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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – How do the Oilers free up cap space?

Greetings, Nation compadres! It’s Monday morning and that means it’s Mailbag time again. As always, I’ve taken your questions and sent them off to our panel of geniuses to assess and pass along some priceless wisdom that you’ll be able to carry forward with you for the rest of your life. With that in mind, I need questions for next week, so open up your internet machines and send me any query you may have about the Oilers or life in general. You can get them to me through email or on Twitter — I’m good like that. Until then, it’s time to learn something. Enjoy.

1) Ryan S. asks – Did the Nicholson/Gretzky press conference give you confidence moving into the offseason? Did anyone find it as strange as I did that Keith Gretzky was included in the presser despite his interim GM tag?

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Jason Gregor:

It would have been better having separate pressers. Needed to ask Gretzky about his plans, as well his role over the past seasons. The only positive right now is that they are doing a full-scale interview process. Great, but now we wait to see who is hired, and he won’t return.

Robin Brownlee:

Nothing said at an availability is reason for confidence, especially here. Actions speak louder. I thought it was awkward.

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Cam Lewis:

No, it didn’t change anything, and yes, it was extremely weird. They said at this time last year there was a plan and they believed in that plan and the guy in charge of executing it and then that guy got fired. They keep making vague mentions of this plan but, at this point, there’s really no reason to have faith in it. I’ll try to reserve judgement for when a POHO/GM is hired.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

No, nothing they’ve done over the past few months has done anything to inspire an ounce of confidence in me. I’m done giving this organization the benefit of the doubt. And yes, the fact that Keith Gretzky was at the year-end press conference was very weird. He’s a candidate for the job and Bob Nicholson was supposed to be fielding questions about that vacant position. There was zero reason for him to be there. They could have done a separate scrum with Keith.

Christian Pagnani:

Nope. “We have a plan, but we can’t tell you the plan. Also, Keith is a candidate but not the candidate”. It was weird and awkward. Maybe they just wanted to give Keith Gretzky some recognition, but I have no idea why he is escaping any responsibility when he’s been here for three seasons.

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Chris the Intern:

The press conference was just like any other Oilers press conference except Nicholson didn’t say anything stupid this time. It was all vague chat filled with empty promises. Yes it was strange Gretzky was there… it was as if he was there in case Nicholson screwed up with a question.

Baggedmilk:

Lol. Honestly, I feel like “lol” is a valid response to this question.

2) Cliff asks – I don’t understand why Bob Nicholson wouldn’t clean house himself and that he’d rather have the new GM take care of it instead. To me, this decision wastes time unnecessarily. What does everyone else think?

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Jason Gregor:

It is why I asked him about it in three different questions. I find it is passing the buck somewhat. The new GM wasn’t part of the past, so why make him evaluate it? If there are people you don’t want to return, why risk having the new GM want to keep them? Nicholson could have let those people go, and then let the GM decide on the rest. I don’t think 100% of management needs to go, but there should have been some people relieved of their duties prior to the arrival of the new GM.

Robin Brownlee:

I agree. You can’t necessarily clean house ahead of time because the team has to continue operating, but Nicholson could certainly have pinpointed several people who have been part of the ongoing failure and sent them packing. He knows as well as anybody, or should, who has been doing what and how they’ve performed in their positions. Is the new GM, if it’s not Gretzky, going to know that?

Cam Lewis:

It’s odd because the new POHO/GM is obviously going to come in and bring their own staff and people into the mix. It seems like the current staff is being roped along without a future. I wonder if upper management is going to put pressure on the new guy to keep a bunch of the old guard around so Katz doesn’t have to have even more dead money on the books.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Yes, it does waste time. Nicholson should wipe the slate clean and use that as a way to attract higher quality GM candidates. Get all the hard work done and allow the next GM to slide in, hire their own people, and go from there.

Christian Pagnani:

It’s a poor move. Oilers could have won some easy PR, but they’re punting again on an y meaningful change. Show this run has been unacceptable.

Chris the Intern:

Nicholson doesn’t seem comfortable with making hockey decisions. If that’s the case and he wants to hire someone else who knows what they’re doing, then fine by me. It would be nice if he could make the decisions himself but I appreciate him trying not to screw this organization up any more than it already is.

Baggedmilk:

Any Big Brother fans in here? Not firing the scouting staff/OBC/whoever is a classic move out of Big Brother. Why get blood on your own hands when you can get someone else to do it for you?

Jun 22, 2018; Dallas, TX, USA; A general view of the draft board with the first round picks after the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

3) Stefan asks – Now that we know the Oilers will be drafting 8th at the upcoming draft, I’m curious what everyone thinks they should do with the pick? I think they should package it up with a defensive prospect like Bear or Lagesson to try and find a young forward that’s under contract and can help now.

Jason Gregor:

Historically you lose those trades. Just make the pick and keep developing players.

