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More Questions

Any time a General Manager makes a move, there’s always risk involved. There’s a risk of losing an asset, cap space, or a roster spot. Sometimes all three. Still, when a move is made you would like to see it address some questions that may have surrounded the roster. A good move should fill a hole and provide a little more certainty when it comes to the roster.

When the Oilers made a pair of trades this past Sunday, I don’t think they answered any real questions. In fact, I think they just created more.

HOW FAR AWAY ARE RUSSELL & SEKERA?

Oct 28, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Alex DeBrincat (12) attempts to clear the puck against Edmonton Oilers defenseman Kris Russell (4) during the third period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Right now the Oilers have seven defensemen on their roster. They have carried eight for most of the season, which is worth noting. I could see Kris Russell returning to the lineup and the Oilers opting to just keep eight d-men for the time being.

The more puzzling situation is the one with Andrej Sekera, who is currently on long-term injured reserve and doesn’t have his $5.5m counting against the salary cap. With the cap hits of Alex Petrovic ($1.95m) and Brandon Manning ($2.25m), the Oilers are currently dipping into their LTIR relief.

Sekera has apparently been saying that he’s feeling better and would like to go on an AHL conditioning stint at some point in January, which would set up for a return right after the all-star break in early February. The problem now is that the Oilers can’t bring in Sekera without moving out a contract.

If management truly believed Sekera was going to return soon, or at all, they likely wouldn’t have brought in two players with cap hits around $2 million. It just creates a headache when Sekera returns.

When the Sekera injury was originally announced, I said I wouldn’t have been surprised if he sat out the entire season. He’s only getting older and as we saw last year when Sekera returned from an injury mid-season, an older defenseman returning from a leg injury when everyone else is in mid-season form isn’t exactly a recipe for success.

After these moves, I’m starting to get the sense that an Andrej Sekera return this season might not be a guarantee, which brings me to my next question.

WILL THEY USE MORE LTIR?

I wasn’t expecting Chiarelli to address the LTIR issue at all, but he mentioned in a rather unprompted way during his press conference on Monday.

“We’ve dipped into our LTIR money. So, we’ve gone above and beyond right now. We’ll still continue to look. Our owner’s given us the ability to dip into the LTIR money, which we have.”

It’s interesting that he says “they have” LTIR money. It’s technically true, but again, if Sekera is coming back this year, you have to be careful with how you use that extra cap space. The team will still need to be cap compliant when Sekera is back in the lineup.

If he isn’t going to come back this year, then I think it should be expected that the Oilers use up the remainder of the wiggle room at having Sekera on LTIR gives them. Chiarelli point blank said that Katz is okay with that, which brings me to my next question.

IS THERE ANOTHER MOVE COMING?

Mar 31, 2018; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames center Mark Jankowski (77) and Edmonton Oilers left wing Drake Caggiula (91) fight during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Regardless of the LTIR situation, I think it’s fair to expect the Oilers will make a move in the next month or so to address their forward situation. Drake Caggiula was a polarizing player for Oilers fans but you can’t deny that he had some good offensive instincts. Given how weak they are on the wings and the fact they’ve now subtracted an everyday winger from their lineup, a move is needed.

The quality of player they can acquire depends on a few different things.

If they want to get an impact top-six or top-nine winger it’s going to cost them both cap space and assets. The cap space can either come from LTIR or from moving out a contract. Ryan Spooner wouldn’t be the ideal candidate but good luck finding someone to take all of the $3.1m that the Oilers are currently giving him.

Another option would be to move a defenseman, which they’ll have a surplus of once everyone is healthy. That brings me to my final question.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN EVERYONE IS HEALTHY?

This is how I would lay out the Oilers depth chart once everyone is healthy:

Oscar Klefbom Adam Larsson
Darnell Nurse Kris Russell*
Andrej Sekera Alex Petrovic
Caleb Jones Matt Benning
Kevin Gravel
Brandon Manning

Kris Russell is a left shot who can play the right side and given how many lefties the Oilers have, I would assume he will be doing exactly when he’s healthy.

Of course, there is no guarantee the Oilers defence will be completely healthy, but even if they get close, they’ll have some serious decisions to make.

Sending Caleb Jones back to the AHL is the easy decision but even that only knocks them down to nine defensemen. They could also send down Kevin Gravel, which would put them at eight, but he’s looked really solid this year and I think he would be a great option to keep around as an extra defenseman.

Even if Sekera doesn’t return and they send down Jones, that would mean two of Manning, Petrovic, Benning, and Gravel would need to sit. I doubt they want the newly acquired Brandon Manning and his $2.25m price tag being a consistent healthy scratch. I think they like Alex Petrovic enough to want to keep him in the lineup. That leads me to wonder if Matt Benning could be used as a trade chip to try and add a forward. He might not get you very much, but you could package him with a pick to try to pry a winger from someone.

The team is struggling mightily right now and the moves they made only created more questions for me. That’s not a good sign.



