Something Edmonton Should Be Doing

As much as any fan-base can, fans in Edmonton have accepted the Oilers’ rebuild. Nobody likes losing, but even with some questionable decisions and no real answers as to why the team got to this point, people in Edmonton seem to have embraced the idea of pain today for gain tomorrow.

While I’m less enthused about the likelihood of a successful conclusion to the rebuild than many, I do think that the Oilers are committed to at least one more season in the basement regardless of what they do, and because of that there’s at least one thing they should be doing that they have not done so far.

Before I identify the action that I’d like to see the Oilers take, I’d like to reference a post that recently appeared on Speeds’ Hockey Symposium. In that post, the author suggested that a complete rebuild would see the Oilers send away players like Hemsky, Whitney and Gilbert for draft picks and bad contracts. While I don’t much care to think about an Oilers’ team without those three players, that post did make me ask a question – why haven’t the Oilers traded for bad contracts?

Last season, this team was certainly going nowhere. They’re likely in a similar scenario for this coming season. Yet, aside from a swap of one bad contract for another (Patrick O’Sullivan for Jim Vandermeer) the Oilers haven’t leveraged a commodity they have and aren’t using (cap space) to acquire building blocks like draft picks and prospects. I think they should – at this point, there’s no downside in taking on a year or two of bad contract in exchange for a piece that might be useful down the line.

Who might the Oilers target if they decided to pursue that sort of strategy?

The Targets

Mike Commodore – Two seasons, $3.75 million cap hit/year, $3.5 and $3.35 million contract. Old friend Scott Howson in Columbus is facing difficult times – he needs to show performance, and he needs to do it without breaking the bank. Dumping Mike Commodore, lately of the Springfield Falcons, would go a long ways toward helping in the latter category, and as a former Flame one presumes he doesn’t mind Alberta winters.

Chris Drury – One season, $7.05 million cap hit, $5.0 million contract. Frequently the subject of buyout rumours over the past few days, Drury will still cost the Rangers more than $3.0 million in cap space next season even if they buy him out. A trade would undoubtedly be a more appealing option, though Drury does possess a no-movement clause.

J.P. Dumont – One season, $4.0 million cap hit and contract. Dumont plays for the Nashville Predators, one of the league’s poorer franchises. Even coming off a season that saw them play two playoff rounds, money will be tight, and burning four million on a guy who contributed just 19 points and was a healthy scratch in the post-season has to sting. Dumont’s no-movement clause could make a deal difficult.

Sergei Gonchar – Two seasons, $5.5 million/year cap hit and contract. A disappointing season has Gonchar’s stock way down in Ottawa, and it is possible that they would love to get out from under his current contract. He has a no-movement clause.

Ales Kotalik – One season, $3.0 million cap hit and contract. Yes, he plays for the Flames (and more recently, Abbotsford). Yes, he has a no-trade clause. Given that he’s played for Edmonton before, hopefully the latter wouldn’t be an issue and the former is less of an issue when it’s not really a hockey trade.

Filip Kuba – One season, $3.7 million cap hit and contract. Kuba’s in the third year of a three-season deal, and has dealt with health issues and an offensive decline. This season was particularly bad – in 64 games, Kuba managed just 16 points along with a minus-26 rating.

Brian Rolston – One season, $5.06 million cap hit, $5.0 million contract. Rolston does possess a no-trade clause, but he was also waived earlier this year and because he signed an over-35 contract, a buyout isn’t really an option.

These wouldn’t be hockey trades. The Oilers would part with a bit piece of some sort or other – say Jean-Francois Jacques, Colin Fraser, Zack Stortini, the rights to Jeff Deslauriers, a seventh-round draft pick or some combination of the above in exchange for one of the players, the impact of the contract, and something good – a nice prospect or a higher draft pick. If they were opposed to that sort of trade on principle, something else could be worked out – for instance, Columbus always needs offensive defensemen, so something like Kurtis Foster and ______ for Mike Commodore and a second could give any potential deal a bit of window dressing.

This is one area where Daryl Katz’s money can buy a competitive advantage, and it fits in well with a rebuilding team. Besides, a bunch of the players listed above could probably find regular roles on the Oilers based on merit, and by only acquiring players with less than two years left, one ensures they’ll be gone when Taylor Hall needs a new contract.

