Linus Omark, trade, and the NHL salary cap

I’ll admit it: I thought Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish was going to be able to trade Linus Omark this summer. Part of that’s probably because I have more time for Omark than others – I always enjoyed his skill, saw him as a “hard on the puck” player and felt his defensive deficiencies were blown out of proportion.

But I didn’t think Omark was going to be traded because he’s a no-brainer ‘must be in the NHL’ player. I thought Omark was going to be traded because he’s cheap.

Cap Crunch

With NHL teams allowed to spend more than $70 million in 2013, and only $64.3 million in 2013-14, it didn’t take much in the way of complex calculation to know that some teams were going to find themselves in budget trouble this off-season.

Consider the Los Angeles Kings, a team rumoured to be willing to trade Kyle Clifford because they simply don’t have the cap space. Consider Toronto, a team supposedly interested in moving Cody Franson because they’re going to have trouble signing Franson and Nazem Kadri. Even a team not supposedly looking to shed talent, the Vancouver Canucks, seems to be banking on dirt cheap NHL additions and players on entry-level deals to round out the roster.

Enter Linus

Linus Omark destroyed Switzerland’s top league both during and after the NHL lockout, scoring at a comparable rate to Damien Brunner and Henrik Zetterberg. He’s consistently been a high-end offensive player everywhere he’s been – the AHL, Russia, Sweden – and even at the NHL level he has picked up 30 points in 65 games.

The following is what his track record looks like using Rob Vollman’s new NHL equivalencies (adjusted as they were in yesterday’s Jesse Joensuu piece). For those unfamiliar, NHL equivalencies use the track record of previous players making the jump from other leagues to the NHL to establish a performance baseline of what to expect from players in those leagues.

Aside from 2011-12 – an exceptional year in that Omark had a nasty injury and ended up playing less than 20 games in any one league – Omark’s scoring record indicates a guy who can probably pick up between 40 and 50 points in an NHL season.

My Reasoning

With the salary cap dropping and teams finding themselves in sticky cap situations, my thoughts went roughly like this:

  • Linus Omark has warts, but he’s a talented guy who seems a decent bet as an auxiliary scorer in the right situation.
  • Omark had a six-figure contract the last time around; it seems likely that an NHL team willing to offer a one-way deal could probably get him for $1.0 million or less.
  • For a team in a nasty cap situation, penciling Omark in as a top-six or top-nine forward might be a way to squeeze more money for players at other positions.

The fact that it hasn’t happened would seem to indicate that those teams in a salary cap bind simply don’t see Omark as enough of a player to pencil him in for that job. All of which means that if Omark has his heart set on the NHL he may need to do what players like David Vyborny and Espen Knutsen did: wait for the next wave of NHL expansion.

Recently around the Nation Network

Speaking of teams in a salary cap bind, Cam Charron explains at Leafs Nation how three key rules apply to Mark Fraser’s upcoming arbitration hearing:

Per Article 12.10 (a) in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Maple Leafs can NOT walk away from an arbitrator ruling of BELOW $3.5-million. Per Article 50.5 (d) (i) (B) (6) in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, you subtract $900K from ANY contract that goes to the minors. The team can STILL negotiate with Mark Fraser up until 9:00 a.m. Eastern time tomorrow.

Click the link above to read more. Otherwise, feel free to read some of my recent pieces:

  • james_dean

    What exactly is Omark’s contract situation, I know he was a RFA last yearand Oilers qualified him. but because he played in Europe last season does that mean he doesnt become a ufa and the oilers have his NHL rights? At what point do those right run out, will he ever be a nhl ufa?

  • Spydyr

    I always liked Omark and never get why people are giving him the Robbie Schremp treatment, Omark plays alot harder than Schremp and he’s faster too.
    Yeah he sucks defensively but Tom Renney always said it wasn’t for a lack of trying..and what skilled NHL rookie doesn’t suck defensively? RNH is the only recent Oiler I can think of that was good defensively as a rookie.

    I hope a team like Jersey or Detroit takes a flyer on him, costs next to nothing and can score.

    On Edmonton he never got a fair top six shot. Fair as far as the team is concerned sure, but fair based on his skill level? NO.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    I’d be surprised if Omark doesn’t crack the Oilers roster this year. I mean, we specifically traded Paajarvi for Perron just so those H.O.P.E. t-shirts would still work.

  • Czar

    Time to cut the chord Oiler fans,kid didn’t live up to the youtube hype. MacT has come out and said he’s received no offers or interest in Omark despite his good numbers in a no hit league. Hope he’s a throw in regardless of what MacT’s next transaction is so we can put an end to this BS.

  • I’ve never understood why Omark has not been moved. Even a couple of years ago, when Pittsburgh was loaded at centre with little cap room for wingers, I thought Omark would be the perfect gamble for such a team. The inability to leverage Omark for value is disappointing.

  • Good read Willis.

    What are your thought’s on attitude?

    I think Omark might have got a little black balled here with Renney and it translated over to The Red Wings a team rumoured to be interested in Omark at one time.

    Something’s a miss with Omark and the entire NHL? Like you said there are teams that could potentially use a player like that.

  • Micbilly99

    Maybe it’s a character-thing with Omark?

    I should probably clarify that I’ve never heard anything about Omark that suggests he was a problem-child, other than a few whispers that he was a bit of an odd-duck (which certainly isn’t the sign of a problem).

    But like Arthur Conan Doyle wrote, if you eliminate all of the other possibilities, the last one, however improbably, must be the truth.

    Omark’s numbers, both in the NHL and elsewhere are good-to-great. The highlight clips are good-to-great. There are tons of NHL teams needing skill and scoring. The Oilers are (obviously) interested in moving him. His price-tag, trade-wise and contract-wise, will be reasonable

    And yet …he hasn’t moved yet. So there’s gotta be a story-behind-the-story here.

    And I’m a long ways away from the story, so I don’t know, but I have to believe NHL teams are shying away from him because there’s something we don’t know about Omark.

    I know – that’s not really fair to the dude …

  • Micbilly99

    MacTavish stated about a month ago(On Gregor’s show)that NO team has inquired about Omark. There is no market, not interest, no value to Omark. MacTavish was very clear, why do people keep talking about this guy? It’s over…move on.

  • WinterNightSky

    Does anyone know what happened with him during last year’s playoffs? He may have been hurt. He didn’t play in game 7 of the semi-finals. And you’d have a hard time convincing me that his attitude was bad enough for the coach to scratch the league’s leading scorer in game 7.

  • Tikkanese

    To say Omark can’t play in the NHL is just nonsense. He was on the same line as Zetterberg and Brunner last year during the lockout and was blowing them both away points wise while they were there. Sure it’s a different league, Zetterberg was probably not trying at 100% but still, they were on the same line.

    @JW why isn’t Omark a UFA? He was qualified last year but I don’t recall him being qualified again this year.

    I hope he gets a shot somewhere. I know he doesn’t really fit in here given his size and our depth on the wing. I agree with JW’s assessment on both his “hard on the puck” style and skill level.

    He never got his shot here IMO. His last year here he made the team again but was stuck on the Belanger Triangle then got hurt. Belanger seems to be a career killer. He’s killed the careers of Eager, Hordichuk, Omark, others(?), himself and possibly Ryan Smyth. Those can’t all be coincidence.