Monday Musings: Buyout window, arbitration and more

The 2015/2016 season officially ended last night after the Pittsburgh Penguins won their fourth Stanley Cup in the most recent 25 NHL campaigns, tying them with the Detroit Red Wings for the most. The New Jersey Devils and Chicago Blackhawks have three, Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings two, while the Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, Anaheim Ducks and Boston Bruins have one.

Only eight teams haven’t made the Cup final since 1991; The Toronto Maple Leafs (1967 last appearance) St.Louis Blues (1970) and New York Islanders (1984), while the Minnesota Wild, Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets and Arizona Coyotes have yet to appear in a final.

The NHL’s 2016/2017 season unofficially begins on Wednesday when the first of two buyout windows opens up.

In February Andrew Ference told ESPN’s Joe McDonald, “I think that’s it for me. More than likely [the Oilers] will probably buy me out
this summer, and we’ll probably part ways. That’s it.”

However, Ference had hip surgery on March 31st, and unless he is deemed healthy by a doctor, the Oilers cannot buy him out. I was told Ference will not be cleared by June 30th, so he could spend the season on LTIR.

I’ve read some comments suggesting Ference should agree to be bought out. Why? It would cost him $1 million and hockey is a business. If he isn’t healthy, there is no way he should just agree to a buyout.

I know some who crunch analytics would like the Oilers to buyout Lauri Korpikoski, but I doubt that happens considering how Todd McLellan used him last season.

LEAGUE OPTIONS

Options

There will be some buyouts. Nashville GM David Poile is on record saying the team will part ways with Eric Nystrom. I’d be surprised if a team trades for Nystrom, who has one year remaining with a $2.5 million cap hit, but $3 million in actual salary. A buyout will save the Predators $2 million in real dollars and cap space for next season. Nystrom would carry a $1 million cap hit in 2017/2018 as well.

Some other options to watch before June 30th.

Thomas Vanek has one year remaining with a $6.5 million cap hit. A buyout would save the Wild $5 million in cap space next year, while incurring $2.5 million cap hit in 2017/2018. Vanek is 32 years old and tallied 18-23-41 in 74 games last season. He can still contribute, but he’s not a $6.5 million player anymore. The Wild only have just over $7.5 million in cap space and only 15 players signed. Saving $5 million on Vanek would give them the space needed to sign RFAs Matt Dumba, Jason Zucker and a back up goalie, if they choose not to re-sign Darcy Kuemper.

The Philadelphia Flyers only have $7.5 million in cap space and they need to re-sign Brayden Schenn, Radko Gudas and try to add some more scoring. RJ Umberger has one year remaining at $4.6 million. He dressed in 39 games last year, scoring 2-9-11. A buyout will cost the Flyers $1.6 million in cap space this year and $1.5 million next season. A $3 million cap space savings likely means Umberger will become a UFA.

The Chicago Blackhawks have just over $4 million in cap space. They only have 17 players signed and they would like to re-sign Andrew Shaw. Bryan Bickell carries a $4 million cap hit for one more season. Bickell only played 25 games scoring 0-2-2 and spent most of last season in the AHL due to his salary. A buyout will leave the Blackhawks with a $1 million cap hit this year and $1.5 million next season. Stan Bowman would save $3 million in cap space this year with the buyout.

The Columbus Blue Jackets have very little salary cap flexibility. Only Pittsburgh, Chicago and Los Angeles have less cap space, but those three teams have won six of the previous seven Stanley Cups. The Blue Jackets were a bad team and have some ugly contracts. They need to re-sign Seth Jones. Fedor Tyutin has a modified no-trade clause. He can’t be put on waivers, but he can be traded to 21 teams (he has a list of eight teams he won’t consent to be traded to).

Tyutin finished last season on the Blue Jackets’ third pairing, and they won’t want to pay him his $4.5 million cap hit for the next two seasons. A buyout would cost the Jackets a cap hit of $1.2 million next year, $1.95 million next year and $1.458 million in 2018/2019 and 2019/2020.

