What if Chiarelli had kept Hall and Eberle through 2020-21?

It’s safe to say that Peter Chiarelli is unpopular with Oilers fans after trading Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. The merit of the trades from a hockey standpoint has been widely debated, with the general sense among Oilers fans being that Chiarelli failed to get enough in return for either player.

Bob Nicholson said that a general manager needs to plan two and three years in advance during his media availability after the season ended. I have decided to explore how the roster would look had Chiarelli decided to keep both Hall and Eberle past the expiration of their current contracts three years from now and compare it to how the roster could look at that time based on the current roster from a salary cap perspective.

Here is how the roster would have looked at the start of this past season with Hall and Eberle:

Nuge ($6M) McDavid ($0.925M) Eberle ($6M)
Hall ($6M) Draisaitl ($8.5M) Puljujarvi ($0.925M)
Maroon ($1.5M) Letestu ($1.8M) Slepyshev ($0.925M)
Caggiula ($0.925M) Jokinen ($1M) Kassian ($1.95M)
Pakarinen ($0.725M)

Nurse ($0.863M) Russell ($4M)
Klefbom ($4.167M) Benning ($0.925M)
Sekera ($5.5M) Gryba ($0.9M)
Auvitu ($0.7M) Bear ($0.925M)

Talbot ($4.16M)
Montoya ($1.06M)

Total Cap Hit = $60.405 million
Buyouts: Pouliot – $1.33 million

Total: $61.735 million
Space with $75 million cap: $13.265 million

The Oilers finished 2017-18 with $8.618 million in cap space. Having Hall and Eberle on the team would’ve been $4.647 million cheaper this season. Put your torches and pitch forks down, Oilers fans… at least wait until you see how this analysis progresses over the next three years.

Here’s what the Oilers roster could look like in 2018-19 based on the current contracts that exist:

Nuge ($6M) McDavid ($12.5M) Rattie ($0.8M)
Lucic ($6M) Draisaitl ($8.5M) Puljujarvi ($0.925M)
LW ($0.65M) Strome ($3M) Aberg ($0.65M)
Caggiula ($0.874M) Khaira ($0.675M) Kassian ($1.95M)
W ($0.65M)

Nurse ($2.5M) Larsson ($4.167M)
Klefbom ($4.167M) Russell ($4M)
Sekera ($5.5M) Benning ($0.874M)
Gryba ($0.9M) Bear ($0.925M)

Talbot ($4.16M)
Montoya ($1.06M)

Total Cap Hit = $71.427 million
Buyouts: Pouliot – $1.33 million

Total: $72.757 million
Space with $78 million cap: $5.243 million
Space with $82 million cap: $9.243 million

For the purpose of this article, I have given RFAs Strome, Caggiula, and Benning contracts at the values of their qualifying offers for 2018-19. I have given Strome a 3-year deal for simplicity’s sake. He could also choose to sign a two-year deal and be an UFA in July 2020. Caggiula and Benning will receive values of 105% of their base salaries from the previous year for each of the next three seasons in this analysis because I don’t see either of them being signed to multi-year deals right now. Whether it’s them or other players replacing them, the values will be similar. I have given Nurse a 3-year, $7 million contract (AAV of $2.5 million) because I believe that this contract makes the most sense for the team over the next three years, and it’s the cheapest likely scenario for Nurse. Impact RFAs over the next 3 seasons including Puljujarvi, Rattie, and Bear will all receive the same $2.5 million contracts in this analysis for simplicity’s sake. I have also given any open roster spot in the bottom six forwards or the 7th/8th defencemen in future seasons a contract for the league minimum in this analysis for simplicity’s sake again.

