Nilsson Signed

Edmonton signed RW Robert Nilsson to a 3-year, $5.5M deal yesterday. It’s a contract most fans are happy with, and that reaction is in stark contrast to early returns on the Tom Gilbert deal.

I’m at a loss to explain it.

Tom Gilbert signed a 6-year deal at age 25, giving the Oilers a full 4 seasons of his free agent career in the deal. You’re going to pay for that kind of contract and the Oilers certainly did, but it would appear to me that it makes sense considering the comparables league-wide. The Brent Seabrook contract is not a comparable because no seasons of free agency were purchased (Seabrook will be 25 when his recently signed 3-year deal expires, summer 2011) and I would suggest a better comp would be the Nick Schultz deal in Minnesota. He is 25 this summer and has recently signed a 6-year, $21M deal. Barret Jackman’s recent 4-year, $14.4M deal is also similar, except that the Blues purchased fewer seasons so paid less. Kevin Bieksa signed for three seasons at $3.75M per year and that is the one in the group I would identify as a clear overpay.

The Nilsson contract buys three seasons (ages 23-25) for $1.83M a season. Toronto purchased 2 seasons of Alex Steen for slightly less, and Columbus locked up 4 years of Jason Chimera for about the same price as the Nilsson contract. The Islanders got 5 seasons of Trent Hunter (several of them free agent seasons) for $2M.

I’m no expert in this area, but there’s some evidence here that we as a fanbase are off the mark with both contracts. Gilbert signed a deal that is similar to Nick Schultz (with added dollars for the difference in offense) and you can be critical of the deal because Schultz has a few more NHL seasons (Schultz has played in over 400 NHL games). It’s an overpay but knowing Kevin Lowe as we do that should have been (and was) anticipated and as the summer wears on and as more Gilbert comps get signed this contract will probably find solid ground.

We have to be careful not to view this deals through a window of trying to adjust for the Penner and Souray deals. Different players, different summer.

And buying free agency seasons is expensive, especially for multi-dimensional talent.

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39 Responses to "Nilsson Signed"

  1. Matt says:

    Since you like comps, I was mulling over this one that occurred to me:

    Jordan Leopold 2004 = Tom Gilbert 2008

    One+ season in the NHL, college guy, some real nice boxcar numbers, looks to all like he can do it all and will be a factor for the next 10 years.

  2. Black Dog says:

    I like both signings.

    Gilbert put up nice numbers, mostly at ES.

    As an NHL rookie he did a good job against tough opposition night in and night out. Played a lot of minutes. Took very few penalties. Moves the puck well.

    Its a gamble (but they nearly all are) but I think its a good bet. I figured he’s come in at 3.5 Another 500K isn’t going to cost them Joni. If they want to keep him then they will find that money somewhere.

  3. dawgbone says:

    I didn’t have the heart to argue with anyone at HF about the Nilsson deal… they were so bloody happy about it.

    At the same time they were trying to ship away guys like Stoll, Torres, Pisani, etc… and I didn’t have it in me to point out the irony.

  4. Lord Bob says:

    While we’re talking about Gilbert, one thing I don’t quite get is when people say that he’s at or near the top of his development curve

    He’s 25, so he’s not going to develop physically. I get that. But he’s also just completed his first full NHL campaign and only has two years total experience playing against men. Surely the mental factor hasn’t nearly exhausted itself yet; no matter how old you are, you need a fair chunk of at-bats before you’re comfortable with big league pitching.

    That doesn’t mean I see Gilbert as the stud of our first pairing or anything, but it is something to keep in mind when considering this contract.

  5. Traktor says:

    DB said: At the same time they were trying to ship away guys like Stoll, Torres, Pisani, etc… and I didn’t have it in me to point out the irony.

    You won’t be able to sign impact players like Pitkanen or extend Horc if you have 10 million tied up in 3rd line players. It’s simple stuff.

    I would keep Torres and Pisani and dump Moreau and Stoll.(Not sure if Moreau even has 7th round pick value though)

  6. Traktor says:

    Where was Staios when he was 25?

    If your learning curve is over at age 25 then Staios probably wouldn’t even be in the NHL right now.

    Chris Phillips didn’t turn into Chris Phillips until after his 25th birthday.

    Brian Rafalski didn’t even crack the NHL until he was 25 and now he is one of the premier offensive defensemen in the NHL.

    Jason Smith didn’t become the Jason Smith that we all know until after his 25th birthday too.

