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Armchair GM - RFA Edition

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June 25th is quickly approaching and qualifying offers need to be in. What would you do?

Martin Marincin may be the best valued RFA this offseason for the Oilers
Martin Marincin may be the best valued RFA this offseason for the Oilers
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

On May 27, 2015 the Oilers decided not to sign 2013 2nd & 4th round draft picks Marco Roy and Jackson Houck. This was Peter Chiarelli’s first "big" decisions since becoming the Oilers GM on April 24.

Now with June 25th quickly approaching Chiarelli needs to make some more big decisions. This relates to qualifying offers for the Oilers’ 10 restricted free agents. Obviously the biggest decision is going to be Justin Schultz but I’m not going to get into that since Jonathan Willis already covered that over at Oilers Nation.

Instead I’d like use a wider lens and look at all of the RFAs the Oilers have to qualify. Some are no brainers, while others may require more analysis before making a decision on their future with the Oilers.

The List

Here is the list of the Oilers’ 10 RFAs:

Player Name Age 14/15 Salary Mandatory Salary
Tyler Pitlick 23 $900,000 $945,000
Andrew Miller 26 $675,000 $708,750
Matt Fraser 25 $625,000 $687,500
Justin Schultz 24 $3,675,000 $3,675,000
Keith Aulie 25 $800,000 $840,000
Martin Marincin 23 $810,000 $850,500
Curtis Hamilton 23 $725,000 $761,250
Tyler Bunz 23 $645,000 $709,500
Brandon Davidson 23 $640,000 $704,000
Brad Hunt 26 $550,000 $605,000

Looking at that that list there are some obvious names that stick out and not necessarily for good reasons. There is a name or two that I’d look at and cut loose immediately. On the other hand there are names that I would try to qualify at that low price for as long as I could.

The majority of the players on this list are going to be 2-way contracts which makes the decision to qualify them a lot easier. It’s the cusp players that are going to be tougher. As an armchair GM the question you need to ask yourself is "If nothing changes this offseason and the roster the Oilers have today is the roster they start the season with, would I be comfortable retaining these players?" If the answer is no then there is a good chance they need to be cut.

AHL Only

This list of players will spend the majority of their time in the AHL. There may be the odd call up but for the most part they will be in the AHL. Don’t be mistaken, these players are either career AHLers or still a couple years away from cracking the Oilers’ roster. They are valuable to the AHL team and will be looked to as the leaders of that team.

Player Name Age 14/15 Salary 15/16 Salary
Curtis Hamilton 23 $725,000 $761,250
Brandon Davidson 23 $640,000 $704,000
Brad Hunt 26 $550,000 $605,000
Andrew Miller 26 $675,000 $708,750

Ideally these are two year two-way deals for all 4 of these players. Hunt and Miller may be a bit more of challenge since both could be UFAs at the end of next season.

Cusp Players

Player Name Age 14/15 Salary 15/16 Salary
Tyler Pitlick 23 $900,000 $945,000
Matt Fraser 25 $625,000 $687,500

Pitlick has a total of 27 NHL games over the past two seasons. The lack of play is largely due to injury but like Anton Lander the Oilers are doing things right with him. He is definitely a cusp player and will be somewhere between the 13th forward and the first callup for the Oilers. Fraser may be the only thing that stands between Pitlick and a 13th forward roster spot with the Oilers. This is likely to be an interesting competition.

Arbitration

Player Name Age 14/15 Salary 15/16 Salary
Justin Schultz 24 $3,675,000 $3,123,750

There is only one player on the list that needs a reduction in pay. Justin Schultz isn’t a horrible defenseman, he’s just a horribly over paid defenseman. Thanks to Craig MacTavish’s inability to properly assess defensemen and poor negotiation skill the Oilers are stuck with at least a $3,675,000/year salary payment if they want to hang onto Justin Schultz. That makes team elected arbitration the only option for the Oilers. They can ask for a reduction is salary (no less than 85%) and hope to save $551K. The other options are outlined over at Oilers Nation.

The Cuts

These are players that just don’t make the list. They can be cut and give me a few more spots on my 50 man roster.

Player Name Age 14/15 Salary
Keith Aulie 25 $800,000
Tyler Bunz 23 $645,000

These two cuts make the most sense because of what the lack. Keith Aulie is a big body but beyond that he doesn't make the Oilers better. One could argue that Aulie actually makes the team worse.

Tyler Bunz was pretty much an ECHL goalie all season and wasn't even an ECHL goalie for the Condors. He was loaned out to Wichita and didn't perform well. As a professional his best season came in 2013-14 with the Condors when he posted a 0.903 SV% and 2.55 GAA. Holding onto Bunz just isn't a good idea especially with Brossoit, Laurikainen and Tuohimaa in the system.

The Cut and Dry NHLer (Kinda)

Player Name Age 14/15 Salary 15/16 Salary
Martin Marincin 23 $810,000 $850,500

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that Justin Schultz doesn't belong in the "NHLer category" but he already has a category designated to him above. After going through the other 9 players on the RFA list Marincin is the only player that fits this category. Thanks to the way he was deployed last season by Dallas Eakins the $850K - $900K salary may be doable and really save the Oilers’ ass when it comes to the salary cap. I'm not sure which Marincin we are going to see next season but at sub $1M the risk is rather low.

Cap Costs

The majority of the players on this list are going to be AHL players next season. There will probably only be two regular NHLers, Schultz and Marincin. In a perfect world the two will cost the Oilers about $4M - $5M in cap space. Those two also fill out the Oilers’ defense (but not ideal) for now.

Your Thoughts

Remember this is a proposal, I tried to get as close as I could on the numbers but may be incorrect. If I made a mistake please correct me. What would you do as the Oilers’ GM? Who would you keep? Who would you sign and how much would you offer?