Here’s what the roster would look like with Hall and Eberle on it in 2018-19:

Nuge ($6M) McDavid ($12.5M) Eberle ($6M)
Hall ($6M) Draisaitl ($8.5M) Puljujarvi ($0.925M)
LW ($0.65M) Khaira ($0.675M) Aberg ($0.65M)
Caggiula ($0.874M) Malone ($0.65M) Kassian ($1.95M)
W ($0.65M)

Nurse ($2.5M) Russell ($4M)
Klefbom ($4.167M) Benning ($0.874M)
Sekera ($5.5M) Bear ($0.925M)
LD ($0.65M) Gryba ($0.9M)

Talbot ($4.16M)
Montoya ($1.06M)

Total Cap Hit = $70.76 million
Buyouts: Pouliot – $1.33 million

Total: $72.09 million
Space with $78 million cap: $5.91 million
Space with $82 million cap: $9.91 million

Having Hall and Eberle on the roster next year would only be $0.667 million cheaper than the current group. That would allow the Oilers to carry one extra contract at the league minimum, which would not make the roster better in any way, shape, or form.

John Carlson is an unrestricted free agent this summer. To fit Carlson’s expected $7 million on the roster in either scenario, Nurse would have to accept his qualifying offer of $874,125. The current group would need to shed $0.132 million in order to fit Carlson’s expected $7 million on the roster if Nurse were to accept his qualifying offer, while the group with Hall and Eberle would not have to shed any more salary to make it happen.

Nurse will almost certainly not accept his qualifying offer, and Carlson could ask for more than what I predicted he would get if he doesn’t re-sign in Washington, so this difference between the two rosters is a non-factor.

You could trade Nugent-Hopkins to bring in a cheaper right-handed offensive defender than Carlson. Besides that, the only other way to add a top right-handed offensive defenceman this summer would be to hope that the cap goes up to at least $80 million. That wouldn’t change in either scenario.

Here’s the situation for 2019-20 based on the current roster:

Nuge ($6M) McDavid ($12.5M) Rattie ($2.5M)
Lucic ($6M) Draisaitl ($8.5M) Puljujarvi ($2.5M)
LW ($0.65M) Strome ($3M) Yamamoto ($0.925M)
Caggiula ($0.918M) Khaira ($0.709M) Kassian ($1.95M)
W ($0.65M)

Nurse ($2.5M) Larsson ($4.167M)
Klefbom ($4.167M) Russell ($4M)
Sekera ($5.5M) Bear ($0.925M)
LD ($0.65M) Benning ($0.918M)

Talbot ($6M)
BG ($1M)

Total Cap Hit = $76.629 million
Buyouts: Pouliot – $1.33 million

Total: $77.959 million
Space with $81 million cap: $3.041 million

* $81 million cap is derived from the minimum $78 million cap in 2018-19 and an average increase of $3 million per season since 2005-06.

Now, here’s the potential roster for 2019-20 with Hall and Eberle:

Nuge ($6M) McDavid ($12.5M) Eberle ($8M)
Hall ($6M) Draisaitl ($8.5M) Puljujarvi ($2.5M)
LW ($0.65M) Khaira ($0.709M) Yamamoto ($0.925M)
Caggiula ($0.918M) Malone ($0.65M) Kassian ($1.95M)
W ($0.65M)

Nurse ($2.5M) Russell ($4M)
Klefbom ($4.167M) Benning ($0.918M)
Sekera ($5.5M) Bear ($0.925M)
LD ($0.65M) RD ($0.65M)

Talbot ($6M)
BG ($1M)

Total Cap Hit = $76.262 million
Buyouts: Pouliot – $1.33 million

Total: $77.592 million
Space with $81 million cap: $3.408 million

I expect Talbot to get $6 million, and I will give his back-up a $1 million contract. I have given Khaira his qualifying offer of 105% of his previous salary like I did with Caggiula and Benning. As was mentioned previously, I gave Puljujarvi and Rattie equivalent $2.5 million contracts.

I believe that Eberle will get $8 million for his next deal. If that is the case, then the 2019-20 season is where you start to see a switch in the cost of each roster. The group with Hall and Eberle would become more expensive by $0.367 million. Like in 2018-19, there really wouldn’t a big difference in the total cost of the two rosters.