    Gilbert will keep on improving and this contract will look as nice as Tomas Tomas Kaberle’s before we know it.

  7. Black Dog says:

    Yeah, I agree on the whole developmental question.

    He may not get any better but a lot of players continue to improve beyond the age of 25. The fact that he was a rookie this past season means that he has a lot of experience to gain in front of him.

    I think he is going to get better. I also think that his age means that the growing pains won’t be as severe as if he were a 21 year old Dman.

  8. Lord Bob says:

    Personally, I’m on the “gas Torres, gas Stoll” bandwagon. If we resign Glencross and Reasoner, I’m quite comfortable with rolling a Pouliot – Reasoner – Pisani third line and a Glencross – Brodziak – Stortini fourth line, even accounting for the inevitable Ethan Moreau injury. Stoll’s a workable third liner and penalty killer but he’d get way too much money.

    (I’m at work, so I’m thinking about these things too hard. :P)

    With Stoll and Torres out the door, there would be a slot open for the fourteenth forward, but you can find the Jon Sims and Chris Dingmans of the world pretty easily and pretty cheaply even if you don’t want to offer that spot to one of Jacques/Schremp/Reddox.

  9. GSC says:

    Niklas Kronvall would be as good of a comparable to T. Gilbert as it gets.

    Kronvall has 4 more years with the Wings(3 UFA years) @ $3.375 MIL per and is 26. He’s amassed 7G-28A-35PTS, +25, 21:06 TOI/G through the regular season. His Desjardins rating is also 0.75, compared to Gib’s 0.50.

    I would have to say that Gilbert could’ve been had for $0.5 MIL less, but it’s water under the bridge at this point.

  10. Ducey says:

    Agree with you 100% Lord Bob on the Gilbert development. Learning how to position himslelf in the defensive zone, learning when to jump into the offense, and confidence all come with experience. I would expect he would get stronger with more “pro” style training as well.

    If Lowe can now lock up GlenX and Grebs he will be in a relatively strong position to see what he can do with Raffi, Stoll, and Schremp.

  11. Josh says:

    LT: “as the summer wears on and as more Gilbert comps get signed this contract will probably find solid ground.”

    Is this because the contract is a good one or all the Gilbert comps are now asking for 500k more?

    You are right that more similar players will sign similar players but that is because of the Gilbert deal and not irrelevant of it.

  12. Showerhead says:

    An open question: with Gilbert’s contract being structured as it is, the cap hit remains 24/6, right? The only details are in when and how he gets his money?

    If he gets traded and then comes up on a year where he makes 3.5M + 1.5M signing bonus, who pays him the money and at what times? Basically, I am trying to get a sense of what the advantages/disadvantages of Gilbert’s deal are in terms of its structure. There has to be a reason it’s laid out the way it is, true?

  13. Hemsky is a gangsta says:

    i’m pretty sure in the first year the signing bonus is included in the 3.5 million. because if you add up the salaries and bonuses it comes up to 27 million instead of 24.

  14. Showerhead says:

    “Gilbert will earn $3.5 million next season with a $1.5 million signing bonus, $3.5 million in 2009-2010, $5.5 million with a $1.5 million signing bonus in 2010-2011, $5 million in 2011-2012, $3.5 million in 2012-2013, and $3 million in 2013-2014 for a salary cap average of $4 million a season.”

    The way I read this is:

    1) $2.0M Salary + $1.5M Bonus
    2) $3.5M Salary
    3) $4.0M Salary + $1.5M Bonus
    4) $5.0M Salary
    5) $3.5M Salary
    6) $3.0M Salary
    —————————–
    ST) $21.0M Salary + $3.0M Bonus
    —————————–
    T) $24.0M / 6 Yrs = $4M Cap hit.

    If I’m correct, this makes Gilbert the most tradeable in years 2, 5, and 6. As a matter of fact one can expect Gilbert to be an absolute steal dollar wise at the tail end of his contract even if his cap value is still $4M. This would IMO make this contract fantastically astute if not for one thing: Ales Hemsky’s contract ends when Gilbert is still making $5M.

    I assume that Katz is willing to spend all sorts of money it takes to win. This would make Gilbert’s low payout at the end simply fantastic if it were timed to coincide with a year Hemsky is still under contract. Of course we’re still a few years away and one would expect that if Hemmer is still worth his salt Edmonton will keep him around but it would be at market $ and therefore not such a budget advantage as if it coincided with Gilbert’s cheap years.

  15. Doogie says:

    Jordan Leopold 2004 = Tom Gilbert 2008

    So you’re saying that Gilbert is going to spend most of two years on the IR after being traded for Alex Tanguay? Seems like a bit of a stretch to me. (Yes, I know, he had an off year in 2006 before that, but he wouldn’t be the only player to lose his shit after the lockout.)

  16. Hemsky is a gangsta says:

    Leopold didn’t “lose his shit” after the lockout…The Flames that year were bottom 5 in goals for IIRC and their goals against has gone up considerably since his departure…

  17. Dennis says:

    This was Riv’s point but the 12 contract makes him very tradeable if there’s any time where he’s not performing.

    And from where I sit, you probably have to deal him after the 2010 season because 13-89 are coming up for their big paydays come the 2011 season PLUS 12′s value should be sky-high heading into his last year given he’s gonna get PP and soft time for the next two years.

    My whole thing with Gilbert is that it’s a massive overpay by any stretch. I’m with the guys who say that even though he’s 25, he just had his first full season and I think the experience is gonna make him better so I don’t think he’s topping out at all.

    In any case, I know we’re under the wire here a bit but what we all have to hope for is that ESPN comes on board for a major US TV deal and then the cap goes up to the point where we’re not as hamstrung.

    Failing that, yes, once Souray’s pact enters into the phase where the NMC no longer applies, then we’ll have the option of hiding that money as well.

    The Oilers are top 10 in rev even with an old building and the ticket prices are going to get higher and higher the better this team gets. There’s no reason to think we won’t be tight to the cap every season. That’s an adv but it also means that Lowe will sign off on all deals without doing the sometimes necessary haggling.

    LT: maybe you’ve done this somewhere and I missed it but did you update the ’09 payroll to include the new 12 and 77 figures?

  18. godot10 says:

    //My whole thing with Gilbert is that it’s a massive overpay by any stretch.//

    Name one good young to mid-career defenseman who has signed for less than $3.5 million.

    Seabrook got $3.5 million and gave up no unrestricted years. If Riseborough had paid for an extra 2 UFA years onto Schultz and Burns contracts they would average $4 instead of $3.5.

    Buffalo could have had Campbell long term for $5 million, hesitated, and now have no Campbell, and a starting goaltender who probably will have no interest in staying.

    Olczyk and Gilbert’s agent spent 4 months going over the comparables. Gilbert contract is at the market.

    On these long deals, the Oilers want to pay market rates, and don’t want the reputation of Buffalo of being pennywise and pound foolish.

  19. Jonathan says:

    //On these long deals, the Oilers want to pay market rates, and don’t want the reputation of Buffalo of being pennywise and pound foolish.//

    Well they have a long way to go to rehabilitate that reputation, given the 7-yr, 50-million dollar offer sheet they signed Vanek to (which Buffalo, shockingly, matched).

  20. Lowetide says:

    Dennis: I haven’t updated the salaries, will do it tomorrow.

    As for Gilbert being a “massive overpay by any stretch” I really don’t see it. Gilbert’s age is the trigger and although it’s true he doesn’t have Schultz’s GP total it’s also true that he delivered a solid year.

    Had the Oilers signed him for 2 seasons at far less they would have had him until free agency. They bought 4 additional seasons and it cost them.

    What would the counter argument be? What NHL defender Gilbert’s age was signed to a contract we can point to?

  21. doritogrande says:

    “What would the counter argument be? What NHL defender Gilbert’s age was signed to a contract we can point to?”

    I don’t have the resources you do, so I’m not down on the “years of UFA purchased” style, but it looks like Dan Hamhuis was paid for at least a couple of those years.

    Radek Martinek might also count.

    Fedor Tyutin’s a little bit younger, but he seems to have signed a similar deal for much less $$.

    I’d also love to throw Preissing’s contract out there as well, but he was UFA, so it’s a bit different. I do however, see a very comparable game between him and Gilbert.

    And, just to take both sides of the argument, you’re right about the market value. Look no further than Kevin Bieksa’s contract.

  22. godot10 says:

    //I don’t have the resources you do, so I’m not down on the “years of UFA purchased” style, but it looks like Dan Hamhuis was paid for at least a couple of those years.//

    Hamhuis’ contract is ancient…signed two summers ago, and includes no unrestricted years. One might as well use Doug Harvey’s last contract as a comparable then! -).