  • Seriously....Gord?

    I whole heartedly agree. It would be the equivalent of buying a draft pick. For a team with money, it makes sense, however, it bring up the question:

    “How much a particular draft pick worth in terms of actual $$$?”

    • John Chambers

      Your question gets right to the heart of the issue. A late-round pick can essentially be bought for, I would say, anywhere between $1-3M. As in, it might be conceivable that Flames trade you Ales Kotalik and a 4th rounder for a 6th.

      For a 1st round player you would have to eat a contract like Redden’s. Try approaching your boss with that proposal and see where it gets you.

      • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

        Sounds like a pretty simple conversation to me.

        “Darryl, slats offerd me Drury and a 2nd for Fraser and a 5th, Drury is a big step on Faser and we might be able to use that second to aquire a 2nd/3rd liner from another team needing to move some $$. Is that something you’d be willing to do.”

      • Seriously....Gord?

        I’d say that it would actually be equivalent to the cost of an Avg salary of player at a given draft position times the duration of his RFA status.

        1st overall = 5 mil x 7 year = 35 million
        30 overall = 1 mil x 7 = 7 mil
        60 overall = 800,000 x 7 = 5.6 mill
        90+ overall = 500,000 x 7 = 3.5 mil

        In short, for a pick in these ranges, this is what I would expect to have to take back in salary (bad contract). I imagine, you could discount this depending on who is negotiating from a position of strength.

        But for Drury’s contract, I guess it would be worth a Drury+ NYR 2nd-3rd Rounder for JFJ, for example. Assuming we are dumping assets in return.

        I can’t think of many cases where we would find an actual example of essentially “buying a pick”. If anyone can, please provide some examples so we can see if this is about right.

        But at the end of the day, as you say

        “Try approaching your boss with that proposal…”

  • Funny JW…I was thinking the same thing, I posted something similar the other day. I think this is a great Idea…

    Senario.

    Oilers trade Fraser to NYR for #15 OV, Drury and Wolski.

    Oilers Trade Hemsky and 19 to NJD for #4, Rolston and White.

    Sign James Wisniewski 3.9M per 2 years Draft RNH and Larsson and send them both back to their respective teams.

    CAPGEEK.COM CAP CALCULATOR

    FORWARDS Taylor Hall ($3.750m) / Sam Gagner ($2.275m) / Jordan Eberle ($1.158m) Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson ($1.525m) / Shawn Horcoff ($5.500m) / Linus Omark ($0.875m) Andrew Cogliano ($1.700m) / Chris Drury ($7.050m) / Wojtek Wolski ($3.800m) Gilbert Brule ($1.850m) / Brian Rolston ($5.062m) / Ryan Jones ($1.500m) Teemu Hartikainen ($0.875m) / Zenon Konopka ($0.800m)

    DEFENSEMEN Tom Gilbert ($4.000m) / Ryan Whitney ($4.000m) James Wisniewski ($3.900m) / Colin White ($3.000m) Kurtis Foster ($1.800m) / Ladislav Smid ($1.800m) Theo Peckham ($0.750m)

    GOALTENDERS Nikolai Khabibulin ($3.750m) / Devan Dubnyk ($0.800m)

    BUYOUTS: Robert Nilsson ($0.416m)

    CAPGEEK.COM TOTALS (follow @capgeek on Twitter) (these totals are compiled without the bonus cushion) SALARY CAP: $62,400,000; CAP PAYROLL: $61,937,500; BONUSES: $3,787,500 CAP SPACE (23-man roster): $462,500

    Cap space is an asset we should maximize that asset…while building for the future…

  • I know its a longer commitment, and this season has been a disaster for him, but how about a guy like Keith Ballard & something nice for Kurtis Foster? Ballard’s still young enough & has had decent season’s in the past that he could turn it around nicely here. I’m sure coming off hip surgery last summer put him behind the 8-ball heading in to the season. If the hip is no longer an issue, a change of scenery & fresh start could be of benefit to him. He could fit nicely on a 2nd pairing with Gilbert, for instance (better than what they got). Plus, if you can add another asset for taking on the contract & helping out the Canucks, it would be worth it.

