How the CBA Affects the Oilers

With the NHL about to sit down and hammer out a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Oilers and twenty-nine other teams are waiting eagerly to not only see if there will be any kind of work stoppage, but once things get sorted and an agreement reached, how it will affect the NHL salary cap.

There aren't too many situations where Edmonton is at an advantage when it comes to NHL salaries. For example, Edmonton is known as a less that desireable destination among players. That may change if and when the Oilers become a consistent contender, however for now, Edmonton ranks low on players' "wish list" for trades and new contracts.

So too, Alberta in general is a highly taxed region. While others cities like Vancouver are higher (hopefully this helps with Justin Schultz), locations like Florida who have no tax and Nashville who have little, have a distinct advantage when a player takes the time to look at his take home pay and make a decision. It's a reason the KHL has been an option for many -- low tax always benefits those who make a lot of money. When you have to give away 30-45% of your income, a $5 million per year salary that turns into $3 million understandably scares some away.

So with all these disadvantages, why could the Oilers benefit from whatever comes of the CBA talks? Because their players -- the ones who will make a boat load of money, will all be negotiating contracts under the new guidelines of the salary cap.

As Jonathan Willis pointed out in a recent piece he did, he recognized that typically a star player in the NHL makes between 8%-11% of the teams overall cap. There are of course always deviances from that rule, but for the most part, when one looks around the league, you see this as very accurate.

If that trend stays true, when the salary cap goes down $10 million per season - or whatever number it ends up being dropped - the average number for players like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and if they draft Nail Yakupov, should drop in line with the new cap.

Meaning, salaries like that of Eric Staal, Anze Kopitar or Rick Nash, whom when they signed their deals were recognized as the teams true franchise player, should be a thing of the past. For a team like Edmonton who has a history or perhaps is required to overpay, this is great news. The new salary cap in some way, will take care of a large part of the negotiating for all of Edmonton's franchise guys.

Because Edmonton will have three or four big contracts to take care of, this is especially critical because their next step will be signing players of value who outperform their contract numbers. That can be tough to do if you're a team that has signed big name guys just a couple years shy of the cap dramatically dropping.

The Other Side of the Coin

There is however another side of this coin. A way that my theory is shot down and the Oilers could be in real trouble.

What could be a big advantage could be quickly wiped clean by the negotiated percentage drop that each player who currently has a contract will be asked to take under the new CBA. Often when the overall cap goes down, players will be asked to reduce their individual and existing current salaries.

If for example a 10% reduction in total team cap translates into a 10% drop for the players, all things remain even. If however a total team cap is 10% and the individual player cap moves down only 5%, the Oilers could have a problem.

This would mean that the Oilers who will have to pay fair or better wage for their stars, will have to use current contracts as a gauge or guideline, but those contracts will be priced higher than the 10%average team rate that exists now. It could mean that the Oilers big four could make 45% or more of the team total.

If the Oilers are paying $22-$23 million to four guys and the team cap is say $52-$55 million, Edmonton could have a tougher time landing those ever so important value contracts. And value contracts are critical to being a contender when your team is finally ready to make that push.

Obviously every team will be affected by the new CBA. The Oilers may come out ahead, or way behind. If all things remain the same and team cap and player cap goes down comparitively, that should be considered a good day for Edmonton fans.


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Gardiner is not being considered for #1!

There is a very stupid rumor floating around that Toronto defenseman Jake Gardiner is being considered for the #1 overall draft pick this year. The entire purpose of the next few paragraphs is to clearly demonstrate how stupid a rumor I believe this is.

I'll admit to hearing lately that there has been considerable steam being built up that Edmonton is in fact strongly considering moving the first pick, but there better be more than Gardiner on the block.

I don't think Gardiner and the #5 pick get it done. In fact, I don't think Gardiner, the #5 pick and a prospect would get it done. And, this is not because I over value the selection of Nail Yakupov -- an unproven, but by all accounts should be dynamite prospect.

Why I think you can't make a trade in any of the above situations, is because we're talking about moving down four spots, where it's very likely that of Edmonton's top three or four player draft selection wish list, all of those players could theoretically be gone come the time the Oilers get up to draft at #5 overall.

If at the end of draft day on June 22nd the Oilers leave the draft with only one player who they could plug into the lineup, and that one player isn't who they deem the best selection at the draft, that's a huge mistake.

Unless they grab a single star player, any trade that the Oilers make will have to include at least two, maybe three ready to play NHL roster players. Otherwise the Oilers miss out on the help they desperately need to climb out of the bottom five and push for a playoff spot. Without that return, you take the best player available -- who seems to be Yakupov, put him in your lineup and make other moves before the season starts.

