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Photo Credit: Jason Franson/Canadian Press

A Look Ahead

Ken Holland has not hesitated to take care of his off-season to-do list in season with the signings of Darnell Nurse, Zack Kassian, Caleb Jones and most recently Joakim Nygard. Over the past few weeks, Holland has added $10,525,000 to the team’s cap for the 2020-2021 campaign.

Here is a look at who Holland has under contract for next season. (I do apologize if my voodoo math is off a little bit at any point in this piece)

James Neal (5.75) –  Connor McDavid (12.5) – Zack Kassian (3.25)
Nugent-Hopkins (6.00) – Leon Draisaitl (8.50) – Kailer Yamamoto (.894)
Joakim Nygard (.875) – Third Line Center – Third Line RW
Jujhar Khaira (1.20) – Fourth Line Center – Alex Chiasson (2.15)
13th Forward and 14th Forward

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Oscar Klefbom (4.16) – Adam Larsson (4.16)
Darnell Nurse (5.60) – Ethan Bear (RFA)
Kris Russell (4.00) – Matt Benning (RFA)
Caleb Jones (.850)

Mikko Koskinen (4.50)
Second Goaltender

With the players listed above plus what they are retaining on Milan Lucic and what they still owe on buyouts of Andrej Sekera and Benoit Pouliot, I believe Holland still has $12,563,835 of cap space to work with next season. (Based on this year’s cap number)

$12,563,825

The Oilers will need to sign or promote five forwards and a goaltender plus sign Ethan Bear and Matt Benning to new deals with the $12.5 million available.

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Let’s speculate a little bit.

Matt Benning is making $1,900,000 this season and could be qualified at the same next season so I don’t see a major raise in the future, but let’s pencil him in around $2,000,000

$10,563,825

Ethan Bear has had an excellent rookie season and I know some people would like to see him sign a long term deal right away but I don’t think the Oilers are in a financial position to do that right now so let’s assume a two or three-year bridge deal is on the way. I don’t think a two-year deal at $2,000,000 per year is unrealistic for Bear. It may end up coming in a little bit higher.

$8,563,825

If Holland can get Benning and Bear signed, sealed and delivered for a combined total of $4,000,000 he will have just over $8.5 million left for five forwards and a goalie.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Holland has interest in keeping both Riley Sheahan and Josh Archibald around and it’s reasonable to think both players will be willing to stick around for close to what they’ve made this season.

For the purposes of this exercise, I’m going to give each of them a small bump putting Archibald at $1,200,000 and Sheahan at $1,000,000 even.

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$6,363,825

With the number getting down to slightly more than six million bucks Holland still has some work to do with three roster spots open up front and another goaltender to play alongside Mikko Koskinen.

Here’s a look at an updated roster.

James Neal (5.75) –  Connor McDavid (12.5) – Zack Kassian (3.25)
Nugent-Hopkins (6.00) – Leon Draisaitl (8.50) – Kailer Yamamoto (.894)
Joakim Nygard (.875) – Riley Sheahan (1.00) – Josh Archibald (1.20)
Jujhar Khaira (1.20) – Fourth Line Center – Alex Chiasson (2.15)
13th Forward and 14th Forward

Oscar Klefbom (4.16) – Adam Larsson (4.16)
Darnell Nurse (5.60) – Ethan Bear (2.00)
Kris Russell (4.00) – Matt Benning (2.00)
Caleb Jones (.850)

Mikko Koskinen (4.50)
Second Goaltender

I’m not sure Mike Smith will be back next season but I’m pretty sure Holland won’t want to spend any more than the $2,000,000 allocated to that position this year.

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$4,363,825

If you divide the remaining $4,363,825 among three forwards it works out to $1,454,608 per player. If Tyler Benson makes the team ($808,333) it would allow Holland to spend $1,777,746 on the remaining two spots.

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A CAP INCREASE?

There has been some speculation that the salary cap may end up being in the $83-$84 million range which would certainly help the Oilers. If it goes up two million bucks Holland could end up having almost 6.5 million to spend on three forwards. If Benson takes a spot in the opening night line up and the Oilers bring Gagner back as a 13th/14th forward the team could spend a decent amount on a third line centre.

James Neal (5.75) –  Connor McDavid (12.5) – Zack Kassian (3.25)
Nugent-Hopkins (6.00) – Leon Draisaitl (8.50) – Kailer Yamamoto (.894)
Tyler Benson (.808) – 3rd L.C. (3.0-4.5 million)  – Alex Chiasson (2.15)
Joakim Nygard (.875) – Riley Sheahan (1.00) – Josh Archibald (1.20)
Jujhar Khaira (1.20) and Sam Gagner (.875)

Oscar Klefbom (4.16) – Adam Larsson (4.16)
Darnell Nurse (5.60) – Ethan Bear (2.00)
Kris Russell (4.00) – Matt Benning (2.00)
Caleb Jones (.850)

Mikko Koskinen (4.50)
Second Goaltender (2.00)

NOT A LOT OF WIGGLE ROOM

The situation isn’t ideal for Ken Holland but it could be worse. It doesn’t look like this group will be changed significantly via free agency, especially if he wants to keep Archibald and Sheahan on board next season. I’ve allocated the majority of the true free agency dollars to a third line centre but if Holland can find another bottom-six centre on the cheap, he may be able to invest the bulk of those dollars into a top-six winger. In a perfect world, the team would move Russell, Khaira or Chiasson along with future assets in a deal for a winger in the four to six million dollar range.

When I started this exercise, I was under the assumption Holland would have much more flexibility then it appears he actually does.

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Previously by Dustin Nielson: