The best thing about talking “next year” is we can bring Ales Hemsky into the conversation. Make no mistake, no matter how high this club drafts it’ll be #83 carrying the mail with Penner and possibly Gagner making another step forward in 10-11.
Yesterday’s announcement by Sheldon Souray that he would be willing to waive his NTC breaks the logjam that is the Oilers relationship to the salary cap. Edmonton has very few veterans with enough value to merit interest from contending teams, so most of the interest is likely to surround players Edmonton doesn’t want to move.
I think it is time to think about buyouts, releases, and walking away from rfa’s who haven’t covered their bet. The Oilers cap number for 2010-11 is about $45M now, and with the cap not going to far up or down (it is at $57M for 09-10) there’s very little wiggle room for a team that needs plenty of leeway. Here’s a list of players who I think we might see leaving town before TC 2010.
- Sheldon Souray. Cap hit: $5.4M for two more years. Souray’s announcement gives us a chance to speculate about where he’d headed and what is coming in return. I think the Oilers would be wise to deal for an expiring contract and picks, or for a less expensive veteran defenseman they can safely use in their top 6D next season. If the team enters 2010-11 with a top 4D or Visnovsky-Smid, Grebeshkov-Gilbert I don’t think too many teams will be losing sleep about the rugged group in Oiler nation. The one area this team has always been good at is finding solid defensemen at midnight in a snowstorm, so my preference would be for the Oilers to go the “Jan Hejda” route by deadling Sheldon Souray for an expiring contract and a young defenseman (possibly an AHL player who is close to NHL ready).
- Ethan Moreau. Cap hit: $2M, UFA 2011. I think they try to deal him at the deadline (or sooner) but even if that doesn’t happen they quietly buy him out at the deadline. He’s become a lightning rod for negativity (and has earned it) but I think he may have lost some vision when suffering that eye injury about one year ago. Moreau’s reputation (he still gets glowing comments from out-of-town pbp and commentators) might get him dealt at the deadline, but I think he gets the Jason Smith treatment this summer.
- Steve Staios. Cap hit: $2.7M, UFA 2011. Defenseman always have plus value at the deadline because the playoffs are so long and injuries along the blue will happen in the run to the Stanley. Remember Buffalo 2006 spring? Staios looks like a spent force, though. I don’t know how many D are on the market for playoff rental and the price (an extra season at 2.7M) is fairly steep. I think he might (like Moreau) get the Jason Smith treatment.
- Fernando Pisani. Cap hit: $2.5M, UFA 2010. If he plays 10 games like he did against Columbus, the Oilers should be able to get something of value for him. A healthy Pisani is a pretty damn good hockey player.
- Robert Nilsson. Cap hit: $2.0M, RFA 2010. It isn’t so much that he isn’t getting the job done, more a matter of culling the group of small forwards that have taken over the roster like an untrimmed hedge. Nilsson is on track for another 29-34 point season, that may or may not have value (it is about what one should expect from Rob Schremp over a season, those two have always been good comps for each other) but I think the Oilers may part ways with him in a similar fashion to the way they handled Daniel Cleary (buyout) several years ago.
- Mike Comrie. Cap hit: $1.25M, UFA 2010. The local kid came back and played pretty well but the flu and mono have taken his season to this point. With Eberle, Omark and others possible Oilers a year from now management probably doesn’t offer a contract.
- Andrew Cogliano. Cap hit: $1.133M, RFA 2010. We talked about this recently, but there’s a good distance now between Cogliano and Gagner in terms of development and if they’re moving out some small forwards this fellow is probably on the list. I’d hope they trade Cogliano for a usefel, veteran C who makes 1-1.5M and is some stretch from free agency.
- Jason Strudwick. Cap hit: $700k, UFA 2010. He’s a great team player, but Dean Arsene can fill this role.
I didn’t include Patrick O’Sullivan, JF Jacques, Marc Pouliot, Tom Gilbert or Denis Grebeshkov but those players may be trade bait or bubble players who don’t make the grade come fall. I think it is important to note that this team should be bigger and more experienced in 2010-11 and we can already know (just based on what we’ve seen) a lot about the team shopping list.
- A big, rugged, more skilled version of JF Jacques to play in the top 9F
- A quality two-way center (the Peca)
- A quality two-way winger (the Pisani) for the 3line
- A more complete veteran defenseman for the top 4D (2-way, good defensively)
- Another damn goalie
So, if we make a depth chart it might look like this:
- Horcoff-better Jacques-O’Sullivan
- the Peca-the Pisani-Stone
- Extras: Jacques, Pouliot
- the new Souray-Gilbert
- Khabibulin-new Garon (Biron)
Bigger, more experience. Bringing in players with a wider range of skills. Although there are two rookies (Arsene, Peckham) on this roster Arsene has plenty of pro experince and if Peckham falters there are other options available in the minors. If Eberle makes the team, then the Oilers would probabbly risk waivers on Pouliot. If Eberle thrives, they’d need to find a home for O’Sullivan. However, I’m hopeful they go with the more experienced hand, even if he’s overpriced.