Dumping a Body

The Edmonton Oilers have a pile of defencemen. They have seven established NHL players, not including Griffin Reinhart, Darnell Nurse and Brandon Davidson, and certainly not including Cody Franson or Christian Ehrhoff. They have to dump a body.

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The Candidates


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It won’t be a newcomer traded away, meaning that Andrej Sekera, Eric Gryba and of course Griffin Reinhart are safe. It won’t be Oscar Klefbom, arguably the best of the holdovers. It shouldn’t be Mark Fayne, either; he can play tough minutes and is probably a very good partner for Sekera. That leaves three names, listed in order of preference:

  • Andrew Ference
  • Nikita Nikitin
  • Justin Schultz

Craig MacTavish3Craig MacTavish3

These are Craig MacTavish’s mistakes. The Oilers have made a lot of errors over the years, but often those mistakes haven’t prevented them from making other moves. These ones do. Ference has two years left on a deal out of alignment with his abilities. Nikitin has one year left on an even more bloated contract. Schultz was qualified at a high price after getting overpaid last year; it was that or let him walk. (We can add Jeff Petry to the mix here, too; if the Oilers had prioritized him over Schultz down the line there would be no pressing need to add Franson or Ehrhoff to the mix because the team would already have a respectable top-four.)

But that’s the past. The question now is how to fix this problem.

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The Options


Trade. A trade is going to be difficult. The NHL’s other 29 franchises can read the names left on the free agent market as well as you or I can. Why would any general manager trade for one of those three names above when he can sign Christian Ehrhoff or Cody Franson or Jan Hejda or Matt Irwin or whoever? Schultz might be the exception because of his age, but Schultz is also overpaid and coming off a lousy season and if the Oilers had wanted to dump him for nothing they could have just passed on qualifying him.

Perhaps a deal can be made with the right combination of draft picks and retained salary, but it’ll be tough.

One possibility: Dion Phaneuf in Toronto. Here’s what James Mirtle of The Globe & Mail wrote about the possibility on Thursday:

Don’t expect captain Dion Phaneuf to be [traded]. It’s not impossible he moves, but it appears improbable. When teams have asked about his availability in the past two weeks, they haven’t been told no. Instead, the Leafs have requested a return that includes a good prospect and no salary retained on their books.

If the Oilers were willing to take Phaneuf back at his full dollar figure, they might be able to convince Toronto to take on Nikitin and Ference in the deal. Both are on short-term contracts, the dollars are about the same (Toronto has plenty of cap space) and the Leafs could look forward to being free and clear within two seasons. The risk is of course Phaneuf’s contract, and the real cost would be the far-from-insignificant futures going the other way (alternatively, the team might swap Schultz in for Nikitin as a way to reduce the number of futures sent away).


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Buyout. The window has passed, but the team can open another one if it has two arbitration hearings. From the most recent edition of the NHL CBA:

11.18 Ordinary Course Buy-Outs Outside the Regular Period. Clubs shall have the right to exercise Ordinary Course Buy-Outs outside the regular period for Ordinary Course Buy-Outs in accordance with Paragraph 13(c)(ii) of the SPC. Each Club shall be limited to no more than three (3) such Buy-Outs outside the regular period over the term of this Agreement pursuant to Paragraph 13 of the SPC. However, in the event that a Club has only one salary arbitration hearing pursuant to Section 12.3(a) in a given League Year, such Club shall not be entitled to exercise such an Ordinary Course Buy-Out outside the regular period. Moreover, a Club shall not be entitled to exercise an Ordinary Course Buy-Out outside the regular period for: (i) any Player who was not on the Club’s Reserve List as of the most recent Trade Deadline, or (ii) any Player with an Averaged Amount less than $2,750,000. The dollar amount of $2,750,000 set forth in this Section 11.18 shall be increased on an annual basis at the same percentage rate of annual increase as the Average League Salary, with the first such increase occurring based upon a comparison of the 2014/15 Average League Salary to the 2013/14 Average League Salary.

