What to do? What to do? Will the Edmonton Oilers use the buy-out window presented to them?The twittersphere is exploding with opinions on what Peter Chiarelli will do this weekend. Is he going to buy out Nikita Nikitin, captain Andrew Ference, or Teddy Purcell? There are arguments to be made both for and against using the buy-out option on any of these three players. I had seen Ben Scrivens mentioned as well but that option is easy to dismiss. His 2.3 million dollar cap hit is below the minimum amount required for buy-out.
I read a tremendous piece this morning from Jonathon Willis about using the buy-out and he is totally in favour of doing it. He was then on the OilersNow broadcast with Bob Stauffer, and discussed the idea further among a lot of other things. Jonathon is a very smart man and his reasoning is solid. If you haven’t you really should, here is his article. I won’t spoil the fun of reading by talking about his piece too much but he does make a solid argument for proceeding.
The only real valid argument for keeping either Ference or Nikitin is that this spreads out the cap hit and keeps them on the book for longer. Obviously the first choice of the franchise would have to be trading the pair of them but that would involve in retaining half of Nikitin’s cap hit so would only save us 2.25 million. The big issue with trading Andrew Ference is his no-trade clause. He has the ability to block any move other than the buy-out.
I would imagine that you have all noticed that I didn’t discuss Teddy Purcell when discussing the argument to keep and that is because unlike the first two Purcell can still be a useful player in the top 9. He isn’t fast by any stretch and can be beaten one on one with speed, but he can still contribute offensively and provides a calm veteran presence to a very young team. He is expensive at 4.5 million but is in the final year of his contract. Unless Chiarelli and McLellan are absolutely sure that Leon Draisaitl is a better option I think Purcell will finish out the contract as an Oiler.
That leaves us with only the two defenders to look at then. I don’t pretend to know the collective bargaining agreement as it is written and will turn to either the above mentioned Jonathon Willis or Speeds as he calls himself on Twitter, @hockeysymposium in case you want to give him a follow. Both are fairly well versed on the CBA and generally are willing to answer questions if needed. According to the CBA Nikitin and Ference will have different parameters in their buy-out situation. Nikitin is a straight forward two-thirds of his salary over the twice the term. So that would translate to a 1.5 million dollar cap-hit over the next two years. Ference, due to age, will be a little different. His breakdown would be over twice the term still but the dollars break down differently than in a younger player. From what I read on it, and don’t quote me, for Andy it would be .67 million this season and then 1.67 million for the next three years.
To me the first choice would be Nikitin. While he is likelier to rebound from last season due to age it comes down to length of term for me. If I am the general manager I don’t want the player that is bought out to be on the books in three or four years. In the third year of the Ference option we would have four key restricted free-agents that could all possibly be looking at raises of decent to high amounts. Nail Yakupov, Leon Draisaitl, Griffin Reinhart, and Anton lander will need to be re-signed at that point and will eat a decent amount of cap space to be sure. The more space available at that point the better the chance that we keep our core young players together for longer. We want to emulate the Chicago franchise in theory. We want to become contenders and stay there for an extended period of time. To do that we will need these players signed.
This is where the argument against using the buy-out would come in to play though. Even if they do decide to use it that will leave 1.5 million dollars on the Oilers cap-hit if Nikitin is the choice which he more than likely is. Not a ton of money but we do need to keep in mind that Schultz and Klefbom will be both be looking for another deal. Oscar will be looking at a substantial raise should his progression continue as it has to this point. Justin Shultz is a story for another time, his future with the franchise is very much in doubt and I would not be at all surprised if he is moved out at some point over the next year. The decision will likely come down to what the owner and management have for expectations this season. If playoffs are expected then I think they move Nikitin prior to Monday afternoon. Not going to guess if they will trade or buy him out but if they want to be in the second season they need to clear cap space and a roster spot for a better player. If they feel they are still a year away from being able to hang with the big bad teams in the Western conference they will likely retain both players and let their contracts expire to have maximum cap space next summer. One way or another we will have our answer by this time Monday.
It is my opinion that after all the changes that have been made already this off-season that the mandate is to get back in to the play-offs this year. I don’t believe that Daryl Katz finally decided to bring in better management options for them to sit on their laurels and not do everything they can to bring success back to this storied franchise. The only question is if there is a trade partner out there that would be willing to take Nikitin for half of his salary? Some seem to think that a team like the Arizona Coyotes would have interest in him at half his salary in order to get to the cap-floor. My belief is that if there was a trade to be made that it would have been by now and that there is a small possibility that this weekend will end with Nikita somewhere else through trade. Buying him out is likely the only option if they want the additional cap space to add another free agent before training camp.
What do you think? Will the Chia Pet use his buy-out option after passing on it the first time? Did he look to the trade market first and realize this is the only option left available to him? If the team does use the buy-out who is the likely target through free agency? Let me know what you think in the comments section. I always try to reply to each and every comment my blog receives and enjoy interacting with other fans. All I ask is that you be respectful. And hey while we are at give me a follow on twitter, @cooke_rob. Help this lowly basement dwelling blogger get to 200 followers please! Thanks for reading Beer Leaguers. Until next time.