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Photo Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Next Year’s Free Agents (or “Danger Heartbreak Dead Ahead”)

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?

  1. Connor McDavid 12.5
  2. Leon Draisaitl 8.0
  3. Milan Lucic 6.0
  4. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 6.0
  5. Andrej Sekera 5.5
  6. Oscar Klefbom 4.167
  7. Adam Larsson 4.1667
  8. Cam Talbot 4.1667
  9. Kris Russell 4.0
  10. Zack Kassian 1.95
  11. Jesse Puljujarvi .925
  12. Eric Gryba .900
  13. 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

  1. UFA Mark Fayne ($3.625M cap hit in 2017-18). Fayne will not return.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. UFA Jussi Jokinen ($1.1M cap hit in 2017-18). An astute signing that has a chance to turn into a longer term deal a year from now, Jokinen has about five jobs he could fill on this roster in 2017-18. I think there’s a good chance he’ll get a second contract from the team.
  6. RFA Matt Benning (.925M cap hit in 2017-18). He’s the first guy I sign from this list, sooner the better. Benning has offense in his game and that gets paid. Signing him before Benning gets power play time in 2017-18 may be wise.
  7. RFA Anton Slepyshev ($.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.
  8. RFA Drake Caggiua ($.925M cap hit in 2017-18). I always assume an extra push for players signed by the general manager and Caggiula is a good bet to return 2018-19. We’ll see where he plays, could get some feature time.
  9. RFA Darnell Nurse ($.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.
  10. RFA Laurent Brossoit ($.750M cap hit in 2017-18). I think this is the right call, giving Brossoit a chance to claim the backup job. If he can do it, a reasonable contract at a small raise would be prudent.
  11. RFA Iiro Pakarinen ($.725M cap hit in 2017-18). Complete wild card, one positive for him is the team is going to need players making under $1 million to make it under the cap.
  12. UFA Yohann Auvitu ($.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.

  • Shadesof97

    Nuge for Gallagher makes a lot of sense. Struggles on the PP but posts solid 5×5 numbers and the fancies love him. Possible RW for McDavid.

    Anybody know what JP’s bonus breakdown is? If that last 2M is a top 10 goals/assists/points/ppg requirement in comfortable leaving that to the potential overages side of things personally

  • OriginalPouzar

    Small point but Hattrick Maroon’s cap hit for this season for the Oilers is $1.5M – don’t forget about the $500K retention as part of the fleecing.

    I can’t imagine Patrick being back next year – he will price himself out of Edmonton – its too bad because he’s more than just 20-25G, he’s part of the swagger, part of the toughness, part of the identity

      • HardBoiledOil 1.0

        it’s not impossible for the Oilers to re-sign Maroon but it’ll depend on his season and whether or not he scores more than 20. if he doesn’t then he can’t justifiably ask for $4 mil/per, but if he does then he’ll likely price himself out of Edmonton. it does seem like no matter what type of season Nuge has that he’s priced himself out of here and will likely be traded sooner or later.

  • Oilercory99

    In 2yrs time Yamamoto and Benson might be ready for the NHL and could make Caggulia Slepyshev expendable being they should pack more punch and as long as they don’t get enough time to trigger there contracts until the season in question we can catch a break until the cap rises enough to resign them! And I’ve always liked Couturier and wonder if RNH could be enough to get that trade done! He’s a couple million cheaper and is the perfect 3c for the NHL especially the Pacific division. Other than that Strome Maroon Benning and Nurse I hope will stay with the team and hopefully everything else work’s out for us because we have a team that will win championships but keeping the group together will get tricky!! GO OILERS!!

    • McJeetz

      Yep. This is why we should never trade our 1st and 2nds. It’s the only way to stay in the salary cap. Draft good players who can contribute in top 6, develop them for 2-5 years….no rushing them, have them replace our top 6 players who are ready for big 3rd contracts.

      In my opinion it was Draisaitl that replaced Hall’s offense not Lucic. And hopefully Puljijarvi can replace RNH next year. And so on

    • Carl the tooth

      Who replaces eberle ? I think flames are the team to beat with there core . Edm will be facing a much tougher team with the deadweight they dropped and signing haminoc and stone and mike smith always kept the coyotes in a game . Tkachuk is not gonna be fun to play against and bennet seems to be turning the corner and was driving Kessler and getzlaf nuts . Hamilton will likely be in the Norris conversation . Edm looks only to get worse from here and flames are stacked with high level prospects and lots of late round gems .is it a fluke or are they that good at drafting now .

      • All Ice

        Stop pretending to be a fan here, people read the comments on other articles there Lames troll. From the spelling and grammar I assume as many grades in school as teeth?

