War Games: Edmonton Oilers vs. Chicago Blackhawks

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There’s a lot of discussion this time of year, especially for bad teams, about hypothetical trades that might be made over the summer. The trouble with a lot of these hypotheticals is that they end up being pretty self-serving; even the ones that aren’t Linus Omark-for-Shea Weber tend to serve one team better than the other.

How do we fix that? By war-gaming it.

The following is a hypothetical exercise, dedicated to seeing if there’s a trade that makes sense for the Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks. Yours truly plays the role of Stan Bowman, with my focus on getting the best deals possible for the ‘Hawks while simultaneously clearing away cap space so that my team is compliant with the NHL salary cap. My Oilers Nation colleague Allan Mitchell (Lowetide) was kind enough to play Peter Chiarelli.

At the end of the day, we managed to make a trade which we both felt suited our teams’ respective needs. The following is how we got there.

The Exchange

Hypothetical Stan Bowman, Chicago: “Hey Peter, congratulations on getting back into the saddle so soon and on the new coach and the draft lottery – hey it’s been quite a month for you, hasn’t it? Anyway, the reason I’m calling is that this salary cap is forcing me to make some extremely difficult decisions; I have to part with some good players and I know you happen to have cap space. Anyway, I heard your presser and I know you’re looking at trying to make your team a little more competitive in puck battles and the like. Now, I don’t want to deal him but I’m in a bind – would you have interest in adding Bryan Bickell? 6’4″, 225 pounds, you have to like the idea of a guy like that riding shotgun for Connor McDavid, don’t you?”

Hypothetical Peter Chiarelli, Edmonton: “Hi Stan, appreciate the kind words. I’ll tell you that Bickell would be a nice fit, but that big winger is something we’ll look at after we address some other areas of the roster. We have a starting goalie to find and I’m looking at upgrading the blue line as well. 

I do have some cap room but am not certain if I’ll have as much when we address those things. Can I circle back later, or do you have any interest in relieving your cap situation in other areas?”

Chicago: “Well, it’s funny that you bring that up, because we might be able to help each other out. This isn’t something that would happen under any other circumstances, but I need to find cap savings somewhere. You need a starting goalie; how does Corey Crawford sound?”

Edmonton: Well Stan, that wasn’t the name I was thinking of, but if you’re interested in dealing him we’re interested in acquiring him. I’m sure you understand that the value for Crawford is impacted by his contract, what kind of return are you looking for? How much cap room are you looking at securing?

Chicago: Naturally I’m looking at securing as much cap space as possible, but we understand that it may be necessary to bring salary back. As I’m sure you realize, the more cap space you clear for us the smaller our return would need to be, and of course my great need is for cheap, NHL-ready players. I’m thinking of something structured like the Kari Lehtonen deal a few years back; Dallas gave Atlanta a good but not great prospect with some NHL experience and a fourth-round pick in exchange for Lehtonen. Does that general framework fit for you? Ideally I’d get two players back rather than a player and a pick (I’m not looking for anything special with the second player, just that he be cheap and a reasonable fit for NHL duty). If something like that works for you, which players from your system would be on the table?

Edmonton: We have significant room, so wouldn’t have to send a large contract back (obviously the asset return reflects cap space received). In terms of “NHL-ready” players, we have several knocking on the door and would be willing to talk about any of our RFA players this summer. That might give you an opportunity to trade for, and sign based on your budget, this player or players. 

Here’s a handy guide I had my staff make up of our roster and the RFA players are identified.

Chicago: Well, if you’re confining the look to RFAs, I think Martin Marincin is the obvious name for me. I have some vacancies on the back end, and while he isn’t ideal he’d be a reasonable fit as a No. 6/7 defenceman for us. I think we need to go a little higher, though; none of those players really strike me as being primary pieces for a return like Crawford. What would you say to Marincin and the No. 33 pick in this year’s draft for your long-term starting goalie?

Edmonton: Hmmm. I’m not of a mind to move that No. 33 overall selection until I’ve settled the defense a little more. If you’re interestedin non-RFA players, I’m certainly open to options there (and the cap room would be less dear on our end). 

I think Marincin and his terrific cap situation are a good starting point for Crawford and his huge cap hit. Beyond that, I would consider expanding the deal, especially if you’re interested in moving a defender like Ville Pokka.

Chicago: Well, if not the No. 33, what about the No. 57 or next year’s second-round pick (either would be fine on my end)? Are we close value-wise, and if not what do you see as more suitable value?

Edmonton: I like the simplicity of Marincin at $1M for Crawford at $6M, and value those $5M in cap room highly. We may not have the framework for a deal if that gap doesn’t hold a lot of value for you. 

We could do: Martin Marincin, David Musil and No. 33 overall for Crawford and Ville Pokka. 

But I’m not comfortable with trading Marincin and a very valuable pick in a deep draft for a goalie with that much term on a massive contract. Does that $5M in cap space have value to you?

