LAST THING I NEEDED (FIRST THING THIS MORNING)

Old timey Oiler fans will tell you the Justin Schultz win in free agency is merely payback for a mountain of heartache. And Nashville? Folks, we know how you feel. Seriously.  

It was 1991 summer. The Oilers five Stanley’s were a fresh memory, the club had enjoyed a strong playoff in defense of their 5th championship. A classic opening series against the Godless Flames went the way it should have, with Esa Tikkanen ripping the heart out of Calgary.

They rolled over LAK in 6–four of them in OT–before losing to a long forgotten but worthy Minnesota North Star club. At that point in time–despite having dealt 99 three years earlier–the typical Oiler fan felt the good times would go on forever–or at least a long time.

Free Agency worked a little differently in those days. There were 214 free agents that summer, divided into three groups. Group 1 free agents were players under 24 years old with less than 5 seasons pro. At that time, an NHL team could force a trade simply by signing a group 1–and what was worse if the two teams couldn’t agree on a trade an arbitrator would decide based on each side’s arguments. It was a bad deal all around, as these extremely valuable young players were treated as less valuable because of their short resume.

Which brings us to Adam Graves, Glen Sather and Neil Smith.

ADAM

Adam Graves was a fine young hockey player for the Edmonton Oilers in 1991. the club had won a Stanley with Graves as a part of it (1990 was much different than the powerhouse Stanley’s, and Graves was a key member of the Kid Line that spring). Neil Smith was putting together the "Oilers East" team that would eventually win the 1994 Stanley Cup for Manhattan and had targeted Mark Messier as his number one priority that summer.

However, he wanted Graves too and signed him as a Group 1 free agent late summer:

Sather argued that he was going to build his team around Graves–who would score 52 regular season goals for the Rangers in 93-94 and then 10 more during their SC run–and Neil Smith argued Graves had scored 7 goals in the regular season and had the same basic value as Troy Mallette, a young winger of lesser quality.

Slats asked for two players, Steven Rice and Louie DeBrusk. He would get them, but not for Adam Graves. The arbitrator found in favor of the Rangers and the Oilers were singing sad songs for a long, long time. 

THE BLEEDING CONTINUES

As summer faded to fall and Oiler fans were left to find out about Troy Mallette on the internet from the Hockey News, bad moved in with worse. On September 20 we found out that Grant Fuhr and Glenn Anderson were Leafs and then later in the fall the big anvil  fell.

On October 4, 1991 Edmonton traded Mark Messier and future considerations (Jeff Beukeboom) to the Rangers for Bernie Nicholls, Steven Rice, Louie DeBrusk and future considerations (David Shaw). 

There’s not a country song in existence that can express the pain of losing Mark Messier for mere mortals that day. It represented the end of the Glory Years in a way that dealing Coffey, 99 and others didn’t because all of the impact players were gone once 11 flew to NYC.

The Oilers Stanley teams bled out that day and the dozen or so players coming back in the Messier-Anderson-Fuhr-Graves deals remain a blur to this day. Good men all, but placed in an impossible situation. The Stanley’s remained, but the springs of glory would be few and far between (2006) after the fall of 1991.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

All of the guitars in Nashville only play sad songs these days, as the Predators and their fans suffer through dark days. Back in 1991, the Oilers were in trouble after the events of  August-October. The problems got worse as the selloff continued as the months wore on. Kevin Lowe, Craig MacTavish, it was a nightmare to live and believe me it isn’t easy to look back on an era where some of the truly great players in NHL history were leaving town by the dozen.

So for fans of the Nashville Predators, we can certainly feel your pain. However, your GM David Poile will no doubt recommend to ownership that matching the contract is the only real option. It makes no economic sense, but not matching would represent hockey death and a complete rebuild. Allowing Weber to walk in exchange for 4 numbers one’s makes the Rinne contract ridiculous and the thought of playoff contention laughable.

Better to match, have Weber play one season and then trade his contract for immediate and sustainable assets one year from now.

