All-Star Break Trade Preview: Part 1

Once again, back to back terrible outings from the Oilers has sparked turmoil in Edmonton. There is a lot of pressure to make the playoffs from within the organization and from fans, but the Oilers continue to be consistently inconsistent. The injuries on the back end have really hampered the Oilers, but the reality is that the roster isn’t good enough for a playoff spot right now.

TSN’s Ryan Rishaug’s tweet from last week said that the Oilers staff are in a “full court press” and have been deployed “en masse” to find a scoring forward. He also hinted that the Oilers’ 2019 1st round pick and a young, developing forward are in play. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman has confirmed that the 1st round pick is in play, and that Jesse Puljujarvi could be in play as well, although Bob Mackenzie and others in the local media have since reported that the Oilers aren’t interested in moving Puljujarvi.

As many fans are aware, the Oilers don’t have a lot of cap space to work with, so acquiring a big-name scorer isn’t going to be simple. However, the thing that most people don’t realize is that a team is only stuck with a portion of the new player’s cap hit based on the amount of days that he would be on the roster in the current season. If you go to a player’s page on CapFriendly.com, you see four values at the top. You see their Cap Hit, their Daily Cap Hit (their salary cap hit divided by the number of days in the season, which is 186 this year), their Accumulated Daily Cap Hit (their Daily Cap Hit multiplied by the amount of days that have passed in the current season), and their Remaining Daily Cap Hit (their Daily Cap Hit multiplied by how many days are left in the season).

That Accumulated Daily Cap Hit is a total of the salary cap hit that has already been paid. Once it has been paid for by the team, it can’t be transferred to another team in a trade. So, if the Oilers were trade Cam Talbot today, then the Oilers would have $2.49 million counting towards their cap for the remainder of the season because that time has already passed. It would save them $1.68 million against the cap. His new team would be stuck with the Remaining Daily Cap Hit for the remainder of the season. That is why teams are able to add players with large cap hits at the trade deadline. The Remaining Daily Cap Hit is small enough for most teams to be able to absorb without going over the cap because there are so few days remaining once the deadline hits.

The Total Cap Hit number you would see on the Oilers page on CapFriendly.com is a sum of the total cap hits for each player on the active roster. It does not include the Accumulated Daily Cap Hit for having Ryan Strome, Chris Wideman, Jason Garrison, Drake Caggiula, and Valentin Zykov on the roster for however many days. It also does not include the subtracted Accumulated Daily Cap Hit for the time that Alex Petrovic and Brandon Manning were not on the roster.

This information is vital when we are looking at what the Oilers can afford to do prior to this deadline. It also provides some clarity on why Colby Cave was claimed on waivers. Cave’s total cap hit is $675k, but he was acquired with 82 days left in the season, making his total salary cap hit for the Oilers only $298k. The Oilers sent Joseph Gambardella down the AHL to make room for Cave on the active roster. Gambardella’s cap hit is $725k. That full amount would be taken off of the salary cap total because he did not switch NHL teams this season. The move created $0.427M in cap space for the Oilers, which will be needed if they really want to add a top scorer. They just need to hope that Cave can bring a solid game while he’s here.

It’s an interesting situation in Edmonton because they want a top 6 forward, and they have Klefbom and potentially Sekera coming back from injuries soon; but they have limited cap space. Klefbom is due back shortly after the All-Star break, while Sekera’s return date remains a mystery (if there is a return date this season at all). The following is a breakdown of the current Oilers roster as of today (Jan 22). I’ve included the Accumulated Daily Cap Hits of each player that has left the Oilers this season, and I’ve adjusted the values of Spooner, Petrovic, Manning, and Cave to reflect their Remaining Daily Cap Hit from the day that they were acquired to provide an accurate and real representation for where the team stands against the cap:

Draisaitl ($8.5M) McDavid ($12.5M) Chiasson ($0.65M)
Lucic ($6M) Nuge ($6M) Yamamoto ($0.894M)
Rieder ($2M) Brodziak ($1.15M) Kassian ($1.95M)
Khaira ($0.675M) Cave ($0.298M) Puljujarvi ($0.925M)
Spooner ($2.367M) Rattie ($0.8M)

