This was Steve Tambellini moments after winning the 2012 draft lottery, and since then he’s added two important pieces to what he hopes will eventually be a playoff puzzle. He took Nail Yakupov first overall on June 22nd, added Justin Schultz on July 1st and along with Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins they are the future core of the Oilers.
If the Oilers are going to be more than playoff contenders on paper, Tambellini will need to look at moving any of the other young Oiler prospects once the lockout is over.
Stockpiling prospects is imperative for any successful organization, but most won’t end up playing for the Oilers, so if Tambellini can acquire proven NHL talent in exchange for a prospect or two, he needs to make that move. The question is if he will have any cap space to make a few significant moves.
When the season starts the Oiler’s won’t have much cap space, if any, depending on the new CBA.
Hall, Yakupov, RNH, Eberle, Ales Hemsky, Sam Gagner, Shawn Horcoff, Ryan Smyth, Ryan Jones, Eric Belanger, Ben Eager, Darcy Hordichuk and Lennart Petrell have a combined cap hit of $34,433 million.
Schultz, Ryan Whitney, Ladislav Smid, Nick Schultz, Jeff Petry, Theo Peckham, Andy Sutton and Corey Potter have a total cap hit of $18,875 million.
Devan Dubnyk and Nikolai Khabibulin are a combined $7.25 million cap hit.
Add them up and the Oilers sit at $60,558 million.
If they decide to have Magnus Paajarvi, $1,525 million, or Teemu Hartikainen’s, $875,000 million cap hit, and send down a veteran forward that might add to their cap, because the new CBA might have all one-way deals count against the cap. Either way, the new CBA will determine how much cap flexibility they could have.
There have been some rumblings that the Oilers might make a big splash when the lockout ends, but I don’t see how they will be able to add a big contract, unless they move a few big ones of their own. Hall and Eberle’s combined cap hit this year is $4.91 million, but starting next year it jumps to $12 milllion.
The only way I see the Oilers adding a top-end player is if they move Hemsky, Horcoff or surprise everyone and move one of Eberle or Hall. Hemsky is still enticing for many teams, because he is a PROVEN top-six forward, and Horcoff’s contract will be attractive to a team that needs to reach the cap floor, but pay less in actual dollars. I doubt one of the kids is moved anytime soon, but if Tambellini is going to make a major splash it will be difficult due to cap restrictions.
YOUTH WILL BE SERVED
Looking down the road the Oilers will need to find guys to play in their bottom-six. They have enough skill in their top-two lines, although some skill with size is a definite must-have, so as they look to the future they need to find players who are good penalty killers, solid defensively and most importantly, consistent.
I find it interesting how many people want to deal Ryan Jones away because Magnus Paajarvi, Teemu Hartikainen or Tyler Pitlick need a chance. Hartikainen has size, but he doesn’t skate as well as Jones and to date he doesn’t shown the ability to score the gritty, plugger-type goals that Jones does. If Jones can score 13-17 goals on your third line and kill penalties, he’s a solid asset. He’s done that the past two years. I’d like him to crash and bang on a more consistent basis, but only Hall drew more penalties amongst top-nine forwards.
The Oilers had the 5th most PK minutes in the NHL last year, and only Horcoff had more PK minutes amongst the forwards than Jones. Jones has a decent cap hit or $1.5 million and he’s scored 17 and 18 goals the past two seasons. Moving him out to make room for a young player makes no sense at this point, because I don’t see any prospect who can kill penalties, go to the tough areas to score, and actually produce like Jones has.
The Oilers won’t win with a lineup based solely on youth. They need some veterans. If Horcoff had a lower cap hit, he’d be the perfect complement. If Smyth was a few years younger, he’d be able to play here for another four years. They Oilers need to find versions of those two, but proven NHL players, not guys in the farm system.
When the NHL resumes, Tambellini and his staff will need to find some 26-32 year-old veterans who can help nurture the young core, and he’ll need to use some of his 2nd tier youth as trade bait.
Too many people fall in love with prospects, but the harsh reality is that very few of them ever pan out. The Oilers have to start over-hyping their prospects, and then move a few of them to a team that will fall in love with their "potential."
I’ve read articles suggesting the Oilers might end up with five or six players from their 2010 draft playing in Edmonton. That will only happen if the Oilers continue to be a bottom feeder. If they want to take the next step, they will need to have more proven, every day NHLers, and not worry about parting with young prospects to obtain those veterans.
- The NHL and NHLPA will meet today and both sides will have some new blood in the room. The NHL is keeping it hush on which owners will be there, but maybe some fresh faces will bring some fresh ideas.
- Another Oiler, Oscar Klefbom, has suffered a serious shoulder injury. Swedish sports reporter Johan Eriksson tweeted me an update about the situation. "As I understand his shoulder got dislocated but "jumped back in" immediately. But when it got dislocated he got a fracture on the joint capsule and bleeding in the shoulder." The only good news is that he should be ready for camp next September.
- In the history of Edmonton sports the Ricky Ray trade might be 2nd worst all-time. I’m not including trades where the player asked to be traded, Pronger, or where the deal was strictly due to money, Weight, Messier, Coffey. Do you have any other trades you’d rank ahead of Ray, besides Gretzky?
I’d hope the Eskimos fans who liked the trade will realize they undervalued Ricky Ray. The move also illustrates how badly Danny Maciocia and Eric Tillman managed the Eskimos the past six years. Maciocia gave Ray virtually no supporting cast, while Tillman made an awful decision. The Eskimos can’t afford to hire the wrong guy as their next GM. They need a leader, a guy who isn’t afraid to make tough decisions, and a man who is very organized. Ed Hervey will be one of the four to six men to get an interview, and he’s my leading candidate to land the job.