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Photo Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Oilers Training Camp Battles and Salary Cap Concerns

The Edmonton Oilers hit the ice for the 43rd training camp in franchise history this morning, and they will have three days of practice before preseason games start Sunday (v. Winnipeg), Monday in Seattle, Wednesday the 28th in Calgary, and Friday the 30th at home to the Flames.

There aren’t many openings on the roster, especially considering the Oilers will start the season with a 21-man roster, likely even a 20-man roster on game day, unless Ken Holland makes a trade, but there will be a battle for ice time.

The top-nine forwards are likely Connor McDavid, Evander Kane, Kailer Yamamoto, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl, Zach Hyman, Ryan McLeod, Jesse Puljuajarvi, and Warren Foegele, but it isn’t clear who will play in the top-six. Jay Woodcroft has mentioned playing Hyman on LW, and he was on a line with Draisaitl and Puljujarvi for the first session this morning. Woodcroft will use the preseason to find out which combinations he likes. Kane and McDavid will be a duo to start, but who plays RW might change. Yamamoto starts there today.

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Mattias Janmark and Dylan Holloway could push for a spot on the third line. Holloway dominated the rookie tournament, as he should, and his powerful skating, and soft hands, make him a strong candidate to crack the top nine. But there is a significant difference between the rookie tournament and NHL regular season. Holloway will be on the opening day roster, for salary cap purposes, but how long he remains in Edmonton depends on his play.

Janmark isn’t flashy, nor as fast as the other two, but he has some experience and he’s consistent. Coaches love consistent players. I think he probably is destined to be on the 4th line unless injuries occur.

The 4th line C spot is wide open. Brad Malone, Devin Shore, Derek Ryan, and Greg McKegg will push for that spot. Ryan might be more suited to play wing at this stage of his career, but he is still great on faceoffs and if flanked by two speedy wingers he could play the middle.

Malone is the biggest and most physical. Woodcroft knows him very well and played Malone ahead of Shore in the playoffs last season. Will that be a factor this year? Shore has struggled with his GF-GA ratio the past few seasons, but his cap hit might see him on the opening day roster ahead of Malone and McKegg as the Oilers will try to get as close to $82.5m as possible. But Shore might only be there for one day, and then sent down depending on how he plays in the preseason.

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The 7th defender battle is between Ryan Murray, Dmitri Samorukov, and Markus Niemelainen. Murray has the most NHL experience, and he likely won’t develop much anymore. He’s the best suited to be a 7th D-man, while Samorukov and Niemelainen need to play games as they are still developing. Slater Koekkoek announced yesterday, in a statement from his agent Rich Winter and read by Ken Holland, that he is taking time away to work on his mental well being and hopes to join the team in the future. He would have been in competition for this spot as well.

Samorukov spent all summer training and skating in Edmonton. He is likely destined for the AHL, only because it is better for him if he plays 20+ minutes a night in every situation than spend most games in an NHL press box. Niemelainen is in the same boat, but if either of them stands out in the preseason they could start as the 7th D-man as a reward for their solid play.

SALARY CAP CONSTRUCTION…

It isn’t ideal to start the season with a 21 or 20-man roster, but unless a trade is made before October 12th that is the position the Oilers will be in for their first game.

McDavid (12.5m), Draisiatl ($8.5m), Hyman ($5.5m), Kane ($5.125), RNH ($5.125), Yamamoto ($3.1m), Puljujarvi ($3m), Foegele ($2.75m), Holloway ($925K) and McLeod ($798K) have a combined AAV of $47.323m.

On defence they have Darnell Nurse ($9.25m), Tyson Barrie ($4.5m) Cody Ceci ($3.25m), Brett Kulak ($2.75m), Evan Bouchard ($863,334K) and Philip Broberg ($863,334) who combine for a $21,476,668m. Then Jack Campbell ($5m) and Stuart Skinner ($750K) in goal total $5.75m.

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These 17 players add up to $74,549,668.
Then you add in the $750K of retained salary for Milan Lucic, $3.416,667 of buyouts for James Neal and Andrej Sekera, and $896K of bonus overages from last season.

That moves the Oilers to $79,612,335 which leaves them $2,887,665 in cap space to fill out the roster. It isn’t a lot.

They will pick two forwards from Ryan ($1.25m), Janmark ($1.25m), Shore ($850K), Malone ($762.5K), McKegg ($762.5), and potentially Virtanen. If he earns a contract, I don’t see him getting much more than $750K-$850K.

And then one D-man between Samorukov ($775K), Neimelainen ($762.5K), and Murray ($750K).

Keep in mind the Oilers need to get as close to $82.5m because they are starting the season in LTIR with Oscar Klefbom, Mike Smith, and Slater Koekkoek. If Edmonton has 20 players on the opening-day roster at $82m they will essentially waste the other $500K of cap space. They want to get as close as possible to $82.5m.

Assistant GM and capologist, Bill Scott, will be running numerous scenarios to figure out the best cap situation.

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A 20-man roster doesn’t help them as they’d be too far away from the cap ceiling. Ryan and Janmark (two highest AAV of players to pick from) add up to $2.5m and that would have them waste $388,33. So the best scenario, salary cap wise, would be to have one of Ryan/Janmark along with Malone and Murray. They’d add up to $2,762,500. That would put them $125, 165 under the cap. And when you add in the buried cap penalty to Ryan/Janmark of 125K then the Oilers would be $165 dollars under the cap ceiling.

But they’d have to put one of Ryan/Janmark on waivers. Which one is less likely to be claimed?

Right now that would be the decision for the Oilers, and with them being that close to the cap it is why McLeod only got $798K and not $800K. Crazy how tight the Oilers are to the cap. You can see the full picture at PuckPedia.

It isn’t ideal to waive one of Ryan or Janmark, but the only way they could have both on the roster is if they start with a 20-man roster, and keep Murray in the minors.

This is why I think it is very possible a trade will occur before the start of the season.

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DAY ONE LINES…

The morning session saw these lines:
Hyman-Draisaitl-Puljujarvi
RNH-McLeod-Foegele
Holloway-Malone-Virtanen
Chiasson-Hamblin-Philp/Petrov

Nurse-Wanner
Broberg-Barrie
Niemelainen-Demers
Peters-Kesselring

Campbell, Rodrique and Fanti.

Wanner is filling in for Cody Ceci who is nursing a slight hamstring issue and won’t skate for the first few days.

Foegele did play RW in Carolina, so something to watch as camp progresses. I don’t put a huge amount of stock into lines on day one. Things change often during the preseason, but RNH has struggled to produce 5×5 the past two seasons, so him starting on the third line isn’t a total shock.

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The afternoon session will have Kane-McDavid-Yamamoto as a line and Brett Kulak and Evan Bouchard as a pair. I will update the rest of the line combinations when the second session hits the ice at noon.

#NATIONVACATION TO LAS VEGAS

  • When: On Thursday, January 12th, we’re jumping on a flight at the Edmonton International Airport and making our way to Vegas. On Sunday evening, we’ll fly back from Vegas to Edmonton. So the dates that you need to block off for this trip are January 12th to 15th.
  • Where we’re staying: After landing in LV, we’ll jump on the free shuttle and make our way to the Park MGM before settling in for a good night’s sleep. 😉
  • What you get: Your roundtrip flight, hotel, shuttle, viewing party (Friday night), game entry — we got seats this time (Saturday night), and exclusive entry into our pre-trip ‘get to know everyone’ event.
  • How Much: The total cost for the trip, flight, hotel, and entry to the game is $1499 per person (based on double occupancy) 
  • Tickets: Ready to dive in? Click this link.

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