Take a load off, Annie

Ever since Bob Stauffer broke out his “wow factor” trade rumour the other day, there’s been a thought that has stuck with me, and it’s about the summer of 2013. It will be an important one for the Oilers, and while many fans will be untroubled by a date so far in the future, the guys in the front office had better have it marked in red.

The Oilers have a long list of salary cap obligations coming to a conclusion that summer. Here’s the list of $1.0 million and up ticket items coming off the books:

Player Cap Hit Expiry
Ryan Whitney $4.00 million UFA
Nikolai Khabibulin $3.75 million UFA
Sam Gagner $3.20 million RFA
Ladislav Smid $2.25 million RFA
Andy Sutton $1.75 million UFA
Magnus Paajarvi $1.53 million RFA
Sheldon Souray $1.5 million LOL
Ryan Jones $1.50 million UFA
Theo Peckham $1.08 million RFA

Put it all together and that’s a little under $21 million in cap space being cleared.

And (and) (and) you put the load right on me

A bunch of that money is already spent.

Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall go from a combined cap hit a shade under $5 million annually to an even $12 million. Three key players on the expiry list – Ladislav Smid, Sam Gagner and Ryan Whitney – will either need to be re-upped or replaced.

If the Oilers have a big trade in the works, a guy like Gagner, Whitney or Nick Schultz ($3.5 million annual cap hit) might be integral to the deal, playing the role Eric Brewer played in the summer of 2005.

Even without assuming a trade that brings in a big contract – we’re talking about a Schultz+ for Jay Bouwmeester or Gagner+ for Patrick Marleau style of swap (hypothetical names; feel free to substitute a Luongo or Wisniewski or Tyutin) – Smid’s getting a raise for sure and the combination of Gagner and Whitney/Whitney-caliber defenceman aren’t likely to be all that much cheaper next year than they were this year.

That’s not all of it, either. The salary cap seems likely to be dipping in time for the 2013-14 season (assuming the talk of a transition year before the players’ share of hockey revenue hits 50/50 has merit) and guys like Nugent-Hopkins and Yakupov will start getting paid around that time too. Nugent-Hopkins’ entry-level deal expires in the summer of 2014; Yakupov’s will probably be finished the year after.

Wait a minute, Chester, you know I’m a peaceful man

When Bob Stauffer talks about an NBA-style buyout clause – where a team could conceivably buyout a current contract in the summer of 2013 to be compliant with the dropping 2013-14 salary cap rather than being forced to make a decision now – it doesn’t take any insight at all to know who he’s talking about.

We have looked at the structure of Shawn Horcoff’s contract with a buyout in mind previously. The cap hit won’t be awful if he’s bought out in the summer of 2013, but in concert with the other salary cap pressures on the Oilers at that time it will be decidedly unwelcome. With an amnesty clause the Oilers could spend less than $5 million in actual money and clear away $11 million in cap hit.

She’s the only one who sent me here with regards for everyone

Photo: Resolute/Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 3.0

Assuming that the lockout leads to flat revenue growth (or whatever flat revenue growth would be, minus money lost to missed games) and that 2012-13 is the lone transition year, we should be looking at a 2013-14 salary cap in the $61.5 million range (this year’s cap, minus the 12 percent lost by the players in a drop in their share from 57 percent to 50 percent HRR).

The way I figure the roster – Smid making about $4 million, Gagner/Whitney or their replacements making the same as they do now, some small money changes to players in depth roles up front, on defence, and in net – the Oilers are going to have trouble making that 2013-14 salary cap even if they are allowed to send Horcoff down the line without cap hit ramifications.

There are ways around that – cheaping out on the backup goalie or the depth forwards, for instance – but it is too be hoped that the Oilers have a long-term salary cap plan thought through before they pull the trigger on a big deal. Chicago won the Stanley Cup in 2009-10, but that summer they had to send away a lot of useful guys because of items like the Brian Campbell contract.

It’s a dangerous time, and there are going to be temptations along the way. The right moves will help the Oilers build a contender sooner rather than later. The wrong ones will just add weight.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • OilClog

    Whitney, Gagner, MPS, Peckham, Jones will all stay in their price range

    Smid will get a raise.. 3.5-4 probably?

    Khabs, Souray, Sutton will be gone.

    Whitney $4
    Gagner $3.5
    Smid $4
    MPS $1.5
    Peckham $1.5
    Jones $1.5


    it’s doable. Jones will probably be flushed at somepoint, MPS and Peckham could get raises but it’s not justified yet.

    Add in the $12m from Hall and Ebs with just the big three on this list, you’re looking at $23-24m. Doable.

