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The Edmonton Oilers should be looking at icing a team capable of contending for the Stanley Cup in 2012-13.

I have my doubts that the team will be in a position to contend at that time.

However, by starting their three star rookies in the same season, the Oilers kicked off a salary clock. Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi will all see their entry-level contracts expire in the summer of 2013. Barring a developmental collapse – something I seriously doubt, although I suppose Paajarvi’s not a sure thing at this stage – they’ll all cost a lot more than they do now. Jordan Eberle has surpassed every expectation I had of him; he’s already as good as advertised offensively and a blindingly good player on the back-check, while Taylor Hall seems to grow better with each passing game. As for Paajarvi, it’s difficult to think negatively of him while watching him take the puck to the outside with speed, as he did again and again against Ottawa earlier today.

Hall and Eberle already play with skills beyond their years, and Paajarvi’s physical tools and success in other leagues are impossible to ignore. It’s easy to see those players being key components of a strong team, difference-makers in all three zones. For the rest of this season and even more so for the next two, they’ll do it at a discount rate, their salaries constrained by the entry-level cap.

If they continue on their current pace, they’ll be in line for significantly more dollars when 2013 rolls around. Teams don’t win without a few value contracts, and if the three rookies aren’t on value contracts those will have to be found elsewhere in the line-up. It’s difficult to imagine those cheap contracts coming via free agency; the Oilers aren’t especially good at getting value free agents and NHL players don’t seem to be especially fond of signing with a northern cellar-dweller. It’s also hard to imagine the bargains coming via trade; while it may be possible, in the salary-cap era NHL general managers are loathe to deal away their cheap yet effective options.

There is another route to cheap players, though – the NHL Entry Draft. The Oilers are guaranteed at least one high-end player who will still be on his entry-level contract when 2013-14 rolls around, and they’ve got some nice prospects in the system. Perhaps that’s where the Oilers will find players who can outperform their contracts.

Not only is that’s a long ways down the road, but the Oilers could probably do a lot to convince players like Hall and Eberle to sign reasonable contracts if they experience some team success before their contracts end. A deep playoff run in 2012-13 would allow them to take advantage of the last entry-level year of the rookie trio, and give them a better shot at getting them inked to deals that will keep the Oilers in a position to contend.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    A simple way to help fast track this rebuild is to grab the bull by the horns and fill two glaring holes. First hole is on defense, second hole is at centre.

    I would recommend trading a small skilled forward, immediately, to obtain a defense man. One who is young enough to fit the mold of this team, but mature enough to contribute right away.

    Once that has been done we can now cross Larsson off the list. Let’s face it, defense take a long time to develop. Adam Larsson will not be an impact for another 3-5 years. Too long of a wait.
    So we draft our star centre instead, which is available. Nugent Hopkins or Couturier. Although, potentially 2 years away from being an Oiler – this is still within reason.

    This is simple logic and one that doesn’t need a lot of assets going out the door.

    • CSimpson18

      Hemsky/Penner & Smid/Cogliano & Martindale/Plante & 2nd round pick for Zach Bogosian? Reasonable? Thats a dream scenario imo, but not entirely out of the question considering I don’t that ATL realizes what a gem they have there.

      • Seems like a lot, but at least your in the realistic ball park. He’s 20 and is already in his 3rd season. The right mold for the team in regards to his age. Although I wouldn’t be at all against going for a defenseman even a few years older.

        From what I’ve heard (through media speculation), Atlanta has lost a bit of patience in his development. Which seems a bit silly, I do think they rushed the kid.

        For the right price, maybe the Oilers could swing a deal. I don’t know if we really have anything Atlanta really needs though. I think LA is the better trading partner – I’m even looking at Washington’s young back end.

        • CSimpson18

          It definetely is alot but Bogo is a whole lot of defenseman and he’d be peaking right in KLowe’s 4-6 year window for contention(which seems oddly pessimistic).

          Who would interest you from LA that fits in your age range? Forbort is a ways away but he looks like the best of em but good luck on him being as good as Bogosian. Johnson or Doughty are obviously not available.

          My understanding of Atlanta’s needs are 1-scoring winger 2-top 6 center 3-shutdown dman. We got the first in spades. Gagner might, i repeat might be in play depending on what name Stu calls this june.

          • DSF

            Thomas Hickey (age 22) and Colten Teubert (age 20) are names that keep coming up. Both LA prospects, both very different players. Teubert being more of a physical presence and Hickey being more of an offensive component.

            Not too sure if their is a need to keep both in the Kings organization. They already have 3 young guys in their line up: Johnson, Doughty and Martinez. I could see the Kings moving one.