Dale Tallon made many really good moves while he was GM in Florida, but the Dave Bolland UFA signing was not one of them. Bolland has been a major disappointment in Florida since signing a five-year deal with a $5.5 million cap hit in the summer of 2014. Bolland only played 25 games this season and it is unsure if his healthy enough to be bought out. He has three years remaining, and the Panthers have $20.8 million in cap space, so they might just hold off one year and see about expansion or a shorter buyout next summer. But the new GM, Tom Rowe, hasn’t been afraid to make moves so a Bolland buy out is something to watch for.

QUICK HITS…

DoubleKick

  • I’m happy for Justin Schultz. Winning a Stanley Cup is every hockey player’s dream and something he surely didn’t expect when the season started, or even when he was traded to Pittsburgh. Good for him, but I don’t buy his hoisting the Cup means the Oilers made a terrible trade. Yes, he was overplayed early in his career, but Todd McLellan gave him every opporutnity to succeed this year and it didn’t happen. He played 7:33 last night, 11:51 in game five and 10:19 in game five. He was the #6 Dman in Pittsburgh, and if Trevor Daley was healthy he likely wouldn’t have played much in the Finals. There is nothing wrong with being a third pairing defender, but the Oilers have loads of them.

    He was overplayed at times, and overpaid, in Edmonton, neither of which is his fault, but the weaknesses in Schultz’s game in Edmonton were still there in Pittsburgh. The Penguins won’t qualify him at $3.6 million. They might re-sign him on a much lower contract, or he’ll become a UFA, where he will take a pay cut. For his sake, I hope he rediscovered his confidence and joy of the game in Pittsburgh. He was a beaten man when he left Edmonton, but how he performs moving forward will be on him. He needs to get stronger. He needs to compete harder and more consistently if he wants to stay in the NHL. This playoff run gave him a second chance, and now it will be up to him to work harder. Winning should give him a major boost of confidence and enjoyment, but watching him in the playoffs, even with fewer minutes, I saw the same areas of concern in his game.

  • The deadline to qualify RFAs is June 27th. The Oilers RFAs are Luke Gazdic, Iiro Pakarinen, Adam Clendening, Jordan Oesterle, Tyler Pitlick, David Musil, Kale Kessy and Niklas Lundstrom. 

    Pakarinen and Oesterle should be qualified, but I wonder if the Oilers take Pakarinen to arbitration just in case they want to open up the second buyout window later in the summer. When healthy, Pitlick looks like a player, but he can’t stay healthy and this might be the year the Oilers let him go elsewhere. Musil looks like a long shot to become a regular NHLer, but he is a good AHL player so I expect he’ll be qualified. I would be surprised if Gazdic and Clendening are qualified. 

  • I don’t see the point in comparing Edmonton to Pittsburgh. I understand looking at the champs and seeing what they did well, and you can hope the Oilers become them, no doubt, but overall there are many major differences between the two clubs today. The Oilers have missed the playoffs ten years in a row. The Penguins have made the post-season ten consecutive seasons. They’ve been in the Cup Final three times. They’ve won 15 playoff rounds. They have a lot of playoff experience. They have a legitimate #1 defenceman. They have two future Hall of Fame centres. 

    Some will say they had three scoring lines. They did for the playoffs, but not all season. Many players got hot offensively during the playoffs, which is what needs to happen to win. The Pens were a solid team, actually the best since January, but many of their supporting player’s offensive totals took a huge jump in the playoffs. What they had were three competent, committed, assertive in all three zones type of lines.

    Bryan Rust had 4-7-11 in 41 regular season games. He scored 6-3-9 in 23 playoff games.
    Connor Sheary had 10 points in 44 regular-season games. He had ten points in 23 playoff games.
    Nick Bonino had 29 points in 63 games. He had 18 pts in 24 playoff games. 

    The Penguins played smart, dedicated, got some bounces and many players played the best hockey of their careers like Phil Kessel. They deserved to win, but it isn’t as easy as saying Oilers need three scoring lines. The Pens defended very well. They backchecked. They won battles. They possessed the puck. The gap between their consistency and the Oilers is very large at this point, and the differences are much more than height, weight and three scoring lines.