      • Carl the tooth

        Lol not a troll just facts but by your comments I’d say you are .by all means smart guy last I checked you don’t need grammar to realize Soilers have mediocre prospects that are a far ways from making any impact in NHL . You got mcdavid buts let’s get real your season was a fluke and without that start you’d be lucky to have gotten a wild card spot .

  • Justino

    I think Maroon, Henning, Nurse and Stroke under 16 million is manageable. Everyone knows Nuges time is gonna be coming to an end come next summer so I’m not too worried. It’ll probably be ideal to ask Sekera to move his nmc in the summer too, I’m sure Nurse is gonna step to a top 4 role this year with Sekera being injured.

    • Carl the tooth

      Are you talking about haminoc?smith ?stone? Those picks will likely be more like a second rounder than a first cause flames are very likely to finish in top 10 maybe even top 5 .then flames will trade stone for a 1rst rounder and get back more assets than given for haminoc when flames likely trade him too. Flames then have those elite defence prospects.to replace them .anderson.kulak.klington.adam fox .not to mention there goalie prospects especially Tyler parsons that’s drawing comparisons to the next Carey price . But as far as wasting goes as far as picks Edm lost rienhart for nothing there goes a first and second rounder with a absolutely nothing to show for it . Eberle trade ouch.hall trade ouch . Nuge is next to go for likely little to no return as well and don’t get me started on signing russel for 4 yeArs .

      • All Ice

        Are you high? Stone gets a first? The next Price? Hamonic and Stone are coming off terrible seasons. Smith is 35 and has to have a decent backup since he can only handle about 55 games. The Lames got Lack for that, Lack! A goalie so bad his coach called him out publicly. Good luck making the top 16, not the top 5.

      • Carl the tooth

        It really won’t matter if we get anything for stone flames are stacked and set up so well it would take cherrelli as the gm to screw this franchise up too . Flames defence was already superior to Soilers and now added a few more pieces just because we can just for kicks lol

  • My biggest concern is Nurse. He was starting to look really comfortable rushing the puck up the ice prior to his injury! Plus I’ve invested too much time and energy watching his development just to see him lost to cap issues.

    • Copper

      I like Nurse. Strong, Tough Fast but…doesn’t seem to have hockey sense. I think that’s why he stayed in Junior so long. Too many times he waits. And waits. And Waits. to make a pass from his own end. Then, when everyone is covered, he slaps it along the boards and down the ice for icing. Long way from being an impact NHL player, IMHO

  • Simba99

    And so it begins this day was going to come said it long time ago. You have your contracts now, the rest ahlers cause no ones going to come here for cheap regardless of mcdavid

    • fasteddy

      There was a contract recently, I think NYI, where they sign a 4th liner to a 5 yr deal…..I think that may be a trend; getting cost certainty at the bottom of the roster is becoming the new reality.

  • Serious Gord

    Good column Lowetide. It would make a good reference piece if I could figure out how navigate this awful site design.

    It concisely an irrefutably shows the nightmare that lies ahead.

    Imagine if the team gets and extra round in the playoffs and loses in the conference final. One would expect several of the FAs listed will have had good years and their prices will be higher – not lower than mused above.

    Some cutting down to the bone or worse will be needed. The possiblity of the team being weaker in 18-19 and beyond is very much possible.

    What’s so stomach turning is that one can see this train wreck coming from so far away. I don’t know how chia sleeps at night.

  • ed from edmonton

    I see that Ryan Johanssen has just signed an 8×8 contract. This for a 61 point guy last year with a high water mark of 71 points. A couple of thoughts based on this. McD at 12.5 looks like a steal. LD at 8 ish does not seems so unreasonable.

  • ed from edmonton

    Lowetide is correct that the Oil won’t be able to maintain a 6M$ 3rd line center beyond this year. So yes RNH is as good as gone. If all the players mentioned above have years that warrant substantive raises, then we should be planning the parade route. Seriously though RNH and probably one of the “non rental” players mentioned above likely will need to be dumped.

  • russ99a

    Nuge is gone unless he has a turnaround year, then Peter could ask Sekera to waive his NMC, but that’s <5% chance at this point.

    I personally like the idea of a bunch of young players all in "show me" contract years. Competition is the best thing for these guys. Some will deserve their extensions and some will not and we can fill in with cheap veterans like the Jokinen signing next July.

    Worst case we have to let a good young player go, but the Hawks have done a good job at that during the cap years/cup run and so can we.

    • Carl the tooth

      Oilers did nothing to add to there team they only lost and added salary .what else is there to talk about except how jealous we are that flames got foo and haminoc and all flames elite prospects

      • Carl the tooth

        Travis hamonic did I spell it correct it doesn’t matter how you spell it he’s another top tier defence that Soilers couldn’t land ahhhhhhhhhh I feel the jealously with in you . Maybe foo . That ones harder to forget the spelling though .hamilton .dont worry about the spelling you will never have a Hamilton either .versteeg ooooops .

