6-6-6: NUMBER OF THE BEAST

Taylor Hall is a terrific young player and I don’t have much doubt that, in the context of "market value" in today’s NHL, he will be worth every penny of the $42 million big stack the Edmonton Oilers will pay him during the seven-year extension they just signed him to.

While I do have issues with a market that’s deemed it necessary for teams to cough up the kind of dough we’ve seen thrown around at players two years into entry level contracts or just coming out of them — as anybody listening to the Jason Gregor Show the last couple of days will know – that’s the price point in dollars and term that’s been set. Unwisely so, but here we are.

Would the Oilers, who’ve flushed countless bundles of lettuce down the toilet with bad contracts to lesser players since the 2006 Stanley Cup run, have been smart to ignore the market that’s been set and play hardball with Hall, the next captain of the team, in the name of fiscal responsibility? Three guesses.

Framed in that context, I won’t have a problem when the Oilers announce they’ve inked Jordan Eberle to exactly the same cap hit, give or take $100,000, in coming days, which they will. And I won’t be unhappy about one year from now when the sign Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to the same dollars and term.

That’s 6-6-6 for three players who, despite the length of term, will still be on the right side of 30 when the contracts expire. That’s fixing your price point and buying some UFA years for three players who’ll be Oilers property for the most productive years of their careers.

That, Steve Tambellini haters, is an astute move.

THE OTHER MONEY

With the big ticket items set, or about to be over the next year, what the Oilers and Tambellini have to do from here on out is get a whole lot better at taking care of the relatively small change (rookie Nail Yakupov, Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner notwithstanding) when it comes to the rest of the roster. In other words, they’ll need some value contracts.

While we’ve seen teams run into difficulty on that front before – the Chicago Blackhawks come to mind – paying your top end and core players what the market dictates can be done, but you’ve got to watch the little deals so that big ones make sense. Not rocket science, or it shouldn’t be.

Jonathan Willis, all the writers here actually, have touched on Tambellini’s penchant for spending an extra $100,000 (or more) here or an extra $100,000 there for players further down the pecking order when filling spots outside the team’s top six forwards, top four defensemen and starting goaltender.

Shawn Horcoff’s contract, in term and dollars, is obviously a millstone the team will have to ride out. Nikolai Khabibulin’s punitive pact mercifully runs out after this season. Those are the obvious overpays but what’s done is done. What Tambellini has to do from here on out moving forward is be better at getting value outside those top 11 spots.

Overpays for role players on the third and fourth lines and third pairings on defense, when taken individually, might not raise red flags, but collectively they will cripple a team paying the marquee guys on the top end, as the Oilers intend to do with Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins. This is not a revelation, is it? Watch the pennies, the dollars will take of themselves.

The devil, as always, is in the details.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • I love the fact that Hall has been signed…….even though 6mil a season is high, Hall will earn every penny. I too hope that the other fab four will get the same and setting the bar is a good move, on management’s part.

    The issue I have is that any armchair critic, hockey insider, or current GM would have done exactly the same thing………IMHO. This early signing cannot be attributed to Tamby but the entire management team. If Tamby is to get credit for anything, sometimes doing nothing is the right thing.

    He still need to be thrown out of his office……..try doing nothing in the real world Tamby and see how long you last in a job!

    • Crash

      Everytime I read this statement it has me shaking my head…are the names on the roster nearly the same as the 29th place roster from last year?

      YES…..but

      Hall, Eberle, Nuge, Gagner are all one year more mature, one year better, one year closer to their primes. Hemsky is still in his prime and if healthy will be much better than the last two years. Whitney has said that he was able to train this summer unlike last summer so it appears he’s healthier (at least to start the season). If he is the team is better because of it. Ladislav Smid arrived last season and is playing the best hockey of his career. I know the jury is still out on Jeff Petry but by all accounts it looks as though he may have arrived and will be playing the best hockey of his career. Another possible arrival is that of Dubnyk who appears to have taken the number one job given his 20 wins and stellar play over the last half of last year.

      Add to this the fact that the Oilers just added the “BEST” 18 yr old player on the planet as well as one of the “BEST” 22 yr old defenseman prospects in all of hockey and I think there is room for optimism on this team being much better than they were last year.

      I choose to look at the glass half full. If they stop losing their best players to injury for a change then I think there’s every chance the improvement could be drastic this season.

      • DSF

        Some things to consider:

        1) Every teams young players will all be “one year more mature, one year better, one year closer to their primes”

        2) Hemsky was reportedly healthy last season and put up only 36 points while getting murdered by tough opposition.

        3) Whitney is the a key to success but the Oilers have not obtained any insurance if he is NOT the player he once was.

        4) Yakupov will be 19 if/when the seasons starts. He is only 4 months younger than Jonathan Huberdeau who is likely going to be the BEST 19 year old player on the planet.
        Huberdeau outscored Yakupov in junior last season despite playing 5 fewer games.

        5) Schultz is a nice addition but bear in mind he will be a ROOKIE and is older than:

        Drew Doughty

        Cam Fowler

        Erik Gudbranson

        Dimiri Kulkov

        Jake Gardiner

        Adanm Larsson

        Justin Faulk

        Zach Bogosian

        Victor Hedman

        Jared Spurgeon

        Marco Scandella

        Dimitri Orlov

        Nick Leddy

        Jake Gardiner

        In other words, a majority of NHL teams have young defensemen who already have NHL experience and, while Shultz may join that group, he has zero NHL experience and could hardly be described as one of the “BEST 22 year old defensive prospects in all of hockey”.