(emphasis mine)

As I understand it, the Oilers could take Schultz to salary arbitration by virtue of his salary, but would then need a second arbitration case to get them to the two necessary to open up a second buyout window. (Additionally, because Edmonton would have initiated the arbitration in this case they would not have the option of walking away, as per paragraph 12.10 (e) of the CBA.) Tyler Pitlick and Brandon Davidson are both too cheap to take to club-elected arbitration, and neither seems a likely candidate to take the Oilers to arbitration.

Update: As Twitter’s Speeds reminds me, the Oilers can also take players who a) don’t sign their qualifying offers and b) don’t elect for arbitration to arbitration themselves, which would open the possibility of the team taking two players and thus opening the buyout window. That’s predicated on two of the three not signing their qualifying offers, however. 

Joensuu, Jesse

Europe. Remember Jesse Joensuu, who just disappeared to Switzerland part way through the year? Wouldn’t it be great if Nikita Nikitin were suddenly to sign somewhere overseas? I’m skeptical this is a real possibility, or else teams would circumvent the salary cap by doing this all the time.

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Peter Chiarelli3

The Oilers need to add one good defencemen. They need to dump at least two pricey, ineffective defencemen. Both things are going to be awfully hard to do. It would be great if Edmonton could package up a draft pick with, say, Ference and ship him off to a rebuilding team like the Leafs or a cap floor team like Arizona but it’s going to be awfully hard to make that happen.

They might just be stuck in a year where the addition of an Ehrhoff or Franson would make them a serious possibility for a playoff spot.


  • Señor Frijoles

    This defense personal is about the same as last year,

    Petry out Sekera in is about equal,

    MM /Aulie out Gryba in is about equal.

    The difference has to be,

    1) HOPEFULLY GR hit his potential

    2) Oscar continues to improve

    3) HOPEFULLY Shultz continues to improve

    4) Fayne is managed better

    5) HOPEFULLY NN because the player MacT thought he was

    The key is the coach builds a system that focusses more on the defensive side of the puck.

    • Raider Jesse

      I’d argue Marincin to Gryba is a clear downgrade.

      Ferrence is another year older, Nikitin another year older.

      Sekera and Petry are a wash.

      So it comes down to does Klefbom improve on a straight line and make up the downturn in others.

      I’d be shocked if Reinhart was effective at this level yet, and I believe the team keeps Nurse in the minors.

  • Butters

    I think PC wanted to address the D to the point where our defensemen do not have to play over their heads as much this year as they had to last year. They still will to a point however.

    The GR trade was too rich for my blood and I have a bad feeling about it. I hope I am wrong.

    I think the other half of the Rogers TV money kicked in this year and helped boost the cap. I am not sure the cap is going up next year. The Oilers will have to keep that in mind.

  • tileguy

    I can’t see Chiarelli saddling himself with another 5 or 6 year deal right now. He’s going to have to sign a goaltender next season. We are three years away from paying McDavid and having to re-up Eberle. Next season we see Purcell, Nikitin and Scrivens drop off the books, and the following year Ference is gone. Patience is key right now. If we are somehow leading the division at the deadline we can look at bringing in some big guns. In the meantime, I like the idea of making Reinhart, Draisaitl and Nurse earn their spots. Having them start in the minors keeps their bonuses off the cap, and gives us options when injuries inevitably hit.

  • bradleypi

    Lol just because you don’t like those 3 players JW, it doesn’t mean they were “mistakes”. I don’t remember ANYONE complaining when the oil signed jultz. The only dman on the team with any offensive upside at all. Guys like that can come in handy. Andrew ference was brought in to be a captain which he, imo, has done admirably. Even tho no one in Edmonton appreciates what he’s done at all… He’ll be fine on a 3rd pairing. There are worse options out there. (Marincin). And the jury is out on nikitin for sure. I just don’t know how you can judge a player on a half season when the whole team was absolutely AWFUL… but in fine edmontonian fashion , oilersnation has picked these 3 guys to blame for last year’s failings, even tho scrivens and fasth couldn’t stop a beach ball last year. I can’t wait till the season starts so that these guys can prove you all wrong. Wherever they may be playing. I wouldn’t blame them if they wanted out.

