The Edmonton Oilers and a Flat Salary Cap

Peter Chiarelli3

On Wednesday, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported
the probability that the salary cap for 2018-19 would stay at $73.0 million. Assuming
that comes to pass, how are the Edmonton Oilers situated? Can they take
advantage of the lack of growth in the cap?

Currently Under
Contract

Left Wing Centre Right Wing Left Defence Right Defence Goal
P. Maroon C. McDavid O. Klefbom A. Larsson C. Talbot
$1,500,000 $3,775,000 $4,167,000 $4,166,667 $4,166,667
B. Pouliot Nugent-Hopkins J. Eberle A. Sekera M. Benning L. Brossoit
$4,000,000 $6,000,000 $6,000,000 $5,500,000 $925,000 $750,000
M. Lucic D. Caggiula J. Puljujarvi D. Nurse B. Davidson
$6,000,000 $925,000 $3,425,000 $1,713,333 $1,425,000
A. Slepyshev M. Letestu M. Fayne
$925,000 $1,800,000 $3,625,000

The Oilers are currently committed next season to a roster
with a cap hit of just over $61.8 million, which includes all the players
listed above as well as the cost of Lauri Korpikoski’s buyout. That leaves them
with a little under $16 million in cap space to play with, money they can use
to sign their restricted free agents (most notably Leon Draisaitl) and make any
needed upgrades to the roster.

It isn’t quite that simple, though. Three additional moves
seem likely:

  • Benoit Pouliot was already obviously not a favourite before
    a tough season. He’s likely to be dealt, either in exchange for a similar
    contract or with the Oilers retaining some money. For our purposes here, I’m
    going to assume Edmonton moves him for futures while retaining half his
    contract, shaving $2.0 million off the cap and opening up a spot at left wing.
  • Mark Fayne falls into the same category as Pouliot, and
    while he can pretty clearly play at the NHL level (he’s destroying the AHL
    right now) he probably isn’t tradeable on his current contract. I’m going to
    assume a buyout, which would result in a cap hit of $1.29 million next season.
  • Edmonton is going to lose someone to expansion. It might be Pouliot or Fayne, particularly if they can work out some kind of deal with Las
    Vegas, but the most probable pick at this point looks to be Brandon Davidson.
    That shaves $1.425 million off the cap and opens up a roster spot.

With those three subtractions, the Oilers enter the summer
with just under $17.0 million in total cap space.

Further Assumptions

29-Draisaitl-4

Of course, Edmonton actually has significantly less than
that $17.0 million to play with, given the number of restricted free agents
inside the organization in need of new contracts.

Leon Draisaitl is the most significant player needing a new
deal. The Oilers have the option of trying for a long-term contract or negotiating
a bridge deal.  My guess is that they
choose a bridge contract simply because Draisaitl is still five years from
unrestricted free agency; they can do a cheaper two- or three-year deal and
still have multiple RFA years to play with. Nikita Kucherov’s three-year deal seems
like it’s in the ballpark, which would mean a cap hit in the $4.8 million range.

Then there are a number of RFA’s internally to look at. Your
mileage may vary as to which of these should be signed and at what dollar
figure; here are my guesses:

  • Zack Kassian will be back. His qualifying offer of $1.5
    million is probably in the range of what he deserves; I’ll budget a modest
    raise to $1.65 million and it wouldn’t surprise me if he got a two-year deal
    even a little north of that.
  • Jujhar Khaira and Griffin Reinhart will make the jump to the
    NHL roster. I’d guess a two-year, one-way deal for Khaira at just under his
    current qualifying offer, while Reinhart should be willing to accept a cheaper one-year,
    one-way contract.
  • There’s room for one of Anton Lander, Tyler Pitlick and Iiro
    Pakarinen as an end-of-roster piece. Lander’s versatility would make him my
    choice, but my guess is that Pitlick gets the nod after an admittedly fantastic
    start to the year. Given his injuries, something built around his qualifying
    offer makes sense to me. That leaves Pakarinen and Lander looking for work
    elsewhere.
  • From an NHL perspective, the other RFAs of interest are
    Jordan Oesterle, Dillon Simpson, David Musil and Taylor Beck. I don’t think
    there’s room for both Oesterle and Reinhart (unless Edmonton keeps 8D), so nix
    Oesterle. At this point two-way deal and a trip through waivers makes sense for
    Simpson and Beck (if Beck isn’t replaced by a different veteran), while Musil
    seems to have fallen off the radar entirely.

