64
Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

What could the Oilers do a year from now?

There’s a pocket of Oilers fans who appear to be frustrated with Ken Holland’s lack of activity during the offseason. I understand that to an extent because looking at the team on paper, it looks very similar to the group that they had to start last season, minus a competent third line centre. A little frustration is fair.

Now, the easy defence for Ken Holland and his lack of moves is that the Oilers are currently handcuffed by a lack of cap space and assets that were left behind by Peter Chiarelli. That is also very valid.

I’m on the fence when it comes to this, I do think Ken Holland maybe could have been a tad more aggressive this summer with a few trades and such but I also realize how difficult that is to do. Making trades and improving a roster is not easy and that’s why I’m willing to wait until a year from now before I make any real judgments on Holland. Here’s why:

CAP SPACE IS EVERYTHING

Right now, PuckPedia says that the Oilers will have $24.5 million in cap space next offseason. I feel comfortable saying that the ceiling will go up to at least $83.5 million, which means the Oilers will have around $26.5 million to spend next summer.

They have some RFA’s that will need to be signed with Darnell Nurse, Matt Benning, and Caleb Jones all needing new deals. On top of that, Zack Kassian, Sam Gagner, Joakim Nygard, and Markus Granlund will all be UFA’s. They will also need a backup goalie.

For the sake of this excerise, I’ll assume the caphits for the three RFA’s will be on the high-end of things (they always seem to be for the Oilers). I have Nurse pegged at $6 million a year, Benning pegged at $2.25 million a year, and Jones at around $1.5 million. We’ll say a backup goalie costs around $3 million.

After taking care of the defence and goaltending, Holland will $13.75 million available to spend on forwards. That’s enough to bring back two of Kassian, Nygard, Gagner, or Granlund (their performances this season determining their futures here and their value) sign a few depth pieces, bring in a $5-6 million winger and still have around $2.5-3 million left over for wiggle room. They could also move out someone like Kris Russell and free up some more space.

Those are rough calculations and different players performances this season will affect how much money they make and where the Oilers biggest needs are, but at the very least, Ken Holland will have enough money to bring in one fairly high-end free agent winger next season.

With a free agent class that currently includes proven top-six options like Chris Kreider, Mikael Granlund, Mike Hoffman, Alex Galchenyuk, Tyler Toffoli, Craig Smith, Evgeni Dadonov, and even lower tier options like Erik Haula and JG Pageau, the Oilers could make a real impact addition with their cap space.

This year we saw names like PK Subban, Colin Miller, Erik Haula, Phil Kessell, Andrei Burakovsky, and Jacob Trouba all moved because their former teams simply couldn’t afford them. If Holland avoids the free agent market, then maybe the Oilers could be one of those teams who reaps the rewards of having some wiggle room in the summer by grabbing an effective player at a bargain price in a trade.

THE NEXT WAVE

A year from now the organization will have a better feel for some of their prospects. Will Tyler Benson be able to step in and contribute 15+ goals at the NHL level? Can they bank on Kailer Yamamoto to be a regular top-nine player with the big club? Do guys like Cooper Marody and Ryan McLeod have strong NHL futures? I’m not saying they’ll know for sure, but the Oilers should have a much better sense about the future of some of their forward prospects they go through another full season of pro hockey.

The same can be said for the backend. After next season, the Oilers should know whether or not Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear can be relied on for full-time NHL work in the 2020-21 season. They will also have a better idea of if Evan Bouchard is capable of handling top four minutes the following season.

The development of those players might change how the organization values someone like Matt Benning or Kris Russel. If young players on ELC’s can bring just as much value to the lineup, then the Oilers might be on from older, more expensive options.

The last thing I ever want to do is come off as an Oilers apologist who just agrees with every move they make and never criticises the team but, I don’t think now is the time to feel frustrated with Ken Holland.

Next summer he will have over $25 million in cap space with just five forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie under contract. That’s when we’ll see him put his stamp on the Oilers organization.

