It’s no secret that the Edmonton Oilers have once again started their season in quite a disappointing way. The Edmonton front office finally thought they had finished the rebuild, and were on their way to their first playoff experience in seven years, the longest drought in the NHL at the moment. So what’s the problem in Edmonton?
For starters, the Oilers defense has been less than great, and to make matters worse, Devan Dubnyk may have finally lost his job. Dubnyk has been horrendous this season. He’s made four starts this season and posted a record of 0-3-1. Now, you can’t always blame the goalie for a bad record, but when the goalie’s save percentage is sitting at .829%, and he has a goals against average of 5.43, I think it’s only fair that he takes the blame.
Now, it’s also no secret that the Buffalo Sabres are entering their rebuild, and have actively been shopping Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek around. The Sabres finally got their first win of the season in a shootout against the Islanders a few nights ago, but still remain at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. There’s little hope in Buffalo that anything will come of this season, and they have until March 5th to move the two stars, or they’re likely to hit free agency, and the Sabres lose them to another team for free.
Rumors have been swirling about the Edmonton Oilers making a move for one, or both of the Sabres stars. According to Bucky Gleason of the Buffalo News, the Oilers and Sabres have been in talks discussing sending either Vanek or Miller to Edmonton, or maybe even both of them. But what would the Sabres possibly get in return that would make them feel like they came out on top in the trade?
Nail Yakupov perhaps? Yakupov was the first overall pick in the 2012 NHL draft, and was a finalist for the Calder Trophy last season. He scored 17 goals and added 14 assists in 48 games last year for the Oilers, but has yet to account for any points this season.
The deal would likely be worth more than just Yakupov for the Sabres, even if it were just Miller or just Vanek being moved. But let’s look into each of these players a bit closer. The Oilers would be crazy to make a deal without first making sure that the player on their way to Edmonton will be looking to sign an extension with them by the end of the season. Giving up a young prospect like Yakupov for a player that would only stick around for half of a season isn’t exactly a great move.
It’s been well known that Vanek is likely to end up in Minnesota, whether a trade is made or he ends up via free agency next summer. Former Sabre, Jason Pominville, who was traded at the dead line last season, plays in Minnesota, and Vanek has plenty of other ties in the area as well. Vanek went to the University of Minnesota and played his college hockey with the Gophers, and even his wife is from Minnesota.
Then there’s Ryan Miller, who has a no trade clause that includes the Edmonton Oilers. Miller would have to waive it to be sent to Edmonton, and although Edmonton is one of the great hockey cities, there’s a short list of players who would like to live there, especially an American born Miller who has played his entire career in the states.
The issue with the Oilers acquiring both Vanek and Miller would be the cap. Miller holds a cap hit of $6.25 million, and Vanek holds a cap hit of a little over $7.142 million. Combined, the Oilers would be taking in over $13.392 million in cap space between the two players. Sure, they would be getting rid of Yakupov, but being on his entry level contract still, Yakupov’s cap hit is only $.925 million.
The Oilers currently have $4.96 million in cap space, meaning they can’t afford to take on either Vanek or Miller without giving some cap back to the Sabres. The deal seems like a long shot to me, the Oilers are more likely to land Miller than Vanek, and even that seems to be a long shot in itself. Trade rumors make the world go ’round, and this one is great for feeding the imagination of Oilers fans everywhere, but it seems that there are too many variables in place.