    Or perhaps a Gilbert for Commodore & 8 could work?

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    I love how any mention of “bad contracts” always brings out all the forensic accountants.

    If Katz is willing to spend the $$’s, why on earth would any fan object?

    We could pick up a couple extra prospects/picks with the ADDED benifit of bringing in an NHL calibre player…. the team is so poor that anyone on that list would be a top 15 player on this team…. some a top 10.

    If he isn’t willing to spend then fine, but if he is lets get all the assets we can.

    This is a no-brainer people.

  • OilFan

    Willis, it makes a lot of sense to leverage our capspace for picks and/or some decent talent. I wonder though if Katz really wants to burn all that money. And another thing is I really wonder if KLO and Tambo have the wisdom to understand this and to successfully pull it off.

  • Outside of the top five or so (which pretty much anybody isn’t going to give up), this is gambling to the extreme. You’re essentially buying late first-round and second round picks, each of which has a fraction of a chance at actually working out.

    I get that many people here are obsessed with picks and prospects, but sooner or later you’re going to have to spend those dollars on actual NHL’ers. You just don’t pay gajillions for picks (which is what this post is advocating) because you get ’em for free at the draft. To reiterate – YOU SPEND MONEY ON PLAYERS NOT CHANCES.

    • Seriously....Gord?

      “YOU SPEND MONEY ON PLAYERS NOT CHANCES”

      Toronto, NYR, Montreal, Detroit and a few rich teams can afford to do this because they have huge markets and can make tonnes of coin outside. I.E. jersys, memorobilla, other revenues. Second, its not like the owners are always in the game to make a profit, though it goes a long ways. They are rich kids with a toy.

      At the end of the day, it is a gamble, but when your a kabillionaire and own a team, why the hell not speculate a bit. After all, they are still spending to the cap, and burying players in the AHL and still have money to burn in Vegas.

      Of course, its not going to happen to any team with a budget. Only when those few teams with coin and no cap to spend it on meet with some one with coin, cap and no players to spend it on, can this deal make sense.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      That’s the beauty of the situation David. We get both a player, and a lotto ticket.

      If he’s willing to spend, it’s a win win for the team/fans.

      • So why not spend money on GOOD players? I mean, Mike Commodore? Sheesh. Could we not spend his ridiculous contract money on a bonafide guy instead? That’s my point.

        The proposal is to spend money to acquire boat anchors and picks who may or may not – more likely won’t – work out. Why not spend that cash on someone who might actually help the team AND lend a veteran presence.

        Tambellini: “Hey Darryl, I’ve got this greaaaat idea! You think Horcoff’s contract is brutal? How about if we got a couple more of those guys? ON TOP OF WHICH we can get a couple more picks too! Of course they’ll be kids who’ll probably fill out our third line at best, some day, maybe. But hey, IT’S ONLY MONEY, RIGHT?

        Katz: “Release the Kraken!”

          • Some but not all. Don’t be mesmerized by that Oil Change scene where the team “leaks” Malholtra’s refusal to come because of course it was a set-up. The Oilers are playing up the “nobody wants to come here” schtick big time because it makes it easy to justify tanking “the process”.

            We show a real commitment to win by icing a competitive team and I bet we could hook some decent talent. There’s a huge gap between Ovechkin and Jason Strudwick. Our desired players fall somewhere in that gap.

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

            Hey I agree that it isn’t impossible to attract talent, but this is just another way to get a useful player with the bonus of some futures.

            Like I said before, if the man is willing to spend then let him spend. If he’s not then fine, scratch this one off the list…. still makes absolutly no sense that fans would object to it.

    • While philosophy is great. Who is picking is important.

      SMB’s 2nd round picks since he took over:

      Lander 09 #40
      Pitlick 10 #31
      Marincin 10 #46
      Hamilton 10 #48

      I am ok with getting stu 2nd round picks.

      • I’ll be OK when/if one of those guys you mentioned starts playing some decent NHL games. They look good on paper but are still total unknowns. The jump from hot junior to regular NHL’er is far greater than alot of you guys realize. I’m concerned about the Edmonton Oilers, not (insert random junior hockey hero here).

