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Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett

WWYDW(TE): The LTIR Bonus

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.

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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.

London Knights defenceman and Edmonton Oilers prospect Evan Bouchard. Photo Credit: Aaron Bell/OHL Images

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.

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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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  • Spydyr

    What happens when another defenceman gets injured? It is not a matter of if but when. Chiarelli has to bring in another defenceman.A defenceman on an expiring contract makes sense as they will not carry a cap hit into next season. There is no alternative and not doing so would be gross incompetence.

  • Hemmercules

    Such a terrible situation. Do you sign one of the leagues leftovers or trade away assets to get a guy? I feel like doing nothing will just give us the same result as last year, a struggling defence that brings down the goaltending with it. Expecting Klef to play out the season like he did two years ago is long shot in my eyes and relying on rookies never seems to pan out. If there is trade out there that only costs a draft pick or 2 and a prospect I think they need to do it. I already felt this would be another playoff miss this year but with Reggie out now (possibly forever) I think its almost a given they miss unless they bring in a another guy and get some significant progress from more than a few players. If Chia does nothing this will be another wasted year of McD.

  • Oilerz4life

    As lousy as it must be to face injury woes, I can’t imagine getting paid millions of dollars, with the best medical care and training staff available, to rehabilitate from injury. Comparatively, there is probably no better scenario to recover from an injury.

    • A-co

      It’s fine to make money and sit on the sidelines….BUT I’m sure 90% of professional athletes would rather earn their money playing the game…back to back serious injuries like sekera has suffered must take a toll on him mentally…especially since he is towards the tale end of his career…Oilers have to make a trade and bring someone in…too bad for sekera

  • Serious Gord

    The difficulty – just like last season – is that while it’s fine to have the cap room the possibility five sekera coming back sometime during the season makes it impossible to acquire a player for even a full season.

    I’m curious how others would propose chia deal with that issue.

    • WHH

      I would talk to Sekera and tell him he needs the year off to completely heal both injuries and get in game shape for next training camp. Last year he came back too soon, played poorly and even at the end of the season had to sit out a few games because he had tweaked the knee. Bringing a player back in the last half of the season with his age and injuries is madness. Everyone is at game level and he would be at training camp level trying to catch up. That never works well. Take the year off, completely rehab and have time to get in shape for next year. You are then starting off in the same place as everyone else at training camp. I think that is his best option. Then Oilers should use the cap space now.

      • Spydyr

        If he heals enough and i’m not counting on that the team can always send him the the AHL for a conditioning stint then bring him up for the final few weeks. Then only those few weeks count against the cap.

  • Jon123

    Have to sign someone. Can’t trade, we don’t have the assets or offensive depth to get anyone significant. Franson, Enstrom, Davidson…not great options but one of them should be signed. Our best hope is if Bear or Bouchard takes a big leap, but can’t rely on that happening, and need to ensure we have solid, reliable dmen available to play if it doesn’t happen.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      I’d also be OK with prospecting with our “over-seas scouts”.
      With the defensive coaching & Overseas specialists Yawney & Viveiros in the fold, we should be able to find an effective stop-gap” as a 3rd pairing D-man. Heck, he may even turn out to be a diamond in the rough? The key is we are getting a player from a different market, that we can develop into one of our own… I think that would be a great option? Heck, we could bring a few over & have them compete during training camp with our existing D-Prospects. That’s what I’d do, I have faith the last few years in our scouting.

  • ubermiguel

    Use the cap space to improve the wingers? I like that idea. Rick Nash at a couple of million a year as your third/fourth line left winger brings some experience that’s sorely lacking. If he or any of the left-wingers (e.g.: Rieder) can also play right wing all the better.

      • ubermiguel

        Wow, I’m honored to have Rick Nash’s doctor on Oilers Nation. No-one else could comment so definitely on his health and plans for the upcoming season.

        • Glencontrolurstik

          At this stage of Nash’s career, I really don’t think he’ll give us any more than Khaira, Strome or Pully etc.
          Above all, I’d hate to play Nash higher than those aforementioned guys that have worked hard with this team for a spot. That wouldn’t be a great situation in my mind.

  • The Ghost of Alex Plante

    I think this over-simplifies what they can actually do with the LTIR space. Sekera can’t be put on LTIR in the off-season so the Oilers would have to be cap compliant on opening day. This makes it harder to trade for guys like Faulk or sign anyone because the Oilers would still have to worry about salary matching, etc in order to be under the cap on opening day.

    Also what happens if Sekera is healthy and ready to play in April and that LTIR space goes away?

    There is also the wrinkle of accrued cap space and how that works. It’s all pretty damn confusing to me, so more info on that would be nice. My basic, an potentially wrong, understanding is that if Sekera does come off of LTIR during the season it still might be fine as long as the Oilers didn’t use the full $5.5 million in LTIR relief. So for example if the Oilers did acquire a player like Faulk a few games into the season but only used $3 million of the $5.5 million in relief, the Oilers might have enough accrued cap space that it is not an issue if Sekera gets healthy and we lose the LTIR relief.