  • A tough week for sporting legends. Muhammed Ali was put to rest on Friday, the same day Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe, passed away at the age of 88. Both were giants in the sporting world. I watched some of Ali’s funeral and I recommend watching Billy Crystal deliver his Eulogy. It was fantastic and I’m sure we will hear something similar for Mr. Hockey later this week. Howe’s on-ice accomplishments are ridiculous when you take a moment to really look at them. He was top-five in scoring 20 years in a row. Most players don’t play 20 years. He was a physical specimen and an incredible athlete.

    I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Howe when I emceed the Alzheimers Pro Am tournament in 2013. I sat beside him during lunch and what stood out most for me was the love of his family. His son Marty accompanied him on this trip, and watched over his father like his dad did when he was little. During lunch many people came over to get a picture with Gordie. He was so gracious with his time. Three ladies came over and asked for a picture. One of them gave him a kiss on the cheek. Gordie looked skyward, made a sign of the cross on his forehead and jokingly said, “Forgive me Colleen.” When he and I spoke what got him most excited was when I asked about his late wife Colleen and how they met. His eyes lit up talking about her and his kids more than his hockey accomplishments.

    My other Howe story is from 1993. For his 65th birthday he toured around 65 minor league and college hockey rinks raising money for Cystic Fibrosis. He would get dressed and take warm up with the home team. It was a thrill for all the players to have Mr. Hockey in their room.

    Gordie laced them up with my brother’s (Colin) team one night. “Gordie was three stalls over from me. When he leaned over to tie his skates, his forearms were still shredded,” Colin explained. “In warm up Gordie would shoot both left and right. I’d heard he could do it, but until you see how hard he could shoot both ways you didn’t really appreciate it. He was 65 and ripping shots both ways. It was amazing,” Colin continued.

    The previous game between the two teams my brother had bumped/hit/ran Ronaoke’s goalie. Dave Morrissette (longtime minor league tough guy who played 11 NHL games for the Habs) suckered him on the first shift. My brother was livid as he went to the dressing room to get stitches. He stormed into the room cursing, and when he came around the corner he was greeted by Mr. Hockey. “Calm down young fella,” he says. “Instantly, I stop cursing and sit on the table to get stitched up,” Colin laughed.

    “As I’m getting stitched up, Gordie leans over the doctor’s shoulder and points to a scar on his face. ‘I got ten stitches here from a stick. Lou Fontinato and I had a good scrap that gave me this one,’ as he pointed to another scar. I’m lying on a bed and Mr. Hockey is telling me all about his career stitches. Turns out he had over 300 stitches in his career. It was incredible. He was such a great story teller and he remembered every detail of every situation,” my brother said.

    I’ve heard so many stories about how Mr. Howe would make others feel good, and my brother was amazed how Howe took the time to calm him (someone he didn’t know) down and then regaled him with great stories of his career.

    He will be missed. RIP Mr. Hockey.

    Recently by Jason Gregor:  

    • Ed in Edmonton 1

      Every year there is a guy who gets hot in the playoffs and scores well above his station. Who can forget Pisani in 2006. The Pens had Bonino with Rust and Sheary much the same, as noted by Gregor. The Pen’s had 3 scoring line in the p[layoffs and that contributed significantly to their success. But this will not continue through an 82 game schedule.

      The Pen’s can’t re-qualify Schultz at #M3.6 but may try t get him on the cheap when he becomes an RFA. Is there anything that prevents a team from resigning a player they haven’t re-qualified?

    • camdog

      “However, Ference had hip surgery on March 31st, and unless he is deemed healthy by a doctor, the Oilers cannot buy him out. I was told Ference will not be cleared by June 30th, so he could spend the season on LTIR.”

      Unless you’ve heard something different I’d assume a hip surgery for an NHL quality player would take about 6 months to recover from …

    • jdh1089

      Jason, side question from everything above. At any point do you think the assistant coaches get looked at and potentially replaced. For example, Jay Woodcraft ran the PP (and i believe also face-offs but could be wrong), and that was beyond abysmal, even when we did have a lot of fire power. I don’t think its reasonable to overlook something like that.

      • Jason Gregor

        The PP was over 21% when McDavid played.
        Was 14% when he didn’t.
        I’d argue players make more impact on PP than the coach. Also, team never had a PP quarterback. I can tell you with certainty Woodcroft didn’t want Sekera hitting shin pads as often as Brownlee hits the block button on twitter.

