Photo Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Avoiding a cap crunch in 2019

Handcuffed by a lack of cap space, it was a quiet start to the offseason by Oiler’s GM Peter Chiarelli. Quiet doesn’t mean bad, as he still managed to grab a pair of useful NHL forwards, which the team needed, but he didn’t go out and get the legitimate top-six winger that many hoped he would.

There’s still a chance that Chiarelli finds a way to offload one of Milan Lucic or Andrej Sekera this summer, but I’d say we’re suckers if we hold our breath waiting for that to happen.

So that means, the roster we see right now will almost certainly give us the lineup we see when the puck drops next season. That lineup will produce one of four outcomes:

  • They make the playoffs and go on a run, winning one or more rounds.
  • They make the playoffs, but exit early.
  • They barely miss the playoffs but get close.
  • They fail miserably and get another lottery pick.

Those are basic, but generally, that’s what could happen next year. Injuries and other factors could impact how the season will be perceived, but when I think about next offseason, I think there will be two likely approaches:

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  • The Oilers have a good year and will be looking to add one more piece to put them over the top.
  • The Oilers have a bad year and they’ll look to completely revamp things.

Both those options would require the Oiler’s freeing up some cap space, which is actually a legitimate possibility. Let me explain.

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There was plenty of talk that a Milan Lucic trade would be made after his signing bonus was paid on July 1st this year when in reality, the most ideal spot to trade him would be after July 1st, 2019.

If a team were to take Lucic next summer AFTER his $3 million bonus is paid. This would be the breakdown of his contract:

Year Cap Hit Base Salary Signing Bonus Total Salary
2019-20 $6,000,000 $3,000,000 $3,000,000 $6,000,000
2020-21 $6,000,000 $1,000,000 $3,000,000  $4,000,000
2021-22 $6,000,000 $2,500,000  $2,500,000  $5,000,000
2022-23  $6,000,000  $1,000,000  $3,000,000  $4,000,000

So in 2020, the Oilers could pay his $3 million bonus. So the team that gets him, would pay him $3 million. $4 million, $5 million, $4 million over the final four years, despite getting a $6 million cap hit.

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It’s confusing as hell, but you can see why it would be easier to move Lucic next summer.


Similiar to Lucic, Sekera’s salary and cap hit are different starting next season. Any team that picks him up, will only be paying him $4.5 million despite getting a $5.5 million cap hit.

Andrej Sekera does not have any signing bonuses in his contract, but what he does have is a limited no-trade clause, which begins next summer.

Starting on July 1st, 2019 he must submit a list of 15 teams that he would agree to be dealt to, where as of right now, he could shoot down any deal he pleases.


The Russell situation is similar to Sekera’s. Starting next summer, his base salary and cap hit are the same, but he does have to submit a 10 team no-trade list.

2019-20 might not even be the easiest time to deal Russell, although it would be simpler than this summer. In 2020-21, he has a $1.0 million bonus that gets paid on July 1st, a salary of just $1.5 million, and he still carries the same $4.0 million cap hit.

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On top of a “trade friendly” contract, his no-trade list increases to 15 teams this summer.

In summary, if Peter Chiarelli needs to clear out cap space next summer, he’ll have a much easier time doing it than this year. That’s another reason why I’m happy he didn’t sign any players to long-term deals this summer. There’s a chance for this team to actually create some cap flexibility next summer, the team just has to be patient.

  • percy

    Keep looch and sek. Move Russell. We are going to the post season this year. SEKERA is going to have a come back year and Looch will earn his salary in the playoffs. We can add to the blue line later.

    • 18% body fat

      nope russel, lucic, kassian, and caggulia out, none of them are worth half their contract and bring nothing to this team in term of winning,

      intangibles my ass, when is the last time intangible player was the reason a cup was won and not skill

        • BR

          Matt Hendricks – Known to effectively be a coach in a players uniform. Oilers have their best year with him in a support role. Winnipeg jets having locker room issues prior to him arriving. He comes in, they seem to gel better and become a serious contender. Maybe a coincidence yes, but that guys brings a lot to a locker room, hard to say he didn’t have a positive impact.