Those assumptions leave a roster with two significant holes
and $8.3 million in available cap space.

Left Wing Centre Right Wing Left Defence Right Defence Goal
P. Maroon C. McDavid L. Draisaitl O. Klefbom A. Larsson C. Talbot
$1,500,000 $3,775,000 $4,800,000 $4,167,000 $4,166,667 $4,166,667
M. Lucic Nugent-Hopkins J. Eberle A. Sekera L. Brossoit
$6,000,000 $6,000,000 $6,000,000 $5,500,000 $750,000
D. Caggiula J. Puljujarvi D. Nurse M. Benning
$925,000 $3,425,000 $1,713,333 $925,000
J. Khaira M. Letestu Z. Kassian G. Reinhart
$800,000 $1,800,000 $1,650,000 $650,000
A. Slepyshev T. Pitlick
$925,000 $761,250
Pouliot (ret.) Korpikoski (b/o) Fayne (b/o)
$2,000,000 $1,000,000 $1,291,000

The vacancy on the blue line is currently Kris Russell’s
job, and the Oilers have the option to go with a stopgap or try and find a
long-term solution here. Russell isn’t likely to take another stopgap deal;
this summer represents his last chance to hit a homerun and he can’t be blamed
for looking for a long-term contract. Ideally, this job would go to a
right-shooting defender with an offensive dimension, though short of Kevin
Shattenkirk the ideal candidate does not exist in free agency.

Drake Caggiula holds the third-line centre job by default at
the moment, but next year’s team should be a contender and there’s no reason to
leave a question mark in this rather important slot. There are a few potential
free agent fits, ranging from the high-end (Martin Hanzal or Nick Bonino) to
more moderate choices (Patrik Berglund, David Desharnais).  

Edmonton has sufficient cap space to spend real money on one
of those two holes and modest money on the other. They could even go a little
further by pushing rookie bonuses to next year, but that would be a mistake:
Connor McDavid’s contract is up in the summer of 2018 and the Oilers will have
need of their cap space then. 

Recent posts

  • Natejax97

    It will take this year and next to get out from underneath a few of these contracts.

    After that we should see the emergence of what our future perennial contender looks like.

    Chia needs some value contracts to fill in alongside the new core.

    You would have to think that this coming summer or next, some money gets moved in the form of a big contract.

    I don’t think you get Draisaitl for 4.8, his number will start at about a Sean Monahan number I believe.

      • Natejax97

        Agree 100% and if we can get it done, I would be floored.

        The reason why Monahan is on a long term deal is the same reason why Neon Leon will be on a long term deal coming out of his EL contract.

        Chia can argue that the cap is forcing him into a bridge deal but I would think that Leon’s agent is in the driver seat in this negotiation. The Oilers are surely looking to Leon to be a major piece of the core moving forward, and players of his stature do not generally end up on bridge deals, they get paid.

        Leon is an incredible player, simply driven to succeed. He has outscored and outplayed every 6 million dollar player we have, save for possibly Nuge who spends his time competing against the best the opposition has every night.

        I personally would have no problem loading up on Leon and McDavid. The question is the remaining forward roster, and being able to surround these guys with the correct value players. I am troubled because I am a fan and have a soft spot for Nuge and Ebs, and would like nothing more than to see this group held together. Stupid flat cap is threatening this.

        Draisaitl is in the top 15 in scoring in the NHL in his second full season, those players get paid money and term.

  • TruthHurts98

    They definitely can if they can either swap out the overpaid dead weights like Nuge, Ebs and Poop or have them start producing so they don’t need to pay other players to step up for them. Once they have gotten past all of MacT’s awful moves and signings they will be in good shape even paying big salaries to Connor, Leon and if JP turns out as good as hoped.

  • By virtue of needing to resign McDavid, I don’t see a way they can’t move at least one of Nuge or Ebs. Not to mention very soon after that they will need a new contract for Talbot and Nurse.

      • I’m not sure about Chi, but I feel like McLellan leans pretty heavy on Nuge. He faces a lot of the toughs on a nightly basis. If Draisaitl ends up staying on that top line ala Pavelski and Thorton, then the team still needs a second line C or Coture if you will.

        Oilers spent a decade trying to find a second line C. They thought it was Gagner, it was not. Not many teams have legitimate second line C’s. Malkin, Kessler, Coture, Galchenyuk, O’Reilly, Monahan, Carter. I can’t think of many more.

