Tyler Dellow of the number-crunching Edmonton Oilers blog mc79 hockey made an interesting (and well-stated) argument for the team to send both Taylor Hall and Magnus Paajarvi down to the minors so they wouldn’t “burn” one of the years on their entry-level contracts. Here is a quick synopsis of his argument, although you should read the whole article to follow more of the reasoning.
I’ve kind of made the point in passing though and I want to make it squarely before the season starts: neither Taylor Hall nor Magnus Pajaarvi should make the Oilers this year.
I’ve made the argument about burning years off the entry level contracts of rookies before. It’s a simple enough proposition: you only get three years with these guys on entry level contracts and you might as well use them when the player in question is a stronger player. As I’ve pointed out before, on teams like Detroit and New Jersey, teenagers virtually never make the team. There was lots of talk, when the Oilers installed Tambellini as general manager, that they were moving towards more of a Detroit model. I made this point then, but there’s more to doing what Detroit does than having a lot of people in your management group. They do smart things, like not forcing teenagers into the lineup and wasting their cheap years on 45 point seasons.
There seem to be basically two arguments against sending Hall down and delaying MPS for a year, although they probably apply more to Hall. The first is the development argument. In essence, the argument goes, if you send Hall down, his development might stall and he’ll stagnate. The second relates to their feelings towards the team and whether sending them down would effectively poison the wells. I don’t find either of these arguments compelling.
Dellow makes a great point, especially from a strict hockey/salary cap standpoint.
But the problem is that there is a human (or should I say, box office) element that cannot be ignored, either. There is a distinct promotional value to having young talent come into your team, particularly in the high profile case of Taylor Hall. Oilers fans haven’t had many bright spots to look at since Chris Pronger forced a trade to Anaheim, so having a new star to provide a bit of a distraction from a team that is likely to miss the playoffs again is a good thing.
If I were the Oilers, I’d split the difference: keep Hall with the big club to fill seats and keep the masses reasonably happy but send Paajarvi down to the minors/elite league to gain more seasoning. One extra bonus to this idea is that you would stagger the two players’ restricted free agent negotiations by a year; if the two are difficult to retain, you could at least have a summer each to keep them in the fold.
Again, if fan morale meant nothing, I’d follow Dellow’s advice and send both of them down while the team likely absorbs another losing season (and earns another high-end draft pick). Yet you cannot ignore the lure of young star power, especially in a league where teams make some quick turnarounds when they add young talent. Every choice has its minuses, but I think keeping Hall with the Oilers and sending Paajarvi to Oklahoma City would be the best compromise.