      • percy

        The lost season had nothing to do with, not being able to find the back of the net, management not having a backup goalie in place, TALBOT not being able to stop a beach ball or our def floundering around in their own end or not having an effective PP,PK. I know if I’m Looch I’m not going to slug it out with the toughest guys in the league for nothing and have my brains scrambled. If the team progresses so will his game. We will be glad we have Looch and Kass. Cut him some slack. It’s a tough roll to play.

  • Lee

    I agree, you can’t make a big splash every year. Teams that do this have lots of high end prospects to either trade or play on the cheap while playing big minutes. The Oilers are 1-2 year short away from that.

  • Canoe Ride 27

    I love Looch but I’m just as disappointed as you all. We need his production and physicality. If he’s in Orange this October only good things with him getting back to form come trade deadline, playoff runs and Canada Day. We need 82 games of the Looch who dominated the Preds. You know the game I’m talking about. Go Looch!

    • Beer_League_Ringer

      @Canoe Ride 27
      You, my friend have the best handle and avatar on ON.

      I think it’s safe to say the most disappointed person is Milan. That was a very bad 42-46 games for a player like him. I think Lucic will have a better season in 2018-19, the guy is too fierce of a competitor for me to believe he’s done as a power forward. I’ve said it on other threads: if the big man gets 40pts, plays like a menace, runs (legally) opponents’ D through the end boards when they go back for pucks, and protects our stars… That’s worth 6mil/year in my books. I fail to see the logic in giving up on a guy for 1/2 a bad season. I am also of the opinion he was playing hurt.

  • @S_2_H

    I know there’s lots of Russell haters out there but I don’t see his contract as a problem to have on the books, or to trade if nessesary. He can play both sides, will block a shot with his face, has a bit of offense to his game, and is by all accounts a heart and soul guy who’s well liked and very respected by his teammates. He’ll do a serviceable job of bridging the gap to the next wave of blue line prospects. Maybe a bit of an overpay but certainly not a restrictive or albatross type contract.

    • Rock11

      I apologize for the rant but I just can’t stand it when people praise Russell so effusively without any nod to his obvious short comings. So by way of a rebuttal.
      He is one of the smallest D in the league and it shows time and again in his inability to break up a cycle.
      He is a decent skater but “plays slow”. Constant resets and D to D passes means our forwards are never coming through the neutral zone with speed and the puck.
      Ultra conservative leaves big gaps for opposition and easy zone entries.
      Consistently the worst possession player(or close to it) on every team he has ever played on.
      Provides minimal offense.
      Was unsigned through all of FA two years ago but somehow our GM felt the urge to lock him up with 4 years plus a NTC at Larsson/Klefbom money. Should have been a 2x$3m contract or none at all.

      • @S_2_H

        Well you’re on your couch so whatever contract you think someone deserves is irrelevant. And I wasn’t writing a post about the full spectrum of what Russell is – and I can take him or leave him as an Oiler. I was just responding to the subject of this article by saying he’s serviceable, and $4M per certainly isn’t a contract that handcuffs a gm.

    • Rockinghockey

      The problem is we have Larsson, Klefbom, Sekera, Russel signed long term with Nurse needing to be paid long term. In a cap world having Russel and Sekera with one of them playing third pairing minutes is too much money.

  • ed from edmonton

    Despite the wishful thinking of many there is no chance that the Oil can off load Lucic or Sekera this summer and in any way improve their team for the 18/19 season. Any trade would be a negative value trade to open up some cap space, which would have only a remote chance of being used in the 18/19 season. The risk here is if both players stay at the same level as they played in the first half of 2018 any trade is unlikely going forward. Only out for the Oil is for these players to return and play at a higher level. Even if either end up in the press box in the 18/19 season it won’t make the team any worse than if they are traded at this time.

    Russel’s modified no trade is kicking in, so he is somewhat tradeable. Despite many people’s mistaken impression you will find that Russel’s $4M contract is within the range of recent signing like DeHaan and Holden. If someone like Bouchard, Bear or maybe even Jones is ready for NHL minutes Russel would be the guy most likely to be sent away.