        • Freddie the fog

          Point taken. I guess im just concerned about the player. Even if were going to discount the -10 hes at because of the quality of competition..their are /should be concerns with other aspects of his game. He is not nearly as creative on the attack as he’s been in seasons past. He rarely ventures into what Mccurdy refers to as the “kill floor” to produce Grade “A”s..and 27% on the dot last night, and around 40% for the season. Why is he not getting better at this discipline in how many seasons now ? I like the player..and i wanna believe this is just an off year.
          Although with faceoffs its hard to make that argument.

          • I agree he needs to be better. On the road when coaches are lining up their best against McDavid, Nuge should be feasting on weaker comp.

            However at the beginning of the year Draisaitl’s line was facing easiest comp and struggling to produce.

            So that tells me it is more of a systems thing. McLellan sadly is not Todd Nelson it seems. Or possibly Nuge and Eberle are not Coture and Hrtl or Coture and Marleau, or Coture and Pavelski. Take your pick.

            I would be fine with Nuge going, if they have a viable replacement for second line C, that still allows Draisaitl the versatility of moving to the wing from time to time. I don’t know who that guy is though. Hanzel? (he’s so hot right now).

      • Not a First Tier Fan

        Nuge isn’t going anywhere but I expect he’ll be asked to take a bit of a discount on his next contract. He will – he won’t get what he’s getting now anywhere else in the league.

        Eberle though – different story. You get the feeling Chiarelli is just waiting for the right deals to form before pulling the trigger on a trade there. (I say deals because the RW position needs some reinforcement before we can just up and lose the strongest player we have there. Might be Chia is waiting for next season where Puljujarvi shows his worth…)

      • CaptainLander

        Respectfully disagree, I do see Ebs on the move for sure by the start of the 2019/2020 season if not sooner. Of course the RW is not really a position of depth right now either, until Pulu can make the jump. But I still think RHN is in the long term plans. Having heard TMac compare RNH to Pavelski makes me think they believe the top end of his game has yet to be reached. (Pavelski dis really hit his stride until he was 25ish and his numbers before that compare to RNH’s). I would not move a 23 year old 2 way center with the experience of playing top competition unless your cap absolutely requires you to.

  • Not a First Tier Fan

    Open the door to the cage and let the Griffen go… it sucks because of the high price Chiarelli paid for him – for sure it would be great to get some sort of return – but I don’t see another GM short of the idiot in Vancouver who’s going to make the same mistake we did there.

    It’s a shame – Chiarelli’s record is actually not bad except for that one horrible terrible decision…

    • Harry2

      If Reinhart becomes nothing more than a Gryba type dman (6/7) then so be it. He’s young, motivated and still has plenty of upside. No need to just let him walk for nothing considering how cheap he is.

      The price Chiarelli paid for Reinhart at this point is irrelevant. No need to flush him for nothing.

  • TKB2677

    I had a fantastic dream that Vegas hired some hardcore advanced stats guy and they follow his advice blindly in all decisions. So in the expansion draft, they pick one of Fayne or Pouliot because after all, Pouliot is usually an advanced stats darling and Willis and company have told me many times how awesome Fayne is. So let’s say they pick Pouliot in the expansion draft. Then as soon as the expansion draft is over, some guy not McFee calls up Chia. In the background you can here papers being shuffled all over the place.
    “Umm hi, is this Peter?

    Chi: Yes this is Peter.

    Hi, this is ___ from the Las Vegas Black
    Knights Analytics division.

    Chi: Umm OK, what can I do for you.

    Well Peter, as you know we just picked Pouliot in the expansion draft.

    Chia: Yes, I know. He’s a really good player, he’s going to be tough to replace (pulls the phone away from his mouth to compose himself from laughing)

    Yes we are pretty excited, my sheets had his as #1. Anyway, #2 on our list was Mark Fayne. Quite frankly, if we could have picked 2 players, we would have taken him.

    Chi: Oh really, well he’s a hell of a dman.(barely able to keep it together at this point.) Do you mind if I put you on speaker, I have my assistant GM in here with me, he should be in on this conversation as well.

    Oh yeah of course.

    Chi: (puts the phone on hold for a min to transfer it to speaker. Looks at Keith Gretzky giggling a bit. If you F-ing make me laugh during this, I will slug you.) Clicks speaker “Hey ____ you got Peter and Keith here.

    Hey guys, look I will cut to the chase here. We are looking at Fayne and wondering if you guys would consider making a trade.

