Sunday, December 28, 2014

Upgrade Depth, A Stepping Stone to Fixing the OIlers

The Edmonton Oilers have been the butt of many of my own jokes, yet there really has been no movement from the ownership or significant rumours around players that management could move of late, but that won't stop me from putting up my first post on this blog site in years.

Over the last five year or so, I thought one of the best ideas among teams in their rebuild process belonged to the Florida Panthers, as they poached a whole bunch of Chicago Blackhawks players, as they sold off assets to clear cap space.  To me, this should be something that the Oilers should be looking into, especially with a number of teams on the verge of fire sales, thanks to some shaky salary cap numbers and the dropping Canadian Dollar.

With Reilly Smith, Carl Soderberg, Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton all up for new contracts through restricted free agency, the Boston Bruins bundle of cap space will be eaten up in a big hurry over the Summer.  Smith and Krug both took short-term deals to get to next Summer, where they should be handsomely rewarded.  Between the four of them, they could fetch North of $16 million for the lot, where they only have about $21 million to spend on 11 players, if the $73 million cap estimates from the Winter GM meetings is the ballpark number we're playing with.

The Bruins likely won't want to deal any of those four, as they likely see them as cornerstone pieces to this franchise going forward, which could mean that some depth may be up for grabs and frankly, that's what I think the Oilers need the most.  Not scoring, not goaltending, but quality depth.

The Oilers need some minutes eaten up, taking the pressure off the kids to do just about everything this franchise needs to win, things that they aren't exactly prepared to do or shouldn't have been asked to do, so early in their careers.

Let's not kid ourselves in Edmonton either... they are not exactly in salary cap heaven either.  By my count, thanks to good ol' CapGeek, they will have some decisions to make with some of their RFA's as well.  Nail Yakupov, Marc Arcobello, Justin Schultz, Martin Marincin and Brad Hunt all come to mind.  The Oilers have about $19.2 million to spend on eight roster spots, which isn't big money.  Thankfully, what they should be after is quality depth... it may not come cheap, but they shouldn't be shopping for top six players.

RUMOUR 2015 Season Cap Hit
To Edmonton POS GP G A P 2015 2016
Chris Kelly F 34 3 11 14 $3 million $3 million
David Warsofsky D 4 0 1 1 $600,000 RFA
To Boston POS GP G A P 2015 2016
Nail Yakupov F 36 4 4 8 $925,000 RFA
2015 mid-round draft pick
To me, this is the kind of deal the Oilers can make with the Bruins and the Bruins can get something of what they wanted to help get their 2015 season back on track.

For the Oilers, they would get a quality 3rd liner with great PK experience and a defenseman that has his name thrown around as a pretty good up-and-coming blueliner, who can't seem to crack the depth chart.  Kelly is stable and fits within the budget going forward, while Warsofsky could likely sign for something short-term and cheap, giving the team the opportunity to take that horse for a run in 2016.

The Bruins, on the other hand, would get a scoring forward, who has a bit of a physical edge, something that Boston uses on a regular basis anyways.  The immediate cap savings would help the team at the deadline, help the team in July and speaking of July, Yakupov hasn't done much in his career to be worthy of a big raise, so he shouldn't cost nearly as much as Kelly would next season (in theory).

The next team I would try to hit up, from an Oilers perspective, would be the Philadelphia Flyers, who might not be in the worst shape, if the cap was $73 million, but if projections dip any lower, then they would have some interesting decisions to make.

Nevertheless, the Flyers could be in a spot where they could do with getting rid of some salary cap space, just to be a bit more flexible on the market next Summer.  At $73 million and Chris Pronger staying on the Long-Term Injured Reserve, I have the Flyers in with $10.8 million in cap space for six open roster spots, including a goalie.  The Flyers are fading in the East, despite huge numbers from both Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux, so selling pieces may be the way to go to help their cause in the long run.

In return, I could see the Flyers looking to get a bit younger, trying to find players that can possibly crack the roster next season and give the team a little bit more youthful exuberance.

RUMOUR 2015 Season Cap Hit
To Edmonton POS GP G A P 2015 2016
Braydon Coburn D 23 1 3 4 $4.5 million $4.5 million
To Philadelphia POS GP G A P 2015 2016
David Musil D 0 0 0 0 $894,000 $894,000
Greg Chase F 0 0 0 0 $746,000 $746,000
2015 mid-round draft pick
The Flyers will be looking for prospects and picks, if they decide that selling off assets is the way to go.  Dropping Braydon Coburn, who has been on the rumour radar for sometime now, would give them much more flexibility in the Summer and picking up a couple of well-sized prospects and a draft pick would likely go a long way to getting the job done.

Coburn would be the kind of player that would be looked upon to be a second pairing defenseman, mostly in the shutdown role, but with time and an extra look or two, he could just as easily feature as well as Johnny Boychuk, when he moved from Boston to Long Island before this season started.  Coburn has always seemed to play a lesser fiddle to other Flyers defensemen and a move to Edmonton would easily give him the chance to play real minutes in the top two pairings.

Sure, Coburn would come in just above the budget number, but it would definitely give the team more of what they need... sandpaper in that rough & tumble Pacific Division.

I don't think any of these ideas are generally outlandish and both would at least give the Oilers more depth where they need it the most and these guys could go out and protect the goaltending, which could always use a little bit more help and even provide some physicality, something most of the young stars on the team lack as a whole.

Personally, I would be hard pressed to move a kid like Taylor Hall or Jordan Eberle right now, even though they really have nothing to show for their time with the team.  Hall has posted some good numbers, but hasn't won, where Eberle hasn't posted numbers, but that doesn't mean they are not right for the job.  The Oilers haven't given their stars an opportunity to shine, just more reasons to fail.

If the Oilers start using their young pieces in deals to upgrade their depth, especially doing deals with Eastern Conference teams, everyone can start moving in the right direction together.