    I think this is how the Hawks were able to acquire Vermette at the deadline a few years back. They had guys coming off IR after the deadline, but because they didn’t use all of their LTIR space they were still able to fit Vermette under the cap due to their accrued cap space. It’s all pretty confusing.

    • Redbird62

      According the NHL CBA, the Oilers can put Sekera on the LTIR on the opening day of the season and ask for the exemption. You just need to have a doctor support that the injury will last at least 10 games or 24 days. The NHL can challenge if they don’t believe the doctor’s opinion, but this will be pretty straight forward. Generally, the only time there is a waiting period is if it is unclear at the outset that the injury will last at least that long.

        • The Ghost of Alex Plante

          Lose the tinfoil hat. Hossa was traded to Arizona because of the fact he couldn’t go on LTIR until the season started. For a team like Chicago that spends right up against the cap every year, that’s a problem due to the fact that they have to be cap compliant on day 1. I’m sure we’ll start to hear about Horton’s contract being an issue for the Maple Leafs soon for this same reason.

        • Redbird62

          Hossa went on the LTIR on the opening day of last season, but only after the NHL doctors investigated and agreed that he could not play. Zetterburg is not on the LTIR at this point and if he does go on it for his back, it will be on opening day of the NHL season. And the NHL doctors have the right to check out the health of his back at that time the request is made. So both those teams have to wait until opening day, even if it is a given it will happen, just like the with Sekera.

  • 99bestever

    Make a trade for Erik Karlsson. Norris level Dman that will help to bring Stanley to Edmonton sooner and for surer. Negotiate with Ottawa – Klefbom, Strome, Bouchard and 2019 and 2020 2nd round picks. Can you imagine Karlsson manning the Oilers pp with Mcd and Drai? It would be incredible!

  • vetinari

    Need a veteran who can be traded or buried in the minors should Sekara, somehow, return this season or if one of the kids (Bear, Bouchard) pushes someone down. I would pitch a one year deal and my order of preference would be: Franson, Davidson, Emelin. Franson and Davidson both made $1.4M or less last season and should be affordable; Emelin was over $4M and may demand more. I am not expecting a Sekara level player– only a veteran NHLer who can log some minutes and keep pucks out of the net.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    I’d go to Carolina and offer next drafts 1st round pick for Faulk. PC already knows his job is on the line so why not stick your neck out a bit and get a proven top 4 dman.

    I don’t have much faith in Benning to play 2nd pair right now and Bouchard needs to go back to jr regardless of how he plays in camp. Bear with Russell doesn’t look too $hit hot either.

    The 1st round pick for Faulk might be an overpay right now, but he’s proven and the team needs to make the playoffs again. Getting Faulk will help with that.

  • 99bestever

    Make a trade for Erik Karlsson. Norris level Dman that will help to bring Stanley to Edmonton sooner and for surer. Negotiate with Ottawa – Klefbom, Strome, Bouchard and 2019 and 2020 2nd round picks. Can you imagine Karlsson manning the Oilers pp with Mcd and Drai? It would be incredible! Pp results would be 25-30% better this year.

  • OilCan2

    Slim pickins fer a trade or free agent. Gotta be a PTO or waiver pickup. I am FAR more comfortable with an internal solution. Bouchard can play sheltered minutes and PP. Bear is good as first call up in my books. From there we have Gravel and Jones.

    • Jon123

      The Bouchard situation smells so bad..we shouldn’t be rushing a prospect because of our NHL roster’s ineptitude. How many top 10 drafted dmen play in their first year? There’s definitely been some guys like Sergachev and Hanifin but a lot of very good players do not, guys like Werenski, Provorov. I’m not takin anything away from Bouchard, he can be a very good NHL player but he shouldn’t be put in a place where he’s the best option we have for a roster spot – that leads to a guy getting rushed and not developed properly. To put it in perspective, this guy was drafted right around where Darnell Nurse was drafted. Does anybody think an 18 year old Nurse as a NHL regular would have been a good idea?

  • FanBoy

    Assuming Sekera is out until right before the traded deadline, I would sign Darnell to 8 x 4.75M or 5M to get his long term value contract locked in. Sign a veteran 3rd pair defenceman to something along 1 x 2M that is easily moved by the dead to allow Sekera’s return, and sign the 14th forward for the team on a dirt cheap 675K like Tommy Wingels. Sekera returns, we trade the moveable contract and move on. This means Bear or Bouchard won’t be rushed to play in the NHL right away.