  • nuge2drai

    Can we stop writing articles about trading Nuge and Cap Issues.

    This is getting old.

    Maybe try an article about the cap space we have this year and what we can spend it on.

    A lot can change in a year, Canadian dollar is on the rise.. the cap can easily go up 3-4 mil next season.

    So please stop, I would love to see the writers on this site write ONE article about this years cap before they wrote 20 on next year’s.

    BUILD through the MIDDLE.

    Keep McDavid, Drai and Nuge and trade the rest. It’s not rocket science.

    • FISTO Siltanen

      Agreed. Honestly wouldn’t be surprised if the cap was at $80M+ for next season. Many of these fears are unrealistic. And even if RFA offer sheets are coming in future seasons and one or two of our RFA kids (not named Leon) get poached chances are someone is overpaying and we get more than we would have on the trade market.

  • nuge2drai

    Every second article is about trading Nuge… if this continues I’m going to stop reading.

    It’s getting dumb. No wonder fans turn on good players here.

    • Carl the tooth

      That’s only the players that edm will want to keep the most there still gonna lose a bunch of rags and ufas plus nuge and likely maroon too or benning or nurse

  • nuge2drai

    Let’s see… we will have 16-20 mil in cap space next season.

    We have our top 3 C, Top 4 D and a bunch of wingers signed.

    We need to sign Maroon, Cagguila, Nurse, Benning and Strome.

    Yeah sure sounds like gloom and doom.

    What a waste of time.

  • FISTO Siltanen

    I’d offer Hatty Maroon a 4 year deal at $14M. I’d pay him $12M in the first three years with $1M signing bonus before the upcoming Bettman imposed lockout.

    If he loses a season he will be paid almost $4.33M a season…but with a $3.5M cap hit.

    • Carl the tooth

      Yes and no it’s mismanagement when you lose players for nothing . I believe Chicago won a cup first and they had seabrook and Duncan kieth . Saad . Sharp . Hossa . Toews .kane .oilers don’t have good enough defenceman to warrant cap issues

  • FISTO Siltanen

    For ten years we had a team that we never had to worry about fitting into a cap system. No one was ever good enough to warrant an RFA offer sheet. No one ever priced themselves out of the market. Never had a worry about “keeping the team together…”

    Personally, I’d rather have this problem and worry than that one.

  • McJeetz

    Maroon to McDavid can be our Kunitz to Crosby. If Maroon can see that, he will sign reasonable/fair and be McDavids winger for years and enjoy inflated stats and maybe a few Stanley cups

    • Carl the tooth

      Nurse is in no way a top 4 defenceman maybe on edm. But would not make any good teams roster .where would nurse fit on flames roster he wouldn’t he would be in the minors

  • toprightcorner

    Maroon – $3.75 mill/2 year – The Kunitz model, about $1.5 mill less then perceived market value based on his production because his numbers will drop 25% without McDavid

    Benning – $1.95 mill – 3 years – that is typical second contract for a really good player with 2 years NHL expirience. Possible a $3 mill x 5-6 years

    Strome – $3.25×2 – this is if he hits 45 pts with around 18 goals. Poor last couple years doesn’t prove consistency, short term with minimal raise. If he hits 60 pts, scores 20+ goals and shows he can play first line RW, then he could get $4.25 mill x 5 similar to Ardvisson.

    Letestu – $1.8 x 2 – if he plays less PP time, he will make the same contract, 2 years older but just as good of a player. 4th line centers just don’t get more money in a cap world. He will want to stay in Edmonton

    Caggulia and Slepyshev – $1.5 x 2 on a short term, could go $2.5 if the term is 4 years or more. This is only if they can produce at a middle 6 level, meaning 30 pts, over 10 goals. They are young so they don’t have much leverage. I guess 1 of them gets 4 years and if Slepy can produce on a 3rd line with 10-15 goals, it will be him cause he is bigger and quick.

    Nurse $1.85 – 3 years or $3 mill for 6 years – Nurse is the most interesting case, if he takes another step forward and reduces the chaos, I would go long term. He will then be about 1 year from taking Sekera’s spot, not as good as Sekera, but much cheaper. Then you work to trade Sekera and you have 3 of your top 4 under 25 and all making less than $4.25 mill. Nurse is a top 4 dman and signing that long term contract at the right time will be important like when Chairelli signed Kelfbom, if he signed a 2 year deal, he would be getting $6 mill after that. That contract saved the Oilers almost $10 mill dollars.

    Nobody else gets raises, most wont be signed, Jokinen could earn another $1 mill contract if he connects with JP.