Oilers Playing with Fire Following Buyout

So here we are. Roughly two weeks since the Edmonton Oilers bought out defenceman Andrej Sekera and the roster is no better. In fact, the argument could be made it has gone in the opposite direction. Though there is still plenty of time for general manager Ken Holland to do something prior to the start of the 2019-20 NHL season, one can’t help but wonder why the decision was made to create cap space and not use it.

Ken Holland Edmonton Oilers
Ken Holland, Edmonton Oilers, 2019 NHL Draft (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Following last season’s disastrous campaign, Edmonton’s cap situation was known to all who follow the league. Obviously, for a non-playoff team to be pushing the upper regions of the salary cap is far from an ideal scenario. Throw the Oilers roster shortcomings into the equation and the chances of fixing said issues become all the more unlikely without a little wiggle room to play with.

Oilers in Need of Cap Space

Hence, the decision to give Sekera his walking papers. In a perfect world, the veteran rearguard would not have been the one to go but the reasoning behind it did make some sense. While the 33-year-old still has more to give, a recent rash of injuries has left him nowhere near as good a player as he once was. With that said, the Milan Lucic angle wasn’t a realistic option and tangible space needed to be created. 

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With a $5.5 million price tag and two years left on his deal, buying out Sekera left the Oilers with roughly $3 million to play with. Again, far from ideal but if the money gained was used wisely, the potential for the roster to be better than it was in 2018-19 was at least doable. However, if a subsequent move wasn’t going to be made, adding two years of dead money onto the future cap made zero sense.

Not surprisingly, when Holland did not make an impact move, be it via free agency or trade, many Oilers fans were left scratching their head. Again, why any general manager would willingly add dead money onto the cap, when gaining nothing from the move in the here and now, is mind-boggling. By no means is this the deepest of free agent pools, but there were useful pieces available courtesy of cap-strapped teams.

Oilers Have Options

As the calendar continues to see the days drop off, the available names on the open market continue to shrink. So much so, that the only notable forward under the age of 30 is Ryan Dzingel, and oddly enough, Edmonton seems as if they have marginal interest at best. Now, could that be on the player and/or just how it “seems?” Possibly, but at the end of the day, improving the roster was supposed to be a top priority.

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With due respect to Holland and all the players he brought on board this summer, the Oilers have added nothing more than spare parts. For a team that finished seventh from the bottom in last season’s overall standings, re-signing Alex Chiasson and bringing in the likes of Markus Granlund, Tomas Jurco and Mike Smith isn’t earth-shattering stuff. Nor is it enough to close the gap on their fellow Western Conference rivals.

New York Rangers Jesper Fast Edmonton Oilers Andrej Sekera
New York Rangers Jesper Fast chases former Edmonton Oiler Andrej Sekera (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Amber Bracken)

One can’t help but wonder if the Oilers newest general manager has something up his sleeve or is this what the upcoming season will be? And no, I am not referring to the potential swap of Lucic for Loui Eriksson with the Vancouver Canucks. If this turns out to be nothing more than a play to bring in more bodies to have guys fight for the final few spots on the roster, that simply won’t do.

Oilers Fans are Out of Patience

After watching former GM Peter Chiarelli trade away Jordan Eberle to create cap space that was never used, this marketplace has no appetite for a repeat performance. Regardless of where you stand on the Sekera front, if he can play a depth role for a team with a solid back end like the Dallas Stars, he could certainly bring something to the table for an Oilers blue line that continues to be an issue. Sorry, but downgrading the roster isn’t an option.

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Yes, the need to create space on defence for the potential arrivals of Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones, William Lagesson or Joel Persson is real but there were other ways to do it. Also, did I mention the impact the buyout will have on Edmonton’s cap down the road? I thought so but just wanted to be sure. One would think this franchise would learn from their previous blunders, but history tells us that is not the case.

To be fair, Holland inherited this mess, but part of the deal that comes with accepting the gig is going out and fixing what was already here. Unfortunately, making poor roster decisions has turned into a “right of summer” with the Oilers and it has to stop. Simply put, another lost season will not be tolerated inside that locker room and nor should it be by anyone else associated with the organization.