  • btrain

    I do hope Faulk is looked into. The notion of desperation is somewhat true but the Hurricanes are not exactly sitting in a position of strength themselves and are not in direct competition with the Oilers at all. I am sure, with Hamilton in the mix and being more of a rebuild situation, they are hopeful to stock up and move away from their more expensive expiring contracts while they can get a decent return. I also would think Carolina is a team Sekera would be willing to waive his no trade to return to. If he is going to continue his NHL career it would likely be helpful to do it away from the spotlight and it helps the Canes bring their cap to the floor.

    Anyway, maybe wishful thinking but perhaps a trade involving Sekera, a pick, and a decent prospect could work? Throw in Caggiula and/or Aberg for fun. In the meantime use the LTIR cap relief to bring in a Davidson or similar as a plan B. As much as Davidson has been jerked around by the Oilers, he is not in a position to entertain multiple offers. He is going to take whatever offer he gets.

  • Consultant

    Amen to those above who have taken the “do not rush a 18 year old dman into the NHL” stance.
    18 year old rookies are one thing, 18 year old rookie dmen are completely another. EB should not even get 9 games in my opinion unless he absolutely forces his way into 9 games, which he won’t if the Junior showcase tourney is an indicator. We have to learn to be patient with prospects. Dmen take time. Next year, London and the World Juniors, year
    after he should be penciled into the AHL, get all the support and instruction he can get before he is thrown into the fire. Rushing a forward is one thing, but a dman is altogether different.

    • Redbird62

      Yes, rookie defenseman drafted outside of the top 4 and then getting to play a regular shift in the NHL in their draft+1 season are fairly rare. It has been done though. Bourque, Housley Coffey, Stevens all played right immediately after being drafted. That was a quite a while ago. More recently, Cam Fowler cracked the Anaheim line up as an 18 year old and had a pretty good rookie campaign. Noah Hanafin was drafted 5th overall and played right away as well. It is unlikely Bouchard is ready, but if he earns a spot, (and I would trust Yawney’s assessment on that after camp over anyone on this site), then maybe he can play. The Oilers need to plan as if that won’t happen though.

  • If anything, these open spots will certainly provide a lot of incentive for defensive prospects like Gravel, Lowe, Persson, Mantha, Jones, Lagesson, Stanton, Bear, and Bouchard to make a run for it. My guess is Peter will again look to see who grabs it, then sign a UFA.

  • Kybra

    PC isn’t crying himself to sleep this week. No guarantee he was comi g back healthy and too expensive for the third pairing. Now Pete has options to reallocate those dollars.

  • heyrayray

    I think between Bear, Bouchard, Lowe, and Gravel they can get the job done. I’m not opposed to signing someone, but as far as I’m concerned a trade is off the table unless Sekera moves in it. Can’t afford to give up assets for a rental player that you can’t afford once Sekera comes back from injury, or that you need to let walk at the end of the season. Let’s be real here, expectations from Sekera this season was to anchor a good third pairing and I don’t see the drop off to Russell being that big, if anything it’s more ideal to have the young puck movers come in and play minutes beside Russell, and Russell is much more effective on the left side than the right.

  • This is a serious blow to the Edmonton Oilers.

    What needs to happen is a replacement has to be found that is the same or better than Sekera. Yes, the cost will be high. Filling the void with anything less will cost more in the long run. Comments suggesting a third pairing “patch” won’t help.

  • ColoradOIL

    Klefbom is a huge injury liability. Just assume he is going to miss significant time. In reality we need two defenseman. This should have been addressed several time over several seasons but hasn’t and the goaltenders and team as a whole have been brought down by it. We made the playoffs because we had a huge stroke of luck with players not getting injured or being injured for short term periods. This seems like the same nightmare I had at the beginning of last season when Sekera missed significant time. Sometimes I wonder if Xanax is a solution for what the Oilers do to me.

  • Jordan88

    When there are no clear upgrades to defence the only option I can think is trying to find a 5/6 guy who can work off of Russell for cheap sign nurse and with whatever is left over throw it at Rick Nash for 1 year and see what happens.

  • Rusty

    I think a trade with the canes for faulk is viable and realistic. Whats not realistic is chiarelli being able to pull it off. But assuming there was a competent GM in place i would expect the canes to dish a player with lower trade value that needs a change in scenery to a team with an obvious need. fair value can be achieved by both.

  • Ko-D

    Sign Nurse long term as soon as LTIR is available for use, 6 x 4.5 to 5 mil range. Trade next years first, Bear and a prospect for Karlsson. Hope you win a lot of games and E Karlsson signs another’s contract with the Oilers. Nurse – Karlsson, Klefbom – Larsson, Russell – Benning. Sounds like one of the best D corps in the league to me…

  • Kneedroptalbot

    Peter Chiarelli has put Edmonton into this Cap space CBA mess. He hasn’t done anything to improve the defence this off season. Should be interesting? I wonder if Peter and Bob are still in the accessment stage?