Trading Shawn Horcoff

On Thursday, Edmonton Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish left little room for doubt as to the fate of veteran Oilers Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff. After hinting for most of the summer that the two would be moved, he told Team 1260’s Mark Spector that the “ideal scenario would be to move them on and wish them the best."

We’ve spent significant time on Ales Hemsky’s trade value here, but what kind of scenario would allow Shawn Horcoff to be moved?

Plausible Scenarios

The Oilers have a number of options with Horcoff; these strike me as the most superficially plausible:

  • Trade Horcoff for a useful player on a poor contract
  • Trade Horcoff while retaining salary, likely to a non-cap team
  • Buyout Horcoff

Before getting into the options, it’s probably worthwhile to note that Horcoff has a no-move clause until July 1, though it’s hard to imagine he wouldn’t waive it in the right situation.

There are other options – as an example, one particularly unlikely scenario might be a trade centered on Horcoff for New York Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro, with the Oilers acquiring additional assets to compensate for the heavy price associated with buying DiPietro out of his contract – but the three outlined are the most commonly discussed. Of them, we can likely eliminate a buyout – MacTavish also said the Oilers would welcome Hemsky/Horcoff back if “the right circumstance doesn’t present itself.”

That leaves the first and second option. There isn’t much to say on the second option: if the Oilers were to retain a portion (hypothetically, we’ll say $1 million/year) of Horcoff’s contract he’d be a very useful asset to a cap-floor team – being paid just $2.5 million per season by them, with an inflated cap hit. Almost any trade would be possible under those circumstances – for a pick, prospect or player – so it doesn’t make much sense to go beyond the fact that it’s an option the team has.

The other option – taking on a useful player on a poor contract – is more intriguing, though, because the Oilers could improve their roster in the here-and-now if the right deal were struck. What options might be out there?

Bad Contracts

Buffalo Sabres. I include them here because somebody is bound to bring them up, but I don’t see an attractive deal here. Defencemen Tyler Myers and Christian Ehrhoff are arguable fits, but one is too good of a player despite the contract and the other has a deal until the end of time. Up front, Drew Stafford plays the wrong position (right wing) and Ville Leino’s deal is too awful to entertain.

Columbus Blue Jackets. I’ve written about the Jackets before, and two contracts really stand out: R.J. Umberger and James Wisniewski. Umberger’s dollar figure isn’t excessive for what he brings ($4.6 million cap hit) but he has four more years on that contract, while Wisniewski has four more years at $5.5 million but would be a big addition to a weak Edmonton blue line. Columbus is not remotely a cap team, so Horcoff’s cap hit would be a pleasant addition for them.

Detroit Red Wings. Johan Franzen’s contract is brutal, and the new provisions against cheater years at the end are going to hurt Detroit in a big way. Given his age, it’s not a deal worth taking on for Edmonton.

Florida Panthers. There are some interesting possibilities here. Role player Scottie Upshall has been a disappointment, and has the same $3.5 million annual salary that Horcoff has for the next two years (though Upshall has an extra season on his deal). Defenceman Brian Campbell has a big-money deal and would help the Oilers immediately, but as Florida acquired him with that contract it would seem they don’t mind. Ed Jovanovski has two years left on his over-35 deal, but probably wouldn’t be a lot of help on the Oilers’ blue line.

Minnesota Wild. It’s a good bet Dany Heatley wouldn’t work so hard to block a trade to Edmonton these days; it’s also a good bet Edmonton’s interest in him has waned.

New York Rangers. With seven years left on Brad Richards contract, it simply isn’t worth the risk.

Philadelphia Flyers. Daniel Briere is frequently mentioned as a buyout candidate, but isn’t a good fit for the Oilers’ needs.

Phoenix Coyotes. The Coyotes don’t have a lot of bad contracts on the books. Antoine Vermette had a disappointing year in some regards , earns a little more money than Horcoff but has a lower cap hit (all items that would favour a trade) but also played a top-line role for the Coyotes. He could help the Oilers, but it’s hard to imagine Phoenix is anxious to deal him away.

