Tuesday Tidbits…

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The NHL off season is finally starting to slow down. It never completely stops, especially with so many UFAs still unsigned, and twenty, nineteen, seventeen RFAs set to go to arbitration starting next Monday, but we are entering a cool down stage.

Why hasn’t Cody Franson signed? Will someone actually make it to arbitration this year?

Let’s discuss.

I spoke to a western conference manager yesterday about Franson. “Teams aren’t sure what he is as a player. If they want longer term the team will want less money.”

I asked him to compare Franson to Andrej Sekera. “Sekera is a better defender and stronger in battles. Franson distributes the puck very well, but the concern is how good he defends. If you pay a defenceman long term and at a high price you need to know they can defend.”

Franson’s consistency seems to be the issue and teams are a bit hesitant to hook him in, but as training camp gets closer teams will want to fill holes and Franson’s camp remains patient. I’m very curious to see if a team gives him the long-term deal he wants, or if he settles for a three or four year pact.

The other UFA D-men still available include:

Christian Ehrhoff. He is 32 and made $4 million last year. He suffered mutliple concussions in the second half of last season, but looked great in Pittsburgh prior to the injuries. The Stars, Bruins and Sabres need help in their top-four. The Oilers could use him as well.

Johnny Oduya: He turns 34 in October. He made $3.375 last year with the Hawks. He’d love to stay in Chicago, but the Hawks have no cap space. I was told the Sabres offered him $5 million/year for three years, but he’s still weighing his options. Stars beat reporter, Mike Heika tweeted out this morning he thinks Oduya will make a decision today. The Stars would like him to mentor their young D-men, but it seems the Sabres might have the inside track.

David Schlemko (28), Marek Zidlicky and Lubomir Visnovsky (both 38) are the other players available. Schlemko will get signed eventually. He’d be cost effective.

Forwards…

Alex Semin is still available, but he will likely only get a one-year deal. The Hurricanes bought him out after year two of a five-year deal, and teams are leery of his drive and consistency. But, he has elite level skill and someone will take a chance on him. He could be a steal at $4 million/year.

Curtis Glencross. He struggled in the playoffs for the Capitals and that hurt him. He scored 13 goals and 35 points in 71 games last year between Calgary and Washington. GMs are concerned about his speed, I’m told. He can still contribute, but he will sign a short deal.

Eric Fehr. He scored 19 goals last year and only one on the PP. He only made $1.5 million last year, and I’m very surprised he is still available. The Oilers have had some conversations with Fehr’s camp, but they were very preliminary. 

Scottie Upshall, Brad Boyes, Sean Bergenheim, Lee Stempniak and Jiri Tlusty are also available. They are serviceable veterans, but I won’t be surprised if half of them go to camp as in invite and have to earn a contract. 

RFAs…

Justin Schultz and Jonathan Bernier are the only two players who are in arbitration at the team’s request. The Oilers cannot offer Schultz less than his qualifying offer, $3.625 million, so do not expect a lower contract. I don’t see any reason he deserves a raise, but he might receive a small bump. Despite his struggles, he still played the most minutes of any Oilers and his camp will bring that up.

Most summers, I wouldn’t expect any of these players to make it to arbitration, but this off-season has been anything but normal. Teams traded players we didn’t expect, GMs have not spent wildly in free agency, and usually most players settle before going to arbitration, but in keeping with the winds of change I expect we will see a few cases go the distance.

P.K Subban went to arbitration last year, but he and the Canadiens agreed to an eight-year extension before the arbitrator made his decision.

The St.Louis Blues and Vladimir Sobotka also went to arbitration, and the Blues received a one-year, $2.725 award for Sobotka when, or if, he returns to the NHL.

Since 2011, only two other cases were settled be an arbitrator.

In 2012, Kyle Cumiskey and the Ducks went to arbitration and he was awarded a one-year, two-way deal worth $744,000 and $105,000 in the minors.

In 2011, Shea Weber and the Preds saw an arbitrator. The Preds offered $4.75 million while Weber asked for $8.5 million. The Preds used Keith Yandle as a comparison, and the arbitrator didn’t buy it. Weber was awarded a one-year deal worth $7.5 million.

