Tuesday was the last day to place players on unconditional waivers prior to a buyout, and the Oilers passed on the opportunity, meaning that the obvious candidates for severance will either have to be moved in some other manner or will be around next season.
And that’s just fine.
Edmonton has some middling contracts, some poorer contracts and some flat-out bad deals. They didn’t dump any of them, and there are some good reasons for that.
The first is that the team has plenty of cap space. With every roster spot filled the Oilers are looking at roughly $7.5 million in spending money:
So there was no pressing financial argument to buyout players. Given the choice between taking a bad cap hit for one year and taking a slightly less-bad cap hit for two years, there’s no question as to the correct approach. It makes sense to take the hit this coming season and be clear of it in the future.
The second is that some of the potential buyouts might have some value at the trade deadline. It’s a cinch that somebody will be willing to take on Teddy Purcell come February, particularly if the Oilers are willing to retain salary (and why wouldn’t they?). There’s at least some chance that Nikita Nikitin will be tradeable too; if we ignore contract there’s no reason he can’t be a No. 6 defenceman and as Chicago demonstrated this past year there’s value in having one of those guys around.
So there were good reasons not to go the buyout route. But that still leaves the Oilers with a crowded roster, particularly on defence, that was demonstrably not good enough last year.
There are ways around that.
The first, obviously, is trade. The Oilers were evidently in trade talks with the Los Angeles Kings about Mike Richards before the Richards’ contract was terminated, which suggests that Edmonton is willing to take on a bad deal under the right circumstances. Part of taking on a deal like that would probably be sending a shorter-term bad deal the other way, which might afford the opportunity to unload a contract.
Alternately, if Edmonton were to add a rearguard via trade rather than free agency, such a trade might include sending a defenceman the other way.
In the worst case scenario, there’s also the option of dumping somebody to the AHL, though it likely won’t come to that. Moving a player to the minors doesn’t bury his whole contract (in the case of a player like Nikitin, it would only be a fraction of the contract) but it does open up a roster spot and that’s the only real concern here.
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