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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

How can the Oilers create cap space for 2018-19?

The cap crunch is coming. The Edmonton Oilers currently have nearly $8 million in cap space, according to NHLNumbers. Some will cover Connor McDavid’s entry-level bonuses, but the real concern is when McDavid’s eight-year, $100 million extension kicks in next season and his cap hit jumps to $12.5 million.

McDavid’s contract is not a problem, if anything he might be underpaid in a league that doesn’t accurately value their star players, but it means there’s no room for bloated contracts further down the roster. The Oilers need to surround McDavid, and Leon Draisaitl, with enough talent to win and that means not overspending on players that aren’t difference makers.

The Oilers have $60.946 million already dedicated to 13 players: seven forwards, four defencemen, and two goalies.

The bulk of the roster is there. Can they fill out the rest with $20 million (assuming an $80-million salary cap)?

The Oilers have six restricted free agents of note: Darnell Nurse, Ryan Strome, Matt Benning, Drake Caggiula, Brandon Davidson, Anton Slepyshev, and Iiro Pakarinen.

Lets say the Oilers part ways with Slepyshev and Pakarinen and sign the rest. We’ll use Matt Cane’s (@Cane_Matt2018 Free Agent Predictions as a reference.

  • Strome’s qualifying offer is $3 million, but the Oilers could negotiate a lower cap hit like they did with Zack Kassian last summer.
  • For Nurse, I’m using Michael Matheson and Jaccob Slavin’s contracts and putting Nurse in the middle.
  • Benning’s last two years are similar to Nathan Beaulieu before he signed a two-year, $4.8-million contract last season.
  • Davidson’s a reasonable depth defenceman who could play up in the lineup. His qualifying offer is more, like Strome, but I’m assuming he takes less to stay.
  • Jesse Puljujarvi has $2.5 million in potential performance bonuses he could hit, stick tap to Allan Hull at the Copper and Blue for pointing it out. They’d have to keep this in mind or face a possible penalty in 2019-20.

Re-signing all their RFAs and accounting for Puljujarvi’s bonuses leaves Edmonton roughly $5 million to add two wingers and a fourth-line centre, but that means a very similar team returning in 2018-19 and no room for spare forwards. And there isn’t much in free agency.

So what can they do?

Trade or don’t qualify Ryan Strome: Strome’s $3-million qualifying offer is a lot for a third line player on pace for 32 points. The Islanders probably thought Strome was going to take off by the end of this contract. He’s a useful right wing/ centre who could fetch a draft pick at the trade deadline. The Oilers also could just not qualify Strome, making him a free agent at the end of the season. Calgary did this with Joe Colborne after the 2015-16 season and the Penguins did the same with Justin Schultz after acquiring him from the Oilers.

Strome’s contract shows why the Jordan Eberle trade was so poor; Some of that cap space saved went to Russell’s extension, but the one year left on Strome’s deal meant there wouldn’t be much cap saved for 2018-19 if he had a strong season.

Trade a left-handed defenceman: Edmonton’s  money is at centre and left-handed defence. The Oilers could sign Nurse to a bridge deal, but that’d still be a lot of money dedicated to left-shot defencemen. Kris Russell is the obvious one to move, but he has a no-move clause and trading him likely require retained salary or money coming back. Andrej Sekera is another option. He’s older, coming off a serious injury, and maybe it’s wise to get out of that deal when you can. But Sekera has a no-move clause as well. Darnell Nurse is young and loved by the organization, so that leaves Oscar Klefbom. Klefbom had an amazing campaign last season but hasn’t matched that level this season.

Trade a centre: McDavid and Draisaitl aren’t going anywhere. Can a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins trade make sense for Edmonton? Sure, but it can’t be another trade where Edmonton significantly downgrades in skill just to shed money or fill a need.

Buy out Kris Russell: The Kris Russell deal was a bad contract the moment it was signed. The no-move and no-trade protection means that it could cost the Oilers a defenceman much better than Russell. The Oilers can’t go into next season with Kris Russell on the right side of second pairing. That leaves him on the third pairing making too much money.

Year Savings Buyout Cap Hit
18-19 $3.388M $611k
19-20 $2.888M $1.111M
20-21 $388K $3.611M
21-22 -$1.111M $1.111M
22-23 -$1.111M $1.111M
23-34 -$1.111M $1.111M

A Russell buyout immediately frees up three million next season and nearly another three million in 2019-20. The problem is the massive penalty in 2020-21. The salary cap going up every year should help with expansion in Vegas and likely Seattle, but that’s still a lot of dead money in a year the Oilers should be contending.