        Improving faceoffs would help for sure, but five of top-nine faceoff% teams missed the playoffs, including Arizona and Carolina would were 1st and 2nd.

        Oilers have much bigger issues than FO% in my opinion.

        I’m not ready to point fingers at assistant coaches after one season.

      • TKB2677

        All the top PP’s have a point man that can get a shot through. The Oilers don’t. If they can get a point man that actually gets a shot through plus a healthy McDavid, the PP will be a lot better.

        That is one of my concerns when I listen to the Advanced stats guy talk about how they would just sign Demers and run with Demers and Fayne as the top 2, right shot guys. If that occurs and they keep most of the same dmen they have, where is the point shot? Demers doesn’t have a shot, either does Fayne. Plus none of the previous ones had a shot.

        • madjam

          A young R.Pulock (RD) has a howitzer of a shot with the Isles , and if we get him I doubt he needs to be protected in upcoming expansion . A nice addition perhaps but not sure how high he might rise. Price would not be to high , but still need another more veteran player to come as well . Add a Barrie , Vatanen , Faulk type and you could think of trading Fayne and his contract away . Maybe Isles might consider Fayne for R. Pulock and give us a draft pick to boot .

          • McRaj

            First off, Pulock would have to be protected. Secondly, why on earth would the Isles trade him to us for Mark Fayne. Mark Fayne has no trade value and is over-paid. And on top of that you expect them to give us a draft pick as well? I would not mind adding Pulock but it would be more like a Yak for Pulock trade.

          • TKB2677

            I actually looked up Pulock as well. It’s a bit of a gamble given his age but on paper, he has everything the Oilers could want.

            I am kind of wondering if the Oilers will go big game hunting and bring in a Dman via trade then do something more subtle for another one. It will cost a lot to bring in a bigger name but I think they need it because they need to bring in at least one established guy and I think the roster could use a shake up. Then do a subtle, smaller trade for a guy like Pulock or someone else who’s a cheaper, up and comer that you may bot have to protect.

            I know there is a lot of advanced stats guy pumping tires of the sign Demers wagon but I have my concerns in that. My first concern is while he is better than what the Oilers currently have, he doesn’t tick off all the boxes or even a lot of them. He reminds me a ton of Petry. A decent dman that shoots right who does a lot of things OK but nothing great. My second concern is the cost. Lots of teams can use a right shot. He’s supposedly the best one available in the market, so you have to assume the cost is going to be high. I would assume that cost to get him is what they paid Sekera. 5.5 mill. Sekera to me is a left shooting Petry. Another decent dman who does a lot of things OK. Can you as a team really afford to have 2 OK dmen making 5.5 mill? I personally don’t know if I like that idea.

    • TKB2677

      The best case scenario for both would be to have Ference placed on LTIR? The Oilers get the cap relief from his contract, they don’t have to buy him out and carry part of his contract AND Ference will get all of his money. If you go look at Ference’s twitter account, he has nothing about being an Oiler or even an NHL player. He’s still under contract with the Oilers and still a current member of the NHL and NHLPA so you’d think he would have some reference to hockey. Even retired guys make a reference to hockey. But Ference doesn’t. So clearly in his mind he’s done with hockey and doesn’t really give a crap about it.

    • Jordanzza

      The Pens own Schultz’ RFA rights. My understanding is that if they don’t qualify him by July 1st, he becomes a class of UFA that any team (including Edmonton) can approach.

    • camdog

      LTIR only works until he’s medically cleared for contact. Generally players as fit and healthy as Ference don’t take an entire year to recover from hip surgery. I don’t know the details of the injury/surgery but I’d be shocked if he wasn’t physically fit for contact by Nov/Dec.

    • The Rookie

      Let’s build our team to emulate the pens. Where can we get a chubby 3rd line winger??

      HEY PENNER, you done with that repo gig yet??

      Now we’re rollin’

        • @Hallsy4

          I’d like to see a shirtless pic of Phil the Thrill. Weird comment, I know, but I meant it in the least possible weird way. Haha. It hurt for the Pens to win the Cup, but I’m glad Phil did. Have that, Toronto.

