Oilers Should Trade for…

This is the year to trade for Vincent Lecavalier.

If ever in Oiler history we needed to make the plunge, now is the time. Talent alone can’t win in the NHL, and our youth is in dire need of an elite mentor. An elite mentor doesn’t come without an elite price tag, however.

Unfortunately, that price tag happens to be $10M a year (through 2020), and a $7.727M cap hit (discussed more later).

Tampa Bay is stuck in a cap situation where-by if they don’t shed any cap at the end of the year, they may be forced to buy-out Vinny for $30M, and suffer an average annual cap hit of $2.14M over the next 14 years!

Edmonton has two assets that would help Tampa Bay in the short-term that aren’t central figures to the Oilers’ future. Specifically, those would be Ales Hemsky and Ryan Whitney.

On one hand, Ales Hemsky is having a resurgent year, and hasn’t ever looked better with the puck. He has played like an elite forward this year and is dangerous every time he touches the puck.

Ryan Whitney on the other hand is struggling this year. Prior to the season starting, he told a reporter something to the effect of, “I need to find a new 100%”; I don’t think we’ve seen that “new 100%” this season. A change of scenery for a puck-moving defenseman into a playoff caliber team may be what the doctor ordered to find that old form. And with this being the last year of his contract, he’ll be given the opportunity to play for a roster spot next year.

For Tampa Bay, however, it would be difficult to move an asset like Vincent Lecavalier, the face of the franchise. But the package coming back would provide upgrades at two positions of need while shedding cap space. Additionally, from a pure ownership position, it would also remove the potential of a $30M payout only to lose one of your best players for nothing.

In a perfect world, this would be an ideal circumstance for Edmonton to pressure Tampa Bay into retaining a portion of Vincent Lecavalier’s cap hit (a new provision under the collective bargaining agreement); something between $1.7M and 1.2M for the remainder of his contract. Under such a circumstance, a $6M to $6.5M cap hit would be more equitable for the Oilers going forward.

Through this trade Edmonton would gain a top line center to play with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. Ryan Nugget-Hopkins would move to second-line duties until he blossoms into a top-line center. Further, the acquisition of Vincent Lecavalier would rub Sam Gagner out of the faceoff circle and into a winger role, where he can focus on being an offensive weapon (like Martin St. Louis).

Making a change like this doesn’t come without risks as well. First, what’s to say he succeeds in Edmonton? Second, who says he wants to come to Edmonton (he has a no trade clause)?

Click your Heels…

We’re not in Vancouver anymore folks, and once the team got home, we shook out a lot of the same. To say the Oilers home opener was a disappointment would be an understatement, as disappointment would indicate that the Oilers purely underperformed when in reality they were exposed.

As with the Kassian goal in Vancouver, the Oilers defense lacks someone in the center of the ice who tracks and picks up passes coming from the low side boards or behind the net. What’s more, the stalwart defenders (N. Schultz, Smid, Whitney, Potter) came out flat-footed, and quite frankly weren’t physical enough – in the case of Whitney, he specifically avoided checking as a method of going after the puck.

This season is all about assessing our talent early and determining the best way to move forward. It’s become increasingly apparent that Ryan Whitney [while a good leader and overall nice guy] can’t play the style of hockey that the Oilers need him to to win games. Avoiding the lack of defense, his play on the powerplay is what especially turned me off.

First off, as the quarterback of the PP2 line, he was hesitant with the puck early, avoiding shots through lanes to get the puck to Gagner or Hemsky (which may have been the game plan early). The problem with this, is his passes were errant, and it led to a scrum in the corner or a straight-up turnover. Later in the game, he began to shoot the puck from the point, but he was shooting the puck with reckless-abandon, not even looking for shooting lanes, which led to every shot being blocked 20 feet out of the crease.

As an experienced player, obviously very knowledgeable about quarterbacking a powerplay, it was inexcusable that he couldn’t pass the puck low or take a shot as lanes opened.

I know it’s early, but my leash on Whitney was worn short last year, and even though he’s “healthy” now, we can’t cut him the same slack we did in prior years. There are teams out there that are looking for a player with Whitney’s skill-set, and play a more positional game than the Oilers do. One team that screams “perfect fit” is the Detroit Red Wings.