Trade Zack Kassian: Kassian’s a valuable player, but that’s a costly cap hit for a fourth-line player. The Oilers could find a similar player for nearly a million less.

The salary cap rising will help, but only a little. Improving the roster will be even more difficult with McDavid’s entry-level contract ending and huge salary locked into overpaid veterans with no-move and no-trade protection.

  • Natejax97

    They won’t change much this summer as far as player personnel goes. A few minor deals, but no blow up of the roster is coming.

    Look for them to trade some expiring contracts at the deadline, and keep all of those picks at the draft and keep working to restock the cupboards.

    July 1st will come and go, but we can’t go big fish hunting, there is no room, so Chia will continue to tinker around the edges of the roster.

    Maybe keeping this d-core together is less of a gamble next year when Sek is healthy and Oscar gets a good training summer in. Who knows, all I do know is that it was good enough last year, not good enough this year.

    Look for a new backup goaltender a couple new depth players, and our first round pick to be inserted into the lineup in the fall.

  • Vanoil

    Trade Strome, even for a pick. Don’t buy out Russell but trade him somewhere he is willing to go and retain some salary as a thank you. I might let Slepy and Iiro go to the wire and then re-sign them after-the-fact for less on two year prove me contracts. Hopefully what you get back from Maroon on the rental Market will be enough to fill one of the holes, and I would re-visit a cap-friendly longer term agreement with him (where you back load the deal hoping the cap rises significantly in the final two years, in exchange for a cap-friendly deal now — the Lucic model, but keep it under 4 x $4M). Pray to the hockey gods we get a pick that can light it up from the start next year, or, parlay that second over-all into a package including a 22 year-old budding winger ready to take the next step in October.

    • IRONman

      If you can sign Nurse to 5 x 8 years do it. Arbitration always goes in players favour. Larsson went to arbitration and got 4 million year. If you bridge Nurse they you are going to pay 8 million for 40 pts player in 2020. THats the problem with PC. He could have signed Leon in July 2016 and payed 5 million for 51 pts. You snooze, you lose.

  • CMG30

    Something has clearly gone wrong in the construction of the team. We’re a 25th place team that’s soon going to be bumping up against the cap. Only a couple legit prospects in the minors and they should not be counted on to come up and fill out the roster for cheap…

    Firstly, can the architect.

    Next, a way has to be found to move Lucic and Russell. The buyout penalty is simply not palatable. Not sure how it can be done since both have some form of NMC in their contracts. It’s debatable weather or not Lucic is currently worth his contract but after another couple years there is no way. I could stomach Russell’s contract if he was only paid half what we’re giving him now. Unfortunately, having the leagues top shot blocker is not worth 4M a year.

    Strome needs to be traded if there are no plans to re-sign him.

    There will be some tremendously heavy lifting that must happen over the summer. There is nothing about Chirelli’s track record that makes me think he can handle it. His record so far consists of trading valuable players and picks for bit parts that he alone seems to value… and the results have been wholly predictable. Reinhart in, draft picks lost. Hall for Larrson and nothing else. Eberle out, Strome in and it’s an open question what he’s going to turn into if anything. Really the only sharp move has been Maroon but I’m starting to chalk that up to dumb luck. Nicholson or Katz needs to turf Chirelli if this team is to have any chance of improving over the summer.

    • Gaz

      Totally agree. It was clear to me that Maroon was a fluke when Chiarelli signed Lucic to that albatross of a contract.

      Why overpay Lucic, the aging version of the heavy player, when you’ve fallen (apparently ass-backwards) into a similar player in Maroon? He made his “heavy” bet on Lucic – now Maroon has to go. How much better would things be if he passed on Lucic (oh no, nobody to look angry for 58 minutes a night) and snagged Maroon on a 4×4 extension this summer?

      Don’t even get me started on Russell.

  • DRT57

    I have an idea. Oilers show some pride , emotion, some Balls. get mad McLellan throw sometime a stick, an ass. coach ,a reporter, a water bottle , a tantrum something. Kassian grab Looch. Then grab Marron beat some life into those two smouldering corpses. Do something or. Never mind

    • DRT57

      Cap space , trades ,NHL, Bettman , Referees, Challenges , Chia ,Lowe , Mac T , Ownershipear. ,Management I’ve heard it all , its sick ,none of it is the problem .This is basically the Team as last year ,they need a Shrink. There still stuck in game 6 & 7 against Anaheim. There Tramatized , Mentally Fragile Scared or just sulking , there broken. Blow up this group

        • DRT57

          No , more like your 27th place Oilers ,more like your 12-14-2 home record ,more like your 11-14-2 road record ,more like your 9 goal 6million dollar man Looch , more like your 1 goal 5 million dollar defenceman,Sekera more like the 5 or 6 times you’ve been shut out at home this year or
          Your trip thru California last week More like Monday night ,score 5 give up SEVEN. Want me to stop. Buddy don’t bring a plastic fork to a gunfight you pinhead

          • Kass - Brought to you by BTF 2.0

            Your flamers played tonight and the Oilers didn’t and yet you spent all night here bashing the Oilers. Shows you’re just a troll and not really a fan anyway. If the OiIers are such a joke and irrelevant why arent you following the flamers.