          • Seanaconda

            They had some of him in underarmour they posted on hf forums next to a picture of crosby and ovechkin in underarmour they all looked the same head down hahah kessel just has a giant head.

            Some people say it’s from the hormones he has to take cuz of his testicular cancer but idk. I don’t think you can find a shirtless picture tho the guy is super shy.

    • ubermiguel

      Hearing all these stories after Howe’s passing it’s become apparent that he was an even better man than he was a hockey player, and that’s no small feat.

    • Natejax97

      PP Quarterback…need one. That is a gotta have top of the list.

      Secondly…why the H E double hockey sticks can’t one of Chychrun, Joelovi or Sergachev be a right handed shooter. Help right now is a must I get that, but an up and coming stud that can play the right side would be epic. It’s like we used up our luck on McDavid.

      I am really excited to see what happens leading up to the draft, and then into free agency. Hopefully we can put a good d-core behind these kids and help them all develop properly.

      Great article Gregor, I hope they do sign Oesterle and Pakarinin, and Musil too to maintain our depth.

      Get ready for the ride, I think the summer of changes is about to begin.

      • abbeef

        I believe Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones are both RH shots. Both seem to be coming along extremely well. Let’s hope both continue along this steep upward development, who knows one of them may end up being that defensive stud.

        As for the pp a Faulk, Vatanen or Barrie along with a full year from McDavid would make a huge difference imo. Also having a net presence like Maroon available for the pp should help as well.

        • Natejax97

          Yes those are 2 great prospects for sure. I think I read that Bear has a great shot as well. Hope the line stays sharp upwards with these kids for sure.

          For what it’s worth, my opinion (and I read Everything lol):

          Faulk – I don’t think this guy is available – he is a stud, and he is on a great contract(Hamonic with offensive skill). Unbelievable if we get this guy, be best option to slot in beside Klefbom.

          Barrie- I think there will be too any teams lining up for his services. Still can’t believe Colorado could actually let him go. I would put the overpay high, and the likeliness Colorado would want to add a 6 mill contract coming back as basically no chance Chia could get this done. Would be a terrific partner for Sekera on 2nd Pairing.

          Vatanen – I think we could get him and I don’t think it would be overpriced. Good player – interested to see what his next contract looks like. Great partner for Sekera as well.

          Shattenkirk – I still think we could get this guy. Would cost a lot (players, picks and prospects, pick your poison) and only get 1 for sure year. Good option to play with Klefbom.

          Trouba – See Shattenkirk, only with a much higher price tag…worth it? Who knows. Really like the way he plays – I think it would be similar to landing Seth Jones. The trick would be to have enough depth ahead of him so he doesn’t have to play higher than he should until he is ready.

          Subban – yup – cap hell move – might as well start yard sale today for everyone else. 9 million a year. No thanks. Great player – not what we need.

          Gryba – sign him for a year and play him beside Davidson. I know this leaves Nurse and Reinhart as odd men out, but let them develop, what’s the harm.

          Fayne – I like Fayne, but if we can get value and replace him with better 1st and 2nd pairing options…you gotta do that.

          Oilers will be in cap hell in 2 years unless they start shifting salary now from the forwards to the defense. The problem is, rumors are rumors and these guys might be available, but I am betting on mostly no’s. Good d-men are really hard to obtain. Better to draft and develop. See Gothisbere, Parayko, Brodie, etc etc etc. Those guys aren’t going anywhere.

          Also agree on your PP assessment. Hope we stay healthy this year. Cheers!!!!

          • TKB2677

            So you don’t value a guy like Subban who is a Norris candidate. Who’s in his prime. He’s a guarantee 50+ pt guy. Skates like the wind, hits, fights, scores goals, runs your PP, has a bomb. Easily plays 25+ mins a night. He’s a legit #1 dman.

            Is his cap number a little high? Hell yeah but the Pens one the cup with Letang playing 30 mins a night then a bunch of slugs, plus Crosby, Malkin, Kessel and then a bunch of spare parts.

