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. 

  • As @dougtheslug said, this is clearly what’s wrong with the current CBA, if anything happens in the negotiations the owners and NHLPA have to stop this crap.

    Having said that Nashville HAS to match for a lot of reasons most have already been mentioned here.

    Then Nashville should wait the year, and then trade Weber to the Penguins just for Philadelphia being complete douche bags, if that is not sweet revenge I don’t know what else would be, I just can’t see Nashville affording Weber long term.

  • I’m gonna agree with westcoastoil, speeds, and the other commentators who think the Preds should think about not matching the Flyers’ offer sheet. Here’s why:

    – as has been said, $27 million is obviously a lot to pay Weber for one year if the Preds have the intention of trading him after the 2012/2013 season. Are the Preds in a financial position to pay this to him?

    – are the Preds a legitimate play-off contender with Weber in their line-up? They lost Suter and Tootoo to free agency. Radulov went back to Russia and Lindback was traded to TB. They didn’t sign any FAs of significance. There are at least 8 teams that look like they are geared up to make the play-offs in the West this year: Los Angeles, San Jose, Dallas, Vancouver, Minnesota, St.Louis, Detroit, Chicago, not to mention, the Oilers. Meanwhile, the Preds didn’t improve their forwards, their defence is weaker without Suter, and without Lindback, they are a Rinne injury away from mediocrity. I would say that even with Weber in the line-up all year, they would be hard-pressed to make the play-offs comparing them to other teams in the West right now.

    – the Preds were apparently talking trade with other teams, including the Flyers. If this is true, they have a pretty good idea what Weber’s trade value is. As no trade was made, they must have thought Weber was worth more than what other team’s were offering. Would he be worth more after the 2012/2013 season than he was before the offer sheet? Really hard to say. And what if Weber suffers a serious injury during 2012/2013? I think the Preds have to think about what the potential return would be if they plan on trading him next summer.

    – if the Preds don’t match the offer sheet, they go into the 2012/2013 season with an obviously weaker team than they had in 2011/2012. There would be no doubt to anyone that they would be in a re-build and, barring another spectacular season by Rinne, would be a legitimate contender for Nathan MacKinnon or Seth Jones. From what I’ve read, both players are touted to be franchise players. Sure, the Preds fan base would be extremely eroded this season, but once one of the two aforementioned rookies makes the Preds line-up, the franchise should be back on its way.

    – the question previously asked by others is do the Preds ensure that they tank the 2012/2013 season by putting Rinne on the trade block. That’s a good question. He’s 29 years old and has 6 years left on his current contract that pays him $7 million per season. His trade value this season will be very high in my opinion. If the Preds want to trade him, I believe the return for him would be very good and would include significant and valuable assets for their future.

    So, with all of that in mind, I would fully support the decision to not match the Flyers offer sheet for Weber, if that’s what the Preds decide to do this week.

    • I’m not going to try and sway you from your decision, good post by the way!

      Just some counter points;

      They are owned by a billionaire and a group, they have stated there committed to the team.

      Suter is a huge loss for sure; however Nashville has really good prospects that should be able to fit right in, plus the season hasn’t started yet, a trade maybe made.

      Radulov wasn’t added until late in the season, in fact Radulov wasn’t added till well after the trade deadline. Nashville was already a playoff team.

      Tootoo & Lindback are easier to replace then all others.

      The reason why Nashville was talking trade with teams is because they didn’t think Weber was going to sign anyway or would only agree on a one year deal, this doesn’t work for Nashville. By trading Weber they get assets back keeping them a playoff team however dont match and they wont be. So the offer sheet maybe a blessing for Nashville that way

      What it comes down to is this, the owners can match and it will cost them a lot of coin, if they don’t match the owners stand to loose significantly more when they decide to relocate cause the area stopped supporting them. This isn’t Edmonton fans were talking about. Gate driven league.

  • Locksmithluke

    G’day gents, new to posting, habitual Oil Nation reader! Thought I’d jump in and offer my two cents. Nashville lets webber walk, trades Rinne and starts the transition to rebuild immediately with assets incurred. $27M AND the possibility Webber gets injured, completely decimating his value for next year? To many intangibles… Thats my two bits! Big love to Oil Nation and all you puck heads!!

  • Boourns99

    Oh sure, ’91/’92 started the end of the DYNASTY, but it brought about the era of “The Pipeline”. If I remember correctly, it was the most prolific scoring line in Oiler playoff history, as far as % of points scored by any one line…