  • Jaxon

    I don’t know how you get rid of Ference with his NMC except to convince him to retire and give him a coaching, training or management position. I’m pretty sure he wants to finish his career in his hometown.

  • 15w40

    Restraint should be the order of the day. The defence is far from ideal at this point but don’t make any knee jerk signings now that they are starting to pull out of this 9 year nose dive.

    If you can send away Nikitin to a cap floor team then fine but don’t mortgage the next 5 or 6 years on another questionable contract to get rid of 1 or 2 years of a putrid one.

    I say open camp this fall and let’s see what happens. Maybe Jultz is the odd man out and instead of Nurse or Reinhart going to the minors its him.

    25 games in Bakersfield might get his head screwed on straight or they might find out once and for all that he just isn’t going to develop into what they had hoped and MacT and friends come out with egg on their face again.

    Realistically either Jultz develops into a useful player this year or he is off the books next year no matter what. If its the same soft Jultz then walk away.

    Nikitin is gone, Purcell is gone and Ference will potentially be gone as early as this trade deadline.

    Unless you can do a trade with NJD for something like Jultz plus Yak for Adam Larsson

  • paul wodehouse

    Anyone know what the hold up is about Ehrhoff and Franson? Not saying we should sign any of them(however I wouldn’t mind Ehrhoff) but i’m suprised they are still avaliable.

    • Kevwan

      Franson looked good in the first 1/2 of the season with the Leafs and bad in the second 1/2 with the Preds. Maybe the Western conference is just that little bit quicker and exposed his lack of foot speed?
      He’s from BC and may want to come out West but he may be a better fit in the East. Whatever the reason there seems to be a discrepancy between what he thinks he’s worth and what NHL teams do.

      Erhoff is a different story. He’s got a boatload of cash from his Buffalo buy-out. He probably wants a shot at the Cup. I can see a Hawks or Ducks type team getting him on the cheap.

  • CDNinATL

    People…you can forget about trading Ference anywhere. He has a NMC and there is no way in H E double hockey sticks would he ever accept a trade to places like Toronto or Arizona.

    • bradleypi

      Why would either of those teams want him? I guarantee that he would wave his no trade to go to a contender. Why would he wanna stay in Edmonton? Apparently nobody wants him here.

    • Dwayne Roloson 35

      Clarkson was traded…even Pronger, Horton and Savard were traded.

      At least Ference can suit up for some games. He can be traded and so can Nikitin.

    • You forget that Chiarelli has already dumped Ference once before and in all likelyhood will again.

      If Chiarelli thought Ference was expendable on a good team the Chiarelli knows he’s even a bigger liability on a rebuilding team.

      Chiarelli will have a heart to heart and basically tell Ference to move or sit the entire year.

      Strip the “C” and watch from the press box or be traded.

      that NMC isn’t worth as much as the paper it’s written on.

  • Jaxon

    Nikitin would be the most difficult trade. He’s never shown that well, and last season was awful. He’s not really a specialist in any aspect that would be marketable to another team. His salary is the only thing that might make him attractive to one or two teams that need to get to the cap floor. Are there still any teams left in danger of not reaching the floor? I think they’d have to send a good young prospect with him for anyone to bite on that. Nikitin and one of Musil Moroz or Pitlick to Colorado for Stefan Elliott?

    • Edsez

      “Are there still any teams left in danger of not reaching the floor?” … none

      The Devils, Coyotes & Preds are all within $1.5 million with several RFAs to be signed

  • Wax Man Riley

    Chiarelli meeting with Nikitin:

    “Well, because of you signing the biggest contract of your career and disappearing from on and off-ice responsibilities, I cannot acquire the pieces to improve the team…. so you BETTER improve it”

  • Jaxon

    I think Purcell is more moveable than Nikitin or Ference. Then Chiarelli and McClellan can figure out how things shake loose on D before the trade deadline. Possible fits for Purcell include BUF, CAR, FLO, NJD, TOR, ANA & SJS. All these teams have very little NHL depth on the RW. Send Purcell and one of Musil, Moroz or Pitlick for a RW prospect or RD prospect. For example: Alex Petrovic in FLO. One of Mark Pysyk, Nicolas Baptiste, Justin Bailey or Hudson Fasching in BUF. One of Severson, Santini or Jacobs in NJD. Nemisz, Carrick, Pesce or McKeown in CAR. Hyman or Percy in TOR.