    //I’d also love to throw Preissing’s contract out there as well, but he was UFA, so it’s a bit different. I do however, see a very comparable game between him and Gilbert.//

    Pressing is a useless defenseman…okay, at best a third pairing defensemen, and he signed for 4 UFA years @ $2.75. (Sort of makes Steve Staios look like a bargain.) Lombardi had to be out of his mind.

  23. doritogrande says:

    godot:

    300 NHL games, plus fifty-fucking-six.

    Yeah, there’s your “useless defenseman”. Smart research.

  24. godot10 says:

    //300 NHL games, plus fifty-fucking-six.//

    Anaheim ate Pressing and Corvo (and Redden) alive last year in the finals. Murray couldn’t put them on the ice.

    Preissing never saw tough opposition when he racked up that +40 in Ottawa.

    Sometimes the stats “lie”.

  25. doritogrande says:

    “Preissing never saw tough opposition when he racked up that +40 in Ottawa.”

    With Redden, Phillips, Volchenkov and usually one of Mezaros/Corvo ahead of him on the depth chart for the heavy minutes, it’s not surprising to me that he got the soft minutes, and boy did he make the best of them. I don’t think it was a case of he didn’t deserve the opportunity, moreso the fact that that Ottawa team was stacked to the rafters with good defensemen last year.

  26. Alex says:

    I think another thing worth pointing out about Gilbert’s contract is that 3m of that is signing bonuses, including a 1.5m bonus just for signing. Gilbert is an American who is likely established south of the border and lived in a house with Gagner and Cogliano this season. The 1.5m signing bonus will help him get set up in Edmonton.

  27. Bendelson says:

    Gilbert – Whitney
    Same exact contract no?
    I see them both as excellent 25yr old defencemen with similiar offensive upside.

    A little less experience yes, but to say the contract is ‘an overpay’ is flat wrong.

    Another good solid move.
    In a couple years, Gilbert will be our 30min man.
    Now Grebs…
    3 yrs – 7M?

  28. RiversQ says:

    And buying free agency seasons is expensive, especially for multi-dimensional talent.

    Actually, I think you’re missing the point here.

    This is one of those deals where you overpay up front in the hope that you’ll have a guy that outperforms his deal for the last 2-3 yrs. I have no problem with the concept at all and I like Gilbert’s game.

    However, my critique is based around the fact that Lowe is paying for potential here because he just signed a 25yr old dman with 1 yr experience, who definitely faded a little in the 4th quarter of the year.

    Paying for the UFA seasons means nothing if he’s not going to be a $5MM+ quality player in two years. (eg. I’d say Gilbert’s RFA years are worth about $5MM total, so $19MM of contract value over the last four years of the deal is roughly a $5MM player)

    There’s a big bet here though. Whether or not Gilbert can cover it remains to be seen, but it’s not going to be easy.

  29. jon k says:

    I don’t think LT’s missing the point in regards to overpaying for UFA years.

    Let’s fast-forward two years and think of Gilbert as a 27 year old defenseman with similar defensive abilities, and who puts up 35 points in a season. How much is Dman like that going to get on the free market?

    Going solely on the basis of abilities and point production (no further considerations such as GF, GA rates) I suggested that Spacek’s $3.5 rate for UFA was somewhat telling, though it’s an outdated deal now.

    The problem right now is that we don’t have many defensemen signing contracts at age 25 since the new CBA that are similar in makeup to Gilbert.

    I think one of the closest comparables right now, out of necessity more than anything else, is Nik Kronvall out of Detroit.

    - His deal was 5 years, $3.0 average.
    - He would have been 25 at the time of signing, turning 26 in January of 07
    - Kronvall signed in Nov 06, he ended that season with 22 points in 68 games and even +/-
    - He was coming off of major knee surgery which limited him to 28 games the season prior
    - The deal signed him for 4 UFA years (I believe, math and dates are not my forte)

    All in all, I think Detroit got a pretty good deal with Kronvall in retrospect, as his abilities have continued to progress nicely since the signing.

    That being said, all of the factors in his signing and the inflation of salaries in the two years since then suggest that Gilbert’s deal is not terrible or unsubstantiated.

    Detroit took a bit of a risk on Kronvall with all things considered (no big point totals to that point, major injury in early years), and it turned out well for them. I think the Oilers are taking a somewhat similar gamble on Gilbert, though maybe not of the same magnitude.

    Like my initial reaction, I’m still led to believe the deal is reasonable and fair for both sides.

  30. dawgbone says:

    Traktor… don’t tell me you still believe in things like 3rd liners.