GOING TO ARBITRATION

This morning there were twenty players scheduled to go to arbitration, but three signed contracts leaving 17 remaining.

Coyotes: Brendan Shinnimin (signed 1-year, $600,000 today) and Philip Samuelsson (signed 1-year, $600,000 today).
Flames: Lance Bouma (July 22), Josh Jooris (July 28)  and Paul Byron (July 30).
Avalanche: Andrew Agozzino (July 20) and Mat Clark (July 22).
Wild: Eric Haula (July 31)
Predators: Craig Smith (July 20) and Colin Wilson (July 28)
Devils: Eric Gelinas (settled this afternoon, two years with $1.575 AAV) and Adam Larsson (July 29).
Rangers: Derek Stepan (July 27)
Senators: Alex Chiasson (July 23) and Mike Hoffman (July 30)
Flyers: Michael Del Zotto (July 21)
Capitals: Braden Holtby (July 23) and Marcus Johansson (July 29)

Club elected:

Oilers: Schultz (July 24)
Leafs: Bernier (July 31)

I’m most intrigued to see what Stepan and Holtby sign for. Stepan was a $3.075 million cap hit the past two seasons. He scored 57 and 55 points, although last year he missed 14 games. He wants big money, and his numbers are solid, but the Rangers only have six million in cap space to sign Stepan, JT Miller and Jesper Fast.

Holtby will get a big raise and he deserves it. He was outstanding last season and has been consistent the past three seasons. I wonder if we see a similar situation to Subban last year where they go to arbitration, but settle before the arbitrator hands down his ruling.

Once the Oilers and Schultz settle their buyout window will open up. They took him to arbitration to ensure he gets signed rather than for the buyout option. His camp wanted more. I know it sounds crazy based off of his year, but he played the most TOI of any defender and they use that as leverage.

Edmonton will not buyout Andrew Ference, which makes sense to me, and I don’t get the sense they will buyout Nikita Nikitin. He can come to camp and compete for a job. It is almost impossible that he’ll be as bad as last year. If he does struggle they can send him to the minors. I get the sense they don’t want to have wasted cap space next season, so they’d rather have him in the AHL and maybe he can regain his confidence if he starts the season in a funk.
 

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  • Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate

    A.Semin might prove to be a reasonable acquisition because he is a RW player . I can envision him playing with Pouliot and McDavid ,and forming the PMS line .

    • Oilers-Entourage

      Just like Yaks one more year will prove everything. New coach and a improved Defence will see him in a more natural posistion. They still have plenty of time to turn their careers around and as an Oiler, Not be traded to another team and light it up! Then another article comes out ” Oilers trade away yet another stud player”. Hail McDaivid

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I’d take Ehrhoff. He’ll start the year healthy but will probably play fewer than 40 games. That leaves plenty of opportunity for kids to slide higher up the the depth chart when needed. 40+ games on the LTIR cuts his cap hit in half as well. Ehrhoff and Sekera might make a decent poor mans version of a couple top pairing blue liners.

    Wait till next summer for the Hail Mary/shot at Seabrook.

    • Rob...

      Regarding Erhoff: I’d agree, if it wasn’t for Nikitin already holding the chit for season ending injury. My over-under on Nikitin’s season is 18 games before a back or shoulder injury.

  • Kevwan

    Good work Gregor.

    I’m curious as to why you think there will be no buyouts by the Oilers.

    My understanding of the CBA is basic but I don’t see any other reason for the Oilers to take Schultz to team elected arbitration. They can’t reduce his salary and they can’t walk away from the award. Unless they wanted to buy out someone else why did they chose this type of arbitration?

    • Jason Gregor

      They did it to give themselves options, and this guarantees they get a resolution, and likely settle before going to arbitration.

      I could be wrong on Nikitin, but based on conversations I’ve had and looking at the cap, I don’t see the major benefit in buying him out. It makes more sense to put in him minors or hope he comes to camp with something to prove and can fill in when injuries arise.

      As I’ve said before, my emotional side would buy him out. But my rational side says it is better to not have dead cap space next year.

