In today's Salary Cap era it has become increasingly difficult for General Managers to keep a winning team intact for longer than one season. The obvious example of this being the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks.
There has been a mass exodus from Chicago this offseason due to the nightmare that is the Hawks cap situation. Playoff hero's such as Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager and Kris Versteeg have all been traded in order for the team to get under the cap.
Part of the problem is that the Hawks big three of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith all have big money extensions kicking in this season. A significant portion of the team's payroll is tied up in these players. Add in Brian Campbell and there is virtually no money left to keep that teams third and fourth lines intact.
This is where Steve Tambellini can learn a valuable lesson. The Oilers could find themselves in a very similar situation in three years time. Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Magnus Pajaarvi-Svensson all become RFA's in 3 years when their entry level deals expire. Both Ales Hemsky and Dustin Penner become UFA's in two years. And then, of course, there is Sam Gagner.
Ales Hemsky is due for a big comeback year after two injury plagued seasons, and considering what he did last year, 40 goals is very possible for Penner. What happens if Penner has two straight 40 goal seasons and Hemsky has consecutive 80 point seasons? Penner and Hemsky will be 29 and 28 respectively when their current deals expire. It will likely be their only chance to cash in big before their careers are over, and both could be asking for significant raises.
Can Tambellini afford to resign both of these players in two years knowing that Hall, Eberle and Svensson will all be needing new contracts the next year? What if the youngsters don't turn out as advertised? Can he afford not to?
Further complicating the situation is Gagner. I don't envision Gagner developing into a superstar 90 point center. I see him becoming a Patrick Sharp like player, but what if he does become a superstar? He will likely also be needing a new contract in two or three years.
So what is Tambellini to do?
If I were him, I would sign Gagner to a one year deal worth 2 or 2.5 million. If he has a good season then I would lock him up long term, 6 or 7 years at 4-4.5 per. Next I would sign Penner to an extension this season. If forced to choose between Penner and Hemsky, I choose Penner.
Then I would stagger the contract extensions of Hall, Eberle and MPS. This might sound radical, but start negotiating on an extension with Hall after this season. Negotiate with Eberle after the 2011-2012 season and then sign MPS in the last year of his deal. Hopefully this will help the Oilers avoid the Blackhawks fate.
Now if only he could do something about Horcoff's deal...
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