Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Oilers have cap room for UFAs--

With the NHL salary cap rumoured to be $74.5 million, and the Oilers with about $61.6 million in contracts for the 2016-17 season (see transactions below), this gives them about $13 million to sign some UFAs to fill in major gaps. Being that you usually overpay for quality UFAs, I will be conservative here.

Those gaps being:
1. Top right-side defensemen = $6 million
2. Third line centre = $3 million
3. Backup goalie = $2 million
Total:  $11 million

This is assuming Chiarelli makes the following moves:

UFAs/RFAs Release:
Cracknell (LW) - He's okay on the 4th line fill in.
Gazdic (LW) - With guys like Kharia around, there's no need to keep him
Nikitin (LD) - I don't even have to explain myself
Pardy (LD) - Mistake-prone defenseman
Klinkhammer (LW) - I'm torn on him but he's digressed.
Pitlick (RW/C) - He's a hell of a player actually, but is injury-prone. I wouldn't be surprised if he gets signed for one more year.

UFAs/RFAs Sign:
Kassian (RW) - He needs to be better and have a good camp.
Pakarinen (RW) - He had a great camp last year and good season near the end.
Gryba (RD) - He's a big tough right shot defensemen - a rarity.
Clendening (RD) - Only becuase he's right shot.
Oesterle (LW) - Filled in great on both sides.  Good trade bait.

Korpikoski (LW) $2.5 million - Let's stop kidding ourselves and admit he's terrible.
Yakupov (RW) $2.5 million - Let's move on from the drama. His defense is the shits. He's not a third line winger, and brings down everyone around him.  Katz made a bad choice.
Hendricks (LW/C) $1.85 million - As much as we love him, he's getting slower and with one year left on his contract, might as well try and get something for him. Any team could use him.  I now feel he's the stop gap for Jujhar Khaira who has tonnes of potential as a big two-way skilled fighter.

Depending on what you get back (picks?), that's $6.85 million added to the $11 million for almost $17 million for UFAs to fill three spots now.  You can most certainly overpay for a two years until McDavid and Draisaitl need big contracts.

Send to AHL:
Nurse (LD) - He needs to dominate and gain some confidence.  Only reason he was called up was because of injuries and Nikitin sux.
Reinhart (LD) - I saw an improvement in possession and toughness.  Like Nurse, he needs to dominate.
Brossoit (G) - He didn't perform as well in net as we thought.

That brings the lineup to:

Hall - Nugent-Hopkins - Draisaitl
Pouliot - McDavid - Eberle
Maroon - ? - Kassian*
Khaira - Letestu - Pakarinen*

Sekera - ?
Klefbom - Fayne
Davidson - Gryba


Other options:

- Trade Nugent-Hopkins for 3rd line centre and picks.  I'm not a fan of trading a legitimate two-way centreman.  But that can open up another $3 million for an overpayment on a top right-side UFA defenseman.  Then slot in Draisaitl to centre.  Now you need to find a top right winger.  In that case, you can easily move McDavid's line to be the top line, so you can find a 2nd line right winger and not pay as much.

- Trade Draisaitl (gasp!).  Like Nuge, he's not quite a 3rd line centreman.  But you might be able to get more using his potential as a selling point--again, to land that top right-side defensemen and nothing else.

- Trade Klefbom (you crazy mang!) for right-shot d-man straight up.  Davidson can play 2nd pairing minutes, but that means Nurse has to be ready to step up on the 3rd pair.

I don't think any of those things are actually going to happen though.  Call it a hunch.

What might happen is trading that #4 first round draft pick.  It's likely that player won't be an immediate NHLer, but for a team further down that is rebuilding, it can be valuable to trade up a guy with one year left.  Who?  I don't know.

Lots for Chiarelli to think about.  As he's said, a good GM needs to explore all options on the table.

And as an Oilers fan who discusses these options with colleagues and friends on a regular basis, we are finally assuming Chiarelli is a good GM.

