2016-17 Edmonton Oilers: No. 5 RD Mark Fayne
It isn’t particularly fair to a player who never got a real chance this season, but the only real question left to answer about Mark Fayne as a member of the Edmonton Oilers is how quickly the team will make his cap hit go away.
Todd McLellan and his coaching staff made their minds up about Fayne in 2015-16. I’ve long maintained that Fayne did a better job as a complementary player in tough minutes than he generally got credit for, but then I’m not the guy Fayne had to convince. Edmonton’s coaches came to a different conclusion, and Fayne was given just a half-hour of ice-time before being unceremoniously dumped to the AHL.
It’s worth reiterating that this was not a decision based on his work in 2016-17. Edmonton outscored the opposition 2-1 with Fayne on the ice. Fayne even picked up assists on both of those goals, once creating a rebound with a hard slap shot and on another occasion pinching in to secure the puck before passing down to Jordan Eberle.
According to AHL coach Gerry Fleming, Fayne was both a difference-maker on the ice and a quality veteran around the developing players in the minors:
Absolutely fantastic [attitude], he’s a real pro. He’s made guys better, no doubt about it. I think he’s helped Griff, like you mentioned, but not only Griff but he’s helped our team. We’ve got some young guys this year and his voice in the dressing room, his leadership on the ice, the way he approaches practice, nothing but great things. He’s come down here and he’s worked hard. He understands his role and he’s accepted his role. He’s really made a difference on our back end.
None of that altered his status with the team. Fayne didn’t play another game with the Oilers over the remainder of the season.
He now has a single season remaining on his current contract, with a cap hit of $3.625 million and an actual salary of $3.5 million. Normally, we would expect Edmonton to buyout the remainder of that deal, but there is a problem: If they keep Fayne on the books, his contract ends next summer, at the same time as Connor McDavid’s entry-level deal. If they buy him out, a cap penalty of roughly $1.2 million extends into 2018-19, the first year of what will surely be an incredibly rich new deal for the Oilers captain.
Perhaps there’s a trade to be made. Edmonton could try to convince Las Vegas to take Fayne, in exchange for some form of future considerations (be it prospect or pick). The Oilers could try and move him in a change-of-scenery deal for another overpriced player, such as Nikolai Kulemin or Blake Comeau, perhaps retaining salary or offering a sweetener to make such a trade work.
Alternately, they may just take the same course next year that they did this season, banishing Fayne to Bakersfield to help win games for the Condors and mentor some of the young defencemen in the system.
Bottom line: Fayne’s minor-league work suggests a player still capable of playing in a reserve role in the NHL, but he appears to be persona non grata with the coaching staff. If the Oilers can’t make a deal and aren’t willing to extend his cap hit into 2018-19, he could end up being the team’s equivalent of Wade Redden for yet another season.
Previous year-end reviews: