Edmonton Oilers won’t buy out James Neal, not this year at least

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This in from Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal: “Again no buyouts planned for Ken Holland, already on hook for Andrej Sekera $2.5 mil and Benoit Pouliot’s $1.33 mil for this upcoming season. Plus, paying $750,000 of Lucic salary. Sekera has been very good in third D pair for Dallas, slotted exactly where he should be.”

My take

  1. No surprise here, as this had been hinted at previously by Oilers GM Ken Holland, but Matheson confirms that the Edmonton Oilers won’t be buying out any player, including veteran winger James Neal.
  2. If Edmonton has bought out Neal, they would have had an overall cap savings of $5.75 million, which is what Neal will make this year and the next two years. This would have broken down to the Oilers saving $3.8 million on the cap for the next three years, which is enough to sign a solid NHL winger, likely a player somewhat or considerably better than Neal. But for three seasons starting in 2023-24, there would have been no savings, just an extra cap hit of $1.9 million per year, reports  Capfriendly.com. This would represent a case of solid short term gain for likely long term pain.
  3. With so many players to be had at bargain prices the next few years, a buy out of Neal was attractive on those grounds. If the cap shoots up in a few years, the extra $1.9 million in cap hit might not be so bad. So buy him out, right? But what if NHL executive Brian Burke’s prediction comes true that the cap isn’t going to change much for the next five years. Suddenly that extra $1.9 million per in 2023-24 hurts. It costs you a decent winger each season, maybe even a good winger.
  4. It’s also the case that Neal was an OK even strength player for the Oilers last year, an outstanding power player, and did well in the playoffs. If the goal is to compete for the Stanley Cup for the next six years, having Neal on the team this coming year isn’t a negative. He can help a team make the playoffs and win in the playoffs. Neal’s scoring chances plus-minus was OK. He certainly represented a considerable improvement over Milan Lucic, Jesse Puljujarvi, Tobias Rieder and Drake Caggiula in this category, though that is not saying much. He had 17 power play points but just 14 even strength points. Overall, though, he got the job done.
  5. Making the argument to buy-out Neal is Jonathan Willis of the Athletic, who recently wrote the time is right now for a buy-out, as the NHL’s financial situation is likely to improve next year. That means if you have cap space right now, which a Neal buy out would provide, you might well cash in big time. Willis makes a good case but I’m not so convinced the NHL’s financial health will return any time soon, which means bargains might be had for years to come. I’ll go with Burke’s take that we’ll have a flat cap for five years and hope the Oilers can benefit from that trend. If Neal can no longer play in a year or two, sure, buy him out then and take short term advantage. But, for now, he can still play.
  6. Neal had almost one scoring chance shot per game, which was close to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ output. He was second on the team for Grade A shots on the power play, with 26 such shots, and with Draisaitl leading the way at 54, McDavid with 25, Chiasson 24 and RNH 23. Between Neal and Chiasson, the Oilers got 49 Grade A shots out of that net front man on the PP, showing just how key that slot is.
  7. When it came to hard players at the net — tips, jams, screens and hard charges with the puck — making major contributions on Grade A chances, Neal had 25, with Kassian leading with 35 hard plays, Chiasson with 34, Yamamoto, 22, RNH, 16, McDavid and Patrick Russell, 14, Khaira, 13, and Draisaitl, 11. In other words, Neal is willing and able to go to the hard places to score, which is maybe why he, Chiasson and Khaira had some success in the playoffs.

At the Cult

McCURDY: Update on Broberg, and the 14 other Oilers overseas

STAPLES: Distinct possiblility Pulljujarvi returns to Oilers, says team insider

STAPLES/McCURDY: Alex Chiasson should come back, but maybe not Khaira

McCURDY/STAPLES: What to do with Bear, Benning and Lagesson? 

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