        • The first paragraph of the league’s official explanation of their ‘make whole’ proposal:

          The NHL is not proposing that current SPCs be reduced, re-written or rolled back. Instead, the NHL’s proposal retains all current Players’ SPCs at their current face value for the duration of their terms, subject to the operation of the escrow mechanism in the same manner as it has worked under the expired CBA.

          (emphasis added)

          Now, anything could happen, but my read is that cap hits will stay as they are, and that’s what I’ve seen reported elsewhere.

  • The Oilers Shot Clock

    I like the idea of forward thinking by doing random shoulder checks. Its not a science but more of an art to write up a contract that has value in both the real world and on paper.the long term vs short term gains far outweigh the risk vs reward matrix that any stat expert will tell you the same. I hope the management can head this advice and set themselves up with growth but not at the expense of holding themselves back with getting too carried away with irresponsibility on top of their common sense. Its a fine line. I look forward to looking back on this in a few years.

  • OilClog

    Remains to be seen what happens with bonus overages in the new CBA, but EDM would have room to play with there if they remain unchanged. There’s a small amount of risk there, I suppose, but they can probably feel pretty comfortable exceeding the cap by 1 or 2 mil without too much lost sleep.

    • Yeah, that’s very true. I’d be leery relying on those, but if they work as they did under the old CBA it makes things a lot easier for the Oilers.

      On the other hand, Chicago did exactly that and that was part of their problem, IIRC.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Aren’t we getting ahead of ourselves a little bit here. On the heels of 3 first overall picks in a row and we’re already conjuring up issues contending teams have to deal with.

    • Not really. Even if the Oilers don’t add anybody the salary cap is going to need to be negotiated very carefully just to keep their current people in place.

      Besides, I firmly believe in the maxim that failure to plan is planning for failure.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I would rather hold on to some of these players and make a pitch for Seth Jones , Assuming Oilers pick in the top 10, they could trade their pick and a player to move up to get Seth Jones

  • It was part of the problem because they spent right to the edge of their bonus overages (4-5 mil I think?), plus Kane and Toews hit the majority of their bonuses. If EDM goes over the cap by, say, 1.5 mil to make things work that year, there isn’t as much risk as their was with CHI if the unlikely happens and all 3 of RNH, Yakupov, and Schultz all hit their “A” AND “B” bonuses.

    • Rocknrolla

      Hey Speeds,

      I always hear people say it was bad cap management, but I seem to remember an article that showed the real problem.

      Dale Talon didn’t send the RFA qualifying offers, players immediately became free agents and he had to roughly spend about $5M more than he would have had his fax machine been working.

      Now I am not sure about arbitration rights or what those guys would have gotten, but it is definitely a different scenario than poor planning or bonuses. Sounds like a big mistake that cost Talon his job.


      Take a hard look at that table….WOW. Looks like a Tambi 2009 move!

      • Vaclav

        I believe that Tallon elected to use the USPS to send out his qualifying offers rather than courier or fax. The players didn’t receive them in time. Perhaps he thought as long as things were postmarked by said date…

        Huge gaffe.

      • It certainly didn’t help. I do think that table overstates the savings by a significant amount; it’s not like all those players would have signed their qualifying offers.

        CHI also had the “bad luck” of Toews being awarded the Conn Smythe, had it gone to someone without “B” bonuses, they’d have had 1.3 mil more in cap room.

        • Rocknrolla

          True point. Who knows what they would have signed for, but it would likely be a lot less. I hope that is a mistake our management will not make!

          Also, did not know about the Conn Smythe bonus….Wow thats an unexpected 3rd liner right there…

  • Does Gagner alone get the Jets 1st round pick in 2015?

    Winnipeg will become the new Edmonton, and no free-agents will want to go there. The team they have now will fall apart in a year or two, and it will all be down hill from there.

  • Something tells me that the wording on that whole “make whole” proposal is exactly what they are talking about now.

    I don’t think that any scenario that has the players “made whole” without some sort of payment exemption for current contracts that are based on the 57% revenue cap is going to fly with the players because they are essentially paying for it with their own money (by eting up a disproportionate amount of the proposed 50/50).

    I hope I’m right or else we are going to have a terrible cap situation without having had much of an opportunity to put together a winning club.

  • I am TIRED of this Smid = 4M$. Where do you guys come up with this stuff??

    The guy played 20 minutes a night last year, third most on the team, 1 minute more a game than Corry Potter. We were the second worst team in the league and probably have the worst blueline in the league as per being the worst team 3 years running. Smid FINALLY had a DECENT season and all of a sudden he is an uppper echelon defenseman??

