He may not be a top star. He may not be a hot commodity. He may not even have a ton of options in an NHL that will likely see players struggle to get what they’re worth this offseason. Still, Riley Sheahan plays a vital role for the Edmonton Oilers and it’s becoming clear the team has a potential issue when it comes to keeping him in the fold.
As per Kurt Leavins of the Edmonton Journal, the Oilers and Sheahan’s contract talks are “in limbo.” Moreover, Sheahan’s agent Rich Winter might be seeking more money than the Oilers can simply afford to pay to keep the useful but possibly too expensive depth forward around.
We mentioned in this space last week that the Oilers were interested in bringing back pending UFA C Riley Sheahan. And they are. Sheahan has been a fairly solid Bottom-6 addition. But multiple sources tell me that new Sheahan agent Rich Winter’s ask is higher than the club is interested in paying.source -‘It’s a big week for the Edmonton Oilers when it comes to possibly hosting Stanley Cup Playoff games: 9 Things’ – Kurt Leavins – Edmonton Journal – 05/10/2020
So, what should the Oilers do?
Oilers External Cap When It Comes to Sheahan
There’s certainly a reason the Oilers would like to hang onto a traveled, proficient bottom-six forward and penalty killer. He offers a particular set of skills that isn’t always easy to find. Oilers GM Ken Holland knew him well and figured he’d mesh nicely with the team. He did. That said, his ability to fit in and his all-important skills are not paid at a premium in the NHL.
If Sheahan were actually a third-line center — as his agent is likely trying to argue he is — that would be one thing. However, that’s not where the Oilers would like to slot him. Despite the fact Sheahan filled in on the third line for much of last season, in an ideal scenario, the pivot is a regular on the Oilers’ fourth line. From there, he can focus on killing penalties.
A small bump from his $900K salary is in order but his skills don’t fetch anything close to the $2-$3 million Sheahan’s agent is rumored to be asking for.
Frankly, these rumored numbers are a conversation stopper.
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Oilers Internal Cap When It Comes To Sheahan
So too, the Oilers have already set the going rate for a player of similar skill. He sits only a few stalls down inside the Oilers’ own locker room.
Holland recently re-upped with winger Josh Archibald. Offering two years at $1.5 million per season, Archibald accepted in what was considered a win for both sides. If Sheahan is asking for $2 – $2.75 million per season, the Oilers would be making a mistake opening up the door to paying players of similar skills varied salaries.
While Sheahan plays center and Archibald the wing, the two players offer roughly similar games. Both were brought to Edmonton on one-year “show me” deals, they are around the same age, they offer about the same experience, play similar roles, and have contracts due at the same time. Almost everything about this screams a similar salary.
If anything, Archibald is the superior player. He’s a little younger, faster, offers more scoring, plays a more physical style, and can play alongside your top players in a pinch. Like Sheahan, he also kills penalties. To be blunt, if Sheahan gets a similar offer from the Oilers, he should take it.
Oilers Best Plan of Attack
Both Sheahan and Archibald are important. As even he put it, “It’s good when we can chip in.” Still, Sheahan needs to understand what Archibald may have already figured out; this is the worst time in the NHL to take a stand on salary when you’re not a star.
He can go and probably earn more with another team. But, he has to know money is limited this summer and the teams with spare cash will want difference-makers. While those teams are focused on big-ticket items and relieving other teams of their less-than affordable stars, Sheahan might make an extra $500K to squeeze into a team’s third-line center role. Is that what he really wants?
Offer Sheahan the same money and term as Archibald. Let the two keep playing together and point out how promising the future is for this team. Also point out that in two seasons, the cap will have corrected itself. Sheahan can try to maximize his value then.
And, if he’s absolutely stuck on $2 million or more, tell him you’re prepared to let him leave. His agent might be asking for the moon in an offseason where things are tight, but Sheahan could come to his senses and realize the money he wants is allocated to the stars who play a few lines above him.
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Jim Parsons is a freelance writer who covers the Edmonton Oilers and news and rumors posts here at The Hockey Writers.
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