How Could Owning Thomas' Rights But Not Playing Tim Thomas Benefit a Team?

I don't always agree with Jonathan Willis of the Cult of Hockey and Oilers Nation. That said, even when I don't agree, what I do find is that he has very interesting takes and viewpoints on certain topics and raises some very interesting questions. One of those questions got raised in his article about Tim Thomas on Oilers Nation today. It got me to thinking.

In the end Willis argued that Tim Thomas doesn't make a lot of sense for some teams including Edmonton, but that for an NHL franchise looking to hit the cap floor, Thomas could be a great bargain. I wonder, what if we look at it a completely different way? What if a team sees this as an opportunity to grab a player they want, taking Thomas or his dollar value as the baggage that comes with it?

This theory hinges on the fact that Boston GM Peter Chiarelli really is irked by the fact that Tim Thomas is sticking the Bruins with a $5 million cap hit for a player who is simply choosing to take a year off. So irked, that he'd like to remove Thomas from the roster and the team payroll even if it costs him something to do so. Think the Oilers and Sheldon Souray if you need a history lesson that this can and does actually happen from time to time. Perhaps knowing Boston is usually a fairly attractive location for free agents, Chiarelli needs the cap room to make moves and will sacrifice a bit to do so.

If we consider the above as possible, what if revisiting whether the Oilers might be a candidate shows there could be some reason for Edmonton to kick tires?

If you're the Edmonton Oilers and newly renewed GM Steve Tambellini, it's time to think out of the box to save your skin and be competitive this year. I'm of the many who think that even if Tambellini was given a three year deal, he has one year to make a run towards the playoffs or suffer the consequences.

If Tambellini is under the same impression, such out of the box thinking might make one realize that while it's not ideal to suffer a cap hit for a player who isn't going to play, as a team you won't have to pay Thomas' actual salary once Thomas is officially suspended for not reporting. Furthermore, the cap room the Oilers have this season to make such a move creates an opening that not all teams have.

How much cap space the Oilers have to actually play with might not be known until after July 1st. If Edmonton does or doesn't strike out at free agency, they'll have a better read on their cap situation. Land a couple free agents worth a fair penny and this Thomas  train of thought isn't an option. Don't land anyone, out of the box thinking becomes extremely important. Edmonton simply can't stand pat. With some $27 million in space available, they have room to be creative.

If what Willis says is true, that the team who owns Thomas' rights can choose to toll the contract and let Thomas walk after this season, essentially should he not report during any part of the Oilers 2012/2013 season, it's like a trade of the old days in terms of cash compensation for a player or prospect. The Oilers just need to let Thomas walk at the end of the year and they essentially gave up $3 million real dollars and $5 million cap space for whatever trade they wanted to make that Chiarelli would agree to.

If Thomas does report, and "Mr. Political" seems the type to change his mind and do strange things, it's not like the Oilers couldn't use his skills for that last part of the season should they be in the hunt and contending for that 8th place seed in the Western Conference.

Who the Oilers would target is another article completely and much of that depends on where Chiarelli's head is at. We could throw options out all day, but only really having a GM to GM conversation would really give us a true indication.

Boston picks at #24 this year. Not sure if I'd take the cap hit for that late a pick unless for some reason someone dropped dramatically out of the blue. If that's the case, Boston might want the pick.

I'd ask about d-man prospect Dougie Hamilton or bruising forward Milan Lucic, but those might be non-starters. It's really hard to guess.

All the same, a phone call is a phone call or a walk to the draft table is just a few steps. No reason not to ask. Especially if the right deal can be struck.


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Justin "Time" or Two Days Too Late?

If the Oilers have a shot at Justin Schultz, would there be any consideration at all for Ryan Murray?

The consensus among most scouts is that the Edmonton Oilers should draft Sarnia forward Nail Yakupov as the first overall pick. Despite the consensus, in recent weeks discussion has creeped in that because of the Oilers need to bolster their blue line, defenseman Ryan Murray may be their target. Murray of the Everett Silvertips is not considered the top pick -- perhaps not even the top defensman --, in this years draft. Yet, the Oilers have still invited Murray to Edmonton Friday for a visit and tour of the city and the Edmonton Oiler landscape.

While the idea of not taking Nail Yakupov has many fans beside themselves, would the Oilers be going to all this trouble if Justin Schultz, a college defenseman, was available and the Oilers knew they stood a great chance of landing him?

Schultz will be a hot commodity come his free agency eligibility. Choosing likely not to sign with Anaheim, the team who drafted him, Schultz will test the free agent waters and its likely that 29 other teams would love to have this kid. From all accounts, Schultz is a sure thing.

