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 CapGeek.com, 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.