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.


  • Chris.

    There’s also the option of burying one/both in Bakersfield, if the plan is to bring in a Franson/Ehrhoff type.

    I’m still puzzled by the plan Oilers have in place for d. I’m one of the people that didn’t like the Reinhart trade not only a result of the expense, but also because the make up of the d is unbalanced.

    The core group of the d for the future for now is: Sekera, Klefbom, Nurse, Reinhart, and Fayne. That’s 4 LHD and 1RHD. Of course, Reinhart or Sekera could move over and play the off side, but teams traditionally try to avoid that. If there was a case to try it, Petry and Fayne should have experimented with that idea in a lost season last year.

    So now we have four core pieces for the Oilers that all shoot left. In order of where you see these four d men fit into your lineup, Reinhart seems to be at the bottom of the list. These factors are the main concerns with the trade.

    If the Oilers were able to move the picks for a equivalent prospect on the right side or a an established RHD, then the pieces work. A Hamilton/Byufligen type would have been ideal. Given that it wasn’t available, the oilers were better off using the picks on the best player available and signing Franson and Sekera in the offseason. Or signing one, and waiting for an opportunity to trade those prospects chosen at those spots for a d that may become available – Seabrook type.

    • db7db7db7

      Under the new CBA you don’t lose the cap hit by putting them in the minors, so there’s not much advantage to doing that unless it’s simply to make room for another player.

  • RCN

    Another thought:

    Sign Schultz to a 1 yr deal at the same $ he was making last yr, and then retain 50% ($1.8375M) in a trade. He should be full value at the price, and its only a 1 yr write-off.

  • Dave Semenko

    What about signing Franson (as an example) and assigning Nikitin to Bakersfield? The Oil successfully buried Souray in the minors and ate his salary a few years back and while in the AHL, his contract was within the 50 limit but it did not count against the cap. My guess is that with any player of his status (several years in the bigs), his pride would not appreciate the slight and this might compell him to seek employment in the KHL or elsewhere in Europe.

    • Raider Jesse

      You haven’t been able to hid money in the minors since the last CBA.

      You can only get relief of 950K.

      So he would be a 4.6M cap hit still in the minors. It’s the Redden/Finger rule.

      EDIT Changed 900k to 950K (amount you can bury under this cap level)

  • 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.

  • Old Soldier

    What’s the rush?

    As usual the amazing excitement of the last month now has people pushing for more, no matter what….

    We literally just got McDavid, added some good players, made some good deals, and we have a roster that now forces players to earn their spot…..so why the absolute need to push even harder.

    Simply waiting a year gets rid of Nikitin, and has Ferrence and Fayne (I think) on one year left….easy enough to buy out or move at that point. You have Schultz showing under a new coach whether he belongs or needs a fresh start somewhere.

    How much pressure do we need to put on a first year potential superstar, and a core group who have never had expectations like they do now, and some on the cusp budding stars (Nurse, Draisaitl, Klefbom) who may be up and down getting their feet planted, and A new goalie who is finding out himself if he is a No.1 or not.

    In my opinion there is no need to make any more moves …..in fact right at this stage would be a good time to say enough for now….lets let the dust settle and see what we have…..and then next year, while still having some cap room, and perhaps a year of the league seeing what playing for the Oilers might be like, then look at adding for serious playoff runs.

    Seriously, is overpaying now for Franson going to be better for the Oil than waiting to see how the lineup adjusts this season and then start patching holes

    • Raider Jesse

      The Rush is that in 3 years, McDavid is going to likely cost 10M or so. Make hay (DAMMIT LOWETIDE) asap.

      Our best hope at a cup is literally year 3 of the ELC. So the onus is to get as good as possible as quick as possible. This team can make the playoffs if they add another Sekera level defender and things break the right way.

      What are the odds the team makes the playoffs and wins the cup first year in? Horribly unlikely, so that is why we should strive for 1-2 years in the playoffs of “learning” to play playoff hockey. Cliche I know, but there is some truth to it.

      That’s my viewpoint on it at least.

    • tileguy

      props x 1000. I couldn’t of said it any more eloquently. Sometime you just have to let the scabs fall off the skin naturally, and next year we will be the big dog at free agency. One more year oilers nation, sit back watch the teams come together.

    • Señor Frijoles

      This is the best logic I’ve heard on here in a long time – I couldn’t agree more. This coming season will be a step forward but we all know the chances of a deep playoff run are slim. Next offseason things will be different – make some moves then, allow contracts to drop away naturally. No reason to spend to the cap now and end up stuck with bad contracts like Phaneuf, etc.

      • CMG30

        We’re already spending to the cap if you consider possible bonuses. That’s why we need to eliminate one of the bad contracts on D if we wish to add that final piece which (on paper) makes this team competitive enough to push for a playoff spot.

        Spending to the cap is not a bad thing so long as the players you have signed are at dollar figures and term that are reasonable for their talent level. If you can do that then it’s not difficult to move someone if the need arises. The problem comes when you have players signed to deals that far exceed their value. They aren’t doing you any good and worse they block you from getting the players who can help you.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • RCN

      Totally agree. Todd M may be able to turn Schultz around but impossible with Nikitin and Ference. Given our cap situation we may be stuck 1 top 4 D short. Too much poor performing D and not enough top 4 quality D. Last piece of the puzzle to be competitive. We had at or near the worst D in the league last year. Changes made make it better but not substantially with the loss of Petry. Better coaching will help as will Talbot but it doesn’t matter how many goals you score if you can’t keep the puck out of the net. It is better to prevent the shot rather than hope your goalie can stop it.