Here’s my ridiculous trade proposal:

Edmonton -       
Ryan Whitney
Linus Omark
-Conditional 2013 Draft Pick
      1st Oilers win the Stanley Cup
      2nd Oilers make the Playoffs
      3rd Oilers don’t make the Playoffs

Detroit
Brendan Smith

The Puck Stops Here: Oilers 2013 Season Preview

As the title suggests, the 2013 in many ways marks the end of an era in Edmonton. With three first-overall draft picks (Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugget-Hopkins, and Nail Yakupov), and a combined 84 wins in 246 games the past three seasons, talent is not the issue for the Oilers any longer.

Most analysts will agree that the lynchpin of the season lies with the man between the pipes, Devan Dubnyk. Steve Tambellini and Oilers management made the decision this summer to sign Devan to two year extension, earned through his consistent play the last two seasons (~2.7 GAA and .915 save percentage). However, Devan has historically shared his starts with Nikolai Khabibulin, allowing him to get proper rest between starts. This year, he’ll make the majority of the starts in a shortened season in which endurance/conditioning will be a key factor to his success.

Helping Devan out, though, are two new faces in Justin Schultz / Mark Fistric, and a [finally] healthy Ryan Whitney. While Schultz and Whitney will be expected to accurately clear pucks out of the defensive zone to the sticks of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, etc.  Fistric will be relied upon to be tough behind and in front of the net. In only 60 games last year, he had 105 blocks and 235 hits. His presence should fill the void in the roster that doesn’t feature Andy Sutton (injury).

From the first day of hockey this season, we can all attest to the effectiveness of the young-gun, fast-paced game. It’s proof that the young players who played in the AHL or overseas will have an advantage over their counterparts who did not (at least early in the season). Teams like the St. Louis Blues and Toronto Maple Leafs skated circles around the once mighty Detroit Red Wings and the PK Subban-less Montreal Canadiens. And while it’s likely too much to expect the same from the Oilers tonight, it would certainly be nice.

CBA Negotiations – Salary Cap (The Stauffer Plan, modified)

Bob Stauffer talked about a possible CBA resolution, and I think he’s on the right track, but lacks the business savvy to communicate it effectively. It’s increasingly apparent that the biggest issue on the table is the salary cap, which is quickly followed by revenue sharing, and off in the distance is player safety (not discussed here).

Here’s Mr. Stauffer’s salary cap plan with some minor modifications for revenue sharing and full adoption/application:

Salary Cap

From the last CBA to this one, the players took on a lot of risks with the introduction of the salary cap with a lot of opportunity if the NHL were to continue to grow (which it did).

To the players point, roll-backs don’t make sense, they didn’t hold the owners hostage while they offered long-term, lucrative deals – the owners did that willingly. That being said, many teams appeared to be comfortable with the salary cap prior to the expiration of the CBA, building salary to the cap, and continuing to make money.

I believe the players are comfortable with the Salary Cap that is currently in place, and the owners have shown that they are comfortable with the salary cap. As such, for the next seven years, the salary cap ceiling should be the lesser of (listed by year):

                                                  Y1        Y2         Y3         Y4       Y5       Y6       Y7

% of Hockey Revenue                     57%        56%        55%        54%        53%        52%        51%

-              Or           -

$ 70.2 million (in each of the proposed CBA years)

What this would do is provide a gradual roll-back to a more widely used revenue to salary ratio that is similar to the other major sports franchises. Additionally, this is giving the players the ball and asking them to continue to expand hockey in North America in order to maintain their current salaries.

In order to keep the Salary Cap at $70.2 million, hockey related revenues must be (at a minimum):

                                                  Y1        Y2         Y3         Y4       Y5       Y6       Y7

Hockey Revenue                               $3.69B   $3.76B   $3.83B   $3.90B   $3.97B   $4.05B   $4.13B

% Growth                                            -              1.89%    1.86%    1.83%    1.79%    2.01%    1.98%

With the NHL growing at a rate of more than 5% annually over the past CBA, these rate increases don’t seem unreasonable – owners would receive more money, and players wouldn’t have to give anything back to the owners in the form of a roll-back.

