Taking Advantage - MacTavish Style

Craig MacTavish said some interesting things since taking over as General Manager of the Edmonton Oilers. Among them was that he and the Oilers would tread cautiously when it comes to the UFA market and NHL free agency.

Even though Edmonton will have a fair bit of cap room to make UFA signings; understandably, this cautious approach makes a lot of sense. MacTavish has watched Edmonton go out into the free agency market and often over-pay for player after player, many if not all of whom have been nothing short of a disappointment.

MacTavish and the Edmonton Oilers are not the only ones to feel the pain of spending too much too quickly.

There are a number of teams who have a reputation of making a splash with UFA's and if the cap were to drop today to the projected $64.3 million that it will drop to next season, nine teams are already over that cap limit. This opens up a lot of opportunity for a team like the Oilers whom have space to take on salary.

Not only is Edmonton in good financial cap shape, but MacTavish has played a pivotal role in a similar situation before. In 2006 and coming out of the previous NHL lockout, with a dropping salary cap, the Edmonton Oilers were able to benefit from a few NHL clubs who'd overextended their payroll and were forced to eliminate contracts. Contracts like that of Chris Pronger, whom after the lockout, had St. Louis had a choice, likely wouldn't have parted ways with.

MacTavish is well aware this will be something he can look to again come the opening of NHL trading, the draft and July 1st. Mac-T will be using what he labelled a "competitive advantage" in his approach to finding what could be as many as eight new faces for his opening night roster this coming season.

So, what teams will MacTavish be looking at closely? The answer is a series of articles on this site looking at the top five or ten cap strung teams, most of whom will have some tough decisions to make.

Each article will examine what that teams GM will be forced to deal with and how they might free up critical cap space for their teams. Each article will then examine how Craig MacTavish and the Edmonton Oilers can take advantage of a potential opportunity where other teams may not or cannot.

The Washington Capitals

I really don't have a reason to have started with Washington. I suppose if you forced me to pick a reason, it would be that the Caps have a couple big name defensemen, one of whom will likely not be there next season - at least not without it affecting the rest of the roster.

The Washington Capitals are not currently over the cap, but they do have decisions to make and are already very close to the financial ceiling. Mike Ribeiro, who had a great season scoring 49 points in 48 games. will be a UFA and Washington will want to hang on to him. He currently makes $5 million per season. There is no doubt he'll getting a matching or better contract, which then puts Washington in cap trouble to sign some other players.

The real dilemma comes after Washington chooses to keep Riberio in the fold.

Enter opportunity Karl Alzner. A twenty-plus minutes smart in his own zone defenseman who is vastly underpaid and a soon to be RFA. If the Capitals want to keep him, $4-$4.5 million per season on a multi-year contract is a reasonable expectation and the type of big ticket Alzner will be looking for.

Alzner is 6'3" and 213 lbs of soon to be all-star caliber top four blue-liners. Just what the Oilers need and likely what Washington won't want to give up.

With this information and with heavy hitters like the Flyers, Bruins, Rangers, Canucks, Blackhawks and Mapleleafs likely out of the running due to their own cap situations, MacTavish can play this one of two ways.

Because Washington also has Marcus Johansson at forward to get under contract -- and due a raise, then Ribeiro, whom Washington wants to keep, the Oilers could offer sheet up Karl Alzner. If Washington doesn't match, the Oilers likely lose a first and a third round draft choice in exchange. I'm sure MacTavish would be bold enough to try that and Alzner would easily be worth that kind of compensation.

If the Capitals plan to match, and Edmonton gives Washington a bit of a heads-up, perhaps MacTavish could talk George McPhee (the Caps GM) into working with Edmonton before an offer sheet is tendered.

Who's to say that Edmonton doesn't find out that Washington plans to match any offer made to Alzner. Why not potentially target a trade involving forward Troy Brouwer (who could easily move up and down Edmonton's top nine). Brouwer is the perfect kind of compete hard and skilled forward with size Edmonton is seeking more of.

If Brouwer isn't available, perhaps a smaller trade involving Joel Ward is a quick fix for the Capitals. Or, MacTavish could try to hit a home run in top pairing Mike Green who makes a boat load of money per season. While Washington wouldn't want to part with Green, they also might see the potential freedom moving Green would have under the cap.

Green has two more seasons at over $6 million per year. Whitney's $4 million out and Green's $6 million in only slightly affects Edmonton's cap situation. Edmonton could offer up a reasonable contract in Jeff Petry along with perhaps prospect Martin Marincin and a 2nd rounder for Green. Two serviceable defenders for Washington (one who is a year away at least from playing in the NHL) a draft choice and cap freedom.

Green does have a modified no-trade clause which would have to be looked at, perhaps the possibility exists.

Washington does present opportunity for the Oilers and if MacTavish is thinking bold, I'm betting he's already made a call and opened an invitation for conversation.

Next up... we'll look at the Flyers.


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