    • Bills Bills

      The first half of last season, Lucic was on pace for 56 points and Sekera wasn’t playing. As for the calendar year of 2018, they only played 3 months. There are 12 in a year.

    • wiseguy

      Remember when Ebs was traded for the cap space to allow us to be buyers at the deadline? Remember how we ended the year with the huge cap space? Addition by subtraction is actually not a real thing. Addition by replacing a player with a better player is a thing. However, right now I don’t see how we’re going to replace Lucic with anyone better at a salary that is $6M minus retained salary plus the assets need to trade for this mythical player.

  • Bills Bills

    So the three “worst” contracts on the team done by PC were essentially front loaded and designed to be very moveable in the second half of the contracts. Hmmm……. Why would he do that???

    BTW if the Tavares contract taught us anything, it is that McDavid and Draisaitl have incredible value contracts.

    • Beer_League_Ringer

      I agree. The SN comments section was full of Leafs fans laughing at how Pete C. hobbled the team with those contracts. Paraphrasing: “good luck with McGreedy and the German kid and an AHL roster”. With JT getting 11mil and gawd knows what Matthews contract will look like (don’t forget Marner and Nylander next summer), Leon’s contract has “value” written all over it.

      • Bills Bills

        JT getting $11 means that’s where they start with Mathews. Nylander and Marner will be looking for Drai type money. So expect to see 4 players pushing for $40 million in cap space. Good luck.

  • Rysani

    I like Sekera and hope he stays, he was great for the Oilers before the injury and there is a pretty decent chance that Looch will rebound and I look forward to watching it.

  • Bond

    The trick with Sek and Lucy is to limit the damage they can inadvertently do. If TM continues over using and mis-using them we will miss the playoffs. If they are both used in 3rd pairing and 4th line duty and accept these roles there is hope. Should either of them show signs of returning to form and earn more ice time so be it. TM should not award ice time according to pay grade, it’s killing us….

  • The Future Never Comes

    This article about these 3 cap hits have been ran into the ground at this point. It’s just clearly an article written to fill space, nothing new or insightful here. Dig deeper.

  • CalgirlyFlamer

    Let be honest for a moment about why there is a “Cap Crunch” It is not lucic, Russell or any other player who we may not believe is performing as well as they could. Its because we have Connor Mcdavid making what 4 players normally would and its not a bad problem to have.

    • wiseguy

      It’s not McDavid. Draisaitl for $8.5M as a 2nd line player hurts more. I can’t think of a more ineffective 2nd line at the cost of his $8.5M plus Lucic’s $6M. Remember when we had Hall/RNH/Ebs as an $18M line? Wouldn’t that look better as a 2nd line behind McDavid’s?

      • Oil4Ever

        This is completely asinine. In a year where he suffered a concussion, and played with sub-par wingers, Draisaitl reached 70 points. Does that sound ineffective? Looking at comparables and factoring in his young age, Draisaitl’s contract is excellent.
        You need to find a new goat my friend.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    Honestly, if we had league average goaltending, a league average powerplay and a league average penalty kill, we make the playoffs. Forgetting the bad starts, last seasons team wasn’t that bad. Sure we should’ve held onto Ebs a bit longer, but last season the team showed lots of potential, even during that 4-game win streak that put us back into the playoff conversation. With the new additions to the coaching staff as well as Brodziak and Reider, I fully expect to see playoffs next season.

    Let’s Go Oilers

  • TKB2677

    As soon as Sekera and Russell have their No moves open up, they will be gone. People can hate on Russell all they want but dmen are always in demand and at 4 mill, he’s not that overpaid. Ian Cole just signed for 3 yrs at 4.25 mill in Colorado. What’s the difference between Cole and Russell? Not much. They are both defensive dmen who don’t score a lot, can skate OK and are mediocre puck movers. De Haan signed for 4.55 mill. He might be slightly better than Russell but not much. Again, defensive dman who doesn’t score a lot and moves the puck OK.

    Dmen are always wanted.