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.

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