Monday, June 6, 2011

On Free Agency and What to Do With All That Cap Space

According to CapGeek the Edmonton Oilers currently have just over 37M committed to 14 players for the 2011-2012 season, not including Sheldon Souray. That gives them with more than 22M in salary cap to sign another 9 players to fill the 23 man roster. However if one assumes that Linus Omark, Teemu Hartikainen, and Jeff Petry will all be on the starting roster next season, their salaries combined will take up another 2.6M, leaving management with over 19M to sign an addition 6 players. It should be noted though that these numbers are based on the current NHL salary cap of 59.4M, and that limit is expected to rise again this summer to as high as 63M for next season, therefore the Oilers will actually have a bit more money to play with. So with all this salary flexibility, how should Steve Tambellini be spending his money this summer?

There are a number of restricted free agents that the Oilers will need to make decisions on, including Andrew Cogliano, Zack Stortini, JF Jacques, Ladislav Smid, Theo Peckham, Taylor Chorney, and Ryan O'Marra. From this group I would expect management to try and re-sign Cogliano, Smid, and Peckham at the least. With Zack Stortini being placed on waivers earlier this season, the coaching staff's opinion on him was made pretty clear and despite being a fan favorite in OIL country, it's probably unlikely that he'll be back for next season. While JF Jacques is one of the few big bodies on the Oilers roster, he often struggled to be a big presence on the ice in the 51 games he played this season and I wouldn't be surprised if they decide against bringing him back as well. With Taylor Chorney, the future is not so clear. After making his debut in 2008, he has appeared in only 56 games in the NHL, with the majority coming in 2009-2010 due to mass injury, scoring a mere 1-6-7 and posting a combined -30. Chorney has already been passed on the depth chart by Peckham and Petry, both of whom were drafted after him, and will now face even more competition to move up with the arrival of Colten Teubert and Martin Marincin.  It will be interesting to see which way the Oilers decide to go with him. As for O'Marra, since being acquired in the Ryan Smyth deal he has only appeared in 24 games at the NHL level and like Jacques, may be on his way out. While the Oilers certainly do need a center who can kill penalties and win faceoffs like O'Marra has done in the AHL, they are probably more likely to find an NHL-capable one in Anton Lander when he comes over to North America this summer.

On the unrestricted free agent front, the Oilers have already taken care of their most notable one when they re-signed Ryan Jones. The remaining players on the team UFA list includes Steve MacIntyre, Jim Vandermeer, and Jason Strudwick. I would expect MacIntyre to be back since Renney likes to keep the tough guys on his roster and SMac is still one of the toughest in the league. I wouldn't mind Vandermeer being brought back as a depth defenceman, unless there is success in signing other options on the open market (see below). Finally, as good a presence as he is in the locker room, I'm not sure if Strudwick will still have a place on this roster come September. I'd like to see the Oilers keep him around in some capacity if he doesn't catch on with another team, since he's a good pro and connects so well with the younger players.

When scanning the league UFA list it really is slim pickings this summer, as after Brad Richards there is a significant drop off in the talent available this summer. Of course while the Oilers are currently in no position to be chasing big ticket players the likes of Richards, there are a few I would hope Tambellini contacts come July 1st. Faceoffs and the penalty kill were two of the Oilers biggest problems this past season and 2 players that could help in that area are Brooks Laich and Marty Reasoner. Both players are sound defensively, can win over 50% of their faceoffs, chip in on offense, and would provide a strong leadership presence on a young roster. Signing either one of them would be an immediate boost to the roster for next season. Of course, there are likely to be multiple teams bidding for the services of Laich should he hit the open market, so the Oilers might get priced out with him. Also, after playing for the Capitals he may not be all that interested in joining a rebuild. The Oilers may have a better chance with Reasoner, that is if he's interested in a third go around with the team. On the blueline, Jan Hejda could be a solid addition as a physical shutdown man, since the Oilers are a bit heavy on puck movers now with Whitney, Gilbert, Foster, and Petry in the mix. He would likely come at a reasonable price as well. Signing him could also right the wrong the Oilers made when they let him walk away as a free agent four seasons ago. We are all aware of the difficulty Edmonton has had in the past in attracting free agents in the summer, although with the direction the team is heading in, it may now be a more attractive option. However while there is help available on the open market, I would rather see Tambellini stand pat and fill holes from within the system than get into bidding wars on free agents. Cap space is going to be an important asset in the coming years with Hemsky and Gagner set to hit free agency next summer, and Hall, Eberle, and Paajarvi the year after that. Despite Katz's deep pockets and willingness to spend to the cap ceiling, Tambellini and co. will certainly need to spend wisely this offseason.

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1 comment:

  1. It would be a pleasant surprise if we brought Marty back into the fold, but his services are wanted around the league. It might be tough. My predictions is he's the Captain of the Florida Panthers next year.