Erik Karlsson, Drew Doughty, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson are the top offensive defencemen available in unrestricted free agency in 2019. Karlsson and Doughty will both get at least $10 million, while Ekman-Larsson won’t be too far behind. In either scenario, there is not enough space to add a top offensive defenceman in the summer of 2019 without moving existing salary out.

Sekera and Russell could both be moved since they both have NMCs that would be modified to allow a trade to be made in July 2019, which would create an extra $9.5 million. Some of that would likely have to be retained in Sekera and Russell trades.

Trading Sekera and Russell along with signing one of the big free agent defencemen would create one more hole for a $0.65 million defenceman. If you subtract the $0.65 million from the left-over cap space figures from before, and add the $9.5 million in departed salary, you get a range of $11.891 (current roster) – $12.258 million (Hall and Eberle) to spend on that big free agent defenceman. Adding any one of the three big free agent defencemen would be possible in either scenario assuming that no salary would be retained in either trade involving Sekera and Russell, that Khaira would accept his qualifying offer in 2019, that the values of the other new contracts signed would match the values that I’ve laid out, that the Oilers could find a suitable 3rd line left-winger and bottom pair LD for the league minimum, and that the cap behaves as I’ve predicted.

A lot would have to go right to be able to afford one of the big free agent defencemen in 2019.

Once again, the Oilers would have the same ability to add the top right-handed defenceman in 2019 regardless of whether or not Hall and Eberle were to be on the roster.

Here’s the projection of the 2020-21 Oilers roster based on what it looks like right now:

Nuge ($6M) McDavid ($12.5M) Rattie ($2.5M)
Lucic ($6M) Draisaitl ($8.5M) Puljujarvi ($2.5M)
LW ($0.65M) Strome ($3M) Yamamoto ($0.925M)
Caggiula ($0.964M) Khaira ($0.744M) RW ($0.65M)
W ($0.65M)

Nurse ($2.5M) Larsson ($4.167M)
Klefbom ($4.167M) Russell ($4M)
Sekera ($5.5M) Bear ($2.5M)
LD ($0.65M) Benning ($0.964M)

Talbot ($6M)
BG ($1M)

Total Cap Hit = $77.031 million
Buyouts: Pouliot – $1.33 million

Total: $78.361 million
Space with $84 million cap: $5.639 million

Now, the projected 2020-21 roster with Hall and Eberle:

Nuge ($6M) McDavid ($12.5M) Eberle ($8M)
Hall ($9.5M) Draisaitl ($8.5M) Puljujarvi ($2.5M)
LW ($0.65M) Khaira ($0.744M) Yamamoto ($0.925M)
Caggiula ($0.964M) C ($0.65M) RW ($0.65M)
W ($0.65M)

Nurse ($2.5M) Russell ($4M)
Klefbom ($4.167M) Bear ($2.5M)
Sekera ($5.5M) Benning ($0.964M)
LD ($0.65) RD ($0.65M)

Talbot ($6M)
BG ($1M)

Total Cap Hit = $80.164 million
Buyouts: Pouliot – $1.33 million

Total: $81.494 million
Space with hypothetical $84 million cap: $2.506 million

Zack Kassian’s contract will expire in July 2020, at which point I’d let him walk to save money. Ethan Bear will be an RFA in 2020. As I mentioned previously, I gave him a $2.5 million deal in line with Nurse, Puljujarvi, and Rattie for simplicity’s sake.

Hall being a free agent in 2020 has a major impact on the available cap space for that season. The current roster projects to be $3.133 million cheaper than the roster with Hall and Eberle on it… that’s a massive difference!

The difference between the cost of the rosters in 2020-21 is $0.367 million less than the value of Hall’s projected raise. Essentially, the difference between the costs of these two rosters is the approximate value of Hall’s raise in 2020-21.

