The Oilers were dealt a huge blow earlier this week when it was announced that Andrej Sekera underwent surgery on a torn Achilles following an off-season training injury. Sekera will be out of the lineup for at least six months. There’s a chance he won’t return to action at all during the 2018-19 season.
Per the NHL’s CBA, the Oilers will get a salary cap bonus for a replacement player while Sekera is placed on the Long Term Injured Reserve. The LTIR is a complicated thing, but it ultimately comes down to teams being given a bonus to exceed the salary cap at an amount that equals the injured player’s cap hit. In Sekera’s case, if he’s out for all 186 days of the regular season, the Oilers will get $5.5 million in LTIR bonus cap relief.
This situation is ridiculously similar to the one the Oilers dealt with heading into the 2017-18 season. Sekera was hurt during Edmonton’s second-round series with the Anaheim Ducks and was ultimately sidelined until December. Rather than signing another defenceman to replace Sekera, Peter Chiarelli ultimately relied on internal progression from players already on the roster and it blew up in his face. Sekera would end up being rushed back into action in a role bigger than he was capable of playing and he struggled mightily.
I can’t imagine the same mistakes will be made again this time around. Sekera was missed badly last season and nobody was able to replace his presence in the lineup. That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday THURSDAY EDITION question. How would you spend Edmonton’s LTIR bonus money?
Realistically, Sekera was probably being pencilled in to play third-pairing minutes with Kris Russell on his off-side to start the season as the pair had success in the past. I figure Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson and Darnell Nurse and Matt Benning were going to be the top two pairings. Sekera’s injury opens up a spot next to Russell on the third pair, I figure.
Internally, the Oilers have tweener Kevin Gravel, who was signed to a two-way deal likely to be an AHL call-up type. Ryan Stanton is another Gravel-esque tweener player who has a decent amount of NHL experience. There’s also Ethan Bear, an interesting an creative offensive defenceman who had some nice flashes during his cup of coffee at the NHL level last year. Evan Bouchard, Edmonton’s first-round pick from 2018 was probably going to get a nine-game showing with the team. Maybe this injury could make it easier for him to stick.
The list of free agents available to replace Sekera certainly isn’t inspiring. Alexei Emelin and Luca Sbisa are veteran options who play a decent defensive game with zero offensive upside. Brandon Davidson is a familiar face who plays a solid game. Toby Enstrom and Jason Garrison have struggled with injuries the past few years. Paul Martin used to be a very good defender but got bought out by the Sharks in the off-season. Cody Franson can produce on the power play and has a right-handed shot. Like I said, uninspiring.
If the Oilers do decide to use an internal option to replace Sekera, they could use their LTIR bonus room to make an upgrade on the wings. Are the forwards on the open market much better, though? The biggest name left out there is Rick Nash, who scored just 34 points in 71 games between New York and Boston last season. The other names include familiar faces Mike Cammalleri, Jussi Jokinen, and Benoit Pouliot, and veterans like Troy Brouwer, Daniel Winnik, Drew Stafford, Jason Chimera, and Scott Hartnell. I figure all of those players are better PTO options than anything.
Could this injury push Chiarelli to make a deal for a one-year defenceman? Justin Faulk’s name has shown up in trade rumours for quite some time but he’s still a member of the Carolina Hurricanes. Is there a move to make there? Or would Chiarelli be walking into a bad situation dealing from a very obvious position of desperation?
So, what would you do with Edmonton’s LTIR money? The list of payers on the open market is pretty ugly, but the Oilers can’t make the same mistake that they did last year in not replacing Sekera, right?
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