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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?

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.

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.

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?

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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  • percy

    A tight situation don’t you think. The only players that can make a difference as far as creating enough space so we can bring in the kind of talent we need, both are over valued and have that NMC. Not a good situation. Kind of like going to the store with 50cents in your pocket. We might have to package RNH and Looch or Larsson and Looch (eating some of Loochs contract of course) getting Russell to agree to a trade. And maybe our 1st round pick and a prospect for a center. There is enough space there for a goalie a Dman and center/winger. If If If.

  • Serious Gord

    1. It’s a practice run for when BN names KG as the GM.

    2. Probably because they have no intention of “Cleaning House”. ALL of the OBC will still be in the payroll this time next year. Book it.

    3. Nothing is not for sale. If a great deal on a decent young talented winger or two is offered perhaps take it.

    4. Trade Sekera, Russell for sure. AND trade RNH when he is at top value to get some good young and cheap wingers.

    5. Rent a billboard that the management of the OEG will drive by daily and have it read:

    “Fire the FOK and FOG”.

    You will get international news coverage for sure and you might actually goad the owner into doing something.

  • McHitch

    Projected Cap 2019 – 83 Million
    Oilers Cap Friendly 2019 – 71 Million

    We have 6 D signed
    – Klefbom, Larsson, Nurse, Sekera, Russell, and Benning

    We have 8 F signed
    – McDavid, Nuge, Drai, Lucic, Kassian, Gagner, Brodziak and Cave

    15 players on roster with 7 spots to fill. We need 5 fwrds, a backup goalie and a #7 dmen.

    12 million to fill 7 roster holes. I would suggest at least 3-4 mil on a reliable backup. That leaves us with 1 mil per player for the remaining roster spots.

    Best bet to free up cap space. Trade Lucic after July 1. Retain two mil of Lucics contract … trade him to a team trying to hit the floor and throw in a pick(2nd rounder) and prospect. His real salary will be 1/2/3/2 which isnt bad for a tough guy who hits a ton.

    I dont think anyone will trade for Russel or Sekera considering their cap hits. We could take salary back but than thats pointless considering our situation.

    • BobbyCanuck

      Nope, in the summer it will be Nylander for Lucic, with the Leafs retaining $1.5M/yr of Nylanders salary. Them leafs are soft, very soft, as will be displayed yet again tonight, when they get their pu$$ies grabbed

        • cityofchampions

          Beggers can’t be choosers. If the Leafs are dumb enough to take Lucic, jump all over it. I’d rather have lazy talented Nylander than the no-talent Lucic. We haven’t won a trade in awhile, and that would be a talent upgrade. Leafs aren’t stupid enough to do it, but if they do have a knee-jerk reaction to getting pushed out of the playoffs again…jump all over it.

  • TKB2677

    Cap space.
    I think you can trade one or both of Sekera and Russel. You won’t get a lot and maybe you have to retain a little but teams still value what Russell as an example does.

    I am not running Benning out of town, I don’t mind him and if you can keep him great but you can replace what Benning does with a Jones as an example who makes 1.2 mill less and is a better skater.

    What Chiasson has proved is you can find guys who can contribute to your team for cheap. You just have to look. You can take the 2 mill you gave Rieder and go sign 2 guys for that. Can you go out and for 1 mill or less a piece find 2 guys to play in your bottom 6 that can give you 10 goals? Sure you can.

    • crabman

      I agree with your assessment completely. I have been a strong suppoerter of Benning and think he is a quality bottom pair defenceman but someone will need to be moved to make room for Jones on the bottom pair and Benning will probably be that guy. Also by moving one or both of Russell and Sekera the team opens the cap space and roster spot to try and get a better puck moving 2RD. Change is voming and those moves seem like the best bet on the blueline. Adding the top6 skilled wingers they need is where it is going to get much tougher and I doubt they could add more than 1 in a single offseason. Rounding out a bottom six with a couple new players for under $1M and maybe an AHL graduate should be an easy fix as well.

      • TKB2677

        For the defense. It doesn’t even really matter what hand the dmen shoot, the Oilers need more speed, more puck moving and more offense from the defense. That is the way the game has moved. I would say, you need at least 1 guy per pair who can skate really well, move the puck and provide some offense. Right now they have 2 out of 6 guys who can skate reasonably well, move the puck OK and have some sort of offensive dimension. Klefbom and Nurse. So realistically, they need at least 1 and probably need to add at 2 guys who do that to compete in the NHL. The money is one thing and is a big factor but they also need actual open spots on the roster. I would assume that Klefbomb and Nurse are 2 guys that are safe. So that leaves you Larsson, Russell, Sekera, Benning as guys who were in the top 6 who need to be moved to create 1-2 spots. If I had a choice, I would move Russell and Sekera but you need to open 2 spots.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Also: It doesn’t get more “First World Problems in Alberta” than someone writing in to a hockey fan site asking its writers what to do with the extra $10,000 they’re going to have lying around because they’ve decided they can no longer support current ownership. I might have kept that question to myself.

