It’s a busy time in NHL circles, with the league awards, entry draft and the opening of free agency all shoved together into the span of a week. On Tuesday we got an important piece of news that relates to teams’ summer planning: the salary cap for the 2015-16 season is expected to come in at $71.4 million. This makes it a good time to look at Edmonton’s salary situation.
Hearing teams preparing for a cap of $71.4M and a floor of $52.8M
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) June 23, 2015
We’ve talked at length about the Oilers’ cap space and what they might do to increase it, but it’s worth looking again because now we know what the actual number is going to be and we’ve seen Edmonton’s new general manager ignore the start of the league buyout period. Here’s the cap chart:
Total salary cap commitment: $63.1 million
Cap space remaining: $8.3 million
I’ve made two changes to the chart since we last saw it. I’ve assumed that Leon Draisaitl will not make his bonuses this season, which seems like a reasonable bet. I’ve also opted to leave the No. 1 goalie slot open, since we know barely short of a certainty that Edmonton will add a new player there and bump Ben Scrivens into the backup position. As before, I’ve taken the luxury of penciling in RFA players at their qualifying offer levels (highlighted in red).
In order of importance, I’d imagine the Oilers’ summer wish list looks something like this:
- A top-pairing defenceman
- A No. 1 goaltender
- A second-pairing defenceman
- A middle-six forward
There isn’t enough money for all of those things, but it’s far from a given that Edmonton’s roster will remain static, either.
Going with a cheap starter would help immensely. Cam Talbot and Eddie Lack come with a cap hit under $1.5 million, while Robin Lehner or any number of free agent options could probably be had for less than $2.5 million.
Going with one of those options would leave Edmonton with something in the $6.0-$8.0 million range to address the rest of the roster (keep in mind that adding a player at forward or defence necessitates dropping at least a small contract like Pitlick or Marincin from the books). That number increases if the Oilers send somebody out in trade; if we assume that the team moves somebody like Nail Yakupov or Justin Schultz in a deal there’s probably enough room to add two decent defencemen and a bargain-bin third-liner.
It probably doesn’t leave enough money to add luxury items – someone like Justin Williams or Carl Soderberg up front – but it’s enough money for Peter Chiarelli to make necessary upgrades in Year 1 of his tenure. If he continues to ignore the buyout route, Year 2 looks spectacular, with the Oilers clearing more than $14 million in cap space in just four contracts for supporting players (Teddy Purcell, Boyd Gordon, Nikita Nikitin and Ben Scrivens).
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