NATION RADIO 

NATION RADIO hits the air at noon today on Team 1260. A jam packed lineup includes:

  • Tom Lynn, Agent and Advisor for NHL and Amateur Hockey Players based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Tom has quickly become Nation Radio’s "go-to" guy for draft, free agency and CBA talk. We’ll do that and more on today’s show.
  • Harrison Mooney from Pass it to Bulis. We’ll talk Canucks, free agency, Luongo and Nash among other things.
  • John Matisz and Brendan Gaunce. We’ll talk about a book on Gaunce (by Matisz) that follows the young junior player through his draft year. THIS is going to be a fascinating read.
  • Lisa McRitchie from Kukla’s Korner. Lisa is a bright light in the Oilogosphere with unique commentary and always has an interesting take. We’ll talk draft and the Oilers in free agency.
  • Ryan Pike from Flames Nation. We’ll have a lash at the CBA talks, Shea Weber’s future and try to figure out if Jay Feaster is all about the past, present or future.

Emails welcome nationradio@theteam1260.com and you can put comments and questions in the thread below or I’m @lowetide_ and @ItsNationRadio on twitter. 

  • Lowetide

    I still think NSH should see just how bad PHI wants Weber & try and work out a deal to get some actual bodies. The Schenn bros, Voracek, Read, Coburn…? Gotta be a deal in there somewhere. If I’m PHI, I’d have no prob surrendering a couple of those guys to ensure getting Weber.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Forgot about those dark days. How much could the Oilers use “an Adam Graves” right now? I thought he was bigger than the 185 listed. I remembered him as a much bigger player. Maybe that is just how he played.

  • The Soup Fascist

    For those of sitting in an increasingly empty Northlands Colisseum these were dark days. I clearly remember attending George Burnett Oilers games with less than 7500 in the stands.

  • The Soup Fascist

    no deal in a trade for weber is possible after the offer sheet is done. A decision by Preds first, then Only option would be Philly trading back for picks if they lose them and in the same moment lose some salary off their payroll.

        • Lowetide

          The alternative is hockey death. They can still cobble together a team that can push for the playoffs with Weber in this year’s lineup and then get several players of worth next season.

          It’s a bitter pill either way.

          • bazmagoo

            “Hey Paul, David here… so we’ve decided we’re going to match & trade Shea to Pittsburgh next July… Oh what’s that? You’ll take these picks back for something that helps us now? Hm… ok, let’s talk.”

          • justDOit

            Yes!

            “Ok Paul, I’m listening… yeahuh… no… Schenn.. yes, and his brother too… well ok… oh look, I’ve got a call coming in from Slats… Paul – Paul – I gotta put you on hold, I have to conference Shero in with Slats… just a sec…”

          • Wax Man Riley

            I don’t agree. Or, at least, I don’t think it’s certain hockey death.

            It depends how much value they think they could get for Weber in a year. It depends what their finances allow. It depends how much they think it would actually hurt ticket sales – over the next yeara or two, sure, but it’s unlikely to affect ticket sales by as much as they have to pay Weber, IMO (and I know I’m saying that with no market research, I could be mistaken).

            What could they get for Rinne in a trade? Would MON give them a 1st to take on Gomez? Would NYR give them a 1st to take on Redden? If they go total rebuild, how bad would they get? Bad enough to pick top 3 in 12/13?

            Lots of questions, lots to think about before they have to match.

        • Metal&Oil

          Yeah. I can’t see Preds ownership paying $27M to Weber for One year of service ether.

          IMO they will trade the picks back to Philly for some roster players. Philly would probably prefer to clear some cap room anyways and even though the Preds won’t be able to squeeze both Schenn and Couturier from the Flyers they should be able to get one of them, some other roster player and 1 or 2 of the picks.

    • Lowetide

      That’s precisely my point – if PHI really wants him bad enough, they’ll take their picks back in return for players. This gave them exclusivity for 7 days to talk trade with the Preds without worrying about other teams coming in & offering more.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Fun fact: Centerman Adam Graves played his 22 and 23 year-old seasons with the Oilers, where he averaged 8 goals and 23 points a season.

    Wish the Nation was around back then so we fans could offer how he was a first rounder who was a “bust”. Dark days indeed …

    Edit: oops only 21 teams then. 1st pick in 2nd round – sorry, my bad

  • Boourns99

         
    “Yes, honey…Just squeeze your rage up into a bitter little ball and release it at an appropriate time, like that day I hit the referee with the whiskey bottle.”