Chicago: I’m not especially interested in dealing Pokka, as you might imagine, and given the way his development has gone since being picked No. 34 in 2012 I’d rate him higher than even your No. 33 pick this year. Maybe what we need to do is establish a baseline using draft picks to see if we’re compatible on a deal here. Straight across, pick-for-player, what draft pick would you be comfortable trading for Crawford?

Edmonton: I think we can make a deal. From my point of view, I look at the difference between Crawford and Antti Niemi and ask myself who I would rather have? Now, Crawford is more expensive but he’s signed and as your team has proven, he’s a capable veteran in front of a good team (which we are hoping to be). 

Marincin is a player we value moving forward, but he’s also a roster spot and we’re looking to add an experienced defenseman. It would be my preference to deal Marincin straight across, trading roster spots and netting you $5M in cap room for next year and miles after. 

The No. 33 overall pick has exceptional value in this draft, so comparing it to any roster player is difficult since (I’m sure you’ll agree) that early ‘day two’ pick could be worth a king’s ransom on the draft floor. 

I’m left pondering the gap between Niemi and Crawford and if the value of that gap is worth the No. 33 overall pick. 

With Marincin, I think we have a fair deal, with that No. 33 pick it’s in your favor. I’d like to suggest that we’ll trade you No. 33 overall and Travis Ewanyk for Crawford and we tell the media I won the deal (even though you are beating me up pretty badly).

Chicago: You’ve got a deal. 

It’s going to be awfully hard for me to explain why I traded a solid NHL starting goalie and Stanley Cup-winner signed long-term for a second-round pick, but the truth is we need the cap space. It won’t be a problem for us to take on Ewanyk’s contract; we have some flexibility on our 50-man list so we can give you a bit of breathing room there. 

I’ll have my staff prepare the necessary papers for submission to the NHL front office.

Edmonton: I imagine it’ll be a little easier to explain when you trade that pick for a king’s ransom on the draft floor you rat bastard. Pleasure doing business with you, I’ll probably be looking for work by Christmas.

The Trade

The final deal that Lowetide and I worked out is as follows:

  • Edmonton acquires Corey Crawford
  • Chicago acquires the No. 33 pick in 2015 and prospect Travis Ewanyk

On a side note, because I know it’s going to come up, after reviewing this from Chicago’s perspective I have trouble imagining the team moving Brent Seabrook as long as it has other options. In Bowman’s shoes I’d be looking at Bickell, Crawford and Patrick Sharp (in that order) and only once I had exhausted those possibilities would I consider moving Seabrook.

As for the trade itself, what does the comments section think? Edmonton lands a proven, resilient starter and clears room on the 50-man list, while Chicago takes a chance in net, clears significant cap space and adds a valuable pick in a good draft.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

    • a lg dubl dubl

      Ramo got the Lames into the playoffs and he’s better than Scrivens plus I get you’re wanting a cheaper contract, but if that’s the case go after Neimi.

  • pkam

    Good trade for the Hawks but bad trade for the Oilers. If we are willing to shell out 6M for 4 years, we can most certainly sign Niemi and save that 33rd overall (I don’t care much about Ewanyk).

    Seriously how many teams will be interested in Crawford with 4 years remaining in his 6M contract? Chicago will be laughing for that 33rd overall.

    If Bowman can turn around and sign Niemi to a shorter term (2-3 years) for slightly less money (5.5M), then this trade will be the biggest joke of this year.

  • It would be foolish of Edmonton to help a team out of cap trouble without getting what is really needed-a top pairing defence man. If Chicago doesn’t want to deal one, so be it, tell them to relieve their cap issues elsewhere.

    Are we not better off to have a legit Defenceman in front of Scrivens than a legit Goalie behind Nikitin/Schultz?

  • Joy S. Lee

    I don’t mind it so much, but agree that Crawford’s term and upside are questionable at best.

    To make the deal work, I might insist Pokka plus a 4th or 5th for J.Schultz be the return part of the salary trade. Schultz would have the opportunity to work within a high-end system perfect for his qualifications, and Pokka would be an up and coming young defenseman who looks like a player (just like Schultz does… sometimes). Maybe we should ask more for a potential Norris candidate, but we have to give to get.

  • BobbyCanuck

    Thanks for the great article Jonathan, I have heard our Cap is either 4.6M or 14.xM big difference, thanks for the clarification.

    Cap Hell has got me thinking about long term/big money deals…

    Would you consider writing an article discussing the rationale of offering players big money/big term/NMC/NTC contracts to players that may already be past thier prime (UFA’s).

    From a business point of view, I doubt that I would ever consider hiring soemone that would in a few years or even this year become un-fireable.

    It seems to me that on the surface these long term big money deals do not appear to work out in the teams favour for the most part, yet GM’s keep doing it year after year.

  • pynetime

    The blue line needs to be upgraded before we can even think about making a move in net. I’d feel more comfortable with Ben Scrivens in net after we’ve made our defense better than I would with Crawford in net behind our current blue line.

    I have to agree with some of the other commenters, fix the blue line then do what you can in net with the remaining cap space.

  • pynetime

    What about this: Scrivens straight across for Cam Ward.