    • I don’t think Omark would get it done. I’m not going to win any fans here (especially after a 2 point performance), but I’m looking at Hemsky.

      Let me explain why I’m willing to move Hemsky. Edmonton has a poor transitional game and they are horrendous on defense. A player like Hemsky only amplifies these problems. We can’t afford to have extremely high risk players in the line up. And from what I see, we have a crop of risky players in the system.

      • CSimpson18

        WTF did you just say? Hemsky is a problem? High risk. No its people like you who are high risk of becoming insane very soon. I think its time for you to go to bed after you had so much to drink.

        • DSF

          So I drink too much and I’m on the verge of insanity? I thought my discussions with my shrink were confidential.

          Listen, you need to give up something good to receive something good. I know most fans are in their fantasy world of offering peanuts and hoping for cashews in return – but cashews are just too damn delicious. Nobody is going to do that.

          I think most people would agree that Hemsky is a high risk player. High risk can offer high reward, and on the occasion when his risky plays do compute – we love him for it. Unfortunately he doesn’t have the supporting cast in Edmonton to get away with it very often.

      • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

        Hemsky does make the most sense (both based on return plus duplication on the team) however that idea has been floated 100,000+ times here and elsewhere over the last 4-6 months, so I don’t think theirs a risk of lossing friends by suggesting Hemsky would be the one to go to bring in that 2/3 dman.

    • Pilgor09

      It may make sense to move Gagner when you think about taking a centre at this years draft. But let’s remember this. Either Nugent Hopkins or Couturier are going to need 2 years of seasoning (Hopkins might need that time frame just bulk up).

      By that time, do we really think Horcoff is capable of playing first or second line minutes in the forseeable future? We likely need Gagner for the first line and then 2nd line duties if and when one of these guys surpass him.

  • CSimpson18

    Blue skying here. Let’s assume Hall Ebs and Pajaarvi make an average 4.5mil on their next contracts, a fairly high number. Also assume one of Penner or Hemsky is gone.

    Hall(4.5) RNH/SC(3.75) Eberle(4.5)
    Pajaarvi(4.5) Gagner(3.5) Omark(2.5)
    Penner(5) Horcoff(5.5) x(2)
    x(1) x(1) x(1)

    Whitney(4) x(5)
    Gilbert(4) x(3.5)
    Petry(2) Peckham(2)
    Marincin(1)

    Dubnyk(2)
    x(1.5)

    Look reasonable? Obviously a ton of speculation here, feel free to disagree with my projections. I expect two of Lander/Hamilton/Hartikainen/ to be in the league by then.

    That’s 38.75 on forwards, 21.5 on defense, 3.5 on goalies for a total of 63.75. If the cap isn’t quite that high, trim some fat (I’m looking at you Mister 5.5mil 3rd line center).

    That’s a badass team right there.

    • That’s banking on a fair bit going right, but it really isn’t a bad hopeful model either. Of course, it also depends on the Oilers finding a good top-pairing defenceman for $5.0 million, rather than, say, Souray redux. 😉

      • CSimpson18

        What are you referring to when you say things going right? Your article assumes success for HPE, what else on there requires much luck? Oilers have assets for days to acquire a #2D and #3/4D, Dmen are traded all the time so that’s not a stretch. Goalie is a weakness but nowadays it’s not so desirable to blow ur wad on that position.

        I guess the things going right would include not letting Tambo go wrong in FA.

  • DSF

    Jeebus.

    The Oilers are lacking 3 top 4 defensemen, a #1C, a #1 NHL goaltender and the entire platoon of bottom 6 forwards.

    Yeah,

    That’ll be fixed in 2 years.

    Good grief.

    • CSimpson18

      Sorry negative nancy, the Oilers need 1 first pairing D and one top 4 D to ice an above average defense. Dubnyk has a good chance at being as good as either of the stanley cup final goaltenders last year. Prospect pool contains about 10 players with a legit chance to crack the bottom 6 holes, which are alot fewer than you imply.

      You hate Gilbert I guess, that’s fine but he’s a passable 3/4 guy if paired with a tough kid from the Volchenkov family.

      • DSF

        Gilbert a $4m anchor.

        Wouldn’t be more than a #5 on a good team.

        Dubnyk has a chance at lots of things.

        Among them, a job in the AHL.

        Most bottom sixes are filled with proven NHL vets on cheap contracts, not a bunch of fuzzy cheeked wannabes.