    The irony is that both Stoll and Torres have done what Nilsson has done and now they are untradable bums taking away a roster spot.

    What’s going to happen in 2 years when Nilsson is asked to take on a more important role? And we get saddled with a $1.83 mil contract for a “3rd liner”?

  31. Lowetide says:

    RQ: Agreed it’s a big bet, 4M is a large sum especially when considering the Souray deal plus Pitkanen out there waiting for his payday.

  32. Schitzo says:

    Dawgbone:

    We thank our lucky stars that he costs a half million less than Stoll or Torres would, while contributing on the 2nd PP and the shootout.

    Oh yeah, and being BFF with 13 and 89. And not being a headcase.

    (I don’t see that happening with Nilsson, though – he’s too easygoing to become a headcase like Torres, so learning to go against tougher oppposition shouldn’t give him PTSD like it seems to with Raffi.)

  33. Ducey says:

    “The irony is that both Stoll and Torres have done what Nilsson has done and now they are untradable bums taking away a roster spot.”

    Huh?

    If there is any irony here it is that “fans” continue to retrospectively criticize the GM for deals they would have cheered years ago. Stoll was the Oilers best player before he got his bell rung. Had he continued to develop, his contract would be a bargain. Raffi, a first rounder, scored 27 a few years ago while at the same time hitting like a linebacker.

    Neither of them are untradeable. I expect that GM’s will be lining up for Raffi once he shows he is healthy. I expect you will see a big improvement in Stoll. If the Oilers wanted/ needed to, they could just let him walk and be rid of the “burden”.

    If there is any criticism of Nilsson’s deal, it is that it does not buy out any of his UFA years (I don’t think). The odds are 50/50 that in 3 years we will be wishing that Nilsson wasn’t on the verge of a big free agent payday a la Horcoff.

  34. Showerhead says:

    I’m reading today that Nilsson’s deal is actually 1.5/2.0/2.5 and not the 1.5/2.0/2.0 originally reported. Does that change how anyone feels about it?

  35. dave says:

    If a big offer sheet was coming for any player on the roster. I think it was Gilbert. The next player an offer sheet was coming to was probably Nilsson.

    I don’t think Lowe will mind getting Pennered over Joni. If the offers don’t come in he’s got him in a nice place.

  36. Bruce says:

    Showerhead: 3 years, $6 MM, exactly how LT called it the other day. Nice call, LT!

    Still looks like a good deal to me, structured in a sensible manner as Nilsson should continue to develop throughout the life of the contract (though the way the cap structure works it’s almost immaterial).

    Nice quotes in the paper:

    “It’s been quite amazing how far he’s come. He really can do it all and that’s something I didn’t see in his game.” — Craig MacTavish

    “I had to develop, maybe not into another playter, but I had to add more to my game. There will be more expectations now, but I probably expect more of myself than anyone else does.” — Robert Nilsson

  37. Bruce says:

    I’d say Gilbert’s RFA years are worth about $5MM total, so $19MM of contract value over the last four years of the deal is roughly a $5MM player

    I agree, RQ. A reasonable structure of this contract — both in terms of RFA/UFA $$$ as well as what are realistic expectations of Gilbert’s performance — is 2-3-4-5-5-5 MM$. I frankly don’t expect a $4 MM player next season, but if Oilers are right about this guy it’s realistic to expect a $5 MM defenceman in the back half of it.

    In a similar vein, my “structure of expectations” for Dustin Penner was 2-3-4-5-6 MM$, and I am a lot less disappointed in the performance of the sophomore than many seem to be. Like Gilbert and virtually every college-trained NHLer, this is a guy who should continue to grow for years to come.

  38. Dennis says:

    LT: I meant to say that the deal Wasn’t a massive overpay by any stretch. Sorry for not being clearer.

    I was hoping we could get him for say 3.25-3.5 a year so paying him 4 per isn’t that big of a stretch.

    But as much as I like Gilbert, I’d feel better if he hadn’t faded down the stretch but maybe he faded because he was playing too many min.

    Which is why I’d like 25 brought back for one more season.

  39. Lowetide says:

    Dennis: I understand now. I have a feeling Lowe is going to sign Pitkanen too, just based on what he’s said so fair and how much we know he loves to spend money on Dmen.

    I mean, if a defenseman can’t get an extra bit of walking around money from Kevin Lowe then I don’t know who he could get it from and that goes back to Eric Brewer.

    And you’re right about the late fade, it isn’t like Gilbert has a bunch of years on his resume.

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