  • EasyOil

    I like this idea. I think a lot of the commenters here are undervaluing draft picks. You guys are correct in that the draft is a crapshoot, and the chances of getting impact players isn’t very high. That actually makes it all the more important to get as many bullets as possible. I think the C&B guys (or might have been Willis) did a study on this. Stocking up on 2nd-7th round picks is actually a great plan, because you never known who will turn out. Look at the number of Oilers picks in the last 2 years: we had 18 picks, and 11 of those so far look like legitimate prospective pro hockey players. Of course its extremely early on and they won’t all make it, but you never know who will, and even some of the remaining 7 players could turn out (Pelss for example), but in turn those drafted kids can be dealt for already established players, just as a pick can.

    So basically, more draft picks IS the way to go. Increase your chances of getting an impact player in the draft, or use said-picks to make trades (either before or after they’re drafted. Lets not forget, you can’t send money in trades anymore, meaning that draft picks have essentially taken on the role of cash in a trade.

    • Agreed and well explained. The team is more or less on the basement floor (hope the building isn’t too too tall) of a rebuild. If the owner wants to eat the money, and the term on the player comming to the team isn’t rediculous to avoid handcuffing you later, load up on the picks. A 2nd or even a 3 rounder in 2013, for example, just may be a piece of a trade that will tip the trade into being realized (how many trades die that we are not aware of because one team wanted that extra draft pick?).

      • OilFan

        The other option is to take a bad contract and a prospect (instead of a draft pick) from a cap limit team. In this scenario, we offer another team cap relief but they need to give up an already drafted, somewhat more predictable propsect. This remains a crapshoot but there is a greater chance of success as the prospect has seasoned for a year or two past his draft year.

  • John Chambers

    The concept is sound but it needs to be applied correctly. Taking a bad contract that Katz is willing to pay for and getting almost any additional asset makes sense. I would suggest any of the players you mentioned could have fit into the Oil last year and would not have been worse than what was on the ice.

    No trades could be a real issue as veterans with litlle or no shelf life will loathe to go the last place team.

  • I still believe there is a trade option available with Minnesota. They need speed, scoring, and potential up front. Give them assets we have too much of (small guys with scoring potential for bottom line players) in exchange for veterans with a little more size.

    Cogliano/Brule

    for

    Kobasew/Barker

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Is there a list of guys that don’t have NTC/NMC?

    Outside of Rolston and Commodore who have seen what the AHL is all about I don’t know that the other agree to a trade to Edmonton at this point.

    • I would prey on Scott Howson.He is stuck between and a hard place. His 8th pick overall is definitely in play. How about Gilbert and J.F. Joke for Commodore,the 8th overall and a 5th rounder. If we bury him in OKC it would be great. His veteran experience could be valuable to that club and he would be good dman in a call up situation. I think he has some gas left in the tank. But he is more of a short term kinda guy than any solution to a long term issue. He could fill in for a couple of games in an emergency.

      Rolston. There is an old saying “Never deal with LOU”. Nuff said.

  • OilFan

    none of any of this makes any sense if the player a) doesn’t want to be here 100%, b)he is a good locker room guy/leader, c) has current tangible strengths that we need.

    you don’t throw money away JUST for a draft pick. there has to be more.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    This is an excellent article, Jonathan Willis. Do you think such a scenario would also work for our bad contracts, e.g. Sheldon Souray and Nikolai Khabibulin? Or is there actually no need to do that?

    • D-Man

      That makes a whole bunch of sense when you think about it… There’s no guarantee that in this economy that the $450 million price tag will jump to $550 million.. The City/Katz haven’t publicized a contingency plan should that increase happen; so saving some cash for the next year or two makes sense.

  • I don’t get the people that get mad about paying a guy alot to play in the minors, its not your money if Katz is willing then who cares. If taking on Drurys contract gets a pick then take it on, not only is he better then any center we have we also get a pick, then next year his contract is done and we let him leave, I don’t see any problem with this what so ever. Same with Rolston or Barker I think doing this is a great way to keep some young guys in the minors for half the season ans brings in some veteran players (who if it wasnt for their cap hit would probably stay on their teams), its a win win.