        • CSimpson18

          Your thoughts on Gilbert say more about you than they do about Gilbert. A 4mil anchor… My god some people see what they want to see.

          My bottom six included Penner-Hocoff then 2 of Hartikainen/Hamilton/Pitlick/Lander. Those are 4 very good prospects with serious defensive chops who will range in age from 22 to 25 by the time we’re talkin about. Leaving 2 spots open, 1 for sure a 4th line spot. So requiring 1 good veteran player acquired by trade or free agency for around 2.5million and one for around 1mil is going to take more than 2 years to find? Sure…

          I think maybe you pvr every game but only bother watching if u find out Edmonton lost by 3 or more.

          “Dubnyk has a chance at lots of things.

          Among them, a job in the AHL.” Sure there’s a chance Dubnyk busts completely. There’s also a chance you become something other than the most gratingly negative Oiler-related poster out there. Why bother speculating…

        • Disco Deuce

          A job in the AHL?

          A 0.915 SV% suggests otherwise.

          Sure, he has been sheltered somewhat only playing one out of every three games or so. But from what I see he at least deserves a chance to be the guy.

          Plus, as the defensive group becomes better through experience and the PK improves (hopefully) his numbers should only improve.

          The AHL is in his rear view mirror now. JDD is the proof.

        • CSimpson18

          tom gilbert is a huge problem with a huge contract teams target him because hes soft and when you rush him he turns the puck over almost every time. Did you see him turn the puck over on the first goal against ottawa just one of the numerous times hes done that, dont even get me started on foster.

        • Powder

          Hmmm, lets look at the Canucks bottom six:

          Torres, Malholtra…Proven vets on cheap contracts? What has Torres Proven? And Malholtra is not cheap.

          Then you have Tambellini, Hansen, Glass, Volpati, Rypien, Shirokov, etc…proven NHL vets or fuzzy cheeked wannbes? Tambellini is a tweener and the rest?

        • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

          You are only a boat anchor when their are actually cap issues, that seems to be at least 2-3 years away…. what’s the cap going to be in 3 years? 70 million? I doubt a 4 million dollar guy is an issue at that point.

          Put a healthy Whitney, a Brooks Orpik and a Brad Stuart in the top 4 with Gilbert and I doubt 77 looks weak at all.

  • I think most of the financial restraints won’t be there as expected.

    1) Oilers Management scheme has announced that solutions will be found within and not through UFA so the Oilers will not be bidding and thus ruining there salary cap with high priced UFA’s

    2) Say what you want about KLo’s signings but they are build in a Pyramid style.. peaking then reducing as the years go on. Making more room as the kids are ready

    3) you get 7 years with the youngsters not 3..so they will be sitting in RFA for a while. Meaning they are not seeing huge dough until its time to hit the UFA status. So you get 7 years of evaluation to determine if your keeping all three from this year.

    4) Salary Cap is still going up. And in about three years time you will probably see 1 or 2 Horrible American markets turn into Canadian markets. So Salary Cap would increase even more.

    5) and in case 4 doesn’t happen – Owners will just lockout the players again in about three years time meaning The Oilers could be contenders for a Stanley Cup final that will never happen.

  • CSimpson18

    Guy on HF brought to attention that Schenn, Moller and Teubert have been removed from their prospect list on the Kings website. Probably just a glitch but another guy claims this has happened well in advance of a trade before. Raine you could getting your wish.
    Sorry to be a rumour monger, especially one that has about a 1% chance of meaning anything.

    • Disco Deuce

      This is exactly the kind of package that we need. If that ever transpired and if the Oilers were involved. That would be a pretty damn quick rebuild. I’d be running in the streets in my underwear right now.

      I’m not that enthusiastic though, I can’t see the Oilers pulling off such a huge deal. It seems too much like wishful thinking. However, it does make sense for both parties. The Kings could easily become serious contenders, and with Greene, Stoll, Smyth already in the line up…they’d soon make a fan out of me – at least during the playoff run.

  • CSimpson18

    I guess I’m on the usual soapbox but I am not concerned about this team and its potential to win and repeat if they are managed or should I say general managed by someone who has a clue. My concern is that Lowe and Tambellini hesitate and second guess themselves to a standstill. Or they make horrendous choices in building the supporting cast. Colin Fraser and Jim Vandemeer just to name a couple.

    I’d rather go forward with Stu MacGregor running this team and he has no pro experience as far as I know. Tambellini would have us believe that he was a third stringer in Vancouver for a dozen years because he was waiting for the ‘right fit’ to fall on him out of the hockey universe.

