VALUE DEALS | - Edmonton Oilers News and Rumours


The NHL Value Contract

In hockey terms, a value deal refers to a player who, on a contract with an NHL team, is likely to outperform the amount they're paid dollar-wise versus their on-ice performance. In order for an NHL team to be successful nowadays, management has to employ at least three to four value contracts. 

Every team has a player or two who make the big bucks. In Chicago, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, make up $21 million of the $73 million cap space the Blackhawks have available to them. In other words, 29% of the team cap is being taken up by two players. The only way to balance it out is to have players like Artemi Panarin or Brian Campbell on value deals to ice a full roster that can compete. The defending Stanley Cup Champion Penguins have the contracts of Crosby and Malkin being balanced out by Nick Bonino and Bryan Rust. Tampa has Steven Stamkos balanced out by a Jonathan Drouin. The list goes on and on.

It's a struggle to keep a window of opportunity open since these value deals don't last long and can be difficult to find. Once a player has proven himself a consistent contributor, the bump in pay comes and the dominos fall. Chicago has done a decent job managing value deals during their championship years, but they've had to say goodbye to some valuable pieces along the way. Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien and Brandon Saad were all casualties of a cap system that forced the Blackhawks to replace previous value contracts with new value deals. Other teams aren't as lucky.

The best practice is to have fair value deals across the board and some teams are quite good at it, but when you have superstars or your team becomes a perennial winning franchise, it can be challenging to keep those fair value contracts in-house with free agency and the scare of offer sheets a big part of today's NHL landscape.

Oiler's Value Deals

In Edmonton, Connor McDavid, much like many entry-level contracts, is the first and highest profile of a few value contracts. Where McDavid differs is in his ability to be a generational talent and overall game-changer. He projects in a healthy season to score 80-100 points and bump the statistics and point totals of the players who play on his line. The Oilers have exactly two years to get value out of Connor McDavid's contract.

To a lesser extent, Edmonton also has Brandon Davidson ($1.425 million), Patrick Maroon ($1.5 million), Darnell Nurse ($863K), and Leon Draisaitl ($925K) all on great value deals with the potential to play major roles on this team and contribute in a big way. One might argue even Nail Yakupov ($2.5 million) is a value deal if he gets an opportunity to play first line minutes and take advantage of it. Personally, I still think he has the potential to be a 20-25 goal winger in the NHL.

The key for the Oilers is recognizing the window of these value deals and taking advantage while they exist. Once these players start to out-perform their contracts, Edmonton, especially if they are not a playoff team, will have to bump salaries or overpay to keep players. Sometimes this window isn't as obvious, but Edmonton is one of a few teams who should be able to notice this window is staring them in the face. This window is not next season or tomorrow -- it's today.

After the Taylor Hall trade, many fans will contest that the Oilers aren't seizing their opportunities, but I'm not sure I agree. Where I can understand the argument and to a degree sympathize, is that Taylor Hall's contract was considered a value contract. This was true. Hall's point totals and ability to drive an entire line 5 vs 5, were above his pay scale in comparison to a number of players in the league. Hall was worth his pay if look strictly at his on-ice performance.

Where I disagree is that Hall's contract was categorized as "way above" his pay scale and that there were not better value deals out there. I think New Jersey is going to find what Hall brings them is worth what they'll pay; but $6 million dollars is a higher cap hit in the NHL and the Oilers instead chose to trade Hall's contract for Adam Larsson ($4.1 million), who too could turn out to be a bigger value deal based on ice-time and what he brings to the table.

Is Larsson's deal a better value deal than Hall's? Today, maybe not, but what Larsson's contract also provides, is an additional $1.9 million to find another player - on a value deal - to compliment the Edmonton Oilers. There are at least a dozen players still in free agency who could add value and $1.9 million per season would cover the contract of almost any one of these players. As the summer goes by, the value deals get better.

I also believe, based on the salary cap implications of some of the Oilers higher draft pedigree players, we'll see some trades or demotions to balance out the cap roster and bonus structure that may be hampering the Oilers. Griffin Reinhart is a prime example. With $2.35 million in performance bonuses available to him as the fourth overall selection, Reinhart will likely be sacrificed for a value contract that can prove to help the Oilers today. He may start in Bakersfield or be moved along if a buyer comes knocking and someone like Jordan Oesterle makes more sense from a financial perspective for Edmonton. While the intangibles are different, Oesterle is as proven as Reinhart in terms of on-ice performance, but at a much better price.

Value deals will play a major role in the rest of the Edmonton Oilers summer plans. Whether it be trading for and signing a big fish like Tyson Barrie or moving smaller pieces around to get more value deals in this small window that's been presented, Edmonton will be making a number of decisions and the Oilers roster today is not what it will be in September/October.

Keep an eye on players like Drake Caggiula and  Tyler Pitlick. Should they get an opportunity and make the most of it, we could see them a lot and be looking at them as value deals down the road.

But, who cares what I think right? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.

Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.

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