Busy Times in Edmonton

It has certainly been a busy last few days in Oil Country. The man that was supposed to be the solution in goal, Cam Talbot, was traded to the Flyers in exchange for new back-up Anthony Stolarz. The failed Ryan Spooner experiment came to an end with the return of Sam Gagner. Andrej Sekera completed his conditioning stint, and has now been activated from the LTIR. Brandon Manning cleared waivers today and has been sent to the AHL. Lastly, Jujhar Khaira and apparently unhappy youngster Jesse Puljujarvi have both been placed on the IR.

Before I delve into the analysis of everything that has gone on and that might go on next, I need to clear the air about one of my last articles, the one that I posted upon learning that Sekera was about to begin his conditioning stint. I was wrong about a few things in that article.

For one thing, I was wrong in thinking that Sekera’s conditioning stint was to start the day that it was announced. I was wrong in my calculation of the Oilers’ Projected Cap Hit (sum of the daily cap hit for every player to have spent at least one day on the Oilers Active Roster this season). I had initially not included any of the players that had been called up from the AHL previously or Evan Bouchard in my total sum, which I later attempted to correct. I also calculated using rounded values, which is admittedly a bit sloppy. It may have sounded like I was calling out the numbers found on CapFriendly, which was not my intent. My intent was to be able to predict what the club might be able to do based on the cap situation. While re-calculating the numbers on my own using exact values found on CapFriendly.com, I was able to match the Projected Cap Hit value and the Today’s Cap Hit (sum of the full season cap hits of every player currently on the Active Roster) value provided on their site. Use their numbers because they have it correct. The Daily Tracker which shows the numbers used to calculate the Projected Cap Hit can be found here.

I was also wrong in thinking that the Oilers needed to clear a pro-rated amount of cap space off of their roster in order to become cap compliant based on their Projected Cap Hit. CapFriendly has the Oilers’ Projected Cap Hit at $79.9 million after all of the latest moves and after activating Sekera, which is still over the limit. That is allowable because the of the amount of time that Sekera spent on the LTIR. According to @PuckPedia, the Oilers’ Projected Cap Hit is allowed to be over the limit by a pro-rated amount based on how long Sekera was on the LTIR for. He was on the LTIR for 138 days, which means the Oilers can exceed the $79.5 million limit for their Projected Cap Hit by $4,080,645 ($83,580,645).

I deleted the previous article because it was full of erroneous information, not because I was trying to cover up the fact that I made some errors. I can certainly say that I have learned a lot about the salary cap in the last little while, and I’m sure that there is a lot that I still don’t know.

Today’s Cap Hit for the Oilers is at $78.1 million, which is $1.4 million under the $79.5 million limit. The Oilers are cap compliant based on this number, which is all they needed to worry about because of the LTIR situation. It is my understanding that normally, teams need to be under the $79.5 million limit with both values (Projected Cap Hit and Today’s Cap Hit) at all times, with LTIR being an exception (although as we learned, I have been wrong in the past). Basically, the Oilers are fine cap wise now for this season, even though it took some subtracting to make it happen.

The two trades are interesting from a hockey standpoint. It was clear that Talbot wasn’t going to be re-signed after Koskinen was extended, so a trade felt inevitable. Talbot was Chiarelli’s big acquisition that was supposed to fix the goaltending. Talbot had one incredible season in 2016-17 where the Oilers made the playoffs largely because of his performance. He had runs in the second half of his first and third seasons here where he was also outstanding. However, he was just too inconsistent to be the goalie that Chiarelli hoped that he would be. He started 3 of his 4 seasons in Edmonton slowly, which put the team behind the 8-ball early each year. It’s not all his fault because the defensive play in front of him was brutal at those times, but he does wear a good portion of that. This year, he could never really get it going for any length of time.

The other trend of his that was noticeable was how often he would let goals in early in games. I can’t count the number of times that he let in a goal in the first 5 minutes of a hockey game over the last couple of seasons. A lot of those were in the first 2 minutes. Quite a few of those were on the first shot of the game. I feel like it’s one of those things that is not entirely his fault either because the defence can’t let those kinds of chances happen that early that often. Koskinen hasn’t been immune to that fate early in games either. I also think it was a mental thing. I can’t explain it, but it definitely made things harder on the Oilers in the last couple of years.

I was a bit sad to see Talbot go because he was a very likable player, and by all accounts, he was a great person to have in the locker room and in the community. I hope he does well in Philly.

I don’t know much about Stolarz except that he is taller, younger, and cheaper than Talbot. His .902 save percentage and his 3.33 GAA are better than the .893 save percentage and 3.36 GAA posted by Talbot this season. He needs to play 10 games down the stretch in order to continue as an RFA, which would give the Oilers control over him for next season. However, his being a UFA wouldn’t stop them from re-signing him if they wish to. I don’t know if they will sign him for next season, but it’s a short-term victory for the Oilers in my eyes because they cleared a lot of cap space for a player with superior numbers this season.