    Yeah right Steve. I could have been Liberace but I’m tone deaf and I’m allergic to K-Y…

  • a lg dubl dubl

    In a perfect world Tambo would buy out #35’s contract at the end of the yr, even at his full salary or 2/3rds whatever the rules state, the Oilers would still have enough cap space for the next 2 years before they have to resign the 3 rookie’s, yes i know ST doesn’t have the brass stones to do something like that but does anybody think Dubby will start more games in the next 2 yrs over Khabby because of his contract? not me. Yes Khabby is not the only reason the Oil “suck the hind banana” but he’s a good part of it.

    I really hope KLowe is wrong about the 6-7 yr plan, otherwise its the 90’s all over again without playin Dallas or Colorado every yr in the playoffs.

    I wonder if any other of the 29 GMs will try and sign the likes of Hall/Eberle/PRV to an offer sheet in 2yrs

    If Steve only gets picks and prospects for either Hemsky or Penner PLEASE send him down the road, hell if he trades either of them ST has to go.

    I love the Oilers im no bandwagoner but im gettin REALLY TIRED of cheering for the Edmonton Islanders.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    JW –
    Your point about the timelines placed upon the team trying to win before these ELCs come due is valid.

    One related thought that I have been rolling around recently is the unfounded concern of potentially having to overpay on those second contracts vs. losing guys to RFA offer sheets.
    I don’t see what the real concern is with potentially losing higher end guys to inflated offer sheets with what you get in return. Sure it would bump Stanley Cup dreams back a few years again, but can you imagine where the Oilers/Sabres would each be if the Oilers offer sheet for Vanek hadn’t been matched…
    The Sabres would have been set up with several years, while the Oilers would have handcuffed themselves with a monster contract while losing all of those picks. (Mind you, when KP is your head scout, maybe you don’t mind as much with giving away all of those picks…)

  • Hemmertime

    If we need to worry about the cost of the rookies after ELC thats a good thing. Im sure Willis was worried about Cogs + Gags ELC’s and look how that turned out. If we have 3 players who need big raises thats a great scenario

  • a lg dubl dubl

    We do have to get a center and dman for next year. By trade deadline, before the draft, or through the summer. A couple small guys have to go. Hemsky, Gagner and this year’s first pick gets us Seguin (will be as good as this years pick) and the d man we need. Send JFJ, Reddox, Fraser, Brule down the road. Actually having a fourth line would be nice. Move Horcoff down there, with Jones and a Curtis Glenncross type of guy. As for the top 3 lines Hall, Seguin, Cogs. Penner, Pajaarvi, Omark, Eberle, and two free agents over the next two years

    I know its dreaming but its better than the nightmare we now have

  • a lg dubl dubl

    I can’t see how anyone looks at Dubnyk as anything worse than a decent NHL backup at this point in time. You have to be looking really hard to the find the negative to even contemplate thinking that.

    Realistically, the Oilers have to add a lot of quality on the blueline as well as improve their bottom 6, as well as getting the younger players to keep going forward.

    It’s a lot to require, but this is the position they are in. The Oilers best chance at a cup is going to be that 2012-13 season and I hope they are looking at that date to do it.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Yeah, look how that turned out.

    A last place team by the end of their contracts.

    That’s ultimately the problem. If they are good enough this team is going to have to spend a lot of money.

    If they aren’t it’s rebuild V3.0

  • VMR

    As per Lowe’s interview during game last night , the process will only make them hopefully competitive in 5-6 years from now . Thats not exactly an opportunistic comment for him to make . Nor should there be any veterans still on that squad that far down the line if thats the timeframe they are aiming at . I say dump them all now and get this process going sooner rather than later , and get whatever draft picks they can get while their values are moderate, and time to move them now before any more raises are incurred . Sure they could be competitive next season , but it’s obvious from Lowe’s interview thats not their intention or route they are going or intending on going !

    Things could change if upper management were to change , but that does not appear to be happening anytime soon, or in next 5-6 years .

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      I belive he said “cup competitive” in 5-6 years, so where teams like the Pens/Flyers/Canucks are right now.

      Theirs a resonable middle ground (ie 5/6/7 team) that I’m confident they want to get to withen 2-3 years.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Not sure why all the concern for the possible bottleneck with Paajarvi,Eberle and Hall. Hall will be the top end player, i see Jordan in the category of maybe a Penner, he won’t demand top end money like Taylor but will still be a very big part of this team. Holding up the rear is Paajarvi, till we see what we have here it’s difficult to see where he’ll fit in.

