FanPost

Karlsson's contract; and the trade-off between greed and mediocrity

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Photo by Michael Miller via Wikimedia commons, commons license

Bryan Murray did something both wise and dangerous today, committing a tenth of his payroll to Erik Karlsson over the time it takes to wear off bad luck from shattered mirrors. And why not? What choice did he have? Karlsson was the highest scoring defenseman in the league amassing 78 points, while earning a nomination for the Norris trophy. Jesus, and the kid is just 22 so with any luck he'll marry an Ottawa girl, settle down into a two-story in the Gleeb, and provide powerplay stewardship until they hang his 65 in the rafters sometime in the early 2030's. The fly in the ointment of course is that Karlsson is coming off a 2010-2011 season where he was -30, meaning skeptics and player-haters will find parallels between he and Mike Green, highly critiquing the man's defensive game. For Karlsson however, this season's rebound has earned him one of the richest second contracts handed out in NHL history.

For fans of the Oilers, after a few rough seasons where our only delight is getting to see our man Steve strut up to the podium to make his selection, we'll soon evolve to an abstracted discussion of how much we'll now need to pay these kids, and for how long we should pay them. In that regard, Karlsson sets the bar.

How much is too much? We're like yokels living on oil-rich land off some deserted strech of highway who haven't seen anything of precious beauty or scarce value for quite some time, and are tripping over ourselves to get our hands wrapped around it to make it our own. Too much money at our disposal, but we still need to buy a truck, a shotgun, meat for the icebox, and enough whiskey to keep Grandma from going crazy in the middle of the night. Conflicting priorities, indeed.

Eighty-one million!!!!! Is what we were willing to throw at Marian Hossa. My God.

So what do we do with Taylor Hall? And Jordan Eberle? And soon Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and then after the Russian oligarch with his harem of girlfriends and sister-wives? Can we commit these kinds of dollars to these young men, spending 40% of our payroll on an incomplete yet highly talented powerplay?

I'm not sure what to make of the Karlsson contract in terms of its implications for us. In spite of whatever success they'll have, Hall and Eberle probably won't hit 78 points this upcoming season. You could draw an endless line of comparables to lesser-weights, creep through a series of short inexpensive contracts, bleeding value out of the early years.

I'm sure there's a savvy way for management to play their cards. Discern. Evaluate. Stay positive but aloof. Negotiate away things that are of little value to the club, such as large signing bonuses in exchange for more years on the contract. Bide time. Be aggressive after an injury-shortened season or an off-year. Make friends. Become a trusted advisor. Sell the team concept.

But these things are nerve-racking, and our leadership team's palms don't stay dry when the heat turns up. We've been to the dark side and for our scars have come back with these prizes. To lose them outright in five or six years would be infuriating. And so, in choosing between two anxieties: one relating to a finiteness of flexibility, and the other relating to premature write-off of a prized asset, the former is a nuisance that we should be so lucky to enjoy living with.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this FanPost are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or position of the staff.

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