    Thanks for bringing this up LT… It was years before I could talk about this, and you’ve gone and brought those feelings back up.

    Ah, 1991, the year I (almost) lost faith. It was a hard time to be an Oiler fan, and affected the team for years. It still hurts a little.

    Funny how that era was precipitated by an inability for pocklington and northlands to come to a lease agreement – and while there aren’t a ton of parallels, there is something to be said for the psyche of Edmonton and the association with the oilers franchise. Perhaps we should remind the arena naysayers of how it felt to be an edmontonian in those days (not good). This current roster has the opportunity to do something special, and we can enable and enhance the Edmonton pride, and show the world we are a world class city.

  • Lowetide

    S. Crowe: It’s funny, I had three versions that were under consideration. The one I used, the one you’ve suggested and a wonderful one with the Everly Brothers and Chet Atkins.

    they’re all terrific, and I don’t think most people would even guess who wrote it. Sounds like a lost Everly track from about 1963.

    While I’m at it, I badly wanted to include a second Gary Nunn song (the theme from ‘Austin City Limits’) but couldn’t because of a wildy inappropriate female at about 4:26.

  • justDOit

    Since I didn’t follow hockey back then (watched it, didn’t read about or have interest in the biz side of things), I didn’t know how Graves left for the Rangers. Now I’m pissed!

    @LT: Wasn’t Smith assembling the Oilers East?

  • Wax Man Riley

    Is it 4 first round picks? Or I heard 2x1st and a 2cd and 3rd? Which one is confirmed? Either way Nashville’s losses are our gains. They appear to be crippled. The triangle of death of Weber,Suter and Rinne seems to be over. How much will the loss of Suter and Weber affect Rinne’s game? I’d say alot. Would’nt surprise me to see his GAA rise considerably this season if Weber and Suter are not there.

    Gagner got a good deal. a better deal next year is certainly a possibility if he lines up with Yakupov and Hall. I really see Hemsky on the 3rd line with Horcoff and Smyth. It seems to me that either MP or TH will be given a chance to shine with Eberle and Hopkins. Hall suites Gagners game better. So will Yakupov.

    Eager? Trade or waiver wire?

  • justDOit

    The bonus money is just awful for a team that now needs to spend even more just to reach the cap floor. Nashville would be in a much better place if they could trade for a retired player signed after 35 all cap no dollars.

  • Lowetide

    speeds: They’ve already lost Suter, and are close to losing Weber. Trading Rinne too? A mind blowing summer. I think Poile will move heaven and earth to control damage and cut a better deal on his own (or closer to his own) terms.

    • Clarence Oveur

      I think you have to look at everything, is all I’m saying.

      Do they really want to spend 27 mil on Weber to potentially miss the playoffs? I get that keeping him isn’t only a short term decision, and that he’s an excellent D that they look at as a franchise building block.

      What can they reasonably expect to get back in a year for Weber, if they trade him? Does keeping him, due to the front loaded nature of the deal, prevent them from properly building around him?

      Would the NSH ticket market be as affected by losing Weber as some are speculating, or would the fans continue to come out if Poile can work some magic through trades and free agency over the next couple seasons?

      What is coming with the new CBA? Is saving the money and hitting the bottom of the league a good idea if the new CBA sees drafted players kept with their team for longer and cheaper?

  • justDOit

    LT

    What would you consider fair in a trade? In my mind, Couturier would be the starting point.

    If I was Nashville, my list would be Couturier, Read, Coburn, Timmonen.

    Sounds like a deal?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    The things that “B” markets like Nashville and Edmonton have to put up with.

    Weber did his time, he earned the right to call his own shot. It isn’t Shea’s fault Preds ownership chose to operate with limited resources.

    Is it possible our Oilers are in for the same thing in a few yrs when Hall,Ebs and Hopkins are able to do the same thing? If the Oilers are still on the outside, looking in, in two yrs, i’d have to think the kids start looking elsewhere. Maybe hanging on hope is as good as it gets for us.

    Scary scenario, but has to be a very real possibility for our Edmonton market. To go from a commitment to losing, to a committment to winning… isn’t as easy as turning on a light switch.