  • radicator

    I’m here at the practice waiting for the zamboni and PC is sitting across the ice from me. I’d love to go pick his brain and humbly advise him which D to still add and which to get rid of. I think I could outrun the ushers…

  • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • D

    I’ve watched every episode of the show “Behind the B” online. A good production that gives everyone insight into Peter Chiarelli’s work when he was GM of the Bruins. Parting with Ference a second time would not be easy for him, even with Ference’s decline in play.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • OilCanFan1

    I know I’m in the minority, but when Nikitin wasn’t playing injured (ie back injury) I thought he played okay. I really think he played or was made to play when he wasn’t in the condition to do so. I’ve had back and shoulder injuries and can attest to the fact they slow you down big time. Nikitin is a big body which helps and he has a bomb of a shot. His camp emphatically denied MacTavish’s accusation he came to camp out of shape so who knows what to believe there but it is in the past. I believe he is going to have a comeback season just so he can hit the lottery again and make a couple more million dollars in free agency after this season. If he doesn’t have a comeback season, I can’t see ANY team wanting anything to do with him.

    People need to stop looking at what the players make (Horcoff cough cough) and look at how the players perform. They are ALL overpaid. The Oilers aren’t quite a cap team yet so who cares, other than Katz, who is overpaid. Purcell is still a useful player and I also think Schultz is a useful player, forgetting what they get paid. Who is gonna turn down more money than they are worth? I wouldn’t.

  • Raider Jesse

    Speeds and I where talking the other day JW, and he thinks we may have been mistaken on the requiring 2 case for the second buyout.

    The clauses about that seem to be speaking to Section 12.3 (A) situation, where as the 12.3 (B) situation is the club elected style.


  • 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

  • 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.

  • Anton CP

    Oilers D for next season:

    Sure Thing:

    Sekera (If 33m does not mean a sure thing, Katz will personally have Chiarelli be removed.)

    Fayne (One of the more reliable right shot solid D. Until Chiarelli can solidify the right side then Fayne will be playing a lot.)

    Klefbom (Baptism by fire last year, he survived tough minutes and pairing with Schultz. High hopes on him to be the future blueliner for the Oilers.)

    On the Watch:

    Schultz (Everyone will be watching him if he can finally be the true offensively gifted D man or a hyped up hack.)

    Gryba (Newly acquired solid defenseman with right shot, will have to see if he can provide some minimum offense if needed.)

    Reinhart (Chiarelli paid a premium price to get him, however it is a tough competition on left side. He will have to show some skills to finally make it to NHL.)

    Nurse (He is still young but he is ready in every aspect of the game. He will have to try very hard to make the roster because jam packed left side.)

    Ference (He is old and slow, however with NMC that he will not be playing at minor. He will likely serve as 7th D.)

    Emergency Call Ups:

    Aulie (Most likely to start the season on AHL, he will only serve as injured reserve replacement.)

    Davidson (Has some borderline skills to barely make to NHL, will not likely be seeing much of the actions next season.)

    Hunt (Only on the desperation call up. Hard to see that he will be logging on major minutes like at the beginning of last season.)

    The Minors:

    Laleggia (It will be tough for him to make the roster, he will be spending entire season with AHL.)






    Cast Away:

    Nikitin (No team want to have anything to do with him, costly contract and playing way below expectation. He may have a very little chance to salvage whatever he has left for his NHL career. However it will be very tough for him to start the season on any team’s line up.)

  • Stack Pad Save

    If I see improvement than I am okay with not dumping guys like Ference and Nikitin. In a perfect world I would love to see those 2 dumped and better defensemen put in their place. However, I don’t see Erhoff or Franson being such pivotal pieces that you have to trade Ference and picks and retain his salary.

    The Oilers are not close enough to the playoffs to be doing things to win now. Teams that retain salary do that in desperation because their window for winning a cup is expiring. The Oilers window hasn’t even been opened yet.

    • db7db7db7

      They window’s been open for a couple years already, but they’ve failed to take advantage. It’s time to make hay! Enough with the rebuild. Time to swing for the fences!

      • Stack Pad Save

        Don’t get me wrong. I want the rebuild done as much as the next guy. But swinging for the fences with your eyes closed like Casey at Bat isn’t what I want.

        I think the rebuild officially ended with the trade of picks for Griffen Reinhart. Chi showed us that he is no longer moving out pieces for future hopefuls.

        But you can’t be stupid and give away all your money to someone who won’t help you win a cup. I think throwing away 6 million a year of cap space on Franson or Erhoff is a waste of money. Save it for next years free agency and sign someone who can earn that much money helping the Oil get a cup. The end game isn’t making the playoffs its winning the cup. I don’t want the Oilers to be San Jose 2.0.

  • Señor Frijoles

    For the love of God, stop suggesting Phaneuf as a possibility for the Oilers. Don’t even think it. Getting rid of Phaneuf and adding Nikitin and Ference would be good for Toronto – so how could the inverse possibly be true for the Oilers?

    • JackB


      (When I saw Lowe at the draft table on TV, I almost puked . . . WHAT THE HELL WAS HE DOING THERE ??)

      If Katz is pulling the strings on his new play toy (“A HOCKEY TEAM . . . YEAH … YEAH . . . I OWN A HOCKEY TEAM . . .”)

      Then shame on him.

    • OilCanFan1

      Ya, I don’t know how either of them survived this long. Once the draft was over or the same time as the scouts were let go, they should have gone as well.

  • 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.