It was certainly a little exciting to hear that Ganger would be returning to the Oilers. It’s frustrating that the return for Jordan Eberle has turned into his former Oilers teammate Gagner. I was good with the return being Strome because I knew it was a cap dump and Strome could’ve been a useful player for a long period of time. The Spooner trade was where it started to go south for me. I didn’t hate it at first because Spooner was supposed to be a slight upgrade on Strome offensively, but we all know how it played out.

However, looking ahead to the future, Gagner is only 29 years old, even though it feels like he’s closer to 39 years old. His best days are certainly behind him, but there’s no reason that he can’t be a useful NHLer. He’s a righty that can play centre and the wing, and his hands are still silky. He fills a need for the Oilers. The cap hit is a bit rich in my opinion, but we had to take something back in order to get rid of Spooner.

Spooner is apparently getting a chance to play with Boeser and Pettersson in Vancouver. I’ll be keeping my eye on how he fares there. I posted an article a while back about how many Oilers forwards have been producing at a fraction of the rates that they produced at last season. I’ll be watching to see if it’s symptomatic of a water issue in Edmonton, or if the player himself is just shitty.

Manning to the AHL makes the optics of that trade even worse, if that was possible. He is now the 6th best left-handed option on the Oilers defence. Chiarelli made the deal because he was in need of depth on defence, and because he liked the player. He had just got Petrovic hours before getting Manning, and they already had Gravel, so the need for Manning was questionable. I would say that he is an upgrade over Garrison (who is now playing in Sweden), but the trade was still a failure because the defence was still brutal for the period of time where Klefbom and Russell were hurt. I don’t think Caggiula’s presence would have the Oilers in a playoff race right now, but the move subtracted a little bit of production from a group that had very little of that precious commodity to begin with. Add in the fact that Manning and McDavid had their differences before the trade, and the fact that he carries a $2.25 million cap hit for next season, and you get a confused and angry fan base.

The timing of Puljujarvi’s injury is intriguing. The injury comes as a flurry of reports talking about how unhappy he is in Edmonton have been surfacing. I think he has every right to be upset. His peers that were drafted near him in 2016 (Matthews, Laine, Dubois, Tkachuk) have all done quite well in the NHL thus far. Meanwhile, Puljujarvi can’t find traction in Edmonton. The fact is that he has far too many NHL games under his belt right now. He shouldn’t have been in the NHL in his rookie season, and he should’ve stayed in Bakersfield for last season too. Instead, he has been up and down between Bakersfield and Edmonton in each of his 3 NHL seasons. While he’s been in the NHL, he has been given limited opportunities to play with skilled players. To be fair, he shouldn’t be given those opportunities if he can’t earn them. However, this is not a player that is expected to be a career bottom 6 winger. He was drafted 4th overall because he is expected to produce offence with skilled players. He needs to be put in a position where he can succeed at his craft, which is scoring. He’s not doing it in Edmonton right now, so they should send him to Bakersfield so that he can contribute to a winning line-up.

I’d be pissed off about being sent down to the AHL right now if I were him. Hitchcock asked Chiarelli to call Puljujarvi up when he was hired, and Hitch said that he wanted to be responsible for his development. Hitch also said that Puljujarvi would be a top 6 player within a month of working with him. He’s had a few opportunities on the 2nd line with Nugent-Hopkins and Khaira, and he got 2 periods with McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins against TB before a giveaway resulted in a goal against and a benching. Besides those short looks, Puljujarvi has been playing 10 minutes a night on the 4th line. That isn’t enough for a 20-year old prospect that was drafted to score. If I were Puljujarvi, I’d be pissed off at how the organization (specifically Hitchcock) has handled his development, and sending him to Bakersfield right now would certainly add to it. However, should the Oilers miss the playoffs (I’d say “when” if not for the small mathematical chance that they could still make the playoffs), I would expect that Puljujarvi would be sent to Bakersfield to take part in their playoff run.

If a trade is the best scenario for him and the organization, I would expect it to happen in the off-season rather than right before the deadline. The Oilers need to be patient and find the right deal if they are to make one, similar to how the Lightning handled Drouin. They got Sergachev from Montreal, which was a solid return. The Oilers would need to find a similar prospect in order to warrant parting with Puljujarvi in my opinion. I would personally like to see the Oilers hold on to him and wait for him to break out after concluding this season in a positive environment in Bakersfield.

That’s it for now. I’ll post a Trade Deadline Preview before the weekend, so look out for that. Enjoy Sekera’s return and the Rogers Place debut of Sam Gagner in an Oilers uniform tonight!

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