhood in mind.

“I can’t begin to describe how excited I am,” said Gilbert, who has played just 94 games in Oilers silks over two seasons. “You never would think you’d probably get this far.

“You dream about it as a kid, but this has been first-class for me and I’m so excited… I wanted to be here. I couldn’t ask for a better situation right now. Playing in Canada is awesome, especially playing in Edmonton. Being here for six more years is a thrill.”

In his 94 games with the Oilers, Gilbert has scored 14-25-39 with 20 penalty minutes and a minus-seven rating. Nothing in those numbers makes Gilbert worth $4 million a season, although he is giving up what amounts to four years as an unrestricted free agent.

That said, when you consider the Oilers bent over Colorado by getting Gilbert for Tommy Salo, the former Wisconsin Badger is a find, to be sure. And there’s definitely some upside with him. Gilbert could easily become a 50-point blueliner who eats up 28 minutes a night.

An overpayment? Right now, yes. Down the road? We’ll see.

While all that has to play out, there’s another aspect to all of this that can’t be overlooked—nobody can accuse Lowe of not putting his money where his mouth is.

When you look at long-term deals Lowe has done since the new CBA with Chris Pronger, Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff, Souray and Gilbert, there’s no questioning the Oilers willingness to make a financial commitment to the players they believe they can build around.

Their choices? That’s up to debate.

Nilsson signs

Lowe made it a daily-double today as he’s inked Nilsson to a three-year contract worth $5.5 million (link).

Nilsson, 23, is coming off a contract that paid him $942,000 last season. He scored 10-31-41 in 71 games. Expect more on this as details become available.

Is this the pits for Joni?

The response to Gilbert’s signing has a lot of Oilers fans looking at the numbers—even with the salary cap projected to go to $56 million—and waving goodbye to Pitkanen.

Souray gets $6.25 million next season. Gilbert gets $4 million. Steve Staios will earn $2.9 million. Matt Green will be paid $1.25 million. Ladislav Smid gets $952,000. Grebeshkov needs a new contract.

The Oilers can pay Pitkanen $5 million a season, but will they? We’ll find out in coming months. The numbers aside, I said it three days ago and I’ll say it again without repeating all the reasons why—Pitkanen is the Oiler most likely to be traded during the off-season.

—Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 5pm on Total Sports with Bob Stauffer on Team 1260.

  • oilerdago

    I'm sure that Lowe hopes someone makes an offer sheet for Joni now and gets draft picks back. We'll need these in a few years. Otherwise, at least 2 trades are coming – Joni plus Torres/Stoll/Moreau (1 of them) plus Schremp.

  • fyvmvv

    Someone on the radio was saying they will be committed to about 42 mil on next years cap. If Lowe doesn't want to go all the way to the cap and say he holds up somewhere around 50 mil that still leaves 8 mil for additional signings. What the hell is the rush to get rid of Pitkanen/et al. Who do you figure we can get to play if you ship everyone? Some of the Oiler faithful including certain scribes seem to think Pitkanen has to go. They have the cap space if signing him is the way they want to go. It seems some of you folks think the Oil are good to go for the Cup final right now. Don't count your chickens etc. This team is not ready to go yet. Patience people!

  • jdrevenge

    Pitkanen will get a one year deal in the neighbourhood of Gilbert's, maybe a little more. He doesnt have any leverage and I doubt a team will flip him an offer sheet based on his incosistency.

  • Rev

    Robin – nice to see you have a place to write. This is a great article.

    The Oilers have no choice but to bank on Souray having an injury free year. How are we to know what the team would have been like down the stretch with Sheldon? I bet Gilbert knows he would not have inked as much without the amount of ice time he received.

  • RobinB

    Rev: I doubt we'll see Souray "injury free" because of the maintenance needed to address his shoulder and wrist problems. He'll get games off.
    The key is keeping him healthy enough to play a minimum of 70 games or so.

    As for Gilbert, he handled the extra minutes reasonably well until fading in the last 20 games. He was simply asked to play too much. He can grow into a 25-28 minute guy, but that was a but much to ask this season.

  • fyvmvv

    If Souray is so fragile I wonder why they signed him? The Oil management had to know that. If he is that susceptible to chronic injury it doesn't make the deal to get him here all that potentially promising. If he is only available to play 60-70 games a year that leaves a fairly large hole on D.

  • Sorry for the repost.

    The other day on Total Sports Robin, you said that the Pitkanen camp was looking for “well north of 5 million” – is that what they’re still looking for, or is it closer to the 5 million mark?


  • RobinB

    420: I never said any such thing about Pitkanen. Stauffer did.
    I have not heard a number "north of $5 million" from any source I would call credible — that's not a shot at Bob, it's just that I haven't heard it first-hand from anybody involved in negotiations.

  • Christopher Brass

    ya totally robin, i projected the oilers contract for gibert to be more inn the 6 year 18 million or what they should have did was go further by offering up a 7 year 24 million doller contract… the kid is making hemsky money now and 2 years after playing college hockey, i think a 7 year low 20 million doller contract would have had him drooling… plus we knew he was so happy here, he's best friends with gagner and cogs, so we know he wanted to be here.. i know squeezing the xtra year out doesn't seem, like much but a it saves us a million per year, and well for a million a year we could get a player like glencross under contract!!
    and what i don't like to see is that these contracts are like a big load of cash right off the hop.. i agree if u sit down do the math and say ya i think next year it would be fair to day tom could make 2.5, followed by 3.2 then followed by 3.75 and then 4.00, ad those 4 years up and yer getting in the 13.5 million range , which i think is still fair value for tom and i think would have still made the 25 year old happy so if u wanted to extend it i would say add 2 more years at 4 milion and that brings u to around 21 million for 6 years….