    • BobbyCanuck

      Thats called a humblebrag, as in you are trying to sound humble, but you are actually bragging that you have $10K, you could flush down the toilet without missing a cent

  • Redbird62

    Both Russell and Sekera are now on modified no trade clauses though I am not sure what date that kicks in (probably July 1). For Russell, the team can request a list of 10 teams he can be traded to, and for Sekera, the team can request 15 teams he can be traded to. Personally, I would trade Russell before Sekera. Russell is a work horse back there, but Sekera seems to the most adept Oiler at moving the puck out of his own end efficiently and I believe can still be a mentor to the Oilers younger defense. If Russell can be traded, depending on what comes the other way, the Oilers could have up to almost $15 million of cap space to fill 8 roster spots.

  • Redbird62

    Overall, the presser was not inspiring. I also agree it did not seem to make sense to have Gretzky in attendance for this one. However, I can understand Gretzky not sharing whatever his own plan for the team would be publicly at this time. If he is truly competing to be the next GM (and I really hope if ends up being a well run competitive process), why would he let other prospective candidates in on what his plans are prior to their interviews. Again if the process is being run fairly, a big part of each candidates pitch will be what their plan would be to turn the team around without any candidate having knowledge of what the others’ pitches are. The million dollar question is can the Oiler’s decision maker(s) in this process be counted on to properly evaluate those pitches and the abilities of the candidates to execute on them.

  • Randaman

    The presser just signified that we still have a moron making the hiring decision on our next GM. Nothing will change. I have no confidence in their leadership group AT ALL!

  • Spaceman Spiff

    I’m not sure I buy into the wisdom of needing to “clean house” right now, in advance of the new GM. To be more exact: I’d definitely be leery of cleaning house if we’re talking the part of the house that includes the pro scouts.

    Hear me out.

    Yes, I want them gone, too. They’re the soft underbelly of the operational side of this organization. Trades have been lost because of these guys. Free agent signings have been bust because of these guys.

    But if the Oilers fired the pro scouting department last week, wouldn’t that be bad timing given the playoffs are on? Isn’t that the time you want your pro scouts out there looking at potential free agents – the third and fourth liners you might be able to acquire in the summer or, better yet, bring to camp on a PTO? Last year, one of the Oilers’ much-maligned pro scouts managed to find Alex Chiasson on a PTO. Surely that same set of eyes can be given a stay-of-execution until June.

    And just-as-surely you don’t want the amateur scouts pulling double-duty. This is the time of year when they’re the busiest scouting all of the playoffs in the various junior leagues and college.

    To fire your pro scouts while there’s still lots and lots of pro hockey being played (in several leagues) seems rash and impractical. Leaving them on until the end of the season might seem awkward, but I’m sorry – that’s what happens when you fire your GM midway through the season. It was the right thing to do, but the fallout does create some functional awkwardness. If that means the new guy fires everyone in July, so be it.

  • This club is such a mess that a clown like Nicholson is still unsure of what he has to do and in what order it has do it in order to fix this tire fire of a team. Too many Oiler fans think that making 2 or 3 moves and this team is a Stanley Cup contender. The Oilers have to make at least a dozen roster moves in the next 2/3 years to improve this teams skill and get players that come from winning organizations to develop help develop a winning culture for the Oilers. Also any new GM that has to be given the okay by McD is not the person for the job. No GM worth having would answer to any player, even McD.

  • billsbills

    Cap space? Trade Russel, maybe Benning. Manning would be great to off load. I would keep Sekera. This defence needs his presence in leadership and experience. He’s still an incredibly smart player and I am sure he will be motivated to get this team back to the playoffs. If there is a trade available for Brodziak I make that. I am keeping Gagner. Too versatile and can actually win a few draws. Not to mention I think he has a great attitude and can be a glue guy.

  • Rockinghockey

    Please no more buying out players, it just eats up future cap space. After next season we have Gagner, Brodziak, Kassian, Manning and Benning finishing their deals. If you can trade any of them this year for cap space then do it but don’t buy anyone out.

    I would try and trade Russell and Benning for cap space. Keep Sekera he is our best puck mover and we need a player like him, hellwe need two more puck movers on the back end.

    I would only trade the 8th over all if we are getting a player like Ehlers back. Has anyone heard of possible trades that came close to happening at the deadline with Russell, Benning and Lucic. If so what were the possible deals. Moving out Russell and Benning gives us 5.9 mil in cap space with Bear or Jones costing 650Gs

  • Total Points

    I is unbelievable the situation here regarding management. We sign Lucic to a stupid contract, trade a MVP (Hall) for a 2nd line defenseman (Larsen), trade for Manning, etc, etc and the OBC do not fire any guys and wait for the next GM to do it.

    When Chai was fired so should a lot of the OBC been let go like Mactavish as he is in charge of player personal, Keith Gretzky as he is assistant GM and must or should have had influence in decisions and on and on.