    Willie Mitchel has been playing ACTUAL outstanding shutdown hockey for years and is making 3.5M. He is a legitimate defensive defensman who is very difficult to play against.

    Smid is still learning on the job and uses his hands too much when he is being “physical”.

  • Whitney,Khabby,Horcoff,Sutton,N Schultz,Bellanger,take your pick .

    Whitney cant give us value for dollars our forwards are faster more skilled and more catalysed by a possesion/transition mindset than the team we had when we aquired Ryan.

    Khabby is just high end playoff insurance at this point of his career–we dont need that quite yet.

    Gagner is about to bust out with around a PPG performance and put a massive screw in our plans,so consider his salary going up.And him going nowhere.Sam is in a perfect position to literally explode offensively with Yakupov by his side,I think Sam will aim for 30+ goals–and finish his next full season with near a PPG pace.If he is left on the 2nd line all year he will take the team to another level as we have been missing the 2nd line offensive punch for many years.

    Jones has shown he can produce goals 5 on 5 from all 4 lines already,that is excellent versatility and he has shown above average leadership skill–he will be hard to beat out for his job description,only overwhelmingly more offense will unseat him and he isnt exactly chopped liver he can score consistantly.You better be a 25 or more goal guy to replace him and all of his dimensions.I dont see that kind of offense coming up quite yet for his system slot.And his leadership is something he has evolved into it wasnt on his resume so we cant overlook it at all.

    Smid is the teams defensive anchor and not going anywhere–he will be a career Oiler.Laddy is our #1 d-man and he is still evolving upwards,unusual for a d-man of his age,we havent seen the best of Smid yet.

    Theo Peckham is a big tough as nails d-man who has above average protective instincts,will protect at the right times without needing a tap on the shoulder and he doesnt take stupid penaltys,we need his type of game–tough ,simple,effective and consistant.Remember Theos draft position it was justified and he is on track as per his peers.

    Petry and J Schultz are both capable of putting up big numbers and because of that we can look for big solid tough bookends for them.We can build off of them,Laddy has the first line defensive dimension covered now we need to find one more similar to him.I see Smid and Petry as naturals together but Schultz brings a new dimension to town and he will likely need the first unit ice time to be as elite as he can be.I see Smid-Petry/Peckham-J Schultz/N Schultz-Whitney as our top six d-men.Barring trades.Dont be surprised if Justin Schultz works much better off of Peckhams style than any other–I already see the chemistry potential.

    • Someone has their Gagner goggles on, eh.;-‘)

      Massive screw? Literally explode? Take the team to another level? C’mon son.!..

      Gagner is a complimentary player, so he will either get traded or know his role for a pay cut.

      • Czar

        Complimentary players dont score 8 pts in an NHL game,most Hall of Famers never scored 8 pts in a game.

        I am no statistician but I do know there are two Gagners sharing records with the greatest man to ever play the game,a Father son combonation ,Dave scored 4pts in one period in a playoff game and we have Sams 8 pt night,exactly how many Father -Son combos can claim this fact??

        Massive screw means that he already knows his role and is about to gun for his dads 40 goal best,I say he achieves it,this my friend throws a massive screw into the Oilers machine,the propoganda campaign to keep Gagners value and salary low is over.He will demand a hefty salary increase with his resume if he puts up these types of numbers,and he is now flanked by very very good players who can take him there.There has long been a Gagner debate here in Edmonton–it was supposed to end when the future superstars of the NHL were skating around with wide eyes and their mouths hanging open as Silent Sam lit the Hawks up for 8 pts –.
        With Yakupov and Gagner both opening up the guns the Oilers will have consistant scoring from the second line for the first time in many years.This will take the Oilers game to another level,a playoff level.Remember it is only this offense that keeps Smyth-Horcs-and Hemmer on the 3rd line,and that is yet another sign we are ready for the playoffs,we will field a pure veteran 3rd line with serious scoring ability.

        I dont find it coincidental at all that I am a Gagner supporter and I got to watch him stuff his jock-strap down all of his critics throats–no one has seen that big a can of whup-arse opened up by an Oiler since Coffey did it to the Red Wings.

        I can easily see how and why Sam scored those 8 pts–and it was through hard work and committment to the system he was playing–simple.There were consistant actions Sam was taking for 60 mins that paid off.Players dont step outside of their systems to score 8pts ,they step into the system to accomplish that.