  • bazmagoo

    Nashville has to match, either that or close up shop essentially.

    If I was Poile I’d match and then strive for a trade with a division rival next off season.

  • bazmagoo

    I think the two Schenn brothers would be a reasonable price for Weber at this stage, that and maybe a pick or two. This one is going to be interesting to see how it plays out. Lots of different scenarios in play.

    My guess is Weber is a Flyer next season, they just need to come to an agreement on a trade.

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    Poile had the same thing happen to him when he wasa young GM and Scott Stevens was offered and he let him Walk for draft picks.

    I doubt he makes the same mistake again.

    • justDOit

      It’s not about if he makes the same mistake again, but this time, it’s which mistake he makes. Paying a player who says he wants out of Nashville $27M for one year’s service is certainly a mistake as well.

    • The Soup Fascist

      May not be his choice. The guys writing the cheques will make this call. And that is a ton of dough.

      For sure matching is the right hockey move but this is where real life intersects sport.

  • bazmagoo

    Not to be overly churlish with regard to nostalgia for the glory years and the ongoing deification of “The Moose”, but it should be remembered that the “trade” of Messier was precipitated/forced by Messier’s holding out, and refusing to report to Oilers’ training camp — despite still being under contract (he was NOT a free agent).

    It was an open secret that the Rangers had actively tampered with Messier,prior to the deal, and this was made all too obvious by the fact that NYR immediately tore up #11’s contract and signed him to a new one — for TRIPLE the $$$ (the — then –astronomical salary of $3m per).

    After that, it was open season for big clubs pooching talent from small market operations.

  • D

    LT,

    Losing all those players in 1991 was brutal. Unfortunately, it was masked over by the fact that the Oilers somehow managed to make it to the third round of the playoffs in the spring of 1992. IMHO, that run in 1992, more so than any other event, gave the impression that the Oilers could win no matter who was playing on the ice. Then the wheels completely fell off…

  • Bucknuck

    Everyone assumes it’s Poile making the choice. If the Owners say “no way” then really he can’t do anything, and I suspect Philadelphia is banking on that.

  • bazmagoo

    It’s wonderful to feel sorry for Nashville and to compare our previous situation with theirs but ultimately what is hockey doing in the deep U.S. south. Our circumstances back then were significantly due to a crazy low Canadian dollar. Frankly the Edmonton hockey market is in the top third of the NHL. The sooner some of these loser franchises fold and/or disappear the better it will be for us. I don’t want to see teams diluted with mediocre talent and I don’t want NHLers given the option of hiding away in non-hockey markets. I want these players to appreciate being in a hockey market like Edmonton.

  • D

    The prospect that Philadelphia can force the Preds to take a 27 million dollar salary hit for one season of Shea Weber, without facing a similar cap hit themselves, demonstrates just what is wrong with the current CBA – interesting that the owners want to limit salary terms, while at the same time Phillie is using a ludricrously front loaded long term contract to royally screw a small market team.And is it just me or does anyone else notice that in the Weber-Suter era, the Preds won only 2 playoff series over 7 years. Are these guys really worth that much money in the first place?

  • bazmagoo

    Or does Nashville takes the picks, trade Rinne and go for an immediate full rebuild by turning 2012 into tankapalooza and aim for a top 3 draft pick for next season?

    • D

      Only problem is that Nashville isn’t a hockeytown like Edmonton. Nashville won’t pay to see losers on ice like we do here in Edmonton. I see a domino effect. Phoenix, Nashville, FLA, Anaheim, Columbus all come crashing down. I’m licking my chops. What will Donald Fehr say about that?

      • D

        How much will that matter when the alternative is to pay Weber $27M in the next 12 months plus the $4M you could save by going to a cheaper goalie. In the meantime, tank, stockpile picks and wait for the outcome of the new CBA to see how you want to structure your team in the future.

        It’s a crap situation whether they match or don’t. I’m not sure what the status is of the sale of the team, but my best guess is the new owner didn’t budget on spending $27M right off the hop on 1 years worth of Weber. I think you’d have to take a long hard look at that option

  • D

    All Nashville fans need to remember is there is the same amount of letters in Seth Jones as there were in Shea Weber.

    He will be there new cornerstone if Poile doesn’t match