            Your mental health problems again?? Either that or you’re just an idiot

            You won’t stop anyway except when the Oilers win. Checked the GDB and wrap up for the Tampa game – Joe Dirt goes back under his rock.

            In fact you only showed up to troll a couple weeks ago after the Oilers playoff chances ended. Big hero to come yap now.

            The only thing that really bothers me is that the mods across the nations network are not consistent at all. If an Oiler fan said half of the crap on FN that you said on here they would be banned. But eventually the payback will come to FN – so atta boy, wreck 2 sites you clown.

        • DRT57

          Ahhh I’ve bothered you ,so sad ,maybe you should file a hurt feelings report to Oiler Nation. Have me punted ,I’d be honoured . Have gotten by since Flames & Oilers got hear in 79 , just thought I’d try this out for fun. Pick on a few Flames bashes Stir the pot , hook a few suckers ,and your it and easy. After you get me punted suck a bag of Di….

          • Kass - Brought to you by BTF 2.0

            I have no control over who gets punted by ON. Just sayin I got banned for saying a lot less than you have on ON and have seen the same on FN

            Glad you’re so proud of your trolling. Thanks for admitting you’re a douche. I like getting POS’ to admit it and “your it and easy”

  • MrBung

    This team might make the playoffs in 2 to 3 years. They are not making them next season because Chia will get another season or partial season to wreck this team more. Then will finally get fired for destroying the McDavid years.

    • Kneedroptalbot

      Chiarelli has done so much damage to this team. Worst of all they keep playing Lucic and Talbot over and over. They are struggling more than anyone. What message does that send to the other players and the loyal fans?

  • JimmySee

    I cringe to think of the number of times during the summer I’d hear some media speculate on not only when they would win the cup, but the number of finals appearances they would make during the #97 years. Embarrassing.

  • Spydyr

    When the “old boys club” gets over their hangover from the ’84 team party someone should tell them you cannot carry cap space forward to the next season.

    Incompetence your name is nepotism.

  • Jason Gregor

    Puljujarvi might max out at $850,000 in bonuses, but it is highly unlikely he reaches his “B” bonus of $1.65 million. He would need to be top-five in voting for the Hart, Selke or Richard, or be a 1st or 2nd team all-star (top-two RW in entire league), win the Conn Smyth or be top-ten in either points, goals, assists or points-per-game. I don’t think Puljujarvi bonus is much of an issue.

    Signing Strome for lower than his QO makes sense, and likely happens.

    As for Matt Cain’s predictions. I’d be very curious how he came up with Josh Bailey getting a $7.9 mill cap hit or Mark Stone getting $9.063, or even Evander Kane getting $6.8 mill? Those numbers seems very high to me.

    • Christian Pagnani

      I agree, that seems unlikely and gives them a bit more room.

      Cane’s predictions are based off of their current season’s pace. Those are high, but Bailey is on pace for 88 points and the model probably goes out of whack with that.
      Cane does say the length and model need work (https://twitter.com/Cane_Matt/status/957746823451631622), and things bounce around a lot when stats are prorated. I thought it’d be useful to reference those, and use my judgement.

  • Gravis82

    We are in trouble. In a position like this we need to look at what we have now and how to maximize the playing time for the money we are spending. We are not positioned to win a cup, that is not happening. Just need to be respectable for a few years until cheap young talent emerges.

    Run Nuge, McDavid and Drai as the top line. Strome as 3C. This sounds crazy I know, but before you trash me think about what it is going to cost to bring in a top line RW or LW. It’s is going to either crush us financially or cost Darnell nurse, which just solves one problem while creating another.

    jp is probably ready for 2RW. Lucic is really 3LW at the moment. JJ can continue on the 4th line.

    This means to transform the team we need a really really good 2LW. And a really really good 2C both of whom kill penalties. This is less expensive than finding 1RW and 1LW.

    For the 4th line keep JJ and fill the rest with centers who are penalty killers.

