Advantage Mac-T Style - Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks fired their coach and a lot of people felt that then bench-boss Alain Vingneault was simply a scapegoat while the "sky-is-falling" attitude in Vancouver was and is solely the blame on GM Mike Gillis. Most of that is irrelevant now as Gillis isn't going anywhere and will look to find a new face to lead what will be a changing Canucks line-up into next season.

The Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider fiasco will need to be addressed and if I'm Vancouver I'm looking to move Schneider. But I'm not and Gillis has already come out on record that Luongo will likely be dealt (likely around the draft) and while I'm not sure Luongo is the smart choice, MacTavish did suggest there are questions surrounding Devan Dubnyk, so who knows.

Goal tending aside, the Canucks are going to need to get below the cap. While moving Loungo would get them almost if not completely there, Gillis has made it sound as though more changes will be coming. Can the Oilers, despite there not being a big trading history between Vancouver and Edmonton, find a fit?

There isn't really as large a need for Vancouver to get under the cap as some other teams we've already discussed, unless they choose to keep players like Derek Roy (who was a large let-down since coming aboard), Mason Raymond and Maxim Lapierre. If the Canucks try to keep those players aboard, then the Canuck blue line might be due for a shake-up.

Keith Ballard is the obvious choice, but like Edmonton fans who suggest it's easier said than done to off-load under-performing contracts, Ballard is an albatross that Vancouver will have trouble getting rid of.

Alex Edler has a hefty cap hit that kicks in this coming season and with Bieksa, Hamhuis and Garrison on no-trade clauses perhaps Gillis looks to move him. If that's the case, MacTavish should be all over that, but otherwise I don't see a fit.

Kesler would be a great pickup, if he somehow becomes available a boat load of teams will be interested, so really, the only fit from Vancouver I see will have little to do with making any kind of deal with the Canucks. It will be in picking up a UFA like Lapierre as a depth move.

Vancouver has cap issues, but I don't see Edmonton coming into play in any way.


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Taking Advantage MacTavish Style - The Flyers

We last spoke about the Washington Capitals and whether an opportunity existed for the Oilers to go after names like Karl Alzner, Troy Brouwer or Mike Green. With the decisions McPhee will need to make in Washington, I believe there to be just that -- opportunity.

However, Washington isn't the only team potentially ripe for the pickens'. One team, the Philadelphia Flyers, have created an opportunity for every NHL team under the cap line. Currently $8 million over what next years cap will be, simply by not signing their UFA and RFA contracts and losing players like Simon Gagne, Ruslan Fedotenko, Jody Shelley, Adam Hall, and Mike Knuble, which is probably the first names they'll sacrifice, it still only brings the Flyers down $7.6 million or so and keeps the Flyers above a cap they'll need to get below.

Like no other team I can think of, the Flyers are being leveled with albatross and no-trade contracts that will hamper their ability to ice anything more than the team that missed the playoffs this season. Paul Holmgren, the Flyers GM, will need to shake things up -- and he's proven he's not afraid to.

Trading players like Jeff Carter and Mike Richards when literally no one expected it, shows us that the Flyers are a team to watch this and really every summer. If you're an opposing GM with cap space, the Flyers better be on your speed dial.

Craig MacTavish needs to let Holmgren know the door is always open to talking. That the Oilers have some young talented prospects and that Edmonton would be happy to "help" the Flyers -- an eastern team, relieve themselves of some cap trouble.

A few names should be at the top of the list.While Wayne Simmonds would be the prize to snag from the Flyers and exactly what Edmonton needs, I don't see under any circumstances Philadelphia moving Simmonds or for that matter Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier; so Scott Hartnell becomes the conversation starter. He's big, he has hands and he wouldn't cost a prize to get. A mid draft pick and prospect or smaller contract NHL player might get it done.

Yes, I understand that Hartnell has a no-trade clause in his contract and that he likely doesn't want to leave the Flyers. I also understand that the Flyers were dreadful this past season compared to seasons past and Hartnell being older and on what will likely be his last ever contract in the NHL, he might see a benefit in spending his last five seasons with a team on the upswing instead perhaps on the down. The Flyers are undoubtedly a better team than Edmonton currently is, but they are getting much older much faster. Hartnell may see the writing on the wall as one of the Flyers older players.

The Oilers might have to tread carefully here as Hartnell had an off year in 2012/2013 and he's got a longer term contract. As MacTavish stated, you don't want to obtain people on the tail end of their usefulness.

If Edmonton believes Hartnell has something still in the tank; but, Hartnell refuses, one asset a lot of teams will be looking at is Jakub Voracek. Drafted in the same year and just after Oilers center Sam Gagner, Voracek had a breakout season. As a major piece in the Jeff Carter trade that sent Carter to Columbus, Voracek has finally turned into what both the Jackets thought he'd be when they drafted him and what the Flyers only hoped he'd be when they moved Carter out.

The Flyers won't want to move Voracek, but if they can't get players like Briere or Hartnell to waive their no-trade and no-movement clauses, Holmgren just may not have a choice. It will take a healthy return of draft picks and prospects, but Edmonton has the assets to move and if there was ever a time, this is it and MacTavish is the guy.

Finally, a quick move and one I might kick the most tires over if I'm MacTavish, is obtaining a player like Maxime Talbot. It won't get a lot of press, but it's exactly what Edmonton needs.

A much upgraded fourth line center option, Talbot would be a steal for the Oilers and would likely cost little in return. Talbot has the ability to move up to the third line, playing center and wing and if Edmonton does move Shawn Horcoff, Talbot might make for a more fired up, less expensive option. If they keep Horcoff, Talbot's not terribly cheap for a fourth line player at $1.75 million per season, but not so expensive that he can't challenge the other players in that position to keep their spots. If injury hits, Talbot can fill right in.

While not really a career over 50/50 face off guy, Talbot isn't going to lose so many that you have to worry ( he was 48% in the dot this past season), he's a veteran player whose had to work his way into the NHL as an 8th round draft pick, offers plenty of grit and has playoff experience on winning teams like the Penguins and Flyers. That could speak volumes for a team used to losing a lot and why MacTavish has considered his options with Shawn Horcoff.

Talbot takes the body, he's just that little bit of dirty you like in a teammate, blocks shots and he also happened to lead the Flyers in penalty killing time on ice. Talbot is a great bottom six fit Edmonton has specifically set their sights out to acquire.

If you're Edmonton and you are worried about Talbot's face off ability, you can always call on and make a UFA pitch for Adam Hall whom the Flyers will likely have to let walk and is a great face off specialist.

That would give you Nugent-Hopkins, Gagner, Talbot and Hall as your middle-men. A good mix of skill, face off ability and grit. My only other thought might be moving Gagner to wing if he can't improve his face offs and looking for a second line center via trade. 


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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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