So, the Duncan Keith deal is done and the Oilers have now spent a decent chunk of the available cap space that they have this offseason. I’m not here to debate the trade for Keith, we’ve done that enough over the last 48 hours. I’m here to talk about how the Oilers should handle the remainder of the offseason.
The Oilers currently have $14.3 million in available cap space with nine forwards, six defensemen, and one goalie on the roster. To get that number, I’m putting Alex Stalock and Kyle Turris in the minors. That also doesn’t include Oscar Klefbom being put on LTIR, which will likely happen, but we’ll set it off to the side for now.
Now, the Oilers will likely be buying out one of James Neal or Mikko Koskinen after the expansion draft. That will free up either $3 million (Koskinen) or $3.8 million (Neal). For the sake of this conversation, let’s say they buy out Koskinen. That means they will have $17.3 million in open space.
Now, they will have to sign Mike Smith to a new deal and also find a second goaltender. Let’s say that costs them a total of $6.5 million, which I think is reasonable. That brings them down to $10.8 million.
If you factor in that Larsson or his replacement will need roughly $4 million and RFA forward Kailer Yamamoto will likely come in around $2 million, you can quickly see that the Oilers are down to just $4.8 million in free cap space.
With the signings above that I’ve assumed, they would have ten forwards, seven defensemen, and two goaltenders signed. They’ll have $4.8 million in cap space left and if they were to put Klefbom on LTIR in the summer, that number would go up to $8.9 million. So Ken Holland still has room to make some additions, which might have some fans feeling a little uneasy right now.
Using Klefbom’s LTIR money in the summer makes in-season transactions more difficult, but based on their current situation and the fact that Holland did that last season, it looks like that’s the route they will go.
With that money, they’ll need to add two more wingers, a centerman and one more extra forward. That extra forward could end up being Jujhar Khaira, who is currently an RFA, or an outside addition who makes around $1 million and I would assume that the third-line centre will come in around $2 million. Assuming those two players combine to make $3 million, the Oilers will be left with around $5.9 million in my hypothetical scenario.
Basically, they can acquire one high-end winger or two mid-range options before the end of the summer. You can head to the free agent list at PuckPedia and figure out for yourself who some of the best fits might end up being. For the sake of just throwing it out there, I’d love for them to get one of Brandon Saad or Blake Coleman and then wait a few weeks to see if someone like Tomas Tatar slips through the cracks and is forced to take a value contract.
I would also love for them to make a big splash and acquire a forward via trade, but I’m not holding my breath on that.
Now, obviously, all these numbers above are my best guess for what may end up happening. There are plenty of factors that could drastically change how much money Ken Holland has to improve this team.
First, they could opt to buy out James Neal instead of Mikko Koskiken or they could potentially buy out both of them. That would give them more wiggle room and may allow them to even save Klefbom’s LTIR money for during the season.
A trade would also really change their cap situation. If they make a move for a forward or a goalie and a bad contract is included in that deal (Kassian, Koskinen, Neal), then they could find a way to create even more cap space.
One idea that I’m a big fan of is trying to trade for a goaltender and having Mikko Koskinen included in that deal at 50% retained and then have the other team buy out Koskinen instead. That would bring his cap hit down to $750k for the next two seasons for both the Oilers and the other team involved. It would cost the Oilers an extra asset but would help them easily clear up cap space.
There are certainly ways for Holland to give himself a little bit of extra walking-around money, but he’ll have to get creative and personally, I don’t think you could blame a single Oilers fan for being a little bit pessimistic at the chances of that happening.
Either way, it should be an absolutely fascinating few weeks around Edmonton and the entire league.