It is absolutely crazy that we are less than 48 hours from the NHL Draft and the league still has not figured out what the salary cap ceiling will be for the upcoming season. I know the players association has some fault in this as well, but regardless of who’s fault it is, it’s absolutely ridiculous.
For the last few months, it was assumed that the ceiling would be $83 million but over the last few days, there have been rumblings that it would be lower than that. Elliotte Friedman is reporting that could be between $81.5 million and $82.1 million.
There is an expectation it will be between $81.5M and $82.1M https://t.co/7AaGrB2mJt
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) June 19, 2019
On the surface, you might think that the difference between that the cap dropping $1.5 million is a small difference, but that number could make a real impact on the Oilers offseason plans.
Right now, Puckpedia says the Oilers have $9.7 million in cap space (assuming an $81.8 million cap) when you consider the fact that Brandon Manning will likely be buried in the minors.
As their roster sits right now, the Oilers have nine forwards, seven defensemen, and one goaltender signed to NHL deals for next season. That means they need to bring in four forwards and a goaltender in order to fill out their roster.
Now, I’m also going to assume that Jujhar Khaira is brought back for next season with a $1 million cap hit. So, if the Oilers don’t move out any money, they have $8.7 million to improve their roster.
Now, if we assume the worst and say that the ceiling is actually going to be $81.5 million, that drops the Oilers to just $8.4 million in open money.
Where they decide to go with their goaltending will also have a big impact on things. A mid-range free agent will cost around $2-2.5 million, which would leave them with anywhere from $5.9 – 6.4 million.
With that space, they will need to find a third line centre and two wingers to play in their top nine. Even if they sit with $6.4 million, that’s not nearly enough to accomplish that. The extra $1.5 million that has been shaved off the projected cap has a big impact.
Now, they would have been tight for money anyways, especially if they wanted to sign a 20-25 goal scorer to play in their top six. Ken Holland will need to send out a bad contract this summer, but the cap dropping introduces more problems when trying to get rid of someone like Kris Russell or even Andrej Sekera.
I would imagine that part of the Oilers plan this summer is to deal off a veteran left-shot defenseman, graduate Ethan Bear to the NHL, and go upgrade the right side of their d-core. For that to happen, you need to find a team that one of Sekera or Russell would be willing to waive their no-trade clauses for and those teams need to have the money to bring them in. Losing $1.5 million in cap space could force a lot of teams to be more frugal this summer.
They might not want to spend $4 plus million on a veteran defenseman, even if they like the player.
So not only could the new cap ceiling affect the Oilers ability to get the free agent they want, but it could also hurt their attempts to shed out cap space this summer.
Now, there’s also a way it may benefit the Oilers.
I’ve mentioned the name Cedric Pacquette a few times over the last few months. The 25-year-old can play either centre or left wing and while he’s never hit the twenty point mark in his career, I think there might be some upside with this player if he gets more opportunity. There will be plenty of opportunity in Edmonton next season.
The reason I bring him up is that considering how tight the Lightning are for cap space, losing another $1.5 million due to a shrunk ceiling, might allow someone like Pacquette to be acquired for cheap, especially considering he is an RFA.
The same goes for the Toronto Maple Leafs with players like Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson or the Vegas Golden Knights with Colin Miller and even Erik Haula or Cody Eakin. The Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, Winnipeg Jets, Washington Capitals, and Nashville Predators are all tight to the cap and look like teams that will need to trade off good young assets or proven NHLers simply because they can’t afford them.
Again, losing 900k or $1.5 million off the cap seems peanuts, but for the Oilers, that could be the difference between going out and getting Brett Connoly or simply resigning Alex Chiasson. It could be the difference between a team feeling like they have the space to bring in a veteran like Kris Russell or feeling like their money is better off spent somewhere else.
A smaller cap makes life more difficult for Ken Holland, but it also provides him with a little bit more opportunity to be a cap vulture and pry lose some young talent that otherwise may not have been available.