The Edmonton Oilers are almost through this summer’s free agent business, with only Leon Draisaitl to go. The club will come in well under the cap for this season based on current trajectory, and that includes max on all bonuses (extremely unlikely). Source: NHL Numbers.
Getting under the cap involved one cost cutting move (Eberle for Ryan Strome) and a rather low key free agent summer. Edmonton will run far enough under the cap to be buyers at the deadline barring unforeseen deals. The next money issue, Leon Draisaitl aside, will come next summer and it’s going to be interesting.
2018-19: WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE
Let’s assume the Oilers sign Leon Draisaitl to a eight-year deal for $8 million a year. With that contract assumed, how many NHL players are under contract for 18-19 and what is the total?
- Connor McDavid 12.5
- Leon Draisaitl 8.0
- Milan Lucic 6.0
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 6.0
- Andrej Sekera 5.5
- Oscar Klefbom 4.167
- Adam Larsson 4.1667
- Cam Talbot 4.1667
- Kris Russell 4.0
- Zack Kassian 1.95
- Jesse Puljujarvi .925
- Eric Gryba .900
- Jujhar Khaira .675
The total for these 13 men (12 +1 Leon) projects to $58,950,400. We need to add Benoit Pouliot’s buyout ($1.33M) to the total, and we’ll add Jesse Puljujarvi’s bonus money ($2.5 million). Grand total: $62,780,400.
Assuming a bump in cap (let’s say $79 million) that would leave Peter Chiarelli $16,219,600 in cap room. The good news is 97 and 29 are under contract, but the bad news is there are 10 men left to sign and that’s a tight squeeze.
FREE AGENTS 2018
- UFA Mark Fayne ($3.625M cap hit in 2017-18). Fayne will not return.
- RFA Ryan Strome ($2.5M cap hit in 2017-18). Strome comes in with a great chance to post big boxcar numbers, be it as RW on the McDavid line or centering the soft parade line. The odds of Edmonton getting a new contract with Strome depends at least partly on his offense this coming season. He could earn himself a massive raise.
- UFA Patrick Maroon ($2M cap hit in 2017-18). If Maroon scores 25+ again his cap hit could double and then some. For an organization looking for value deals, this player could become too dear to sign.
- UFA Mark Letestu ($1.8M cap hit in 2017-18). Unique situation for a unique player and Letestu made it count in a big way. He plays a bunch on both special teams and scored a lot on the power play this past season. I think it’s reasonable to expect Letestu play less in that role 17-18 (replaced by Strome, perhaps Puljujarvi) but he’s likely to get a small raise if the team decides to retain him into the future.
- UFA Jussi Jokinen ($1.1M cap hit in 2017-18). An astute signing that has a chance to turn into a longer term deal a year from now, Jokinen has about five jobs he could fill on this roster in 2017-18. I think there’s a good chance he’ll get a second contract from the team.
- RFA Matt Benning (.925M cap hit in 2017-18). He’s the first guy I sign from this list, sooner the better. Benning has offense in his game and that gets paid. Signing him before Benning gets power play time in 2017-18 may be wise.
- RFA Anton Slepyshev ($.925M cap hit in 2017-18). Young Russian winger is in a great spot to carve out an NHL role for years to come. If he can hang around all year, score some goals and help more than hurt, we could see him as one of the youngsters from the fringe who hangs around for what is hoped to be the good times.
- RFA Drake Caggiua ($.925M cap hit in 2017-18). I always assume an extra push for players signed by the general manager and Caggiula is a good bet to return 2018-19. We’ll see where he plays, could get some feature time.
- RFA Darnell Nurse ($.863M cap hit in 2017-18). Another player who could be far more expensive next year if he blossoms, Nurse at this point is tough to mark in terms of contract expectation. We’ll know more in April.
- RFA Laurent Brossoit ($.750M cap hit in 2017-18). I think this is the right call, giving Brossoit a chance to claim the backup job. If he can do it, a reasonable contract at a small raise would be prudent.
- RFA Iiro Pakarinen ($.725M cap hit in 2017-18). Complete wild card, one positive for him is the team is going to need players making under $1 million to make it under the cap.
- UFA Yohann Auvitu ($.700M cap hit in 2017-18). He could end up getting a contract with a strong season, this is what Peter Chiarelli needs badly on this roster (inexpensive deals with players who can help offensively).
WHO GETS SIGNED?
It’s going to be tough. With just $16 million to spend, I see Matt Benning, Patrick Maroon, Darnell Nurse and Ryan Strome as being the most likely additions. I don’t think even that can be done for $16 million, meaning someone (likely Nuge) is likely down the line.
IS THERE A WORKAROUND
The Oilers are in a weird spot, with walking around money for the coming season (depending on Draisaitl’s deal) and a real crunch the following year. A few things could help:
- A bridge deal for Draisaitl.
- Getting Sekera or Lucic to waive NM deal.
- Trading Nuge.
- Trading Jesse Puljujarvi.
Beyond that, the Oilers are going to be in a real crunch, choosing between Matt Benning and Darnell Nurse, making a decision to keep only one of Patrick Maroon or Ryan Strome. Rock, meet hard place.