    What kinds of players are these?
    2LW – Grabner, Rust, Saad.
    2C – Stepan, Brassard, Turris
    3RW – Neiderider, Pitlick(!), Stafford

    Common theme in all of those players, is that they get traded or hit free agency or a team moves on when they are transitioning. Not franchise players so more likely to become available.

  • jaggsonwire

    Here’s my advice to Chia before the trade deadline: FIRST: pursue Panarim for Nuge. He is a proven finisher on a $6M contract for two more years. He’s a right shot, a creative thinker, and skates swiftly. He would shore up the ailing power play on the right half wall, which would allow us to take away Letestu for good. Failing that, go after Hoffman. He is a left shot, but at least he is reasonably young and able to finish. SECOND: move Klefbom for OEL. OEL would blossom here. Arizona would probably take this deal. Yes OEL will need to be resigned in a couple years. But no one is taking in Sekera, Lucic, or Russell on their contracts, sorry. We will also need to move Maroon and Letestu and Strome for whatever picks/prospects that we can get. This plan makes the team better NOW.

  • oilredemption

    First of all this team is a complete tire fire on and off the ice. No direction at all. In my eyes clearing house is the only way…
    Step 1) maroon and Dillon Simpson for jack studnick (ironically oilers draft pick for chia) and Boston 2nd round.
    Step 2) letestu for a 3rd, Strome for a 2nd/3rd. Benning for 4th. Kassin for a 4th.
    Step 3) trade klefbom, cagguila, Caleb jones + Boston 2nd for a hoffman and pageau (ottawa eats 50% of pageau salary)
    Step 4) actually draft good prospects and develop them with picks remaining.
    Step 5) sign nurse to a bridge 3.5 X2, Mike green 5.5 x 3 and grabner at 3×3, paajarvi 800k × 2, pak at 677k x 1, auvitu 700k x 1.
    1st line: Hoffman McDavid Grabner
    20.69million
    2nd line: Drai Nuge Poolparty
    15.425million
    3rd line: lucid Pageau Yamamoto
    8.525 million
    4th line: Paajarvi Khaira Pak
    1.358 million

    Extra forward at 675k (rattie maybe)

    1st pair: nurse Larson
    2nd pair: sekera green
    3rd pair: Davidson Russell
    Auvitu as the extra
    Combined defense salary: 24.267

    Goalies: talbot Montoya = 5.22 million
    All combined without bonus’= 78.5 milion.
    This solves pk and pp woes but allows no wiggle room in the cap not that they were going to have any anyways

  • Big Nuggets

    Gotta try to offload Russell or Lucic if at all possible. retain salary if needed to make the deal work. Chia will not want to admit his mistakes so we need a new GM to pull it off. Maybe they are untradeable but the GM has to try.

  • LenM

    Here you go slamming Russell again. Sekera: GP 10, 1 point, 5.5mil, BS 8, -10. Klefbom: GP 51, 4.1mil, 14 points (of which 6 points are PP points), BS 108, -12. Larsson: GP 40, 6 points, BS 83, +/- 0. Russell: GP: 55, 4.0mil, 20 points, BS 168, +/- 0.
    FYI Christian: BS = Blocked Shots.
    With the stats above Russell is earning his wages. I feel Larsson, Klefbom and Sekera should be on the trading block. Oilers have defensemen in the minors which would perform better.

    • ChumpIX

      Finally someone saying something good about Russell. I agree with you.

      The oilers for years have lacked the effort. That’s one thing Russell has in excess. If wanting to change culture as has been talked about for years.. Russell and individuals like him are the ones you’d want to keep. Add in that he’s been keeping up and actually passing the other defensemen we view as the go to guys id say he’s a keeper.

      Sekera is vastly overpaid, and klefbom is a #3 that is out of his element as the #1. I’m ok with Larsson and glad he’s with the oilers too but Cher did a crap aweful job with that trade. Ebs and a pick would have likely been enough but instead we sent our biggest trading chip away.

  • DRT57

    Hey Kass. I’ve noticed that you never really have intelligent , insightful or coherent opinion or take on hockey or Oilers or management . You spew a few sentences of anger, insults or name calling .you have no more respect for the Flames or there nation ,than I have for yours . You call Chucky a POS and dis Johnny then are surprised when I trash the Oil . Yes I can be brash, abrasive , biting and at times appear Arrogant and condescending a real pain in the ass , but I use humor , Witt , sarcasm ,innuendo ,insight and actually formulate ideas ,counterpoints and opinions then articulate them in a thoughtful coherent take. You seem the prefer Napalm, Name calling and insults . But Kass , Seriously get some sleep you get a little cranky when your get tired , What with being the Defender of the Oiler Nation morning noon and night ( humor and sarcasm). Later