    Is there another management group like this one in the whole world of sports

  • Oiler Al

    What is the difference:…..
    Draisaitl, has size, can skate ,stickhandkes, has a shot ,plays with#97 and has 100 points.
    Kassian,has size,can skate,stickhandles,has a shot,plays with #97,but has nowhere near 100 Points.
    I search for the answer,why cant a guy like Kassian have results like Dria.?Can hockey IQ make that big of a difference.
    Therte are many others that could be compared, but I use Kassian because he like Dria., plays with McDavid.

  • TKB2677

    When it comes to the first rounder. In all likelihood, who ever the Oilers pick at #8 is a minimum of 2 years away from turning pro. He will will most likely be a guy who will turn 18 at some point this year and will most likely spend the next 2 years in junior. At 20, he will turn pro and it’s hard to say if he will make the Oilers at 20 or need AHL time. Chances are he will need AHL time as he probably won’t be big or strong enough yet. So there is a good chance that it will be at least 3 yrs before he is on the Oilers full time playing a role and maybe contributing. That’s it all goes well both physically and development wise.

    Here is a list of the players taken in 2017 that are now 2 yrs out from their draft year. http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/draft/nhl2017e.html
    Next season will be their 3rd season in the organization. Outside of the top 5, none of the players to date have done anything of real note. Mittelstadt who was taken at #8 played most of this season in Buffalo. He had 12 goals, 25 pts -19. Not horrible but not great. May have did better spending time in the minors. What he could be is unknown.

    I wouldn’t trade the #8 for anyone but if you can target a team who will have cap problems. A good example is the Jets. They have some big contracts coming. Probably won’t get over the hump again and will need to get rid of some salary. They don’t have a first and probably wouldn’t be wanting to take back a lot of money. What if you could get a guy like Ehlers? Sign for 6 mill, had a down year. On the pecking order of their forward is behind Scheifele, Wheeler, Connor(needs a deal) Laine (needs a deal). He’s young, fast, skilled scores over 20 goals even a down year. Could the player you get at #8 be better than Ehlers? Maybe in 5+ years. But I would bet that for the next 5 years, Ehlers will outscore him by a lot.

  • cityofchampions

    The obvious plays to free cap-space are to dump Reider and trade Benning and let Bear/Jones/others compete for his spot (not that I hate Benning, but he makes too much for the 3rd pairing and can be replaced cheap). Next is to do your best to move Russell to a team that appreciates what he brings and replace him with more of a puck-moving D on the right side. I’d keep Sekara as he can move the puck and can act as mentor to the young D we have. If you can’t move Russell, then you probably have to buy-out Gags to clear space, though my preference is to keep him and move Russell. The home run is if you can offload Lucic and his NMC. Ottawa would be perfect but Looch probably won’t waive to go there. We are probably stuck with him until the compliance buyout when Seattle enters.

  • camdog

    The plan is to develop players through the AHL affiliate Bakersfield Condors. Problem with the plan is the Oilers don’t have credible Pro Scouts to identify if these players are going to be NHL quality or not. When you rely on the head coaches in Bakersfield to provide the input it provides a biased evaluation which is generally inadequate. I know the Oilers Executives are telling Katz that Bakersfield’s success will transfer to the NHL club. Problem with what they are telling Katz is that they are making things up as they go, they don’t really know if the players will be NHL quality, for this group hockey thinkers it’s just a guess…

  • crabman

    1) very odd chouce to have Gretzky sitting there while fielding questions about the new GM search.
    2) Bob should be cleaning house, at least on the pro side, before the new GM is hired. leaving him to talk the time to evaluate and then decide on which staff stays and goes takes precious time away from making all the player change decisions that will need to be made. I think Bob looks like a coward by passing the buck here.
    3) Every deal needs to be considered depending on return. I think in the end it will probably be best for the team to make the pick but if a deal that helps the team today,and for years down the road, it needs to be considered. But a trade like that probably can ‘t happen until the new GM clears out some cap space first and that will be difficult before the draft.
    4) Benning will be moved and replaced by Jones. And one of Sekera or Russell will be moved, but probably not until July 1 if that is when their MNT kicks in. And I also see the new GM buying out Gagner for immediate cap relief but I don’t like that idea. I would rather eat it for 1 year than spread it out over multiple years.
    5) spend it on something you normally wouldn’t that brings you joy. I love the idea of a trip to another market to see an Oilers game. Still get to see the team you love without financially supporting an owner and management group you don’t. Plus you get to see how other markets try to entertain their fans.

  • CMG30

    When it comes to the draft, the default position should always be to make the pick. The danger with this group of executives is that they treat young prospects like a disposable resource. Rush them early to the show, sour on them then run them out of town to make room for the next crop the following year. There’s a reason it’s call ‘draft and develop’ not ‘draft and dump’.

    Putting aside the incompetence of the suits, by and large the right move with a top 10 pick is still to make it. That being said, (especially with later top 10’s) should a too-good-to-be-true deal come along on the draft floor then you take it.

  • Total Points

    So Bobby N is going to be more open with the fans, in the last week the Oilers best player and their worst player have both been injured with very little info coming from the Oilers.
    Bobby N it is time for you to move on and quit shooting your self in the foot