For argument sake, if you assume a 5% annual increase over the next 7 years, the owners would receive excess revenue as follows:

                                                  Y1        Y2         Y3         Y4       Y5       Y6       Y7

Hockey Revenue                               $3.69B   $3.87B   $4.05B   $4.25B   $4.46B   $4.69B   $4.92B

Cap Concession                                -              $0.11B   $0.22B   $0.35B   $0.49B   $0.64B   $0.79B

Cap Concession (team)                 -              $3.67m $7.33m $11.7m $16.3m $21.3m $26.3m

In total, over the course of the CBA, owners could expect an additional $2.6 billion in revenues or an average of $86.67 million per team.

Assume, however, that revenues stay constant; this is what the effect would be on the NHL:

                                                  Y1        Y2         Y3         Y4       Y5       Y6       Y7

Hockey Revenue                               $3.69B   $3.69B   $3.69B   $3.69B   $3.69B   $3.69B   $3.69B

% of Hockey Revenue                     57%        56%        55%        54%        53%        52%        51%

Salary Cap                                          $70.2m $68.9m $67.7m $66.4m $65.2m $64.0m $62.7m

Cap Concession                               -              $39m     $75m     $114m   $150m   $186m   $225m

Cap Concession (team)                 -              $1.3m    $2.5m    $3.8m    $5.0m    $6.2m    $7.5m

In total, under the worst-case scenario, owners would reduce player salaries by $789 million or an average of $26.3 million per team over the course of the CBA.

In summary, a gradual reduction in salary cap could add a significant amount of cost-reduction to owners while preventing players from having to roll-back salaries agreed to by owners. Additionally, from a team management standpoint, a gradual reduction in salary cap also gives teams a base-point to work from when planning long-term player contracts.

CBA Negotiations

Only in sport would a Collective Bargaining Agreement make sense – it’s like an election year every time the CBA comes due.

As fans, we rejoice when the players are playing, and especially when we have several years of uninterrupted sport, but we relish in the year of the CBA: it’s as if the lockout is always looming, and the players/owners can’t be proactive in their approach because it’s seen as a point of weakness.

Let’s get one thing straight, from a business perspective, the only point of weakness is the constant fear of a strike.

Questions for players and owners:

How much money did you make in the last lockout?

Why do we have to wait until the last minute to make these decisions?

Do you and your employees only have time once every 10 years to talk about operations?

Clearly these owners didn’t make it to their current position by procrastinating, so why choose to procrastinate on the foundation of their business? The answer is simple, the only leverage that players and owners have is the lack of performance.

Owner – “I’m not going to pay you until you meet my demands!”

Player – “Well, I’m not going to meet your demands until you pay me!”

Owner – “Fine, see how life on Kraft Cheese is like!”

Player – “I love the sweet tang of Kraft Cheese, and eat it regularly!”

Grow up fella’s. If this is truly a business, address the issues as they arise, not when the contract is up.

Here’s my advice for owners:

Don’t blame the players for accepting these outrageously long and lucrative contracts you proposed to them – if you can’t afford it don’t offer it. Also, when it comes to revenue sharing, figure it out amongst yourselves, that’s not a player issue.

Here’s my advice for players:

Your goal is to play hockey, not make money… or at least that’s what you want the owners to believe. The money will be there, but understand that an owner can’t maintain a team if they don’t make money. And unless you want some of your friends to be jobless, concessions may need to be made.

Here’s my advice for the fans:

Make both parties know that a lockout isn’t an option – we won’t support a broken system. If there is a lockout, we should organize a walk-out at an exhibition game or something to tell owners and players that they have nothing without us.

As for the process as a whole:

Figure out at a minimum what needs to be done to play hockey next season, then address the non-essential items over the course of the next 2-3 years.

Oilers Outlook: A 2012-2013 Year Comprehensive Plan [Arm-Chair GM] #oilers

Recently (today), I read a blog by Edmonton Oilers Beat-writer, Jonathan Willis, where he detailed the potential cap restrictions that the Oilers will face after signing Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ladislav Smid, and Magnus Paarvi. Blog post… HERE!

I guess Jonathan didn’t read my post about signing Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle… HERE!

