It’s the quietest part of the summer, which was exactly what I was saying last week before the Oilers made their big splash, but moves at this point of the offseason are few and far between. The Neal for Lucic swapped really got Oilersnation amped up for next season and has a lot of fans hoping that Ken Holland can make one more big splash before the season that will turn this team into a serious playoff candidate.
Now, some will argue that the Neal for Lucic trade didn’t really change that much for the Oilers, but I don’t agree with that. I think swapping a fourth-liner who likely won’t ever score ten goals again for a middle-six winger with 20 goal potential is massive.
Next up for the Oilers should be a focus on either finding a third-line centre or getting one more legitimate top-six forward, even if it means giving up future assets for the latter.
The big problem though, even if Ken Holland finds a player he likes and feels is attainable, he needs to find a way to make the money side of things work. Right now, he has about $2.5 million in cap space (if you assume Brandon Manning will be buried). You can also assume that if he acquired a forward then another forward would be sent down to get them back to a 23 man roster. That roster move could free up between 750k and $1 million in cap space. Let’s be generous and say they have $3.5 million after that move.
Another wrinkle in their cap situation is potential bonuses and the biggest one in Mike Smiths. If Holland believes that there’s a chance that Smith is this teams starter, then he might want to keep around $2 million in wiggle room.
The #Oilers sign G Smith to 1 yr deal
-20GP – $125K
-25GP – $125K
-30GP – $125K
-35GP – $125K
-40GP – $250K
-45GP – $250K
-Playoff Bonuses $750K
Total Potential Bonuses: $1.75M
Cap Hit $2M/ AAV $3.75M, Full No Trade Clausehttps://t.co/R6fWgBm7h6
— PuckPedia (@PuckPedia) July 1, 2019
Personally, I think Holland should completely ignore Smiths potential bonuses. Teams are allowed to go over the cap with bonuses and then just face a penalty next season. If Holland adds another significant piece and Smith hits all of his bonuses, it will be because the Oilers are a playoff team. I think every Oilers fan will take a cap penalty next season (when they have some cap space to play with) in exchange for a playoff berth. It’s really that simple.
So the Oilers could go get a player worth around $2.5-$3 million in my opinion and again, considering that a major addition at the trade deadline would require a player being sent to the minors, they could have around $1-2 million to play with at the deadline.
That’s not a lot of money and it also doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for potential entry-level contract bonuses that will be attached to Evan Bouchard or Caleb Jones.
The bottom line is that the current cap situation will make it nearly impossible for Holland to make a significant addition via trade unless the other team retains money or the player he acquires is on an ELC or a pending RFA.
Pavel Buchnevich would have been a perfect fit, but the Rangers have since locked him up, giving him a two-year deal worth $3.25 million a season. They not sit with over the salary cap ceiling and still need to sign Brendan Lemieux and Tony DeAngelo. Jeff Gorton is slowly running out of time to clear out some cap space. Names like Chris Kreider, Vlad Namestikov, and even Ryan Strome should really interest the Oilers but they all make over $3 million.
There are other names out there like Bryan Rust and Nick Bjugstad and there are also teams like Washington, Vegas, and Dallas who will probably need to clear out money before the summer is over.
If Ken Holland wanted to make a splash, he has the assets to do it. That isn’t the problem. The organization has a plethora of young defensemen (Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones, William Laggesson) that they could throw into a deal, Jesse Puljujarvi would still have value and they have their first- and second-round draft picks for the next three years. It’s not a matter of the Oiler’s system being so bare that they can’t afford to make a deal they just simply wouldn’t be able to afford the contract of an impact player.
Ken Holland might really want to make an upgrade to this teams top six and he might even be willing to part with some significant future assets to do it. But he’s stuck with no cap space so the Oilers roster you see right now very well might be the roster when the season starts in October.