      A trade where they eat half his salary for this year makes sense as well.

      • AJ88

        From a purely financial pov, buying him out doesn’t seem like the most effective use of resources. Maybe he comes into camp healthy and ready to challenge for a spot. We see players come back from much worse than Nikitin’s last season. It would be a nice story if he is able to put it together (and look! A contract year….). If not, he comes off the cap next season regardless.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    The Oilers have nine D man and only one of the kids, who don’t have to clear waivers, is likely to go to Bakersfield. That leaves one too many. Unless they are willing to ship Nikitin or Ference to the AHL, one has to go. Unless you know something about Nikitin that I don’t, he should be bought out. Again, I have no inside information.

  • Jason Gregor

    The Oilers have nine D man and only one of the kids, who don’t have to clear waivers, is likely to go to Bakersfield. That leaves one too many. Unless they are willing to ship Nikitin or Ference to the AHL, one has to go. Unless you know something about Nikitin that I don’t, he should be bought out. Again, I have no inside information.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      I think if the young kids outplay NN or Ference they should stay regardless of waiver implications. I’m not the biggest Ference fan but I think if he plays 3rd pairing minutes he will be alot more effective. I feel he was out of his element playing the minutes he did last year and a reduction would be to his benefit. As for NN, see above, he stinks and adds no value to starting the year with the Oilers in what could be a very exciting year!

    • Who cares if Nikitin goes to the AHL (Ference IMO won’t be sent down or bought out)….if NN’s play deserves it, send him there. If he gets picked up on waivers and the Oilers get nothing back, is that really a big deal?

      Cap space is NOT an issue this year. Don’t buy out anyone….

  • Jason Gregor

    Pouliot-nuge-ebs

    Hall-McDavid-Fehr(6 foot 4, he skates well)

    Korpikoski/Draisaitl-Lander-Yakupov

    Hendricks-Letestu-Pitlick/Pakarinen/Gazdic

    Purcell and one of Nikitin or Ference need to go

  • I agree that there will not be a buyout in their plans however, NN is my top candidate if there is. I just can’t get past his contract and how bad a move this was. There was no evidence,stats or otherwise to garner him such a deal and giving him a 2.5-3M on a one year deal that no other team would have given him would have sufficed. There are plenty of prospects, Nurse, Reinhart, or even Davidson I would rather see in his spot this upcoming year!

    • Listen, I hate Nikitin as much as the next guy but the fact that he is taking Nurse and Rienhart’s spot was the reason we signed. He was signed as a stop-gap player and that will help with the development of Nurse and Rienhart. If we replace him with say, Ehrhoff i’m all for that.

      • AJ88

        Nurse and/or Rienhart WILL fill his spot this year at some point. No need for another stop-gap. One or hopefully both excell. I hate trusting in prospects at this point but those two guys are killers.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Will J Shultz arbitration result in a buyout? No. Other buyouts? No.

    I honestly am a bit puzzled as to how this arbitration can be of benefit to the team. How about three clues for a quarter?

  • Bucknuck

    There is a part of me that loves seeing all this negative press about Schultz. He has oodles of talent and I would love to see what he brings to camp if he is sincerely motivated. I think/hope he might still surprise some people.

    • CofC

      Totally agree. Schultz has plenty of talent but was not ready to take on Top D minutes and it showed in his poor play. He needs to be on the 3rd line out of the top 4D. Challenge him to move up the chart. Coach him properly. Give him an honest chance to succeed. Then IF he falls flat get rid of him. If we had coached him properly, not shaken his confidence and put a proper D in front of him, we would still have Vezina candidate Dubnyk. Young players need a chance to succeed. Dubnyk deserved that (and got it with the Wild) and so does Schultz.

  • Bucknuck

    From what I hear Ehrhoff will take a one year deal. I say we take him for very cheap. If he turns out to be a pilon we can send him to Bakersfield. Even if he is in Bakersfield he can be valuable as mentor to Nurse, Simpson, and the other young defenders down there. If he turns out to be a Del Zotto, keep him.

  • CofC

    Great article;

    Agree re: Nikitin – will likely get a chance to compete for a spot in the fall.