There are some great things that Jonathan brings up, but none more important than the fundamental philosophy of planning and budgeting that the Oilers management needs to be effective for years to come. While fans are skeptical of management, no other organization has the same young talent at the NHL level, so it’s a unique opportunity that needs to be operated with precision.

- – -

As described in the title, and similar to Jonathan’s blog’s I’m going to look at the contract moves that the Oilers should make in the 2012-2013 season. I will look at how the Oilers can not only sign their youth movement, but provide relevant comparable performance based contract structures (i.e. the comprehensive aspect of this plan).

2012-2013

- Currently

Currently the cap for 2012-2013 sits at $56.43 million, approx. $13.77 million under the cap ceiling. The only real outstanding contracts are Sam Gagner and Theo Peckham.

- Sam Gagner / Theo Peckham

When looking at the appropriate contract rate, there are several metrics that you can use to estimate contract cap hits. For forwards, I like one of two methods, both of which typically come to a similar answer:

Method 1 – 15 points per $1 million in cap hit

Method 2 – $1 million per 10 goals, $1 million per 20 assists

Using these metrics, Sam Gagner falls in the $3-3.25 million range historically, BUT the question needs to be asked, “Do you expect him to exceed these point totals going forward?” — If you believe that the risk is too high, or that there won’t be an increasing point production, stick with method 1 or 2. If you believe that it’s “more likely than not” that there will be an increase in point production, you can calculate the average points over the future periods and apply the same tests to get the “high” range of contract values. In Sam Gagner’s case, I expect him to increase production to about 20 goals, 40 assists; thus $4 million per. If he’s signed to a three-year deal (which isn’t out of the question), we would likely see a $3 million / $3.5 million / $4 million salary breakup.

As for Theo Peckham, and defensemen in general, comparisons are more difficult because it implies style. Good news for you, Theo isn’t a part of my long-term strategy, so I’ll pay him the Qualifying Offer, (“QO”) and have him be my #7 defenseman this year. Jonathan Willis has this at ~$1 million.

- Jordan Eberle / Taylor Hall

For argument’s sake, both Jordan and Taylor are going to be strong players for the next decade. The popular belief is to sign Jordan and Taylor to similar contracts, like they did in Chicago for Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane ($6.3 mil per). However, considering point production, pedigree, and injury history, I’m not certain Taylor and Jordan are comparable to Jonathan and Patrick – heck they won a cup in Chicago.

That being said, looking at the methods of defining contracts described above (and described in my previous blog), Jordan and Taylor are historically in the $5 – $5.5 range. Their future production though, is where this becomes tricky. Jordan, by many accounts is expected to have similar point production (which would be considered turning down the nobs compared to last year). Taylor, on the other hand, by the same accounts has underachieved slightly in his first two seasons.

For both of these guys though, I want to sign them to 5 years. I expect Taylor to be in the 90-100 points a season range (40G / 60A), and Jordan to maintain in the 80-90 range (35G / 55A). That being said, the salary range on Taylor would be between $5 million and $7 million, and Jordan would be between $5.5 million and $6.5 million. Over a 5-year period, if we would see:

Taylor – $5 million / $5.5 million / $6 million / $6.5 million / $7 million

Jordan – $5.5 million / $5.75 million / $6 million / $6.25 million / $6.5 million

Under both of these contracts, Jordan and Taylor have the same cap-hit ($6 million), but have different expectations: One is to maintain ppg type production, other is to begin to settle into an elite top 10 forward in the NHL. In a previous post, I had talked about 7-years @ $7 million, and should Jordan/Taylor meet their goals over the next 5 years, their next contract will be in the $7-$8 million cap-hit range over a much longer period of time.

Additionally, by putting these contracts in front of these guys now, with a medium-term, I believe that it not only shows commitment to their production and the investment in their future, it also hedges the possibility of a breakout season by Taylor Hall this season, and a stable season by Jordan Eberle. By comparison Patrick Kane went from point-per-game production to better than point per game production in his third season.

- Ladislav Smid

Similar to Jordan and Taylor, I also think it’s important for management to extend Ladislav Smid in a similar fashion. He’s poised to make progress this season and as the kids get older, he’ll likely also see an increase in +/- over this season in comparison to last season. As Jonathan Willis pointed out, Marc-Edwourd Vlasic was recently signed to an extension, and he believes this is a comparable, but Ladislav might not get the same money because the Oilers haven’t really been winners.