    Just shooting fish in a barrel here but upon renewal i see Taylor around 5-5.5 per, Jordan between 3.5-4.5 per and things are a little cloudy for Masgnus’ sake……hardly the fear factor that we’re all anticipating. Crunch time really comes in 2016-2017, if only for say Taylor Hall.

  • @ DSF:

    I didn’t say I was sanguine about the Oilers ability to get it done in two seasons, but it’s possible.

    Let’s look at the problems you identified:

    – Tom Gilbert. You and I will disagree here, but Gilbert’s a perfectly respectable top-four defenceman. Hell, he’s dragging around a raw rookie against the best the NHL has to offer right now, no wonder he looks bad this season. He’s not a top-pairing guy, but if Gilbert’s your number four defenceman you aren’t doing too bad.

    – A number one centre. I seem to recall the 05-06 squad getting buy with Horcoff, Stoll and Peca in the 1/2/3 roles; I suspect that with proper winger support Couturier/Gagner/Horcoff could get the job done two years from now.

    – A number one goalie. Detroit hasn’t had one of these since the NHL lockout, and only one of last season’s four finalists did. You don’t need an elite goaltender to win in the NHL. I agree with you that Dubnyk’s still a question mark but the NHL is overflowing with competent goalies who can’t get work as a starter (which is one of the reasosn signing Khabibulin to that contract was so stupid).

    – The bottom-sixers. These guys are cheap every summer, something the Oilers have been oblivious to. Pisani, Moore, and Torres are all examples from this past season and I could go on and on and on about the players that should be slotting into the bottom of the lineup rather than untested rookies. For a competent managerial group, ‘lack of bottom-sixers’ isn’t a relevant excuse.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    You don’t create all the voids we did with last gutting and expect to fill them in 2-3 years thru drafting ! It’s not going to happen , plain and simple . This season they have to start on backend like it or not . Larsson and Musil would be a start in right direction . Packaging a bunch of our dimntive core would be another priority for this season as there is some value there that might procur something of youth,size and value down the line . At least complete the gutting process pronto rather than carry on with it making process even longer .

  • VMR

    I dont see the salary cap problems you guys keep talking about. Look at Vancouver, they’re icing a good team while spending $17 million combined on their top 3 forwards $5 million on their goalie and almost $9 million on their top two d-men and still ice a full lineup. If Hall, Paajarvi, and Eberle are our top 3 forwards I cant imagine we’ll have a problem finding a way to pay them. Paying these guys if they perform isnt a problem, signing a Souray or a Khabibulin or even a Campbell deal like Chicago has on their cap is where the problems are.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    With K.Lowe mentioning on HNIC yesterday they feel they’re 4-6 yrs away from being a contender, it’s starting to look like they could move both Penner and Hemsky in the coming weeks….perhaps the UFA eligible Gagner will be the beast we’ve always dreamed of by then.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    JW, I have to say you are quickly becoming my fave writer on this site, you just continue to make good sense. Keep it up. I like Rubin, but I think on the Gilbert-bashing he is out to lunch. Yes, Gilbert is the problem with this team, lets single him out, and Penner too, because they don’t fight enough. Great.
    Bringing all of those rookies on this year was a lack of foresight, I was for keeping Eberle and MP down in the AHL, not sure if they would have gone for that. The clock is ticking on our cup chances, Anaheim did it with Getzlaf and Perry on entry level contracts.
    You were right about the Khabby signing, he should have been got for about 1.3M per.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    So if Hall re-signs for 7M, Eberle for 5M, and MP for 4M per over multi-year, how much room is left for other pieces? A: Not much.
    This management team needs to see the big picture. At least we will be rid of Khabby by then and can re-sign a vet goalie for cheap.
    If we re-sign Hemmer and Penner, there is not much room left.

  • 24% body fat

    We were worried about this 3 years ago with Gilbert Gagner and Cogliano (and overpaid on one of them). Hall is on pace to fetch a Getzlaf, Perry, Richard, Carter, Kane, Toews type contract. Lets see what Stamkos gets. Though he is a Maurice winner (likely to be two time, and Art Ross winner more than likely with playoff experience. Hall wll be 5.2 – 6.2M.

    The other two lets wait and see. Reserve judgement till the dreaded sophmore year.

  • 24% body fat

    Larsson is in front of hedman in a prospect view, so i dont think it takes longer then 2 years before hes a dominator.Gagner isnt topsix a couple years from now so trade him when he have some value.

  • Steve Smith

    what is this obsession of the team salary in 3 years…sheesh, everyother blog you write is about it. Lets just enjoy watching this team grow…who knows where any of us will be in 3 years!!