Nurse ($3.2M) Larsson ($4.17M)
Russell ($4M) Petrovic ($1.027)
Manning ($1.185M) Benning ($1.9M)
Gravel ($0.7M)

Talbot ($4.17M)
Koskinen ($2.5M)

Active Roster: 21 players (23 limit)

Klefbom ($4.17M)- IR
Sekera ($5.5M)- LTIR

Strome- $0.733M
Caggiula- $0.710M
Wideman- $0.204M
Garrison- $0.308M
Zykov- $0.109M

Total Cap Hit = $79.295 million
Buyouts: Pouliot – $1.33 million, Gryba- $0.3 million
Buried: Montoya- $37,500

Total: $80.9625 million
Space with $79.5 million cap: $-1.4625 million
LTIR Space Remaining: $4.028 million

We know that the Oilers want to add a scoring winger. If Sekera is done for the year, then they can do pretty much anything they want. They could add Patrick Kane today if they wanted to in that case. Here’s what I can tell you about Sekera’s injury. He had his surgery on August 14th, and a quick Google search reveals that the recovery time for such a surgery is typically 4-6 months. February 14th would be 6 months from the date of the surgery. Unless Sekera has had a set-back of some kind, one could expect him to return before the February 25 trade deadline. The goal of this exercise is to see if there’s a way that the Oilers can acquire a scoring winger while still being able to get under the cap upon activating Sekera from the LTIR.

It’s not a matter of “if” they can, it’s a matter of how they will decide to do it.

The Oilers currently have 14 F on the active roster. They currently have 7 D on the active roster after activating Petrovic from the IR. Klefbom’s return will bring that number to 8. To get the ratio to 13 F and 8 D, then they would need to move one forward. To do that and acquire a scoring winger, they would need to move two forwards. To achieve the goal of acquiring a scoring winger and activating Sekera, the Oilers will have to move 3 players off of the existing roster. They could achieve this goal with a 14 F and 7 D ratio after Sekera comes back, but I’m going to operate under the premise that they will utilize a 13 F and 8 D ratio because defensive depth is important, and the Oilers have more AHL options at forward in case of injury.

In order to figure out how much they can spend on that scoring forward, we need to figure out how much cap space the team is likely to have after making the necessary roster moves to activate Sekera and accommodate the scoring forward. We don’t know what Sekera’s return date will be, but February 14 (6 months after his surgery) is the one concrete piece of information that we have to go on. The other important dates between now and the deadline are tomorrow (maximum cap savings from trades during the break), February 1 (last day of the break), February 14, and February 25 (trade deadline day).

We need to figure out who is the most likely to move. The core of McDavid, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins, Klefbom, Larsson, and Nurse are all likely safe. Players that have proven to be important this year such as Chaisson, Russell, and Khaira are likely safe as well. Players with immovable contracts like Lucic and Sekera are definitely not going anywhere. Bottom six forwards with term like Kassian and Brodziak are likely safe too. Moving players with small cap hits like Gravel, Rattie, and Cave don’t serve a great purpose from a cap perspective, so they are likely safe as well. Rattie could be an exception to that based on the fact that he was put on waivers on Monday. He is definitely in the dog house. Puljujarvi and Yamamoto are the only two players that don’t require waivers to send to the AHL. Hitchcock likes the way that both of them play, and he basically said that they have earned spots on the team. I doubt either of them will be moved, although Yamamoto could potentially be sent down if he hits a wall like Hitchcock hinted at last week.

That leaves Spooner, Rieder, Manning, Petrovic, and Benning as the most likely options to be moved.

Waiving a player would have the same impact on the salary cap as trading him would if he were to be claimed by another team, but it would create the most cap space if the player were to clear waivers and be sent to the AHL. There’s a certain level of risk in that strategy. A trade is a safer option cap wise, and the team would receive some kind of asset for doing that. Seeking trades is the most likely option.