  • Jaxon

    Offer Nikitin a 1M bonus on top of his regular salary due to go to KHL . Offer Ference a similar package to retire with bonus and a job on top of salary owed . Be innovative with Purcell and offer him a significant signing bonus for signing a 1- 2 year extention at minimum salary .

  • bradleypi

    I think ference will/can have a bit of a bounce back season.
    Sure, not like he played five years ago but he can still eat up some minutes and provide good leadership.
    Nikitin can go.

  • Craig1981

    I know this won’t be a popular belief, but I would ride it out with Reinhart and Nurse in the AHL for the first 20-40 games.



    •Andrew Ference
    •Nikita Nikitin
    •Justin Schultz

    Now that’s not a playoff roster, but remember injuries will happen and if you trade 1 or 2 away that means you might be calling up Hunt in Nov.

    Come Dec-Jan if Nikitin is playing OK he might be worth a pick if you retain 1/2 salary. Schultz might have a recovery with a new coach and have value, and Ference will only have 1+ years left. Gryba will defiantly have value if he is just a short team guy.

    End the season with:




    …..but no need to rush it…..No need to call up Hunt

    • Edsez

      That’s the fact, Jack

      Nikitin only has value as a late season depth pickup by a playoff bound team, Ference can’t be moved because of his NMC and Schultz warrants a another look … like it or lump it, we’re going to be starting the season with all 3 in the lineup

      I, also, see it as a positive to have Nurse and Reinhart playing 20+ minutes a night in Bakersfield to start the season

    • Trevor457

      I more or less agree, but would go with

      Fayne – Sekara, play the other teams top lines all zones.

      Klefbom – Gryba, defensive starts against non top competition.

      Schultz and Reinhart/Ference/Nurse, o zone starts against non top competition.

      If deployed like this only fayne and Gryba would be a little out of their depth, but not so much so that it would be a disaster. It would allow nurse and Reinhart to develop and hopefully take over top 4 roles in 1-2 years, at which point the oil would have a very solid defence.taking on a contract like phaneuf would be a big mistake, especially if they had to move out a core player in a few years because of it.

    • OilCanFan1

      Maybe Hunt has worked on his foot speed, he has the offense. One of his biggest problems was who he was playing with. He should not have been playing with Schultz, aren’t they the same type of player, all offense, no defense?

      • camdog

        Hunt’s turning 27 this summer. I imagine he’s been working on his foot speed for 5-6 years and this is where he got to. More likely that he loses a gear in the next couple of years rather than gain.

  • bradleypi

    I’m pretty sure Ferrance has a no move clause in his contract. It’s too bad we didn’t buy out Nikitin when we had the chance, but as it’s a contract year for him, we can only hope that he gets his act together. I feel Ferrance will retire at the end of next season, unless his waives his NTC and gets traded. Nonetheless, both he and Nikitin will be watching a lot of games from the press box this season, or possibly face the embarrassment of being placed on waivers.

  • I’m pretty sure both of Nikitin and Ference would show better on this year’s iteration of the Oilers than they did last, but moving one would be preferable.

    I’d actually really like to see Ference stick around as a 3rd pairing guy who can help as a vocal veteran leader in the room.

    Nikita wasn’t his best last year, but not many were under Eakins. Unfortunately he’s one of the few who didn’t seem to show much in terms of improvement when Nelson arrived.

    I’m not sure how imperative it is to move pieces out though when you factor in injuries.

    Off the top of my head, Ference, Sekera, and Nikitin all missed a fair bit of time last year to injuries. 8 NHL defensemen would have made Chicago’s journey to the cup a lot easier…

    And though we don’t save much cap by sending Nikitin to the minors, we save some, and we aren’t a cap team.

