Sometimes, it's hard to tell if the Edmonton Oilers are very smart or very lucky.
Take this Ethan Moreau thing, for example. We hear that the Oilers have waived him, along with two others. We then hear that Moreau has, in fact, been bought out. Check out that link fast because there might be a retraction going up in a hurry: today comes news that Moreau has actually been picked up off waivers by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Perhaps Scott Howson owes Kevin Lowe money. There can't be many other explanations for picking up such a disastrously ineffective player with such a horrifyingly putrid year left on his contract. I saw Howson briefly at the draft on Saturday and he didn't look like a piano had been dropped on his head. Perhaps the reason Howson grabbed Moreau will forever remain a mystery.
Then there's the Patrick O'Sullivan... well, I'll call it a "fiasco" but only out of tradition because it might have been very clever. First we heard that the Coyotes had swapped Jim Vandermeer to Edmonton for O'Sullivan and both players had been bought out. Because of the players' differing ages, this would save the Coyotes about $750,000 in precious United States currency, so presumably the Oilers were getting some sort of consideration for this hit.
Now we hear that the Oilers may not be releasing Vandermeer at all. That Edmonton - and God knows they need some effective defensemen - might be holding on to old Gentleman Jim and his $2.3 million cap hit through 2010-11 while Phoenix buys out O'Sullivan and saves their money. The whole affair would save the Oilers $625,000 in cap space for next season, get us a not-awful player at a position of need, and open up a regular lineup spot for Jean-Francois Jacques or Ryan O'Marra. Two of those things are good.
It's all quite clever. And therefore unbelievably peculiar.
Now, if we're getting Jim Vandermeer, we're obviously not expecting too much. But there's a lot to like in having him on the Oilers. He's only turning thirty this season. He was +4 with last year's surprisingly good Coyotes team and played over seventeen minutes a game. He's mediocre offensively, although not Ladislav Smid, and he kills penalties with alacrity. He's better than Aaron Johnson, to pick a name, and he's pretty much automatically our fourth-best defenseman. Jim Vandermeer isn't good enough to be a fourth-best defenseman on any decent team but he's good enough to play for one, and we need more serviceable players like that.
Vandermeer is just too damned expensive for the Coyotes, whose ownership situation could not be more unclear and are selling off the furniture to stay afloat in what, for lack of a more accurate term, I must call their "hockey market". A $2.3 million cap hit is poor value for a player of Vandermeer's calibre, but it's not awful value, and with the contract expiring at the end of the year it's not like the Oilers will have to carry it into contention anyway. Long-term, when you consider what paying an equivalent free agent to take Vandermeer's position would cost, it's not much more expensive than buying out O'Sullivan would have been and we're getting a decent player in exchange.
I am apprehensive about losing Patty Minus, though. Yes, he was terrible last season. He had one of the worst campaigns from an Oilers forward not named Jean-Francois Jacques that I can remember. But every die that could fall against him did. His career shows that he's been a moderately good scorer for almost his entire career and it's not like he's been playing with Adam Oates in his prime. He's young, and his salary wasn't all that bad. Flushing him down the toilet for Jim Vandermeer seems like selling a non-crippling contract at the bottom of the market. We weren't going anywhere next season with or without O'Sullivan, so why not give him another year to see if he can round back into form and either jettison him for increased value or just buy him out then?
But if you take it as a given that O'Sullivan was useless and buyout-worthy, then this is a pretty good move on Edmonton's part. And it's good news for the third member of the waiver regiment, Robert Nilsson, who has been neither traded nor bought out yet and suddenly has less competition on the wing of our low-defense soft-minutes smurf line. Nilsson is another guy who had a much worse year last year than in any other and can reasonably be expected to rebound, although not to the same degree as O'Sullivan. If I was going to get rid of one of them, it would be Mini-Magic. But Nilsson appears to have more lives than a cat, and he may have just gotten another opportunity here.
The Oilers, in short, are both better and cheaper than they were yesterday. Gwuuuuh?