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Oilers' mysterious missing 3rd Line

#Oilers #OilersNation
While the major hole in the Oilers lineup is not having top defensemen, the other huge hole is the 3rd line.  Essentially, the Oilers don't have a 3rd line. In most cases, I'd take the 4th line over the 3rd line any day of the week (except Tuesday, because the KFC chicken special isn't a toonie anymore and movies aren't that cheap anyway, plus Netflix is pretty good, you know).

Oilers' signing Drake Caggiula. Image courtesy USA Today.

Peter Chiarelli just signed a couple NCAA forwards to two year entry level deals"

1. Dr. Drake Caggiula (Kah-jjjewel-ya), a small-skilled-but-tough Canadian playing in North Dakota. (I added the "Dr.")

2. Patrick Russell (or is it Russell Patrick?), a Dane, a bigger than average dude playing in St. Cloud

So I've been readin' some stats and discussin' on Oilers Facebook groups and thinkin' 'bout next year's 3rd line, these guys, and some folks seem to think that they could slot in on the 3rd line at centre and right wing right away as their numbers translate accordingly to an NHL level.

But I'm like, hold on, hold on, they'll need a stint in Bakersfield, right? They should. The NCAA game isn't a tough as the AHL, that. is. for. sure. for. sure. And while Dr. Drake is a spark-plug of a player, he's small, so let's see how that really does translate.

Coach McLellan said that teams win with good 3rd lines because most teams have a good top 6 that match up anyway, so you need to be really smart about this.

And not only did the Oiler not have even close to an NHL-level defense this year, yes injuries injuries injuries, but that rag-tag of a third line that Chiarelli put together with Korpikoski and Letestu and Yakupov was a mess. A hot stinking mess.

Who did the Oilers mostly have on the 3rd line?
Left wing: Lauri Korpikoski, Matt Hendricks,
Centre: Mark Letestu, Matt Hendricks, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Right wing: Nail Yakupov, Iiro Pakarinen, Zack Kassian

In my super scientific Lineup Value Metric, the end-of-year actual to ideal lineup went like this:
1st Line: 92%
2nd Line: 88%
3rd Line: 57%
4th Line: 92%

Save the Nuge and Yak, all of the aforementioned players make very good 4th line players. Yak really only slots well on a 2nd line sniper role with a good centre like McDavid, but even then, Yak doesn't make McDavid better, but Eberle does.

Then I saw some stats on Patrick Maroon and Benoit Pouliot each playing with McDavid and Eberle, and believe it or not, but Pouliot had more success.

So here's what I'm thinking... Pouliot stays with McMagical and Ebernizer and call it the first line now and Maroon is the guy on the 3rd line, but I worry because he's not the greatest skater. Anyway, if Nuge isn't dealt for a defensemen, we stick with:

1. Pouliot - McDavid - Eberle
2. Hall - Nugent-Hopkins - Draisaitl
3. Maroon - ? - ?
4. Hendricks - Letestu - Kassian
5. Khaira - Lander - Pakarinen

And trade Korpikoski, Yakupov no matter what. That said, Draisaitl really isn't a right-winger or a third-line centre. He's an ideal 2nd line two-way centre.

If you trade Nuge for defensemen, as was rumoured with Seth Jones, you got to find a right-winger. Sorry but Kassian isn't your guy on the 2nd line and is a stop fill on the 3rd line, unless he can light it up with a decent centreman. I say look at St. Louis' UFAs, because they're going to lose against San Jose these playoffs.

Pouliot - McDavid - Eberle
Hall - Draisaitl - ?
Maroon - Backes (.57 ppg) - Brouwer (.46 ppg)
Hendricks - Letestu - Kassian
Khaira - Lander - Pakarinen

The key is finding that elusive 3rd line centre and right and if you say David Backes and Troy Brouwer from St. Louis, then there are your perfect ideal answers. Just as Hendricks is filling in for Khaira to develop as a 4th line LW/C, sign Backes and Brouwer on 2-3 year deals while Dr. Drake and Pat Russ develop would be a smart, ideal move.

And that should solve the mysterious missing 3rd line.