        It just isn’t true.

        • Marshall Law

          Although reports dictated that Hemsky was healthy entering last year, it would be impossible to look at the season in retrospect and say that he was ready to play when the season started.

          He came back too early, played tentatively, and ultimately re-injured himself before getting a chance to re-establish his game. He was worried about his upcoming UFA status and thus rushed himself back into action when he should have allowed himself more time to strengthen his shoulder.

          It’s hard to label someone as healthy when they pop out their shoulder while making a soft pass across the neutral zone.

          In short, to say that Hemsky put up 36 points in a “healthy” season is colouring the situation a bit, I would say.

          At full strength, Hemsky is still one of the most talented players in hockey.

          • Reg Dunlop

            I thought your comment was on the money, brother. It is time to block out the bad and welcome the good. Even though the oil won’t get more points this year than last year, it will be done in only about 50 games! Hello playoffs.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            Many here would rather read DSF’s take here than your ship Crash. 3 first overalls in a row is above questioning?

            Nothing wrong with his criticisms, most of us are thinking along the same lines with this club, he’s just thinking outloud.

            Maybe if you ask DSF nicely, he could send you an auto’d 8 x 10….no?

          • Crash

            And as I’ve mentioned before, you’re just a waste of time…

            Can’t help that you don’t understand what a rebuild is and I don’t need to ask DSF anything….it is more full of crap than you are…..and trust me, that’s a big chore.

      • Crash

        Nobody is more hopeful that all the IFs become realities than I am.

        As far as the injuries are concerned, there is nothing to suggest they will stop happening this coming year and we are no better prepared to absorb those hits than we have been.

        I WANT everyone to get better. I really do. What in the team’s recent pro-scouting history suggests to you that they’ve made the right calls on ALL of the players under contract?

        It’s not reasonable to assume that every player listed is going to take a step forward. Some will plateau, some may even take a step backward.

        My biggest hopes hinge on RK. I’ve been very impressed with what he was able to accomplish with the Swiss team. Yes, Tambo gets credit for the hiring.

        I think the team will improve, I really do. I don’t think moves like resigning Hordichuk/Petrell, qualifying Omark, and refusing to buy-out Khabi are going to help it happen.

        Everything done this summer points to management’s continued collection of assets accompanied by another painful season.

        Will the team improve some? Sure. Do I want them to improve a LOT? Desperately.

        Is it reasonable to expect all the IFs to become realities? Absolutely not.

      • RyanCoke

        I’m with you on this one, also add khabby’s 2 wins in 20 after Christmas with Dubnyk replacing the majority of those games and cam barker being let go, those 2 factors are huge in giving us more wins next year.

    • Well put.

      Once again the Oiler season hinges on a whole lot of “ifs”.

      If Ryan Whitney is healthy’er, how much better does he make the team…

      If Ales Hemsky can return to form…

      If Devan Dubnyk can supply good goaltending…

      If out two rookies can make an impact…

      If Ralf Kreuger can improve the team…

      I actually believe all of these things might come together, and it is mainly because of my confidence in Ralf Kreuger as the coach. If he can get all of these pieces (the Eagers, Belangers, Horcoffs) pulling in the right direction, I see a significant jump as possible. And by that i mean fighting for a playoff spot.

      I am just so tired of looking at a roster like Phoenix and thinking we should be better, but failing because we don’t have a Dave Tippet.

      I believe going outside the box and hiring Kreuger could go down as Tambo’s best move as a GM.

  • OilDoug

    Good read as always Robin!

    I like the fact that when its time to Sign Nuge, Yaks, and even Schultz, Horcs and Khabi’s contracts should be off the books! love it!

  • OilDoug

    Ruben,

    While I agree with your assessment of Tambo’s overpayment for role players, don’t you think this problem will alleviate itself once the Oilers prove themselves to be a franchise with the ability to win? Up until now, what if not cash money, has been the incentive for a role player to sign in Edmonton? No look forward to the days where we can attract the Malhotras and Winniks of the world on value contracts because Edmonton is their best chance to win it all.

  • Slapshot

    I think that it is great!!! that we are able to sign and keep our star’s in the new NHL.Hopefully the NHL and NHLPA find a way to work out a new deal that makes everyone happy (including the fans) for many years.

  • OilDoug

    Robin,

    The past is the past. If I were Shawn Horcoff I would have signed that deal to. He would have been a fool to say no to it. If Horc were paid $3 million nobody would have a problem with it.

    I like the Hall signing and I think that Nuge and Ebs will get similar deals. I also think that eventually Yackupov will slot in at a similar amount and there will be a good contract for Justin Shultz when the time is right.

    I think soon enough that Horcoff, Smyth, Khabibulin, Hemsky, etc. will be off the books so there will be room for others. Value signings who bring other things to the table are key. I just wonder if it will be Tambillini making those decisions or someone like MacT.

    If the team continues to develop some of those support players or perhaps a top 4 d will come from the free agent market. When the team starts to win Edmonton WILL become a place free agents want to come to.