It might make some Oilers fans unhappy, but it looks like the club has no intention of moving team captain Shawn Horcoff anytime soon.
Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman spoke to Steve Tambellini about the possibility of moving Horcoff at the trade deadline, and on Monday wrote about the answer in his (always must-read) “30 Thoughts” column:
Tambellini also nuked the possibility of a Shawn Horcoff trade. People are always looking for centres and $26 million of Horcoff’s $33-million contract will be paid off after this season (he also has a no-move clause). Plus, it was not lost on the Oilers that things improved on the marathon road trip when Horcoff returned.
It makes sense that Tambellini is thinking this way, given what he said during an intermission interview on Sportsnet a few games back:
Shawn Horcoff, I think, stood up and took re-control of the dressing room and I think it was a very important part of this road trip that now he’s in the dressing room and we’re following kind of a lead of his.
The problem with Horcoff these days is that there’s no perfect answer for the Oilers. The dollar value on his contract is too high, and ideally they’d have a cheaper option filling his spot in the lineup. However, he adds a skillset the team really can’t afford to lose. On the ice he adds size (at 6’1”, 208lbs he’s one of the Oilers’ bigger forwards), speed, defensive responsibility, and still can play a complementary role offensively. Off the ice, that Tambellini line above says exactly what the team thinks of him – despite occasional fan discontent, everything that’s ever come to light publicly from the players or organization indicates that Horcoff is respected in the room. The players’ were thrilled when Horcoff was named captain, and there’s been no indication that’s changed.
How big of a problem is Horcoff’s contract? Despite the impressive dollar figure, it’s one that should be manageable for the Oilers, for two big reasons:
He’s more tradable in the future. Money earned drops in 2013-14 and again in 2014-15. Additionally, his no-move clause becomes a limited no-trade clause in 2013-14, and goes away entirely in 2014-15. If the Oilers want to move him to a budget team at that time, it should be doable (provided his play doesn’t entirely fall off a cliff).
His contract can be seen as a place-holder. Shawn Horcoff becomes an unrestricted free agent at exactly the same time that Nail Yakupov becomes a restricted free agent; keeping Horcoff around essentially guarantees that the Oilers have enough cap space available to get Yakupov extended.
I’ve long seen Horcoff as a candidate for a compliance buyout in the summer, but that just doesn’t seem likely at this point. He’s still a useful player to the Oilers, his contract isn’t ideal but is far from crippling (the Oilers have $20 million or so in cap space to play with this summer), and if they aren’t willing to think about trading him at the deadline they certainly aren’t going to be willing to pay to make him go away.
Shawn Horcoff seems likely to be an Oiler until at least this time next year, and that’s probably the right decision.
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