    He tidied up his game significantly by the latter part of the season before injury issues; He also has one of the better shots from the point and moves the puck more effectively than many on the team. He had a tendency to look somewhat slow and clumsy due to his size, and admittedly did have some defensive gaffes last season… However, I’m expecting him to come out of the gates hard, better prepared and fighting tooth and nail for that spot. He does have some offensive upside and can move the puck – so if his defensive play stays on par with or better than it was in the last half of the season (hopefully better), especially with a better surrounding structure and stronger team support, I think he’ll hold his own.

    Should be an interesting season!

  • toprightcorner

    If Chairelli adds a good dman it will be at the end of summer when some get scared not getting a contract and he can get a good deal like Erhoff for $4 mill. Roy and Ribero signed for $1 mill.

    Dont see any additions up front, waiting a hear will give a better idea of the holes.

    Pouliot – Nuge – Eberle

    Hall – McDavid – Purcell (veteran leadership and support for McD)

    Draisaitl – Letestu – Yakapov (veteran center to work with Drai and support Yakapove, will be the mentor tht Roy was last year

    Korpocosky – Lander – Hendricks

    Oilers likely won’t buy out anyone as the salary doesn’t matter this year and they would was cap space for future years which could prevent them from bringing in a good top pairing Dman. lots of great UFA’s and RFA’s next year. If Nikitin plays bad he can play with the condors.

  • Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate

    I don’t understand how not buying out Ference makes sense. Please enlighten oh wise on.

    Ference was getting worse as days gone by and I assume the trend will continue next year. His speed, decision, physical ability were all declining.

    How do you envisioning him getting better and actuality contributing for the better?

    Dump Ference, sign Oduya.

  • Anton CP

    Franson is a good offensive right shot D-man should be in high demand but it may just because Franson is asking for too much and no one at least for now willing to pay him as such.

    Semin may go back to Russia since his day in NHL seem to be in the past. He has done about nothing since joined Hurricanes.

    Unfortunately for Ehrhoff that he may not get a contract that he wants due to the concussion. He will likely ended up somewhere with one year turn.

  • Darkmanic

    The Oilers have no need to buy-out the contracts of Nikitin or Purcell as both come off next year anyway. Schultz was touted as a top defense man and if develops correctly this year should help. Let us not forget who our coach is and what he’s done for the Sharks organization especially on defense. If all holds true right now the Oilers will have $19 million to work with next off season when we will be making a push for the playoffs.

  • db7db7db7

    Oilerbaron wrote:
    Seriously awesome article, only thing I want to know is seriously how do you have time to do everything Jason?

    Agreed. Host a four hour show, write here, also at the Journal, do play by play on TSN and I saw your article in Yeg Fitness. Does working out regularly give you more energy? Honest question. Thanks.

    These articles are research for his show. If I read an article and then listen to his show it’s the same content. Not criticizing, it’s efficient and good to share via multiple mediums.

  • db7db7db7

    Hey Gregor, I’m just a little confused on wording about sending NN to the minors. Are you saying his cap hit wouldn’t count if he’s sent down? I thought under the new CBA the cap hit didn’t go away even though a team buries a player. This was to prevent another Wade Redden situation.

    • Jason Gregor

      This year $950,000 of a salary will not count against the cap. So if Nikitin goes to the minors he would count as $3.55 million against he cap instead of $4.5 million.

      The Oilers aren’t in a cap crunch this year and they won’t be pushing for the Cup.

      Burying him in the minors means he’d be off the books next year, rather than buying him out and having $1.5 million of wasted cap space next year when they hope to compete for the playoffs.

  • Oilers-Entourage

    Who would be the comparables used by New Jersey in the Larsson hearing? If Larsson is asking for a Dougie Hamilton contract, will New Jersey walk away or still sign him? They do not have the depth on defence that they use to have. A sign and trade can only happen if the deal is done prior to the arbitrators decision if I am not mistaken. Would the Oilers move Shultz (similar sign and trade but obviously for less cash) and a second round pick for Larsson? I have read that Larsson really improved the last half of the season playing with Andy Greene.