Last summer, the Edmonton Oilers took a knife to their roster, eliminating a collection of restricted and unrestricted free agents. They also decided to get rid of three forwards who were still under contract: team captain Ethan Moreau, as well as Robert Nilsson and Patrick O’Sullivan.

A year later, how does the decision to spend money to make three players go away look?

Ethan Moreau:

  • 2009-10 (Edmonton-NHL): 76GP – 9G – 9A – 18PTS, minus-18
  • 2010-11 (Columbus-NHL): 37GP – 1G – 5A – 6PTS, minus-9

Something funny happened when the Oilers went to buyout Ethan Moreau: Columbus general manager Scott Howson, an ex-Oilers executive, decided to go back to his roots and snagged the veteran checking forward off waivers.

Moreau played tough minutes, to be sure. Lined up with Samuel Pahlsson, he faced the toughest competition and was on the ice for a ton of defensive zone draws. In that incredibly difficult role, he generated almost no offense, got outshot by a mile, and had the worst goals for/goals against (relative to ice-time) of any regular forward.

Given his salary, I’d suggest the Blue Jackets would have been better off passing.

Patrick O’Sullivan:

  • 2009-10 (Edmonton-NHL): 73GP – 11G – 23A – 34PTS, minus-35
  • 2010-11 (MIN/CAR-NHL): 31GP – 2G – 6A – 8PTS, minus-2
  • 2010-11 (Houston-AHL): 36GP – 19G – 29A – 48PTS, plus-3

The fall into an elevator shaft that was O’Sullivan’s 2009-10 season sadly didn’t stop with the change of the hockey season. O’Sullivan’s offensive output somehow got worse after a bad season, although at least his plus/minus stabilized. If we’re looking for silver linings, his AHL numbers were quite good, but that’s small comfort.

The Oilers saved some money here and cut ties with one of the fans’ favourite whipping boys. That’s a win-win.

Robert Nilsson:

  • 2009-10 (Edmonton-NHL): 60GP – 11G – 16A – 27PTS, minus-17
  • 2010-11 (Ufa-KHL): 41GP – 5G – 22A – 27PTS, plus-6

Looking at Nilsson’s numbers and his teammates, we can safely say he’s no Alexander Radulov. That said, his translated numbers over an 82-game season are actually pretty good:

  • 82GP – 8G – 37A – 45PTS

His plus-6 rating on a plus-66 team isn’t especially impressive, but those scoring totals are really pretty decent. Unfortunately, the Oilers have a bunch of players with a comparable skill-set, so this isn’t a real loss for the team. I would have liked to see the Oilers keep Nilsson another season and give Magnus Paajarvi one more year playing heavy minutes in a lower professional league, but the reality is that Paajarvi played in the big leagues because the Oilers wanted him there, not because of a lack of options.

It’s really hard to be too upset at the decision to buyout Nilsson.

Conclusion:

The decision to buyout these three players stands up pretty well a year later, and I’d say the Oilers saved a bunch of Daryl Katz’s money at no real cost to the team.