    If the team performs so well that we are looking to become one at the deadline, there will likely be a taker for Nikitin even if he’s just thrown in because we need the cap room at that point. In the last year of a deal you can dump almost ANYONE at the deadline

  • oilpower

    Barring a team needing to reach the cap floor tossing us a 7th round pick for Nikitin, I don’t think he is going anywhere and the same goes for Ference with his NMC. That said, Ference will likely have a much better year now that we have a little more depth and Nikitin could potentially also come back with a little more intensity – it’s a contract year for him and unless he wants to go back to Russia after the season he might need a good year to earn a contract somewhere.

    It would be great to add another D, Jan Hejda for 1 year would be my choice, but I think they have a serviceable D as it is.

    Sekera – Fayne

    Klefbom – Shultz

    Nikitin – Ference – Gryba

    Send the 2 top D prospects to the minors for half the year until the inevitable injuries happen. Sekera and Fayne should be lights out together. Klefbom and Shultz should flourish on a soft minutes second pair and that third pairing can hold their own against middling to low opposition. If Nurse or Reinhart starts to push for a job, let them take it and this could go better than expected.

    Now if only Shultz was spelled Petry… then we wouldn’t be having this conversation at all and we’d have drafted Matthew Barzal.

  • bazmagoo

    First time in years we’ve had a competitive environment on defence, and you want to dump bodies @Willis. Come on man, give your head a shake. Make Darnell and Griffin earn their spots! We can bury Nikitin in the minors if necessary, or if he plays decently we can trade him for a low round pick at the deadline. Might have to retain half his remaining salary but that’s not a big deal. Competition for spots is a good thing!

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Gryba sure looks like a wasted addition now. In all likelyhood Nurse could come to camp and be the best blueliner and there won’t even be any room for him.

    This will be the camp Darnell shows he could’ve stayed last year. Then there’d be one less rookie breaking in this season. It’s up to the raw rookie now to step in and play cop if someone targets some of the players who need others to fight their battles.

    • It’s refreshing the Oilers seem done with plugging young players into key positions, or at least too many young players in the same year. Darnell will play for the Oilers next year, but maybe he doesn’t need to start there. He hasn’t played for a long stretch in any pro league, so why not let him dominate that first before resting expectations he’ll come here and dominate?

  • JackB


    You wrote “HOPEFULLY NN becomes the player MacT thought he was”

    YES !!

    Can we pray that he still has a bit of PRIDE, and spends the summer working out . . . and shows up in camp in shape . . . with the attitude “I’ll show everyone that I am a good hockey player, that I’ve loved this game since I was a little boy”

    Maybe he could show a little of that character we have seen in players like McDavid, Nuge, Hall, Eberle . . .

    Or is that tooooo much to hope for????

    • bazmagoo

      If NN wants to continue to play in the NHL he’ll bring his A game next season. If not he’s done in the league. It’s really a no lose situation for the Oilers, apart from the salary. If he comes in good form the Oilers get a pick for him at the trade deadline, if he stinks it up again then Darnell or Griffin “earn” a spot on the team.

  • camdog

    In all my years of watching hockey I have never ever heard the hype for a 16th overall pick that this Brazal kid is getting on this site. Good on him I guess, maybe one day 10 years from now he’ll pass Sam Gagner on the all NHL points list….

    • Craig1981

      You know the NYI islander fans are losing it for trading Reinhart for picks..

      ….could you imagine if we traded Nurse or Drisatel for the 16th and 33rd next year?!?!? Hell even the 10th and 20th people would lose it

      • Trevor457

        To the contrary, Islander fans are planning a parade to honor Snow. They went into this draft with no 1st round picks and ended up with two when they packaged our #33 to move up. With our #16 they picked a center who was rated to go in the top ten. Reinhart was ranked somewhere around tenth on the Islanders’ defensive depth chart. Even if Reinhart fulfills his complete potential (which i hope he does) and becomes a second pairing D for us, that doesn’t make it a bad trade for the Islanders.