    Chi: (Keith starts giggling under his breath as Peter bites his lip pointing at Keith to stop.) A trade huh, well I don’t know, I mean he’s got a lot of experience and he’s a right shot. It’s no secret we as an organization are a bit light on the right side.

    I know he is tough to part with but I just emailed over some papers with our offer, take a look and get back to me.

    Chi: Oh yeah, just got them. (looks, the offer is a reasonably draft pick no salary retained.) You got a deal, I Keith is just scanning the signed deal now. (looks at keith. Get those f-ing paper sent over now before this idiot comes to his senses.)

    What, no counter?

    Chi: No, no, it’s fine. I think if I counter, I will change my mind.

  • freelancer

    Oilers need to find another Patrick Maroon for the top 6. By that I mean a 2.5 million dollar man or cheaper who can play well with skilled guys. Puljujarvi could be that guy on his ELC but a proven vet would be preferred

  • That's My Point

    Last two games the Oilers are lacking energy, maybe split up McDavid and Draisaitl to get everyone playing better and trying to score.

    On the PP why not put someone who has a fast shot like Pouliot on the point to blast shots with Klefbom or Sekera?

    Keep Pouliot for the playoff run, he is skilled just needs to be motivated by playing more shifts with McD or Drai or on PP.

    11 of 13 games in March are at Roger’s Place. Should be making some ground there?

  • Spydyr

    Trade Eberle and a defensive prospect along with his six million cap hit for a centre or defenceman. Then replace him with a free agent second line right winger would be a fine option IMO.

    • TKB2677

      I tend to agree with you. Eberle seems to have settled in as a guy that in a usual year is hovering around 25 goals. Maybe add one or 2 more in a good year. But he doesn’t do anything else other than bring some offense. We have seen with Maroon that you can get guys to score more than 20 goals and it doesn’t have to cost you 6 mill. I don’t see him as a fit with McDavid ever. McDavid needs a trigger man that get his passes and shoots right away. He needs a guy that can one time the puck and be able to not only go to the net but also fire some hard, longer range shots. Eberle doesn’t one time the puck overly well, he doesn’t have a long range shot and he likes to hold on to it and shoot in tight. So for me, as much as I like Eberle, 6 mill is a lot to pay for a 25 goal man. For 6 mill, you can get probably get a decent 2nd line, 20+ goal guy that does a few more things than Eberle plus pay for say a guy like Kassian who is an effective bottom 6 guy.

      • Rock11

        Partial list of guys who scored between 25 and 30 goals last year which is usually Eberle’s range.

        Kopitar, Parise, Kessel, Wheeler, Monahan, Toews, Malkin, D. Sedin, Ladd, and Marleau.

        We may not like that 25 goals get you paid $6mil in today’s NHL but it does and in some of these cases significantly more than that. The guys in that range making less than 6 are generally younger guys who will soon be making that kind of money. Scoring goals is the hardest thing to do in the NHL these days and throwing a guy away for very little return who has that proven ability is lunacy.

    • Not a First Tier Fan

      What free agent RW player do you suggest? Is there someone that could provide close to Eberle’s career averages for less $$?

      Please let us know…

        • @Hallsy4

          If Chia can somehow manage to swap Ebs contract out and replace him with Oshie that would be awesome. If oshie, Boyle and maybe a PP D man were Oilers they’d be a legit top tier contender next year. A guy like Boyle shouldn’t cost that much, and some team would likely take EBS salary off our hands, combined with Pouliot’s salary I think Oshie might work. Only problem is Oshie will probably be looking to make around 6 million until he’s 36 or so…… It be too much if he, Lucic, and Sekera are all making bank when they are all 35 or so.

        • Not a First Tier Fan

          Radulov – a 30 year old primadonna injury-prone contract breaker? No thank you.

          Oshie – yes maybe. I can see it. Hard worker and, while not a point for point match for Eberle at least he comes close. But also 30 years old and will be on the decline.

          Eberle is four years younger than both of these guys and is just at his prime as an athlete… he also has higher career points averages than both of them so you’re not getting a full-bore replacement there. Finally as someone already pointed out, you probably wouldn’t get either dude for less than we’re already paying Ebs…

          I’m not saying don’t trade Eberle… Just pointing out that filling the hole on the RW side if you do trade him is not quite as simple as you make it sound.

        • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

          Radulov is a massive flight risk, he’s one White Russian away from going back to the KHL. Dispite his season so far (he’s 6 points ahead of Eberle) he left Nashville in the playoffs to get hammered…No thank you.

          Both Radulov and Oshie are 5 years older than Eberle, while Eberle has out scored both players in his career, Eberle has more points than Oshie while playing around 90 less games.

          If you go for G/F vs G/A you need to look at both teams during the career as well.

          Oshie and Eberle are almost identical players, with the exception that Eberle has played on horrific teams yet Oshies played on Cup contenders.

          Then you have to look at where the Player is playing, I highly doubt ether Radulov or Oshie would want to leave there respective teams.JMHO

      • Sal-Sational

        so you honestly think his agent is going to want to sign for less then what Nuge/ebs/($6M) or Barkov/Huberdeau ($5.9M) Matt Duchene ($6M) or MacKinnon ($6.3M).. I would love for him to sign for less but lets be realistic here.. Draisaitl has more points (30) then McDavid (28) in the last couple of months so lets not short change him. LOL @ $4.8M

          • Sal-Sational

            lol again it would be Awesome to sign Draisaitl for $4.8M/YR but there is a big difference between living in Tampa Florida and Edmonton Alberta. that factor alone would increase the annual salary by $500k to a Million… Kucherov is a 5’9 178lbs RW where Draisaitl is a 6’1 215lbs versatile C…lets hope for the best 😀

  • #1 prospect guy

    for once depth on the blue line! sekera, Russel, Larsson and Klef are occupying the top 4, while Davidson, Benning, Nurse, Gryba, Reinhart and Oesterle + are all capable of playing as the 5/6/7 dman for now, Music !

  • @Hallsy4

    The second line and their huge salaries stand out like a sore thumb on the current list. Out of Ebs, Pouliot and Nuge I only keep Nuge. Earlier someone pointed out Nuge’s similar point totals at the same age as Pavelski…. I don’t think Nuge is Pavelski or will be even close to Pavelski, but I’d still be very cautious of trading him just in case he turns into that. The 2nd line needs to get going for this team to win anything. Hopefully they get going, if not I’d expect big change in the summer for the 2nd line.

    • #1 prospect guy

      oh yeah, like JJ? Drake? Lander? I personally would rather have someone experienced like Boyle or Hanzel and then leave Letestu on the 4th line where he’s flourishing

      • Harry2

        For the rest of this season I absolutely agree with you but going forward I would rather spend money on a RHD then a third line center.

        3C might see 12-16min per game vs a top 4 rhd who would see 22mins+

  • @Hallsy4

    Fayne seems to be in the longterm dog house with TMAC and/or Chia. If he’s ripping it up in the AHL, isn’t he likely better than the Oilers 3rd pairing? I don’t think I’d buy him out, doesn’t the cap hit last an extra year? I’d either trade Fayne and retain a bit of salary (playoff teams need depth on D, and RHD seem hard to find), or else have him as the 7th D man for one more year then let him walk with no cap penalty. Maybe there’s some sort of trade there, did the Oil retain salary on the Jultz deal?

    • russ99a

      Draisaitl will be our second line center moving forward.

      I’m all for Hanzal as our third if we can get him signed, Nuge is getting paid too much for a third line C with limited offense, his days are numbered here.

  • russ99a

    If Vegas is able to make trades at the deadline as I suspect, I’m thinking we may move a few players off the 50 man list for future considerations (wink wink) so Chia has room for some college free agents we’ll need to improve the AHL prospect base next year,

  • JBear

    Looking forward…

    What do you pay Maroon?

    For Draisaitl, I say go for $6M x 8 years. It’s a bit of a gamble but I like the odds. Lock him up long term instead of saving a bit now to spend bit later with a bridge contract.

    I have McDavid at $9M.

    In my little spreadsheet, I had the cap going up $2M/year with the starting cap at $70M for this year. The only problem years were in the 18/19 season, where McDavid gets his raise and Pouliot has to be gone; and the 21/22 season where RNH has to be gone as well to spread money on the bottom 2 lines. Eventually, I have forecasted Puljujarvi to make $5M after a Yak bridge contract.

    • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

      You have McDavid to low.

      Paraphrasing the CBA, a player can be offered as much as 20% of the cap.

      That’s around 14 million dollars, any team in the NHL can offer McDavid 7 years at 14 million.

      This works in favour for both McDavid and the Oilers because the Oilers can match or offer the 8th year at 14.

      I think McDavid signs at 12m for 8 years.