When it comes to the trade market this summer, Craig MacTavish does have one advantage: cap dollars. He can take on a big contract from a team with cap pressure, and might get a reasonable player at less than full value. Here are 7 such players who could help the Oilers next season.
THE BIG DOLLAR DEALS
- D Dion Phaneuf $7M through 2020-21. That’s a large cap hit, and Phaneuf isn’t Doughty. However, he can play 25 minutes a night, and might form an effective pairing with Jeff Petry. Phaneuf isn’t perfect, in fact he’s famously flawed, but this is a player who is just 29, 300 games from 1,000 (solid NHL defensemen often fall off in that range) and can fill all the requirements of a top pairing blue.
- C Jason Spezza $7M through 2014-15. A very risky acquisition because he’s one year away from free agency, but he’s a true talent and would give Edmonton a terrific option in their top 6F. The Senators have legit money worries, so he might be available for less than full price. It’ll still be dear.
- C Jordan Staal $6M through 2022-23. Staal is a really nice fit, but the contract is way too much for a guy who scores at his rates. The contract is forever, and the Hurricanes are clearly at some kind of crossroads. I don’t know how much of a discount Edmonton could expect in a deal, but he’d be a perfect fit for the Oilers C depth chart.
- C Mike Richards $5.75M through 2019-20. Also 29 and author of a terrific career, Richards appears to be eroding as a player. He’s playing 2 minutes less per night than he was a couple of years ago, and his offense is off since heading to the coast. Edmonton would be taking on a long contract, and considerable risk, but could get a two-way center of some ability for a few seasons before buying him out.
- L James Neal $5M through 2017-18. I really like this player, he’s the kind of winger this team could use to help the power play. A very nice player, but as talented as he is there has been only one season of more than 30 goals. Pittsburgh has some legit issues, he might be available.
- L Scott Hartnell $4.75M through 2018-19. Those rugged forwards have tremendous value, but their production can vary wildly from year to year, and injuries are always a major worry. Hartnell may not be available at a discount but the Oilers should be interested.
- L RJ Umberger $4.6M through 2016-17. The least attractive player on the list, he’s 32 and the production has been dropping consistently for half a decade. Still, Edmonton might be able to get a year or two of use out of him and he can score goals.
ACQUIRING USEFUL PLAYERS
Edmonton goes to market with a lot of flawed assets and very little currency (draft picks). If they make the pick at #3, Edmonton effectively puts itself out of the draft until middle of Day two. Sam Gagner isn’t full value and other NHL teams are going to ask after those inexpensive defensemen who look NHL ready.
How does Edmonton add useful players this summer with lesser assets to offer? Acquire those awkward contracts.
If the Oilers can acquire an overpriced but effective veteran in exchange for a part of the future, say, Martin Marincin, would you do it?
If not, are you willing for another trying season?
I believe that’s the dilemma facing Craig MacTavish this summer.