THIRD ANNUAL OILERSNATION OPEN

After having such a blast over the past two years, we absolutely knew that we were going to organize another golf tourney for the summer and, after a few months of planning, we’re psyched to finally be able to launch our third annual golf tournament.

  • When – August 29th, 2019 (Thursday). Tee off at 2 p.m.
  • Where – Cougar Creek Golf Resort
  • How much – $1000/team
  • Teams – Groups of Four (4)
  • How – Book your team here

As always, a portion of all proceeds from your ticket purchase will be donated directly to a local charity. This time we’ve partnered up with the Gregor Foundation to make sure that our kids are at their most handsome.

    • Ken Holland

      Heres the lineup to start the year.

      Lineup
      Draisaitl – McDavid – Kassian
      Benson – Nuge – Chiasson
      Granlund – Haas – Nygard
      Lucic– Khaira – Gagner
      Brodziak

      Klefbom – Larsson
      Nurse – Russell
      Jones – Benning
      Persson

      Its not impressive but I can see why Holland signed most of the ufas to 1 year deals.

      Hes planning for next season, which is the much better approach. Stability.

      If we can trade off Russell and a few other Vets at the deadline, we will actually be in a power position for once in a long time.
      Potentially 30+ Mil in cap space with just the forward group to upgrade(3C and wingers).

      • McJeetz

        Oilers will probably not resign Gagner and I will be shocked if Russell is still an Oiler this time next year. That frees up another 7+ million. Both players can be replaced by upcoming prospects

        • Chopwoodcarrywater

          Holland apparently actually tried to move Russell, but couldn’t find any suitors and decided it should be Sekera gone. I wouldn’t be surprised if Holland revisited a potential Russell breakup a year from now, especially with Russell only have a year left on his deal.

    • MrBung

      Yep. Chia is/was worst GM in league. Damage is severe and is resulting in McDavid countdown/frustration since this is not a playoff team for 2 seasons and maybe more. Anyone looking at this season’s roster know this season is a write off. Brutal after all the Oil have already burned through.

    • toprightcorner

      Tyler is just pointing out that Holland will have much more wiggle room to make bigger additions next year when he has a lot more cap space. Hard to add any impact players when your playing at the $100 table with a pocket full of quarters.

      • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

        A forward-

        A forward thinker? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

        Ken is anything BUT a forward thinker. Dude is trying to rebuild the 2008 Red Wings. If Ken is such a “forward thinker” how come he hasn’t managed to pull off the moves that other GM’s have. Several “unmovable” contracts have been moved this offseason. And where was Ken? Sitting on his butt, twilding his thumbs, humming the Jeopardy theme.

        • Kenny The Rat

          How did you get access to his cell phone bill? You have no idea how many calls he has made. Trading a first round pick (like the leafs did) to get rid of a player is a terrible strategy.

  • Ken Holland

    I do like the fact we will have over 26 mil in cap space next year with just Nurse to sign. Keeping our salary cap open and trading our rental vets for draft picks may be the best approach this season.

    If we go into the draft next year loaded with picks and 26+ mil in cap space, we will finally be able to bring in a couple of impact wingers and create some depth.

  • The future never comes

    I agree with this article and the premise. It is the right approach in my mind, it just sucks to bare even one more year of suckitude at this point. Tough to blame us for having ran out of patience.

    • Chopwoodcarrywater

      This year is the price we unfortunately have to pay for keeping Chiarelli for a few months too long. Imagine if we fired him before the Koskinen extension, and Manning trade. Even that would put us in a much better position.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    The one thing I like that Holland has done in the interim is that the guys that he signed to cheap deals are only 1 yr deals, and they all expire next year, if the guys work out, Holland can re up them, if they dont, they are easy to move or they come off the books next year.

    Look at Chaissons deal, cheap and not long termed so not hard to get rid of in a trade, the thing with the deals mentioned above though is that with those 1 year deals expiring and Gagne Brodziak and Manning’s contracts coming off the books along with Gryba’s pittance of a buyout and some other contracts up the Oilers should have in the 22 to 25 mil of cap space to sign Nurse and make some other moves, even Smiths deal is short.

