This fall, some argued that the Oilers were making a mistake inserting all three of their blue-chip forward prospects into the line-up at the same time. The player I suggested should have been given another year of seasoning at a lower professional level was Magnus Paajarvi, and given what we’ve seen so far this season I think that would have been the correct decision.
It’s not that Paajarvi’s been a bad player. He hasn’t, particularly given his age and role on the roster. With Hall (and Eberle, prior to injury) playing so well, it sometimes seems Paajarvi doesn’t get his due. He’s still a player I think we can regard as a difference maker somewhere down the road.
The problem is that the Oilers are burning a year of Paajarvi’s entry-level contract while he isn’t a difference maker to give him limited NHL minutes, when they could be saving that year for when he’s a better player and giving him virtually unlimited minutes in the SEL or AHL. From a cap management and development perspective, that strikes me as flawed thinking.
This is particularly true when there are plenty of other options available. Let’s compare Paajarvi’s performance to that of two other forwards, one currently on the Oilers’ roster and one who the team bought out last year. For ease of comparison, we’ll adjust games played to Paajarvi’s 47.
Given that this was always going to be a burned season anyway, the difference in performance between Paajarvi and a player like Robert Nilsson or Linus Omark is a trivial thing, but the fact is the Oilers could have got comparable play from either option.
In either case, there would have been tangible benefits:
- Paajarvi could play a much larger role on a lower-level professional team
- Paajarvi’s ELC would slide forward another year, keeping him at a lower pay threshold for one additional season and delaying his UFA eligibility by an additional season
- (If Omark) The Oilers would have had a better opportunity to evaluate Omark at the NHL level over an entire seaso
- (If Nilsson) The Oilers would have saved the money used in his buyout, as well as avoided the six-figure cap penalty for 2011-12
It’s not the end of the world that the Oilers chose to bring Paajarvi into the NHL this year, and I don’t doubt it will be valuable experience for him. It just doesn’t strike me as the best option.