The most difficult part of every day life is knowing when to trust our emotional, impulsive side and when to rely on our rational thoughts. I’ve yet to master it, and likely never will, but with age I find I’m able to control my emotional side much more than when I was younger.
Being an NHL manager brings the same challenges, especially when it comes to evaluating players. With the NHL buyout period set to begin at 9 p.m. MST tonight, I’m sure many GMs will be having some interesting conversations with their inner voice.
The Oilers aren’t in a cap crunch and shouldn’t be for the next three seasons. They currently have 16 players (11 fwds, four D-men and a goalie) signed for a total of $51.2 million for next season. That doesn’t include Darnell Nurse, Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid (when they draft him), and they likely will re-sign Justin Schultz, Martin Marincin and Tyler Pitlick.
They have a lot of cap space, and next summer they could have $14.3 million coming off the books between Teddy Purcell ($4.5 mill), Nikita Nikitin ($4.5 mill), Boyd Gordon ($3 mill) and Ben Scrivens ($2.3 mill).
The rational side of me suggests Chiarelli doesn’t need to free up money for this season. He can bite the bullet on one more season of Nikitin and Purcell, rather than have them on the books next season. I say that believing the Oilers will not be a playoff team this coming season. I fully expect them to improve drastically, but next summer or later this season Chiarelli can look to make a big splash.
But the emotional side of me would buy out Nikitin tomorrow. I’d send a message that the organization does not want players who aren’t committed. He wasn’t in good enough shape last season. If players don’t commit in the off-season, they can’t succeed during games. Showing up in camp not in the best shape possible is inexcusable, unless a player is coming off an injury. The Oilers have accepted a losing mentality for far too long and it must change.
I believe buying out an overpaid, under-performing, non-committed veteran would be a good start to changing the culture of the team. I could easily convince myself the $1.5 million in dead cap space in 2016/2017 would be worth it.
That is my internal dilemma, and despite my willingness to want to buyout Nikitin, I’d rather keep him and send him to the minors, if his play warranted it, so in 2016/2017 I’d have all the cap space I wanted, because I believe the Oilers should be a playoff contender by then. The other option is Chiarelli might be able to trade him and retain salary, but that falls in the wishful thinking category for me.
I don’t have any say in what the Oilers will do, and during the brief conversations I’ve had with Chiarelli, I sense he is a rational
thinker. He will observe and evaluate, and I don’t see him making rash
decisions that might make the Oilers a playoff team in 2015/2016. That doesn’t mean
he won’t make moves, but if you are expecting him to re-vamp the entire
roster you’ll be disappointed.
When he took over the Bruins in the summer of 2006 he made a big splash. He signed UFAs Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard to long-term deals. He also signed three other free agents: Shean Donovan, Sheldon Brookbank and Nathan Dempsey.
Chiarelli inherited a 26th placed team, and despite adding Chara and Savard the Bruins only improved by two points, up to 76, in 2006/2007.
The one obvious similarity I see between Chiarelli’s first year in Boston and his first with the Oilers is the need to improve the defence. He added Chara, but during the season he acquired Dennis Wideman, Andrew Ference and Aaron Ward to the Bruins’ backend.
In 20007/2008, they were in the top-four. Chara played 26 minutes/game while Wideman played 25, Ference 22 and Ward 20. Mark Stuart became the 5th D-man, after spending a few years developing on the farm.
Everyone knows the Oilers have to improve the defence, but I don’t expect Chiarellli to act impulsively and try to do it all at once. I’m guessing he signs Schultz to a one-year deal to see if he can improve. He lets Nikitin’s contract run out. He signs Marincin short term, or moves him for a veteran D-man.
I believe the emotional side of fans, similar to myself, would like to see Chiarelli clean house instantly, but (with some sadness) I don’t see that happening. I believe he will want to improve his team, but the Oilers have many holes and he can’t fix them all in one summer.
He is going to want to see how the players react to an experienced head coach. Every player I’ve spoken with since the Oilers overhauled their management and coaching staff and won the lottery sounded vastly more upbeat than they did when the season ended. They have a renewed hope, and a new attitude could result in a more consistent effort from the players.
What would you do?
Recently by Jason Gregor:
- Monday Musings: Oilers and offer sheets
- Bob Green talks scouting and the draft
- Dr. Drai
- Monday Musings: Seabrook
- Part two, if you will, with Taylor Hall
- Chiarelli and RFAs
- Building a winner: Babcock and Hendricks