    The biggest hamstring right now that Holland was facing was the cap crunch the Oilers are in, he knew it and saw there wasnt much cash to work with, but at least he was smart enough to not tie up money in and long deals for the guys that they did find to fill some holes, it’s no different with GM’s all over the league are doing in some markets.

    Dont get me wrong in thinking the Oilers should just go and blow all their cap space in free agency next year, I think we will see some guys get signed here, but I dont think the Oil will spend to the hilt and guys may not get huge long term deals like Lucic did, and that might be the smart move to make.

  • MrBung

    Nah. I think it is not.so much frustration with Holland as more acceptance this team has been severely damaged by precious management and not much can be done. Acceptance that this team needs to burn/push at least a season or two. Plain as day at anyone looking at this roster and looking at conference rosters that the Oil are still a bottom 5 to 10 team in league. Sad cold hard reality.

  • MrBung

    The big question in all of this Holland and Oilers rebuild for umpteenth time is how many seasons is McDavid comfortable missing the playoffs at this stage of his career.

    • TruthHurts98

      He said he’ll only take one more year of missing. If it’s 2 years he’s gone. This is known by every team around the league. I think if they hold their picks which will be good this next draft they’ll be able to contend next year for a playoff spot. It looks like quite a few of the top 5-10 players will be NHL ready in the upcoming draft which is better than the one we just had. So hypothetically the Oilers could add a winger/centre next season plus make a trade or acquire one or two impact players next summer in free agency. By that time more prospects should be ready to contribute as well.

      • Connor's Girlfriend

        If I was Connor I would ABSOLUTELY be deciding my future based on what Holland does this summer. He is the best player in the league right now. For guys like that, they want to leave a legacy. He is deciding if he can do that in Edmonton.
        By now his patience hasn’t worn thin. It’s worn out. Watching Chiarelli put AHL players on his roster since he got here must be BEYOND frustrating. You are the best player in the world and you are playing with AHL caliber players. FML
        Mark it on your calendar. If the Oil don’t make the playoffs, Connor asks for a trade this spring.

  • ed from edmonton

    You seem to imply that the off season is over the Oil roster is set. This is not the case. It has been pointed out be many that several teams will not be cap compliant once they sign their remaining players and some players will need to be dumped. Holland ahs stated he is still looking for a 20 goal scorer. I’m not convinced the 20 goal man will be forthcoming, but I am quite sure some forward help will be.

    Having said that I don’t see much improvement for the Oil this year. Goaltending is pretty much the same, D looks to be about the same quality but deeper with at least some of the younf guys likely to show NHL quality and perhaps Perrson. Forwards probably improved vs the team at the end of the year but at best the same as the group that started the year.

  • Serious Gord

    Interesting/Telling that we are now seeing columns on next year. Already writing-off this next season. That’s a good thing in a way. But naturally about a year too late. This team should have been looking 2 plus years down the road for some time now. And one year ahead isn’t enough.

    If the fans and org were really focussed on winning the cup, among other things, RNH would likely have been traded this month.

  • OilCan2

    I trust the plan. Ken H has made several decent moves. None of them are way above market value and the terms give him great flexibility. If his coaching staff hires improve the squad we may even be buyers next spring.

  • Rockinghockey

    There is no wY he should be signing a Benning to a 2.25 mil contract. Worse case Jones or Bear plays that position for half the price. Time to start being harder on our lower end players on how much we sign them for.

  • Ken McTippett

    Ken Holland was never going to turn this ship around in one summer. Those expecting him to were kidding themselves. The Oilers will have to rely on hope and good coaching to make the playoffs this year once again.

