Eagerly I anticipated last weekend's buyout window. It was so simple, really. The Oilers were set to pay Nikita Nikitin to go away for a few reasons - one, to save a bit on this year's cap, and two, to free up that cap so they could go fishing for another top four defenceman. Everybody loves fishing for top four defencemen.
Or so I thought.
The NHL season is still more than two months away, but the Oilers are still one more player away from solidifying their top four. Edmonton is also just a shade over 2.8M away from this year's salary cap ceiling, which creates some cramping when looking for defencemen to fill out your top four.
Now that the Oilers have decided against buying out Nikita Nikitin or Andrew Ference, there's absolutely no guarantee that they'll pursue another free agent. But, for this exercise, assume the Oilers can free up some cap space (either by shedding one of their three goalies, or by retaining some money on Nikita Nikitin, or through...magic.).
The Oilers need another piece on defence, and one of the easiest ways to help fix that problem is through the UFA market. Who in the UFA world is still out there?
As excited as I was to see this team sign Andrej Sekera to a long term deal on July 1, I would be at least as excited to see this one happen. He's currently a UFA after one year with the Penguins at $4MM, and is likely looking for that one last big payday. Ehrhoff averaged nearly 22 minutes a game, faced the third toughest QualComp on the team among Penguin regulars. Brings puck up ice. Puck up ice good. Me like.
Lubomir Visnovsky is in the twilight of his NHL career, and taking a short-term deal would be the only option that he could become a member of the Oilers. Now 38, Visnovsky has been limited to 77 games combined over the past two seasons due to various injuries (and scratches). He ended last year's playoffs with a concussion after taking a questionable hit from Washington's Tom Wilson. Visnovsky was fourth among defencemen in TOI on Long Island, and he'd be a bit of a gamble should he and the Oilers be able to come to some sort of an accord. He'd have to come cheap.
I really thought there'd be some more rumbling on this one. Franson could be the one that the Oilers bring in to help seal the deal in 2015-16. He's in the prime of his career at age 27, and he's stated that he wants a long term deal after having signed a bunch of one year deals in a row. A big righty who I thought would be signed by now, but I'm left wondering if GMs are playing hardball with the player who was just sixth in average TOI/G among Predator regulars. I don't think that's an accurate portrayal of a guy who was on a team full of righties, but it's almost August, and Franson still doesn't have a deal. If Franson gets a longer deal, I've the feeling it'll be at a lesser rate than he would like.
ALL THIS BUT
Save for perhaps Visnovsky, the Oilers would certainly have to shed some salary in nearly any deal they pick up. I'm not sure Chiarelli is done with all of the noise he's made this offseason, but it's quite apparent that the Oilers are going to have to shed some dollars before taking many more on. In speaking with Lowetide on Friday, he discussed that the Oilers might just stand pat at this point to see where everything shakes out with the expected emergence of Darnell Nurse and the continued upward expectations of Oscar Klefbom. It's a very good bet that both of these players will make strides in 2015-16, but smart money would invest in one more defenceman before October.
I remain cautiously hopeful.