Pittsburgh Penguins. It could be a very interesting summer in Pittsburgh. Marc-Andre Fleury is a possibility to be shopped, but costs more than Devan Dubnyk and would only (at best) be a marginal upgrade. Defenceman Paul Martin is an interesting possibility – he has a considerable cap hit and was considered trade bait last summer, but a strong season may have rehabilitated him in Pittsburgh.

San Jose Sharks. I’ve written at some length about Martin Havlat; I lean against him being a good fit in Edmonton but he’d be a possible target.

Tampa Bay Lightning. There are at least two interesting names here. Vincent Lecavalier would be an immediate and significant upgrade on Shawn Horcoff and could be vulnerable due to his contract, but that contract is also terrifying: seven more years with a nearly $8 million annual cap hit. It also has cheater years on the end of the deal, so if he (as is likely) retires prior to the end of the contract a team could face significant cap penalties. More interesting is Ryan Malone – the 6’4”, 220 pound left wing has two years left on his $4.5 million cap hit contract, has had some injury problems, and has been frequently mentioned as a buyout/trade possibility. Malone, however, only earns $2.5 million per year on the two years left on his contract; the Lightning have been significantly more willing to spend in recent years but that dollar drop probably makes it less likely that the player gets dealt.

Toronto Maple Leafs. Both John-Michael Liles and Mikhail Grabovski would seem to be possibilities. Grabovski is an excellent player coming off a wretched season, and has four years left at a $5.5 million cap hit. Of course, he’s also on the small side (5’11”, 183 pounds) and his deal runs twice as long as Horcoff’s. John-Michael Liles has three seasons left at a $3.88 million cap hit; the 32-year old would add offence and mobility to an Oilers’ left side short of those qualities, but he isn’t seen as great in his own end and lacks ideal size (5’10”, 185 pounds).

Vancouver Canucks. Vancouver desperately needs to gain cap space; even in a deal for Roberto Luongo ($5.33 million cap hit) adding Horcoff wouldn’t do it; it’s hard to see a fit here.

Washington Capitals. Brooks Laich missed most of the year with a groin injury, but prior to that was an all-purpose centre for Washington who did a nice job in an auxiliary offensive role. His name has been mentioned in trade rumours in the past, though it would be entirely understandable if “Laich for Horcoff” wasn’t palatable to general manager George McPhee. The reason Laich might be vulnerable is again contract: the 29-year old has four seasons left at a $4.5 million cap hit.

Winnipeg Jets. Olli Jokinen is coming off a brutal season and has another year left with a $4.5 million cap hit; he would add size (6’3”, 215 pounds) to the centre position but isn’t a well-rounded player.

As I See It…

Taking on a bad contract only really makes sense if it also works as a hockey move. With the Oilers’ ability to eat salary in a transaction, Horcoff is tradable, and so taking on a long boat anchor contract (Lecavalier, Richards, etc.) doesn’t really make sense. Of the situations above, Columbus strikes me as the best combination of plausible and attractive from an Oilers’ standpoint; other players might work to varying degrees but there really aren’t a lot of possibilities.

Retaining salary and moving Horcoff to a non-cap team seems the most likely outcome.

Recently around the Nation Network

It’s being reported that Calgary has come to terms with KHL goalie Karri Ramo:

According to Andy Strickland, the Flames have come to terms with Karri Ramo on a multiple year deal. The deal can’t be officially confirmed/announced until July 5th, the date that Ramo’s KHL contract ends.

Click the link above to read the whole piece, or feel free check out some of my other pieces here:

  • d.doiley

    regardless of any sideline stories about Horcoff, he has been a good soldier for the Oilers and done the team well. he is solid 3rd line center at this point in his career (probably all of his career).

    that been said, it is time for change within the locker-room of this team and it should be meaningful and impactful. i believe this will be.