The past few days have seen the Oilers management group place two significant players on waivers for the purpose of reassignment to the AHL. Nikita Nikitin ($4.5M) and Ben Scrivens ($2.3M) both entering the last season of their respective contracts represent a large cap hit to be paid to minor league players.
The move gives a moderate amount of cap relief for each player of $950,000 still leaving a large portion counting against the cap. Now normally I would see no positives in having near $5 million of cap space going towards players not playing on your team, but I can’t help but find myself viewing this as a win.
It appears to me as if management is making a concerted effort to give newcomers and younger players a chance rather than being handcuffed by having too many bad 1-way contracts. Talbot was the big fish that the Oilers traded for and as such is essentially a lock to start on opening night. That left Nilsson and Scrivens battling for back-up duties, a fight that Nilsson so far has won. Nikitin, although the second highest paid defenseman in the organization, was probably the Oilers 8th or 9th best. However it seemed as though a bad contract made him a lock to make the Oilers.
The part of these moves that I like the most is that it demonstrates that new Management will not be bound by the mistakes of the previous regime. The Oilers have often been accused of lacking accountability at all levels of the Organization. Moves like this prove to me that all players, regardless of contract status, will have to earn their keep. Nikitin was flat-out not good enough, and Scrivens was just outplayed by the new guy.
Negative consequences do arise however as the Oilers are now in a bit of a tricky cap situation, as they were not a team abundant with cap space before the move. Chiarelli will have to be a bit creative in order to come under the cap with essentially $5M of Cap space tied up in the Minors. Likely it was these moves which forced Draisaitl being sent down today, as the Oilers would have been hard pressed to handle the performance bonuses of Draisaitl, Reinhart and McDavid. Look for Leon to get called up in case of injury or hopefully after one of Nikitin or Ference get traded.
All in all Draisaitl was an unfortunate casualty of some bold and positive moves by the Oilers brass. That considered, I believe it will be worth it in the end to instill a higher level of accountability and competition within the Organization. Chiarelli has only been on the Job for a couple of months now but I feel as if he is finally bringing the kind of boldness promised by MacTavish and, long awaited from Oilers fans alike.
UPDATE: Peter Chiarelli made a comment in his press conference that I feel perfectly sums up my feelings on the matter:
“Something that we said to the players at the opening meeting is that if you’re in a spot we’re going to make room. That was something that I had mentioned to Daryl [Katz] and Bob [Nicholson] as far as this is equity. I understand sometimes you’re constricted by contracts but this, I felt strongly about it.”