            Go down the list of teams that won the cup over the last decade and every last team have a minute eating, point producing, impact making #1 dman in their line up.

      • Jason Gregor

        Nope. There are rules for buyout. It is 2/3 of money owed for players over 25 and 1/3 off contract for those under.

        Players who are hurt can’t be bought out. They stay on LTIR, like Pronger for example, and get 100% of money owed.

        • Seanaconda

          The money owed isn’t the problem tho it’s 9f we have to protect him for the expansion draft. People were saying people that where injured for the rest of their careers would be exept from being protected but idk if ferance would qualify or if it’s just for Horton and pronger.

          • Jason Gregor

            Which 9 fwds do they have to protect? McDavid doesn’t need to be protected. So Hall, Drai, Eberle, RNH, Pouliot, Maroon and Yakupov would be seven. Don’t see any issues at all with fwds at this point.

            The Oilers will not have to protect him for expansion draft. His contract expires June 30th, 2017. The draft will likely occur a week or two before that. Daly is already on record saying UFA players who have contract that expires June 30th won’t need to be protected.

            It would be foolish to punish a team by forcing them to protect a player who has already received his money and will be UFA within a few weeks.

    • @Hallsy4

      Gregor, off topic, but what are your thoughts on the WHL draft age? I think it should be a year later, as I ranted about in a previous article. If you chose to snub me, I apologize for bringing it up again haha.

    • 1979

      Jason, sometimes I’m not sure whether you are purposely just trying to stir the pot or if you just totally miss the focus of a certain topic? A discussion about 3 scoring lines is one that has been going on in Oilers nation for a long time. Pittsburgh employed it successfully and the question is simply should the Oilers focus on 3 scoring lines or just 2? Everybody knows how far away we are from being the penguins. The discussion should simply be about how the Oilers top nine should be structured and not insinuate that people considering such things are idiots.

      • Jason Gregor

        The Penguins did not have three scoring lines all year. They had three scoring lines for 24 playoff games, and many of the players had the best 24-game stretch of their career.

        Why would you call that three scoring lines? They had three consistent lines, three lines who battled, played well defensively for sure, but calling them three scoring lines based on 24 games suggests it is you missing the focus, not I.

        • 1979

          Using the traditional definitions of what scoring lines, checking lines and energy lines are, I think it is difficult to argue the Penguins didn’t have 3 scoring lines during the playoffs. However, you are still missing the point. The Penguins 3 top lines in the playoffs were structured with “scoring” pairings and a complementary piece (as described by Jonathan Willis on ON). The question is simply is this a model the Oilers should replicate next year and in the future if possible?

          Whatever the answer is, it impacts trades, free agency, and the draft. So my question to you is, simply looking at what the Oilers have and the possibility of building their offensive corps around three “scoring” duos in a top nine, what should the Oilers do. Load the top 6 with scoring or spread it out more in the top 9. We all know the players need to back check etc… this isn’t an either or situation. So, how would you build the top nine?

          • passelin

            I think we can’t have 3 balanced scoring lines when you’ve got to have McD on the ice as much as he can physically handle. I love the idea of a solid 3rd line, but when you’ve got 2 lines (Hall in the 2nd) who should eat up the majority of the ice time that balanced talent model will take away from the talent. Of course if the budget will permit for the strong 7th forward then great 3 lines it is (think crazy Lucic scenario), but to me, beyond the key 6 forwards the focus should then be on the 3 defence who will play the majority of the time. Talent is the scarce – need to have a model that will maximize McDavid.

    • camdog

      Gootta give PC credit for keeping every thing so quiet on the injury front. When other players on other teams go down with injuries you generally have an idea when they are going to be back, here in Edmonton the local scribes know absolutely nothing.

    • Spydyr

      The problem is not that the Oilers have too many third pairing defenceman. The problem is every defenceman on the Oilers is batting two spots higher in the order than they should be.

    • Wait, so a player has to agree to a buy out? I never knew that, I thought the penalty on the team is still in keeping a bit against the cap as well as paying a player for a job they didn’t do.

      • Seanaconda

        Where did you read that? You can’t be bought out if you’re on the injury reserve otherwise I’m pretty sure anyone can be bought out even if you have a NMC