Alex Pietrangelo, Tyson Barrie, Justin Faulk, Jared Spurgeon, and Sami Vatanen are all unrestricted right-handed offensive defencemen in 2020. Once again, the only way to sign one of these players in either case is to move out existing salary. However, by the time the cap reaches $84 million, the Oilers would only have to move Sekera’s contract out to afford one of these players at $7-8 million. The odds of the Oilers getting one of these players in 2020 is much greater than the odds of them getting a top offensive defenceman sooner than that.

Nicholson said that a general manager needs to manage with a two and a three-year plan in mind. When Chiarelli says that trades are made for cap reasons, those cap implications may not necessarily just be a concern for the current season. In the Oilers’ case, the salary cap situation would be nearly identical for the next two seasons regardless of whether or not the Hall and Eberle trades had been made. The cap concerns are for the 2020-21 season onwards.

If the cap situation is nearly identical for the next two seasons and if Hall and Eberle could fit under the cap in 2020-21, then why would Chiarelli have made the trades as early as he did (Reasons I’ve discussed in previous articles on Hall and Eberle aside)?

Hall will be an UFA in 2020, and Eberle will be an UFA after next season. Impending UFAs normally only get moved for picks and prospects. Picks and prospects do not have an immediate impact in the NHL in the vast majority of cases. Picks and prospects acquired in 2019 would not likely help the team in 2020-21 either. If Chiarelli had held on to Hall and Eberle this year and if he were to have traded them as impending UFAs, then the Oilers would most likely get no assets to help the team in 2020-21 in return for Hall and Eberle. They would have to rely on free agency to replace them. If Milan Lucic has taught us anything, its that signing unrestricted free agent wingers is a risk.

By making the trades when he did, Chiarelli has added Larsson and Strome, who are both under team control through at least 2019-20 (Larsson is signed through 2020-21, and Strome would be eligible to be an UFA after 2019-20 if his new contract were to expire then). He acquired assets that have immediately helped the Oilers and that will continue to help the Oilers for the foreseeable future.

If the goal is to build a team around McDavid as quickly as possible, then that’s a better return than what waiting until Hall and Eberle are impending UFAs to trade them would yield.

Hall and Eberle would indisputably make the top six stronger. Strome’s presence as the 3rd line centre greatly improves the team’s bottom six. It also pushes Khaira to the 4th line centre role, which is a better fit for him. Without Larsson, Kris Russell would be the Oilers’ top right-handed defenceman. Oilers fans hate the Russell contract as it is… imagine if he were the top RD for the next 3 years!

Oilers fans choose to simply analyze the Hall and Eberle trades from a pure talent standpoint and to chastise Chiarelli for losing trades involving high-end talent. There is no question that the Oilers came out of those trades with the weaker players. I have argued that both trades are fairer than they appear because of each player’s market value, which I believe has been greatly misjudged by most Oilers fans.

The real question we should be asking is whether a top-heavy team with a weak bottom six and a weak right side of the defence is better than a team with a weaker top six, a stronger bottom six and a stronger right side of the defence. Chiarelli has opted for the latter, and he has opted to obtain tangible assets for Hall and Eberle instead of projects that wouldn’t likely help the roster before 2020-21.

In order to win a Stanley Cup, a team needs to have depth. It needs to have a 3rd line that has a chance of scoring once in a blue moon. Strome being the 3rd line centre gives the Oilers that luxury. I like Kris Russell, but a team needs to have more depth on the defence than having Russell as the top RD in order to win the Stanley Cup. The defence is indisputably deeper with Larsson on it. The roster with Hall and Eberle on it in 2020-21 reminds me of the Islanders of this past season that could score a lot of goals but couldn’t keep the puck out of their net… the Islanders missed the playoffs, folks.

I know which potential 2020-21 roster would have a better chance at winning the Stanley Cup, and it isn’t the one with Hall and Eberle on it.

admin :

Comments are closed.