The Case For Not Buying Out Anyone

In his article today, Jason Gregor mentions a pair of moves that have been widely speculated for some time: buying out Patrick O’Sullivan and Robert Nilsson.

Gregor brought this up in the context of explaining why Ethan Moreau shouldn’t be bought out; here’s the quote:

Many fans and media have debated the merits of buying him out this summer, but I don’t see the Oilers buying out three guys, and with Jordon Eberle, Linus Omark and their first pick coming in camp next year, those guys are going to replace Robert Nilsson and Patrick O’Sullivan, not Ethan Moreau.

You could buy out both O’Sullivan and Nilsson for a little more than what it would cost to buy out Moreau. Sure, Moreau struggled for most of this season, but he’s given more to the organization than O’Sullivan and Nilsson combined and that should count for something.

This will probably surprise some people, but I think Gregor’s absolutely right: the Oilers shouldn’t buy out Moreau. It doesn’t make any sense, given that this team is going to continue the rebuilding process next year and is unlikely to compete: why not pay Moreau next year, get it over with, and call it a day rather than push his payments out over coming years when the Oilers will need the cap space?

The speculation that O’Sullivan and Nilsson are slated for buyouts has been around for a while, and I think it’s at the point now where we all expect it to happen this summer. From, here are the cap hits for buying out those two players:


  • 2010-11: -$83,333
  • 2011-12: $416,667


  • 2010-11: $935, 417
  • 2011-12: $397,917

That’s a combined cap hit of about $850,000 next season and $815,000 the year after that. On the other hand, as it stands right now both of those players would play for full price next year (a little under $5.0 million) and then cost nothing in 2011-12.

Certainly there’s some financial incentive to ownership to buy out these players; if Daryl Katz has his general manager buy them out he’ll only pay one-third of the dollars he would pay to these underachievers otherwise.

In fact, assuming that the Oilers are going to continue their rebuild next season (i.e. not set the playoffs as a goal) this could be cast as a hockey decision vs. a money decision. On the one hand, Katz can save some money by buying these players out, money he’s under no obligation to spend next season, and in fact which it would make no sense to spend next season. On the other hand, he does this at the cost of a little over $800,000 in cap space two years from now, when his team will likely compete.

I know the decision I’d make in his shoes: I’d buy those guys out and save some of my money. I also know the decision I’d make if I were solely interested in the on-ice welfare of the Edmonton Oilers: I’d keep them around for another season, perhaps with Nilsson in the minors and giving O’Sullivan one more chance (and history shows it might not be a wasted chance) in a season that doesn’t matter, and then clear the books in 2011-12 when my team starts competing again.

Just to make it clear what I’m driving at here: I don’t begrudge Daryl Katz the chance to save some of his ill-spent money.  But if the team is rebuilding, and the Oilers decide to buy these players out, this is a financial decision, not a hockey one, and that’s how it should be viewed.

  • Tracie

    If either Hall or Sequin are ours, and turn out to be no worse than Tavares or Duchenes going into their first year of pro , I'd say we would all be happy with that prospect . However , i'm equally psyched about our early second and possible third round picks (maybe 2 in each round ) as well , and just whom they may land ! A fun exercise each year is to project your own picks and compare them to whom they actually get in those positions that we eventually end up with . Bear in mind, you do not want your picks gone before it would be our turn to pick .I'd like to see how some of you might fair in your predictions and preferences beyond Hall and Sequin .

  • wyseguy

    Just to start off, I've never seen Seguin play. I've only seen Hall play on tv in the Memorial Cup and World Juniors. So, here's my take…

    I've read that Seguin is a better all around player and more of a playmaker. Hall is a power forward sniper.

    When was the last time the Oil had an actual sniper? (and I don't count the "one shot scorer" Joffrey Lupul)

    Yes, we're weak down the middle, but we're full of play makers and nobody wants to shoot the puck besides Penner. Hall is selfish with the puck, and that's the kind of guy we need.

    I'd be happy either way, but my pick is Hall.

      • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

        O'Sullivan shoots a lot, too. I counted at least 3 times where he could have made a more effective pass than a weak shot, and he chose to shoot every time.

      • wyseguy

        you caught me, I didn't know that. Just heard Seguin touted as more of a "play maker" vs Hall in what I've read and heard on tv.

        Next time I comment, I'll make sure my research is more thorough.

      • Not that it matters much but Seguin doesn't have more goals than Hall especially in the bigger games.

        Hall played 6 less games in the regular season but made those up playing in the world jrs…he scored 6 times during that tournament….he has also added 9 more goals in the playoffs in one less playoff game than Seguin, while Seguin has scored 5…

        The tally for this season is 56 to 53 in favour of Hall.

          • 🙂 yes I agree, saying one is clearly a better goal scorer than the other is wrong….I just wanted to point out after you mentioned to wyseguy that Seguin has more goals this year..

            And yes I did include the out of league tournaments and playoffs….I guess I was including everything that has happened this year…overall given this years OHL season, the world jr tourney and the OHL playoffs Seguin and Hall have played virtually the same number of games…I think Seguin has played one more than Hall so far.

          • What I do like about Hall is that under pressure he hasnt backed off at all.

            I think it would be a little unfair to say that Seguin disappeared under pressure because he clearly did well in the 1st round of the playoffs and he is really the only offensive talent of note on his club, BUT Hall hasnt stopped performing one bit.

          • For the record I don't mind Tyler Seguin it's just that I don't understand the love and fascination of him over Hall given all the evidence to date over the last 3 yrs…

            If we end up with Seguin I'm sure it'll be fine…I just have this feeling that Hall has superstar ability and if we pass on him for Seguin we'll regret it…

          • Oops almost forgot…I don't really know a whole lot about Plymouth's roster but I do know that they have a couple players from the gold medal US Jr team so I don't think Seguin is the only offensive talent of note on his club….

            The Whalers picked up Phil McRae at the OHL trade deadline and I believe they also have AJ Jenks who was a good player on the US team. Both McRae and Jenks outshone Seguin on their own team during these playoffs.

            I'm not sure of the other players but they can't be all that bad to have finished 4th in their conference.