        Truthfully,I often wonder why we dont see more of these huge nights,simply because they are system induced,not individually catalysed by a single man,it is Sams understanding of the dynamic function of the system that allows him the chance to share sucess with his teammates,it is his system awareness that does this not just Sams physicality and skillset.

        I will make sure I keep my Gagner Glasses close by ,ha ha ha,I do tend to misplace those suckers from time to time.Gagner Glasses!!that was a sharp one,ha ha ha.Nice.

          • Czar

            I agree 100%,when it is momentum related and proactive– pick your spots and weight class please.Players like Sam are barometers for the rest of the team,when someone nips our belly and the barometer goes up the entire wolf-pack has to start howling together.Sam and critical offensive players like him need to be sparks,not statements,if Silent Sam throws em down then this means we SHOULD be seeing the wolves come out immediatly across the board,you bite one of our tender important bits and you bet bitten back by the whole pack.

            Super-Heavyweights are lone wolves,a special breed,they go it alone and dont always require a pack mentality,Hordichuck is not a super-heavyweight,he needs backing.Our team badly needs the wolf-pack mentality every night.Sam is a good barometer as are a lot of our young guys,they arent trouble makers and if they get rattled we need to respond—we dont have an Avery on this team,so we can read the pulse easier and be proactive at the right times.

            If the team supports the Wolf-pack mentality individuals will pick their spots better and endure more crap,because they wont want to see anyone in their pack to get hurt knowing full well that when the howling starts and the teeth come out someone is going to bleed,no posturing.No BS,just support and red spots on the ice,never call in the Wolves unless you mean it.Once this is the state of affairs when you play the Oilers we will generate the respect a championship team needs.

            Yes,without the toughness or willingness I wouldnt be calling Silent Sam a complete player whith leadership ability,I respect him for not throwing down unless its for the team–he reminds me of Peckham that way– he doesnt do it for himself its for the team–like Teubert has been showing us in OKC.

  • Great stuff, Jonathon.

    I hope we all remember your last paragraph when it comes to trade deadlines and July 1’s. More damage can be done to this roster on those days than any other substantially compromising our window.

    “Do something Tambellini!” is not wise advice for the man in charge.

  • Rocknrolla


    They may allow the players to take their full salary, lets say its $4M for player A.

    But these contracts signed prior to the CBA2012, would actually only count as 88% of their real value as a cap hit.

    This would enable the make whole, pay everyone, but also enable the rollback of the “Cap” so player A would still get his $4M, honour the contract, but it counts as $3.52 against the cap. Very similar to other players having a different cap hit vs. real salary.

    This may happen, I mean its all speculation, but it would solve 2 problems, players get their full salary, but it doesnt push the cap up, it artificially sets it lower, and enables teams to fit players in.

      • StHenriOilBomb

        I haven’t seen anything written about this idea, but it’s the one that makes most sense to me. The NHL could even use the 88% cap hit as their arbitration comparison in the “new financial landscape”.

        • Rocknrolla

          Exactly, enables the goal which is to stop salaries from escalating and bring them back down now. Old players will get paid but new ones play by the new rules…

          • Wax Man Riley

            Sounds simple. But from what I have read, the owners simply don’t want to pay that. They refuse to pay the amount they would have under the old CBA.

          • New ones would play by the new rules regardless.

            Every indication so far is that cap hits will not change. Certainly this could change, but there has been absolutely no indication that it will.

            The league doesn’t want to roll back cap hits without full salary rollbacks because it will force new salaries even lower.

  • 24% body fat

    If there is no cap hit roll backs a lot of teams are screwed and a lot of future RFA and UFA players are screwed. There will be no room to sign anyone. THe players have to know this and be fighting for the cap hit roll back.

    Not liking the Eberle signing now. If all holds true his contract could really hold us back.

  • The cap is going to come down and you think contracts are going to remain the same or escalate. whitney for example.With a reduced cap you think he gets 4-5 million.What has he done for us lately other than be on the IR list for the past 2 seasons. If anything I am showing him the door at the trade deadline this year. Jones? He is 700,000 player once the cap comes down. Smid?1.8 maybe. The reality is that owners having been overpaying for players for years.That why guys like Jones and Belanger and Eager are where they are today. Bunch of crack head GM’s blowing smoke out of their collective rears have been escalating the price of 3rd and 4th line players for about 10 years now. It has to stop. 20 years ago a guy like Hordichuck makes 150,000. Now 700,000. Its insane. I hope for the leagues sake that their is a push to reduce salaries over the next 6 years. The cost of tickets can’t sustain this kind stupidity by the GM’s. When a nose bleed cost you a 100 bucks there wont be alot of folks putting their butts in those seats.