  • Johnny Zylon

    Bringing in Petrovic and Manning tells me one of either Russell or Nurse is going to be traded for a forward and I think it will be Nurse. Remember he held out for a few weeks this year and they were forced into a bridge contract. Plus remember Sheldon Souray? Management didn’t like it when he dared to criticize. Knowing how childish Oiler management is I’ll wager they didn’t like Nurse holding out—made them look bad. So that’s my 4-beer prediction; Nurse for a forward.

    • Kool-Aid Man

      That’s an interesting take Johnny, and the way you presented it, makes sense considering management mentality. The both bring intangibles that set them apart from the rest. I love Nurses grit and intensity but also respect that Russell is a warrior. I would prefer Russell between the two based on current salary. Given that Nurse is due for a raise in salary and term come July 1st I agree he would be the most likely.

    • NickL89

      Honest question here, what do you think the brain trust would pay him? Is it worth it going forward or would it be another big payout with high hopes? Some of the numbers thrown around in the summer were pretty high imo. I don’t think his trade value has gotten any better

    • RJ

      That would be the most Oiler trade ever.

      One is a 23 year old defenceman with a $3.2m contract for 2 years and he’s an RFA at the end of his term. Next July he will be done year 1 of a 2-year contract. There’s also the matter that Nurse is on pace to set his career best in points (26 points/82 GP vs. 18 points/39 GP).

      The other is a 31 year old defenceman with a $4.0 m Cap hit who will be 34 at the end of his deal. He also has 8 points in 31 GP this season.

      Is Nurse untouchable? No. But I prefer him to Klefbom because he isn’t made of glass. I prefer him to Russell because he’s younger, cheaper and produces more. I prefer him to all of the other LHD because he’s more skilled.

      He would bring more than Russell, but Chia is not the GM to get the best value for Nurse.

      • Johnny Zylon

        One stat I wanted to mention but forgot: Nurse’s Plus/Minus is negative 12. Tied for lead on the team with Brodziak. Say what you want about stats but it’s out there. Minus 12 on a defence-first Hitchcock coached team. And remember nobody scores on this team except for McJesus, RNH, and Draisaitl. If you are fighting for your job as GM and need scoring who is going to bring you the most in a trade? A young bronc or and old vet?

  • OriginalPouzar

    This statement is just flat out wrong:

    “Andrej Sekera, who is currently on long-term injured reserve and doesn’t have his $5.5m counting against the salary cap.”

    Sekera’s $5.5M absolutely counts against the salary cap – always has and always will. There is a mechanism to allow teams to go over the cap by certain amounts when players are on LTIR but this statement is wrong and highly misleading – digging in to LTIR relief is a very risk way to manage the cap, its ineffective and using it creates a situation where the team is accumulating know cap space on a daily basis to bank and use for in-season acquisitions.

    I’m sorry Tyler, I love you on the air with Lowetide but this statement shows a very poor baseline of knowledge on LTIR and the salary cap in general.

      • OriginalPouzar

        Yes, there is “LTIR releif” but its very complicated and Sekera’s cap hit 100% counts against the cap at all times. LTIR allows the team to go over the cap by a certain amount but its not necessarily the amount of the LITR player’s cap hit – its a function of how much cap space the team had and when the player was placed on LTIR and its even more complicated than that.

        Yes, I think it was mainly just wording and you could have worded it better – its just a pet peeve of mine given there is a huge misinterpretation of how LTIR relief works and people think that placing a player on LTIR gets rid of their cap hit which is 100% not correct.

        I’ve done quite a bit of research on LTIR Tyler and had many conversations with capfriendly and puckpedia on the subject – happy to have an e-mail or twitter DM conversation if you want?

  • TKB2677

    The guy I wonder about is Benning. I know he has just over 2 full seasons of experience so I don’t like giving up on a guy early but holy hell he can be a disaster!! He clearly can’t be a #4, there is no way. But there are many games he can’t even be a 3rd pairing guy. Last game, he was the primary reason the Jets scored a goal with just BAD plays and giveaways. When you look at a young dman, you expect for them to make the odd mistake and they might cost you a goal. Case in point was Jones teeing up a one timer for Wheeler. But you hope a young dman make MORE good plays than bad. That doesn’t happen with Benning. If you are lucky in a good game for him, he might be equal with the amount of bad vs good. Most games, its more bad than good and usually he legit is the reason for 1 -2 goals against a game.

      • Consistently, there is no one else. Sure, some players like Chiasson and Khaira have flash point streaks, but man.

        Hitchcock even said most players are having to play in a position above their actual level (at least!). And that problem is squarely on Chiarelli.

        Actually when you look at today’s lineup, most of Chiarelli’s players are playing out of proper position (indicated by * with GM who approved the transaction).

        Draisaitl (MacT) – McDavid (Chia) – Kassian* (Chia)
        Lucic* (Chia) – Nuge (Tamb) – Puljujarvi* (Chia)
        Rieder (Chia) – Khaira (MacT) – Spooner* (Chia)
        Gambo* (Chia) – Brodziak (Chia) – Rattie* (Chia)
        Yamamoto* (Chia)

        Jones* (Chia) – Petrovic* (Chia)
        Nurse (MacT) – Larsson (Chia)
        Manning (Chia) – Benning (Chia)