Robin Brownlee:

Difficult to make that call until you get to the pick and see who is still on the board. If somebody the amateur scouting staff is crazy about falls to No. 8, there’s a decision to be made. Same thing if a team is offering exactly who you want — a proven guy who can absolutely play and help you right now. Circumstances are very fluid on the draft floor.

Cam Lewis:

The Oilers are in cap hell and they lack high-quality talent. The best way to find cheap, high-quality players is at the top of the draft. Keep the pick.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I’m very open to dealing the pick if you can get a young scoring forward, with a few years of team control, in return. If that deal isn’t out there, then I would be all over Peyton Krebs from the WHL. I’ve seen him play a few times this year and I think he has the potential to be a slide into the Oilers top six in a few years and be an impact forward.

Christian Pagnani:

You have to consider all options. I’d wait closer to draft day and see what forwards or defencemen are out there. Most trades with top-ten picks included a good NHL player and a solid prospect (Staal to Carolina, Carter to Columbus) so I’m not sure if that’s a price the team is willing to pay.

Chris the Intern:

I’m totally down with trading the pick. We need immediate help and that draft pick is our ticket to bringing in somebody that can help push us to the postseason. Cap space is the only concern when making that trade though.

Baggedmilk:

Keep the pick. The Oilers are going to get a good player at number eight and I’d rather see them add another skilled prospect to the depth chart. I get what you’re saying with looking for immediate help, trading this pick would certainly help get you there, but we also have to think of the salary cap, needing cheap skills, and the expansion draft that’s coming up.

4) Darren asks – What’s your best guess as to how the new GM will free up cap space?

Jason Gregor:

Trade Russell and/or Sekera.

Robin Brownlee:

You save a little by not re-signing Rieder ($2M) and finding a replacement at half the cost, or less. I check interest on Sekera ($5.5M) and see if he’ll waive NMC. Same with Russell ($4M).

Cam Lewis:

You can try to make small savings by clearing out guys like Russell, Benning, Rieder, and Brodziak, but I would avoid going the buyout route. There’s no sense in dragging cap hits over multiple years.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

They can swap out Matt Benning for Caleb Jones and that would save them $1.2 million. Buying out Sam Gagner would save them $2 million next season. Dealing one of Kris Russell or Milan Lucic would be great as well, but I’m not sure if either of those will happen. They could also bury Kyle Brodziak and it would only cost them around 100k against the cap. Finding a way to deal Brandon Manning would save them just over $1.2 million as well. There are ways to find a little bit of relief (just don’t ask me to do the math, I butchered that in my piece earlier this week).

Christian Pagnani:

Kris Russell and/or Andrej Sekera traded. Possibly a Lucic move with salary retained and/or money coming back.

Chris the Intern:

Trading Lucic, Sekera, or Russell are a good start. I’m confident we’d be able to get a decent return for Sekera or Russell. Either that, or the new GM will have to buy out some contracts.

Baggedmilk:

Like everyone else has said, I could see them moving Sekera/Russell/Benning to get a new look or make way for a prospect like Caleb Jones that will be pushing for third pairing duty this summer.

5) Sara asks – My husband and I will not be renewing our season tickets for next year after holding them 12 years, not because we stopped loving the team but because we can no longer support this management group, and I’m wondering what everyone thinks we should do with the $10,000 we’ll save? What would you do?

Jason Gregor:

Spend it on something that gives you experiences. Pay for someone’s food at the grocery store. Surprise each other with a gift they’ve wanted for a while, but never would buy for yourself. Get up on a Friday morning, and book a flight that day for a weekend getaway for the two of you. Three days of fun and relaxing. Do things you normally wouldn’t do that leave you fulfilled. You can always get more money, you can’t get more time.

Robin Brownlee:

Donate it to one of the many worthy charities in the city — a cause you believe in. That’s always money well spent.

Cam Lewis:

Go on a trip and watch the team on the road. Watching in a different city, especially a non-traditional market, is a great experience. You’ll get to see how much better other fans around the league get treated.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

You should head out to Sherwood Park or Spruce Grove (whichever is closer) and grab yourself season seats to one of those teams. The hockey is great, it’ll cost you around $1,000 for a pair of season seats and beer is less than half the price of Rogers Place. Do that to get your hockey fix, take the other $9,000 and go on a sweet vacation or two. There ya go, you still get a hockey team to love and you got some walking around money.

Christian Pagnani:

Hire Paul Coffey for a week.

Chris the Intern:

Good, tough decision. Depends on your life circumstances. lf you two don’t travel much together, then I would recommend going on a nice trip.

Baggedmilk:

Do something as far away from going to an Oilers game as you can and make yourself a memory. If you’ve always dreamed of going for sushi in Tokyo. Do that. Want to take your mom to ride the TMZ bus in LA. Get on that plane. If you’re spending $10Gs a season on the Oilers and have been for 12 years, then you’ve spent a lot of money to watch some horrible hockey and I think you’ve earned the right to give yourself the holiday or five that you’ve always wanted to do.

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