Part of this crazy speculation comes from Toronto fans who feel that by adding Gardiner to your team, you immediately will see college prospect Justin Schultz follow. If I'm a betting man, I consider those odds at best 4 to 1. Those are not odds I'm willing to gamble on if I'm in the Oilers shoes.

Gardiner and Justin Schultz are buddies. But Schultz will have other factors weighing on his mind when he ultimately decides where he'll end up playing. If friends is the only reason, Schultz wreaks of bad news to me.  A player who come contract time will be a problem. A locker room distraction in a locker room the Oilers spent years cleaning up and are still working to make the best it can be.

If the Oilers do in fact trade the pick, I see only two possible destinations. Columbus or Montreal. This leaves Yakupov, Murray and Reinhart who I believe are the three players the Oilers truly believe are the best options at this years draft and can be plugged into your roster immediately.

* UPDATE: Damien Cox has come to say that Brian Burke has denied even considering a trade of Jake Gardiner or Luke Schenn for the #1 pick. If that's the case, there is definitely no chance the Leafs and Oilers make any type of deal involving that selection.


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If the Oil Want Norfolk's Cooper, They Now Have Competition

If the Edmonton Oilers are interested in Norfolk Admirals coach Jon Cooper, it looks like they officially aren't the only ones.

Stephen Whyno of the Washington Times has done a piece today on the Washington Capitals keen interest in Cooper's future, citing conversations George McPhee and Cooper have had dating back to 2010.

Are these conversations recent? Apparently not.

Have they talked specifically about the vacant Caps coaching job? No, it doesn't seem that way.

But, it also seems that their brief meeting at the 2010 NHL draft was enough for them to consider keeping an eye on one another.  They have, and Caps GM McPhee has a history of hiring coaches without NHL experience, bringing Bruce Boudreau Bruce Cassidy, Glen Hanlon and most recently Dale Hunter into the fold.

Since none of the above coaches have brought a cup to Washington, would this be the time McPhee changes things up and steers away from his recent trends of AHL hires and instead bring in an NHL vet like Marc Crawford, Tom Renney or John Stevens? Maybe, but logically one might have thought new Oilers Vice President of Hockey Operations Craig MacTavish name would have popped up on McPhee's radar. MacTavish admits, he'd heard he might get a call, then never did.

I don't assume we should read into the MacTavish brush off that McPhee has been waiting for Cooper, but I don't suggest the Oilers ignore the possibility.

Considering McPhee's options and willingness to make big moves, for an Oiler management team that has a tendency to wait around, if they have their eye on the prize, sooner than later is time to play their hand.

The question becomes how long can they wait?

Well for now, Cooper is far too busy celebrating and traveling having just led his team to the AHL's Calder Cup. There is usually a short grace period that allows for a coach to bathe in the glory of a well deserved victory. But that won't last long if Cooper wants to take advantage of a golden window available to him.

The good news for Oilers fans, is that while the Caps may have interest in Cooper and Cooper would love an interview, the Norfolk coach sees all roads available. Meaning, Cooper is aware that Washington might have interest, but Cooper also knows about Edmonton's vacancy and has some interest in the Oilers future. Whyno quotes Cooper's understanding of the Oilers as, "look at one franchise that has been struggling in the the standings a little bit but is just pulling up No. 1 draft picks who looks like in the next few years is ready to take off". "I think, a great situation to go to."

Is it possible, a coach with no NHL experience could have two teams hoping he chooses them? We don't know where the Oilers head it as right now, but the possibility could strongly exist.

Cooper also understands how hot a commodity he is right now. This above any other time may be the time to cash in his chips having built such a nice resume, missing only NHL experience, in such a short time frame. If he were to ever consider an NHL jump, now is that time. Cooper is an educated man. He realizes that a window or "grace period" might exist more in Edmonton than in Washington. It might be nice when your first NHL job has some security with it.

In the end, it appears as though Washington wants Cooper. Cooper likes Washington, but might want to consider Edmonton. Edmonton is not tipping their hand at all.

Should be very interesting to see how this all unfolds.


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Oilers Sign Klefbom

What is considered by many as the Edmonton Oilers best defensive prospect, Oscar Klefbom has signed his three-year entry level contract with the Oilers as per Bob Stauffer on Oilers Now.

As we said with the Tambellini contract extension and the Craig MacTavish contract, this is the start of a very busy couple weeks for the Oilers. Klefbom will be seen as a small but significant piece in the domino of moves that will shape up the Oilers summer.