        Comparing Reinhart’s value to the Isles with Nurse /Draisaitl value to the Oilers is totally apples/oranges.

    • JackB

      I haven’t seen so much hype on this site for Barzal?

      (But there was a better kid in the draft.)

      WE GOT HIM !!

      I think the people on this site are probably biting their tongues . . . and hoping (maybe even praying) . . . that Griff turns out to be the horse in the NHl that he was in the WHL.

      None of us want to even THINK that Chiarelli might have blown our #16 and #33 (in a deep draft year) (We are all so happy about getting him!)

      No one wants to criticize Chiarelli (yet) . . .

      BECAUSE WE ARE JUST SO THANKFUL we finally got rid of “Dumb n’ Dumber” who were making the hockey decisions previously.

      PLEASE . . . PLEASE . . . PLEASE, Griff, really THRIVE in the City that loved you so much as an Oil King! BE THE STUD we all hope you can be!

  • Chris.

    Bring everyone to camp and let the management, coaches, and the players themselves decide who will be dressed opening night. (Crazy I know…)

    It is difficult to guess who will shine/tarnish under a different system; who will emerge/plateau; who will bounce-back/regress; and most unpredictability: who will get injured. One (or both) of Schultz/Nikitin may find their form under McLellan and become a useful point man on the power play or at worst a good trade chip at the deadline. Klefbom might regress. Nurse might be undeniably NHL ready. Ference may land on the LTIR trying too hard to be a young man. Joey Laleggia might stun us all and emerge from camp as the seventh man. The point is, after all the recent upheaval in Edmonton, we just don’t know, and neither does the new Oiler brain trust.

  • Spoils

    Nikitin should be bought out

    Hard to forget Schultz’ AHL work during the lockout. I think he could rise under the glory of McDavid. We need the puck movement, and with better coaching and usage his trade value could rise.

    I think Ference could be convinced to do the Captainly thing and waive his no trade – he’d be included in the trade below…

    YES, we need to make one heck of a trade – a blockbuster – to get a true #1D. It will seem painful at the time. If we get a real quarterback coming back, it will be more than worth it.

  • Look it up.

    If you think Nikitin was bad ( and he was) then your not paying attention to the All the avalible stats out there because Ference by ever number imaginable is bloody awful….

    Ference dragged down everyone he played with by a country mile, it’s not even close.

    Ference on the new defense shouldn’t even make the team and would be in the bottom pairing in the AHL.

    That’s how bad he actually is. Full Stop.

    Ference has to go.

    • camdog

      Agree with what your wrote. You don’t really need to look at the stats to see that the Ference was awful, but there were things that he brought to the team that nobody else would do and it needed to be done.

  • knee deep in it

    The only plausible solution I see is to dump Shultz for a pick and then package that pick with ference for future considerations.

    Anaheim is looking to add a veteran dman and they build through the draft. They might consider ference and a 2nd for future considerations.

    Nikitin is a lost cause. IMO, the best would be to keep him as a 7 th damn while starting nurse in the ahl. we start praying for lots of injuries to dman around the league and hopefully find someone to take NN.

    The alternative is to put NN in the ahl and get the 900k cap savings. I do not want a buyout because it carries into next year.

  • The Last Big Bear

    I think a lot of people are misunderstanding how cap floor teams operate.

    Cap ceiling teams want players who outperform their cap hit, and engineer situations where players get paid more real dollars than their cap hit.

    Cap floor teams want players who outperform their real dollars, and engineer situations where players have a higher cap hit than their real dollars.

    Chris Pronger is a perfect example of a cap floor “player”, the team pays $525k in real dollars, but they get a $4.9m cap hit towards the floor.

    Nikita Nikitin costs $4.5m in real dollars, and he gives a cap hit of… $4.5m

    And he’s not worth half that. I’d rather pay Pronger $500k to work for the league than pay Nikitin $4.5m to play hockey.

    Nobody wants Nikita Nikitin, cap floor teams probably least of all.