Since making it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2005-2006, the Edmonton Oilers have missed the playoffs for four straight years and now find themselves at the bottom of the NHL. The good news for the Oilers is they are guaranteed to get either Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin but let's see if it will be enough to turn things around in the short run.
The good news for the Oilers is that for the past three years, their payroll has been within 2 million of the salary cap. They have plenty of money to spend, they just need to find the right players. Let's take a look at the 13 players they currently have under contract for next season:
Shawn Horcoff - F - $5,500,000 - He is the most used forward on the Oilers but yet has only 36 points in 75 games. He is a pretty good defensive player but needs to be MUCH better offensively - Overpaid.
Sheldon Souray - D - $5,400,000 - All Montreal Canadiens fans knew this was an awful signing for the Oilers when it happened and now Oilers fans know it too. Even when he scores 20 goals in a season, Souray isn't worth his salary because of his poor defensive play - Overpaid.
Dustin Penner - F - $4,250,000 - He was one of the few bright spots for the Oilers this season. Penner had a career year despite the team's record, let's hope he can keep it up next year - Good value.
Ales Hemsky - F - $4,100,000 - In the past five years, Ales Hemsky has scored over 0.9 points per game. The better news for the Oilers is that he is still only 26 years old and has two years left on his deal - Good value.
Ryan Whitney - D - $4,000,000 - It's unfortunate that a defenseman who once had a very bright future has played with three different teams in the past two years. However, since joining the Oilers, Whitney has 7 points in 17 games and averages over 25 minutes per game including 3 on the PK - Good value.
Tom Gilbert - D - $4,000,000 - He's had a very difficult season offensively but was still the most used defenseman by the Oilers and has looked much better of late with Ryan Whitney - Slightly Overpaid
Nikolai Khabibulin - G - $3,750,000 - He has a 0.913 save percentage in 110 games over the past three seasons. He's not amongst the league's best anymore but he's an above average goalie at a decent salary - Fair value.
Patrick O'Sullivan - F - $2,925,000 - Only 33 points in 71 games and worst in the league by far with -37, not a whole lot more to say - Overpaid
Robert Nilsson - F - $2,000,000 - He's poor defensively and hasn't developed offensively - Overpaid
Ethan Moreau - F - $2,000,000 - He's another player who had a poor offensive season. He is a decent defensive player but not worth his salary - Overpaid
Ladislav Smid - D - $1,300,000 - It takes a long time for defensive defensemen to develop but once they do, they are worth every penny. Smid still has a lot of work to do but he was an impressive +5 this year - Fair value
Taylor Chorney - D - $942,000 - He's an offensive defenseman who isn't scoring in the AHL and isn't scoring in the NHL - Fair value.
Zach Stortini - F - $700,000 - He has limited skills but is a very hard worker and will be a solid fourth liner for a long time - Good value.
Here's what you have when you put all that together:
Great value: 0
Good value: 4
Fair value: 2
Slightly overpaid: 1
Total Cap Hit: $40,867,000
Sure they have a few overpaid players but overall it's not as bad as you may think. Amongst the restricted free agents, they have Gilbert Brule, Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano. All three are still under 23 years old and should have a good future with this team. Once the Oilers sign these players along with Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Ryan Potulny, Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers and either Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin, the Oilers payroll should be somewhere between 51 and 53 million dollars. The Oilers will also bring up Jordan Eberle who could be an impact player in his first year in the NHL and will be a prime candidate for the Calder Trophy. Depending on the salary cap next year, they could have room to sign a veteran defensive defenseman like Willie Mitchell or at a cheaper price, guys like Mark Eaton or Jordan Leopold could be interesting.
As bad as the Oilers were this season, they were also very unlucky. The Edmonton Oilers started the year 10-11-3 until Nikolai Khabibulin and Ales Hemsky were injured. They then went an awful 16-35-5 over the next 56 games losing other important players to injuries over that period of time. With the addition of Hall or Seguin, a full season with Ryan Whitney, a healthy Khabibulin and Hemsky, as well as the development of young players like Brule, Gagner, Eberle, Cogliano and Smid, the Edmonton Oilers will move up the standings. I'd expect them to have somewhere between 80 and 85 points next year but with a little luck and a few pleasant surprises, the Oilers could even be fighting for a playoff spot.