That being said, it can be reasonably assumed that Ladislav will require a pay increase (makes $2.25 million now), and will require a medium contract term (4 years?). I have him pegged for somewhere in the realm of $3.25 million for his historical work and $4.25 million on future production – $3.25 million / $3.5 million / $3.75 million / $4.25 million. $3.63 million cap hit.

Note: these contracts wouldn’t hit the Oilers until the next season.

- Ryan Whitney / Magnus Paarvi / Anton Lander / etc.

Some people have suggested addressing other youth contracts this season, or extending veterans due-up next season, and I’m playing this cautiously. I don’t see Ryan Whitney in my long-term future (as an arm-chair GM), and I want Magnus to see the contracts that Taylor / Jordan got as incentives to step up his game.

- Summary

At the end of the season, I see the cap hit coming in at the $61 million range – maybe less, with $1.5 million coming off the books for Sheldon Souray, $3.75 million for Nikolai Khabibulin, $4 million for Ryan Whitney, $1.5 million for Ryan Jones, $1.5 million for Andy Sutton, and a handful of other lower level contracts, putting us at a ~$56.22 million starting point, $13.98 million in cap space.

There are RFAs in MPS, Hartikainen, Tuebert, etc. and possibly Hall, and Eberle.

Additionally, 2013-2014, we will have RNH, and Justin Schultz to sign as well – the fun never stops.

I respect Jonathan Willis, and his assessment, I don’t agree with his range of $6-$7.5 million cap hit for Taylor / Jordan when John Tavares just signed a 6-year $33 million deal. Additionally, I feel like he’s giving a couple guys too much slack (such as Ryan Whitney). Overall though, it was a pretty solid outlook – definitely could have gone in more detail though.

2013-2014 will be posted soon…

Justin Schultz – The Saga Continues (Part 2)

Having now hired a head coach, Ralph Krueger, the Oilers immediately shift their focus to signing the most anticipated free agent not named Zach Parise or Ryan Suter: Justin Schultz.

As I so accurately pointed out (pat on my back) in my first post about Justin Schultz, the Oilers needed a head coach in order to even enter the conversation with Justin and his agent team.

Currently, Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavich sit in the Newport Sports offices with a game plan in hand and a new coach in their back pocket. The hiring of Krueger gives Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavich gives the Oilers brass a known commodity to market, and a players coach who took one of the worst special teams in the league and turned them into one of the best (3rd on powerplay, 14th on penalty kill).

– We’ll have to see how Krueger does with the 5-on-5 minutes this year, which were dismal last yera.

Talent and Special Teams are the two fundamental dynamics that Lowe and MacTavich can market to Schultz as the strong points of the organization. Teams like Toronto, Vancouver, and New York can point out their organizational depth at defense…

What’s further is that no other team can offer Schultz the minutes he wants to develop. In all teams, sans the Detroit Red Wings, he would even be competing for a roster spot. In Edmonton, he’d be (at the least) as second pairing guy (along-side possibly Nick Schultz), and would split PP time with Petry, and possibly even pick up a shift on the PK. That adds up to 20-22 minutes a night, and the Oilers are the only team that can offer that.

And while Edmonton cites defensive depth as one of its organization strengths, it’s only at the developmental level with Klefbom (most likely to make the jump to NHL) who is going back to Sweden for one more season.

Bottom line is the Oilers offer a unique opportunity for Justin Schultz to display his talents and develop into a top pairing defenseman more quickly than any other any other club. While finishing second to last in the NHL, the talent on the bench suggests the Oilers are primed for a big move in the standings this year, and next year (the term of his contract). If he’s looking to develop and display his talents, there isn’t any better place than Edmonton.

Regardless of where he chooses to be though, we can expect him to make an informed and educated decision based on each of the interested parties.

Here’s my list of likely destinations:

1. Vancouver (33%)

2. Detroit (25%)

3. Edmonton (20%)

4. Toronto (12%)

5. New York Rangers (5%)

6. Other (5%)