    Oilers get a veteran than can give them competent goaltending for a year, hopefully while a younger backup (Talbot, Jones?) preps to take over in 2016 and they aren’t tied to him forever.

    Carolina saves a ton of cash and gets a warm body for their net. I don’t get the feeling Ward is in their long range plans anyways.

  • Anton CP

    Considering about what happened to Niemi before and now with Crawford/Raanta/Darling that it is very good posibility that they will move Crawford. However his 6m cap hit is one of the highest among goalies which will make Niemi relatively cheap to sign as FA. Crawford is NOT a 6m goalie.

  • Anton CP

    Most good teams with good goalies are paying 5.5M / season for them as primary starter . It’s not that exhorbitant in comparison to other clubs . Crawford contract is average for that caliber a player in goal. Oilers have Scrivens @ 2.5M . You see how scrimping has hurt us there and in past .

    Most clubs top 4 defensemen are about 17M plus . Ours barely 15M with the likes of Nikitin (4.5) , Schultz (3.6), Fayne ( 3.625) and Ference (3.6). Not only are they not very good , but overly paid considering . Club has been under investing in goal and defense for quite a while and results are very evident .

    Get Crawford , or another goalie worth around that mark , and quit scrimping and hoping to find a diamond in the rough .

    We are a little over spent in comparison on forwards , but that could be a blessing if we were to rid ourselves of Purcells contract and infuse youngsters Draisatl , McDavid and even Nurse on defence . Why those 3 are a good option ? Because they are still cheap , our best future , and better than what’s on farm club now .

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I’ve always liked Crawford but with Talbot out there it doesn’t work for me. Talbot makes a quarter what Crawford does and just imagine what you could get with that extra 4.5.

    The Rangers like Schultz, maybe a Talbot and (insert Ranger blue liner here) in exchange for Justin and the 33rd. Depending on the blue liner, the savings could surpass 3 million per year for the Rangers.

  • oilersfan497

    IMO Crawford isn’t a very great goalie for the 6 million a year. He is on one of the best teams in the league, but with the oilers defense in front of him he will most likely look very average.

  • YEGFan

    I love the mock banter and trade talk-thinking it is close to reality. I think that Chicago would try harder for an oiler young defenceman in the deal. Also they may ask for Tyler Pitlick.

  • YEGFan

    As both a Hawks and Oilers fan, I gotta say that you’re dreaming if you think they’re moving a Cup winning goaltender for a (high) second round pick and a prospect no one cares about.

    Chicago isn’t going to deal Crawford unless they have a cheaper starter waiting in the wings, because Raanta and Darling aren’t going to get it done. They’d also want far more, probably more along the lines of Marincin as well as the 16th overall pick.

  • Seriously....Gord?

    What makes anybody think Marincin has value? He’s an AHL dman that played some games up here because we were so thin on the blueline. He is not an NHL dman on a decent team and be won’t ever be.

    • Mike Modano's Dog

      I disagree. He has potential upside, but even as is, is a small contract player who is as good as many 5/6/7 defensemen on much better teams. His issue here is too important a role for his own experience.

  • Seriously....Gord?

    I like the War Games concept. One thing it shows is that deals evolve with conversations. This is the NUMBER ONE thing I disliked about MacT (and I’m a fan of his), but you can’t consistently broadcast we are not tradin our key guys because we paid to dear a price! WHY?

    1) This deal began as a forward for a NHL player and ended as a goalie for pic and prospect. That’s how deals evolve, but you need to be open to deal to start the convo!

    2) EVERYONE Thinks they paid too dear a price for their talent.

    3) It locks in the GM, the fans, and even the players that we can’t change in a meaningful way. We are here, and not willing to do what it takes to get there.

    4) Expressing openness to trade big players doesn’t mean you have to, just means you are open to a change that will make the club better.

  • pkam

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/dealing-bickell-crawford-is-blackhawks-best-path-out-of-salary-cap-hell/article24611049/

    “Crawford is a solid goaltender. He’s won a Cup, and he’s coming off one of his best regular seasons. But his career numbers also suggest he’s only slightly above average for a No. 1, and the Blackhawks are paying well above average – the sixth highest cap hit – for an already 30-year-old netminder’s services until 2020.”

    Crawford is an interesting choice. From his play, he would be a marked improvement over what the Oilers have had for years. At the same time, even if the Hawks were to come back and win the Cup, he’s expendable because of his contract.

    I would explore other options first, not because of his on-ice performance, but because of his cap hit. It’s not like the Oilers are currently awash with cap space.

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    Nope, Brent Seabrook or no deal at all with Chicago. If another team wants to help them with their cap situation so be it, but otherwise I would make the only option on the table for them be Seabrook. That is the best way in my opinion to use that leverage; not just what, but who…

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    Somewhat of an aside*

    This just goes to show (from the perspective of a Championship caliber team like the blackhawks) that in today’s game goalies are replaceable so long as your blueline is built with elite players who play nearly half the game every night.

    We as Oilers fans often debate what is more important for success: a stud goalie or capable blueline.

    Your hypothetical conversion makes the answer clear.