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

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Monday, 7 January 2013

01/07/13 Mulligan: Shawn Horcoff

The NHL is back and so am I. Finally, there is enough actual news to go around. Starting off the year on a bitter/sweet note, however, with the news that compliance buyouts will be available to NHL teams. The captain should be a candidate.

Previously, I've praised what Horcoff brings to the Oilers. All of that statistical jargon still holds water for Horcoff, but unfortunately the team has backed itself into a corner on this one. Horcoff is a valuable NHL player who will be tricky to replace, but a $5.5 million cap hit until 2014-15 is too high.

Consider the following:

Shawn Horcoff buyout from CapGeek.com
  • 2013-14: $2,666,667
  • 2014-15: $3,666,667
  • 2015-16: $1,166,667
  • 2016-17: $1,166,667
Under normal circumstances, that's what Horcoff's buyout cap hits would look like if the action took place this June. Wouldn't have made much sense. With buyouts that don't count against the salary cap, these numbers are wiped out. Of course, the team would still be paying him $4,666,668 not to play in Edmonton, but that amount of pure cash could be the difference when it comes to keeping the core together.

Back in November I looked at what the Oilers' cap situation could look like next season with a $59.9 million cap. As it turns out, the 2013-14 salary cap will be $64.3 million. That gives a little more wiggle room than the bleak outlook at $59.9 million, but it's still going to be tricky to fit everyone in.

Briefly, the Oilers have 9 forwards, 4 defensemen and one goalie signed through 2013-14 and they are committed to $48,450,000 in cap hits. That's $15,850,000 in cap space for a team that doesn't have Ryan Whitney, Ladislav Smid or Sam Gagner inked to deals for that year. Those players currently combine for $9,450,000 in cap hits.

Moreover, the new contracts for Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall kick in next season. The Oilers will be spending $7,091,667 more on the same two players. Freeing up a $5.5 million cap hit would ease that burden significantly. Of course that still leaves the problem of replacing Horcoff, but it's still going to be a cheaper road without him.

This summer is the perfect time to use a compliance buyout on Horcoff, because his actual salary decreases from $6 million in 2012-13 to $4 million in 2013-14 and $3 million in 2014-15. It's almost $4 million cheaper in real dollars to buy him out after this year than it would have been this past summer.

Financially, it's a win-win-win, because Horcoff will still find useful employment at a reduced rate, but combined with his buyout his overall earnings won't suffer much.

For the on-ice product, the outcome is less rosy. Horcoff still does the majority of the heavy lifting at forward, and replacing him is a tall order. He's important to the team, but not important enough to risk breaking up the core. After all, the Oilers are going to have to get used to life without him in the very near future one way or another.

This blog has mostly attempted to stay away from harshly criticizing Steve Tambellini until the team is done experimenting with reclamation projects and draft picks and the actual winning is supposed to begin. That time is, y'know, now. The decision on Horcoff is a tough one to make, but undoing that bit of fiscal tomfoolery would show that he has his eyes fixed far enough down the road to make this team sustainable.


  1. Do you think there could be a trade possiblity for Horcoff? As of July 1st 2013 Horc has to provide a list of ten teams that he would accept a trade too.
    Although Florida won't be on that list, there is a chance they could lose Weiss as a UFA. Bringing in a vet like Horcoff to help out with Huberdeau could help considering his cap hit is greater than the actual salary?
    Do you see any other teams that could be thinking trade for the same reasons?

  2. You're right, a trade is a possibility. I had the same thought in July, but obviously nothing materialized. I could see Phoenix finding Horcoff's deal attractive too, since it will help them stay above the floor. A trade would be ideal since the other team probably wouldn't want to send a contract back and of course it saves Katz cash. Since the cap floor is going down to $44M next year, though, I don't know if teams will be as inclined to take on a deal like this. We can dream!