a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

Welcome to Oil Acumen. What follows is a blog dedicated to ending the tyranny of Oilers management, and making hockey fun to watch again, dammit.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

11/01/12 Cap Crunch 2013-14


The Edmonton Oilers are currently projected to have more than $21 million in cap space for 2013-14. But that's based on a $70.2 million cap. If the cap drops to $60 million or so in the new CBA, there will be trouble in E-Town.

Below is a chart which shows how the Oilers' forward depth chart breaks down by cap hit for the 2013-14 season:

Taylor Hall
$6 million
Shawn Horcoff
$5.5 million
Jordan Eberle
$6 million
Nail Yakupov
$3.775 million
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
$3.775 million
Ales Hemsky
$5 million
Ryan Smyth
$2.25 million
Eric Belanger
$1.75 million

Ben Eager
$1.1 million



Notice that this list excludes Sam Gagner, who will be an RFA after 2012-13. There are at least three forward slots to be filled, which could happen with extensions to players like Gagner or Magnus Paajarvi. Other players from the farm may also step up to the NHL by then, but even with educated guesses there's no way to know who just yet. With this makeup the Oilers will spend the following on cap hits for the forwards:

$35,150,000

That's a lot of spendoolies, but this is also a very good forward group. Shawn Horcoff's cap hit is ugly, especially considering his diminishing role, but fortunately his contract is up at the same time Yakupov will be asking for his $6 million payday. Aside from Gagner there are no key roles to fill, as the bulk of the scoring is already squared away.

As for the defense:

Nick Schultz
$3.5 million
Justin Schultz
$3.775 million

Jeff Petry
$1.75 million

Corey Potter
$775,000

This chart is without Ladislav Smid and Ryan Whitney, both of whom will be UFAs in the summer of 2013. Theo Peckham will be an RFA, but we don't know his future cap figure or even his general future with the club so I excluded him. By this time it's conceivable that players like Oscar Klefbom ($1.275 million) or Martin Marincin ($870,000) could take on roles with the big club for a relatively low price, but unless there's a future number one defender in that chart the team will still be without one - and the resulting cap hit. That's:

$9,800,000

It seems likely that Justin Schultz's cap hit will look pretty favorable in his second season, and Jeff Petry's is even better considering that he'll be in his fourth pro year. At the same time, this defensive depth chart needs work, and simply retaining a player like Smid will cost the team more than their current pact which is worth $2.25 million.

Finally, in goal the Oilers appear ready to run with Devan Dubnyk, and they have two young trailers behind him in Olivier Roy and Tyler Bunz. 2013-14 is almost certainly too soon for one of the latter two to take the backup role, as playing more games in lower leagues would be better for their development. There's uncertainty in this position, but we do know that with Dubnyk the Oilers are on the hook for:

$3,500,000

Add it all up, and you get:

$48,450,000

That's what the Oilers are already committed to spending in 2013-14, with at least six full-time spots left to fill on the roster, plus extras. The NHL's proposal to the NHLPA called for a $59.9 million cap, which teams were permitted to exceed in 2012-13. But if that cap was firm in 2013-14 the Oilers would have just $11,450,000 in cap space to play with.

Somehow that $11,450,000 has to turn into Sam Gagner, Ladislav Smid, a number one defenseman, backup goalie, and a few other spare parts. Smid and Gagner already combine for $5.45 million in cap hits, and Smid will surely get a pay bump in his new deal.

Clearly, something has to give. The forwards are simply too expensive, which means that at least one of them has to go. The Oilers would probably love for Shawn Horcoff to be the one, even though he plays his role very well, because parting with offense - even expensive offense - is much more difficult to swallow. If Horcoff can't go then that brings us back to the needs on defense. A high-priced scoring forward for a high-priced but quality defenseman would seem to be just the ticket. Sounds unpalatable, but it does happen. Former first overall pick Owen Nolan was traded to San Jose by Colorado for defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh. That same year Ozolinsh scored 19 points in 22 playoff games and helped Colorado win the Stanley Cup.

Of course, if the salary cap somehow stays the same ($70.2 million), the Oilers will have plenty of cap space at $21,750,000. But if the league gets its way then there could be some major changes to the Oilers' roster in the next couple of years.

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