This signing really only means that the Oilers have solidified their confidence in the young blue liner who has by all accounts been one of the best young d-man prospects from the 2011 draft. That said, Oiler fans will not see Klefbom in Oilers silks unless they make it to an Oilers summer development camp. Klefbom will remain in Sweden next season and likely really make cracking the Oilers line up in 2013 a goal.

Some have described Klefbom as the "next big thing" in Swedish hockey. This is great news for the Oilers who will have to work hard to put together a competitive defensive core. Klefbom could be a key piece to that core in the next two to three years.


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MacTavish Hired By Oilers

We've been waiting a bit on where the Oilers will be going management and coaching wise before the draft. It seemed awfully quiet (outside of Tambellini's extension) on the Oiler front.

Today seems to be the first of what could be a few louder days in Edmonton Oilers hockey as Craig MacTavish was brought back to the Oilers in a senior-vice president role.

This hire tells me two things.

First, it leads me to believe that the Oilers wanted MacTavish back but realized bringing him back as coach might have been tough to do. He was let go under trying times and it now looks to many like perhaps it wasn't MacTavish that was the problem. MacTavish had a very strong record compared to our recent swing of coaching hires. He's well respected in the coaching world and a management position makes pretty good sense. MacTavish is a smart guy, not afraid to make decisions. (he was quoted on the radio with Bob Stauffer that if he was GM, he'd wipe clean the coaches that created the 30th, 30th and 29th place finishes).

Second, MacTavish now gives GM Steve Tambellini and president Kevin Lowe the ability to make a riskier move in terms of coaching by perhaps hiring Norfolk coach Jon Cooper as a new head coach. Cooper to me seems the best fit for a young Oilers team and his only negative is his lack of NHL coaching experience -- he has none.

With MacTavish, should Cooper completely flop as coach (which I doubt he would), Mac-T could step in immediately and fill the shoes should the Oilers have made a poor choice.

Some suggest that Ralph Krueger moves to the front of the line, but to me if Krueger was going to be hired, he would have been already. Hire Krueger right away, show your faith in him and bring in MacTavish later. The Oilers have had plenty of time and know Krueger well. I just don't see them hiring him as the bench boss after such a long gap.

But, I could be wrong and the MacTavish hire perhaps just gives the Oilers the confidence they needed to make Krueger the guy if they were worried he wasn't the guy before now.

The question becomes who MacTavish reports to. It was announced by the Oilers that this was a Steve Tambellini hire, but the title given to MacTavish suggests he's more in the driver seat than that. Is this the Lowe and MacTavish show now? Is Tambellini on borrowed time with the new GM possibly being Mac-T himself?

It wouldn't surprise me at all if Katz were part of this decision and wanted a back-up plan. We're immediately assuming or thinking MacTavish has been brought in as a coaching replacement should one be needed. Perhaps we should be thinking bigger picture. Perhaps this is a way of saying to Tambellini, "we gave you three years, but we also brought in a guy who is ready to go if you can't do this now."

Tambellini has often said "competing for jobs" is the best way to build a team. Katz and Lowe may have taken those words to heart. I believe this is a good day for Oilers fans. Especially those that don't want to see Brent Sutter as coach or are not big fans of Tambellini. MacTavish smells of signs that the Oilers are going to do something unexpected.


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Stuart Traded To Sharks

It was pretty clear that the San Jose Sharks would end up with defensman Brad Stuart. He'd made it clear to Detroit that his interest was to play closer to home where his family resided and San Jose would have been his destination of choice come July 1. Detroit was wise enough to recognize the inevitable.

Detroit got the ball rolling today by trading Stuart's rights to San Jose for Shark forward Andrew Murray and a late round draft selection. This gives San Jose a window to negotiate with Stuart on a new contract before July 1 and Detroit a chance to pick up a couple assets while they make plans for life without Stuart.

With the writing on the wall, what that meant for Detroit was that there would be a real need to bolster their blue line. The retirement of Lidstrom and the loss of Stuart creates a large gap for the Red Wings that will need to be filled. Many expect Justin Schultz and Ryan Suter to be the main two targets.

Recently however news broke that Suter and the Preds are making ground toward a new contract. Nothing is final yet, but the two sides are closer than they've been at any point in the negotiations.

Will Suter wait for Detroit to offer big bucks and then see what Nashville is willing to throw back to match? Or will Suter stay where it seems his heart is and remain in Nashville.

It looks as though Detroit will be a team to watch come July 1 and perhaps as soon as the draft on some rights trading. Dennis Wiedman might be someone Detroit looks to snatch up before the UFA market opens. Making a swap with Washington could be a definite possibility.


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