The problem is, unless the rights to negotiate with Schultz are traded for with Anaheim who doesn't obviously want to lose such a prospect for nothing, no team can technically talk to Justin prior to June 24th. That is two days after the NHL draft and for the Oilers, two days after they could pass up on the best young forward prospect available.

Not that adding Ryan Murray and Justin Schultz would hurt your club, but would you take Yakupov and Schultz or Murray and Schultz? Most would likely say one elite forward and one elite d-man makes more sense. The Oilers may not get that chance?

But, what happens if the Oilers don't have a shot at Schultz? What if they play their hand thinking they do and Schultz has every intention to sign in Detroit or Toronto? What if that happens and the Oilers draft Yakupov?

Sure, they'll get the best young forward, but their blue line will still be suspect and the success of their defense will rest on Steve Tamebillin's ability to make a trade or sign a UFA, which is much harder to do.

It's a tricky spot, where the only real solution seems to offer Anaheim something for the rights to negotiate. It might be worth it more to Edmonton than any other team to know where Schultz stands.


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Tambellini Gets a New Contract

We knew it was coming. It should be no surprise to anyone that officially the Edmonton Oilers have announced a contract extension for current General Manager Steve Tambellini.

Here's where it gets a bit foggy for me. According to a statement by Kevin Lowe on the Oilers website, one of the reasons for Tambellini's extension was as follows.

Kevin Lowe says, "Three years ago we asked Steve to begin a rebuild which we all know hasn't been easy. However, Oilers fans can take some consolation in the fact that Steve and his staff have acquired some amazing talent which will most definitely be the cornerstone to future sustained success for the Edmonton Oilers."

I really don't have an issue with Tambellini. But I do feel giving him credit for things he really didn't do (or at least have a huge hand in) is the wrong reason to reward someone with an extension. If you want to say "hey, we're curious about where Steve can take this team now that it's time to be competitive" or "Steve has a great international and NHL background and we're confident he can take us the next step" then fine... say those things.

But to give Tambellini credit for building depth that should mostly be attributed to Stu MacGregor and his scouting staff, or to say he's made great draft picks when drafting first overall should be the easy part is hard to swallow. Tambellini's trades have been suspect and his UFA dealings less than sufficient. What we don't know is the mandate Tambellini had going into these decisions.

I'm prepared as likely many fans are to see what Tambellini can do now that the pressure is on and the excuse of a "rebuild" is pretty much over and past it's initial stages. For me the jury's out though on whether Tambellini is the right guy and can make those decisions now.

Oh to be a fly on the wall in the Oilers offices that last couple years and to know if finishing last was on purpose or not.


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Can We Over Talk The Draft?

We did it when it was Taylor versus Tyler. We did it when it was Nugent-Hopkins versus Larsson and we're doing it again.

It seems as though the increased exposure and constant lack of being able to talk about anything other than the NHL draft has people losing their minds in respect to who truly is the best prospect at the draft. Oilers fans aren't the only ones either.

When Sean Couturier was ready to be drafted, but had to wait a full year before he was actually eligible, at the time, scouts were aware he was a consensus at a top pick. Over the draft eligible year however the scouts had already seen the good, so it became time to pick apart the bad. It was done so much, that Couturier's stock actually dropped all the way to the Flyers who selected him eighth overall. He showed in the playoffs and with his sound two-way play, that he really was the good that scouts saw earlier and before they began to tear apart his play having seen him too often.

When Taylor Hall was drafted over Tyler Seguin, there were some who thought the Oilers made the right choice -- the consensus choice. There were others who had worked Seguin into the equation as the smarter of the two options. While the jury is still out, Hall has done more in a limited time that Seguin and proven to be the top selection. Hall is a true leader on the Oilers and I don't think if you asked fans, that many if at all would trade Hall straight up for Seguin at this point.

Nugent-Hopkins was tops in the NHL as a rookie on a point per game basis and he's likely going to be punished by not winning the Calder trophy due to injury. Of course, there was a contingent of fans and media that believed because the Oilers needed better defense and that Adam Larrson was the better option. Larrson has spent much of the playoffs as a healthy scratch.

The point here is that we can over-hype the draft. Picking #1 should be the easy part. It's picking #3, #4 and #5 where things aren't so clear.

The Oilers haven't had that problem so with the #1 pick, is there really any reason the Oilers shouldn't take the guy who's been the talk of the draft for the last year and a half? Yakupov is not a defensman. That much is true. But, he is the best player available this year and he would be by leaps and bounds had everyone not had nothing better to do that dissect his every little move.

Take the best player available. From there, if you have to move him or another piece to fill the holes you need to fill if that in the long run benefits your team.


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