Spooner has cleared waivers once already, and we know that Chiarelli has been shopping him for quite some time now. We could gather that nobody wants Spooner from those facts, but a team could also just be waiting for his cap hit to get just a bit lower before acquiring him. Here is how much cap space that moving Spooner on those four key dates would create:

Jan 23- $1.233 M, Feb 1- $1.083 M, Feb 14- $0.867 M, Feb 25- $0.683 M

In case Spooner can’t be traded, Rieder has scored 0 goals this year. He is a forward that is in his prime years that would be under team control for next season. Perhaps a change of scenery would do him good. Here are those values for Rieder:

Jan 23- $0.796 M, Feb 1- $0.699 M, Feb 14- $0.559 M, Feb 25- $0.441 M

Sending Yamamoto to the AHL would save the Oilers $0.894 million in cap space. That would create more space than trading Rieder at any point would. It would make sense from a cap perspective to send Yamamoto down as one of the two moves involving forwards.

The defencemen that would likely be moved would be any of Benning, Petrovic, or Manning because they would clear the most cap space of players that don’t get into the line-up every night. If they were to clear waivers and be sent to the AHL, then that would create another $1.025 million in cap space. If one of them is traded, then the cap savings would be the same as if the player were to be claimed by another team on waivers. Here are the amounts of cap space that each player would save the team if they were traded or claimed on waivers on the key dates I mentioned earlier:

Benning: Jan 23- $0.756 M, Feb 1- $0.664 M, Feb 14- $0.531 M, Feb 25- $0.419 M
Petrovic: Jan 23- $0.776 M, Feb 1- $0.681 M, Feb 14- $0.545 M, Feb 25- $0.430 M
Manning: Jan 23- $0.895 M, Feb 1- $0.786 M, Feb 14- $0.629 M, Feb 25- $0.496 M

Chiarelli acquired Manning and Petrovic in order to add defensive depth. We know that Chiarelli likes Manning as a player. We know that he tried to acquire him last season because he approached McDavid about doing so at that time. I doubt that Chiarelli will move a player that he likes so much. The real decision is between Petrovic and Benning. The argument for trading Petrovic would be that he’s an UFA, so he could be a rental for another team. He could also be a rental for the Oilers. The argument for moving Benning is that he is younger, so he could potentially yield a bigger return. If the plan for next year is to run with Larsson, Russell, and Bouchard on the right side, then Benning may not be in the plans for next year anyway. The idea would be to trade him now to get something for him. For this scenario, I need to be realistic about how much cap space will be created, and Benning is the defenceman that would create the least cap space of the three.

In the worst-case scenario, Spooner, Rieder, and Benning would be traded on deadline day. That would leave the Oilers with $0.0805 million in cap space. That won’t get them anything. There’s no sense in waiting until the trade deadline to move these players. In the best-case scenario, Spooner would be traded on January 23, and a defenceman and a forward (Rieder) would be waived and sent to the AHL. That would leave the Oilers with $1.8205 million in cap space. That scenario is highly unlikely.

What will actually happen will fall somewhere in that range, and the scoring winger that the Oilers can acquire will change depending on when all of these moves happen. It doesn’t sound like a lot of cap space, but remember that the cap hit that a team acquiring a player takes on gets smaller by the day. The Oilers would be wise to trade guys out during the break to maximize how much cap space that they can create. On February 4, a player will carry a cap hit of exactly one third of his Total Cap Hit for his new team.

Waiting until the deadline would allow the Oilers to acquire the scoring winger with the highest cap hit possible, but there are two reasons that waiting until the deadline won’t do the team any good: they don’t seem to want to spend the assets to get the high-end rentals, and they are in danger of falling out of the playoff race before then. They would be best served by acquiring the scoring winger on or before February 1 so that they can maximize the number of games with their new toy in the line-up.

The other major factor in all of this is whether or not Talbot gets traded, which seems quite likely since Koskinen’s extension was signed yesterday. That trade would change things drastically because it is over and beyond what is necessary to activate Sekera and acquire a scoring winger based on needing to keep the active roster at 23 men.

Here are the values for the amount of cap space that the Oilers would create by trading Talbot on each of the four key dates I mentioned earlier:

Jan 23- $1.659 million, Feb 1- $1.457 million, Feb 14- $1.166 million, Feb 25- $0.919 million

Look out for Part 2 of this article where I will tell you which scoring winger would be attainable for the Oilers.

As always, the cap information was calculated using information from CapFriendly.com.

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