I think we can all agree that the value of draft picks and unproven NHL talent has gone down since the new CBA. This isn’t really news, but for an organization like the Edmonton Oilers it does create a bit of a problem.
For instance, how DO you create value in a prospect? In the olden days (call it the Sam Pollock era), the idea was to insert the kid into the lineup, give him 500 at-bats and trade him to Pittsburgh for their next available 1st rd pick just after he scored his 20th goal of the season (call it the Chuck Arnason, Rod Schutt plan).
Nowadays teams can get value for minor leaguers at the deadline (Oilers sent away Rita and Salmelainen spring 2006 for impressive payoffs) or get them in return if out of the race at the deadline (Nilsson, O’Marra and Plante for 3 weeks of Ryan Smyth).
If you are the Oilers organization right now, how many roster spots (and how many at-bats) are you willing to use on guys who may or man not contribute and giving them a prolonged audition while still in the race? If Rob Schremp ($780k) and Zack Stortini ($534k) are the final two forwards fighting it out for the last roster spot, and money (against the cap) is too tight to mention, is a team more or less likely today to keep the higher paid man if the gap isn’t clear? Especially considering that the difference between a playoff spot and last place in the NW is less than in any other division (and not close to the Pollock era where Arnason could beat up the weak sisters and be gone by the time the games mattered) and those dollars may be needed to acquire injury replacement talent?
As much as the Oilers will need to put their best foot forward from the opening bell, the only way they’re ever going to increase Jean Francois Jacques’ trade value is to play the man at the NHL level. That goes the same for pretty much all the minor leaguers, although it seems to me Tom Gilbert might be established enough now to have legit value.
Let’s try the discussion from the other side. What could the Edmonton Oilers get right now for Patrick Thoresen. I think he is building value for several reasons. His price ($570,000) and performance in one season at the NHL level mean that Thoresen is a guy most teams could trade for and use in a role right away. There’s no doubt he can play, although we don’t have an established level of NHL ability for him. Despite not having “draft pedigree”, he’s a good young player who won’t hurt you as much as a 1st rounder without the pro experience. Do the Edmonton Oilers want to hire Rob Schremp this fall or perhaps hire the more well rounded Jonas Almtorp for $587k?
Compare a guy like Thoresen (or Pouliot) to a player like Jean Francois Jacques. Jacques is 22 years old, 5 years from being UFA no matter what he does from here out, and the other 29 teams have lots of guys who can’t score at the NHL level. So what he’s big and can crash?
What IS the value of JF Jacques? It isn’t much currently, and if he doesn’t play and succeed at the NHL level soon the Oilers will have to make a decision on him (just like they did with Brad Winchester) that may involve getting zero cents on the dollar. Jacques is an RFA next summer, what price will he command? Will it be more than the $475k Winchester got from Dallas?
Being a high draft pick has always (imo) given players an extra chance, almost a feeling of entitlement about their future with the team that drafted them. It looks like this may be working in reverse now, as the dollars are having a definite impact. Some of these players aren’t going to get a second pro contract, some are never going to get a one way deal, and some are going to end up in Europe without having success in the NHL.
And as we get farther into this new CBA world, it looks like the end-of-the-roster guys are going to be making $475k, which means these higher draft picks better be worth it.
How many Oiler prospects are?