  • Axe

    To be honest I am doing my best to be patient with Holland and wait things out a bit but yes the roster does feel very similar to last year and that’s not a good thing.. I know trades are not easy to make and win (especially when u don’t have much to offer other than anchor contracts) but I believe some needed to have happen to either acquire a twenty goal scorer or make room for one. It was very disappointing to see Carolina sign dzingel for what they did this morning, why couldn’t we have done that? 3.25 and 3.5 mill is a good value with not much term on the deal.. And its Carolina not exactly a big market

  • Biomass

    Without doubt, hope is part of the strategy for 2019-20. But on the upside, if Tippett is able to get more real team play from this group they might not be as far away from contention is the negatrons here think. I do think there will be a push from the best Condors prospects that will both elevate veteran play and allow one or two prospects to break through. If this team can improve by a dozen points they may still not make the playoffs but the on-ice product will be competitive and easy to support.

    • MrBung

      Issue is roster not coaching. Oil have burned through countless coaches and mix of coaches. To expect Tippett or some other Coach or magician to come here and make a silk purse out of a sows ear is off base.

  • Jay (not J)

    The situation sucks. This season will too. Holland has to do it the way that he is. Maybe tuning out for a season is the best option. Can’t do this again next summer.

  • Neilio

    I think the Holland approach is the right one. Its just too bad that we’ve had to go so long and though so many GMs to figure it out. There are no quick fixes for this team and the inherited problems. You just have to start making prudent decisions. One after another.

    Stay away from bad contracts made out of desperation. If you’re going to gamble a bit, make it short term, low risk. And the best solutions are internal, because no other GMs are trying to help you win.

    Hopefully they realize that cap space is the real gold here. Being able to keep your best home grown players when they need new contracts, as well as your phone ringing off the hook when a team can’t afford a useful player because they’re capped out. That right there will probably become more important than the UFA derby.

    For the people that are disappointed that Holland didn’t try to make a splash, well, that’s what got us Lucic and that boat anchor contract. Imagine what options it would open up to not have that.

  • CMG30

    Yup. As frustrating as this is, the first order of business is always making yourself room to work. One of the worst traits of Chirelli was that he seemed to have no idea how to manage a cap. I have no doubt Holland will be an upgrade, the only question is how much…

      • Dallas Eakins Hair

        Holland cant do anything about the buyouts of guys before his tenure here. The Oilers buying out Gryba’s contract was beyond dumb, it was a pittance and a waste of a buyout, that was pure mismanagement on Chia’s part. The Oilers tried to trade Sekera, teams were concerned with Sekera injuries the last two years and were even’t willing to gamble with the Oilers paying half of Sekera’s salary. Holland needs some cap space to sign the guys he did. There are teams worse off than the Oilers with dead cap space

  • I’m frustrated not necessarily due to the lack of free agency spending, I think that process is all over paid, but due to the Sekera buyout and dead cap space for another 4 years. That to me was stupid.

  • JimmyV1965

    What’s the use of having $26 mill in cap space next year if you’re going to waste it on a bunch of UFAs? This strategy NEVER works. Change should come incrementally; add one top six forward this year and another next year. This idea of filling all your holes in one year is just awful. There’s still time to trade for a top six forward because a lot of teams are still in cap hell and have to make moves. Fill one hole this year and fill another next year.

  • RJ

    “Keep your powder dry” is an expression I’ve heard many times as it relates to the Oilers. They don’t make trades during the season, unless it’s to make the team worse. They don’t sign any free agents unless they’re the end of the line guys like Lucic. They don’t draft and develop well. As much as Drai has been phenomenal, I’d say it’s in spite of the team, not because of them.

    Holland’s draft and develop approach would have been perfect when Hall or Nuge were drafted. Now it’s just frustrating.

  • Deported to Ottawa

    Holland has a tough job. Like everyone else I would love to see a talent infusion but realistically there’s not much he can do.

    It’s easy for us to talk about trades but we don’t know what’s been discussed. It still takes two teams to complete a trade.

    Free agency seems where teams make huge mistakes. I was appreciative of Holland not doing something because of pressure. I think Chia fell into that trap and he made huge mistakes as a result.

  • Arfguy

    I’m fine with the wait-and-see mentality. If the Oilers could have snagged Ryan Dzingel, I would consider this off-season a huge success.

    Now that Dzingel is no longer an option, I would prefer the Oilers not make any desperation move to give the illusion of change.