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.

    • OilFan

      I’ve read talk of a Cam Barker buyout by Minnesota. Why not take a one year looksie – we’ll likely get something at the trade deadline even if he doesn’t have a great season. He’s still young enough that if he’s “reclaimed then he fits. AND it would allow the Oilers to make the Gilbert and something to Columbus for the 1st rounder trade that Matty has written about a couple times. Barker and Gilbert are similar players with similar experience.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    I lean toward J.P. Dumont as any player in Nashville could bloom under a totally different style of play. I think he could be a surprise.

  • OilFan

    Good grief are you serious are any of those players upgrades ? It’s kinda funny that people think the best way to make a winning team it to get the worst players from other teams, taking there bad contracts. Not one of the players help this team know or ever. Who in the right mind would trde for Jeff Deslauriers rights? This makes no sense at all sorry Jonathan. If they help other teams with cap space doesn’t it hurt the Oilers chance down the road i.e the other team able to stay competitive ?

    • I’m not sure you’re following.

      The Oilers would trade nothing (i.e. the rights to Jeff Deslauriers) to, say, Nashville in exchange for J.P. Dumont and a second round pick.

      Nashville saves four million dollars, lets go of a good draft pick. Edmonton takes on a poor contract for a year in exchange for getting the pick.

      Given that we’re only talking one or two year deals, these teams we’re talking about aren’t going to be significantly better as a result down the road. The Oilers benefit from the draft pick or prospect they get.

  • While and interesting idea you should remember there is already $5 million (Souray) in the minors.

    Would you want to spend this kind of money on bad contracts for picks in the draft that might turn out ok if it was your own money? This is not monoply money we are dealing with here.

    Great idea when it is not your own money that is being flushed away and Katz already will have $200 million (two segments of $100 million if I recall correctly) in the arena already spoken for.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Gonchar is one that would interest me, only two seasons left on that deal, we do need significant help on the blueline. Could be a bargaining chip to make a deal with the Sens and move up. The Oilers may find a welcomed trading partner if MacTavish finds employment there this week.

  • Zimmy

    Another great read with lots to think about thanks JW. Drury would be fine in my books for a year and any help on D would be more than welcome. My only question how the heck can you toss our rookies to the wolves with all that veteran presence ?

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Id take commadore, maybe a change of scenery would do him well and if memory serves me correct he played pretty good for the hurricanes back in the dreadful year of 06, Id trade Gilbert for Commadore straight up one bad contract for another.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Of course JW, you are forgetting that Tambellini has already expressed the opinion that the Oilers will challenge for a playoff spot next season.

    Although virtually every sane observer can see how preposterous that is, Tambellini obviously doesn’t.

    Same old, same old.

  • @ Kieso:

    Sure. I’d be more than happy to take a guy like Kuba – coming off a bad year, not too expensive, a legitmate top-four defenseman in Edmonton – in exchange for a guy like Jacques if Ottawa was winning to do it.

    It’s a two birds with one stone scenario, and you might even get a piece (in Kuba, or Commodore, or whoever) that is useful when their contract expires and looks at you fondly for taking a chance on them when nobody else would.

    It would depend on the specific deal, but I’d look at it.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Nice article JW. Didn’t realize you were so highly accredited, with ESPN and the Score on your resume. Guess we should start calling you Mr.
    Anyways, love your idea. These are the kinds of transitional vets we need and can’t sign anyways, so if we could unload a Foster or Fraser AND get one of these guys for a year or two, that’s win win. I’d take Commodore 64, Gonch-pull, or Rolston. Guys with experience that can teach and lead, and bridge to the future, whilst making us respectable now.