Around the NHL: Buyouts, Rumours, and Oilers Free Agency Targets

Photo credit:Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
8 months ago
The next 15-17 days are annually the busiest time for the NHL and its fans. Buyouts, submitting qualifying offers (or not), the draft, trades and free agent signings will be plentiful over the coming days. Many decisions will be applauded, questioned, agreed and disagreed with. There will be a wide range of emotions for fans, management and players ranging from surprise, disappointment, frustration and jubilation.
Here are my thoughts on a few things that have occurred and could in the coming weeks.
— Yesterday the Vancouver Canucks bought out the final four years of Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s contract that carried an $8.25m cap hit. That is the third highest cap hit to be bought out behind Corey Perry ($8.6m) and Henrik Lundqvist ($8.5m), but Perry had two years remaining and Lundqvist had one. They were paid out a total of $8m and $3m respectively.
OEL is owed $19,333, 336, and Vancouver will pay him $2,126,667 a year for eight years while Arizona owes him $290K each year.
He ranks fifth in total cash owed for not playing for the team who bought him out. Vincent Lecavalier was owed $32.6m, Rick Dipietro ($24m), Ilya Bryzgalov ($23m) and Brad Richards ($20.6m).
It is interesting to note that while OEL was bought out of the final four years of his deal, the cap hit for Vancouver will be much lower than what Minnesota is currently eating on Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
Those two were also bought out of the final four years of their deal in the summer of 2021 and each was owed $6.666m in actual money, but Minnesota had just over $12.7m in dead cap space the past two seasons and has a total of $14.7m for the next two seasons before it drops to $1.6m for the final four years.
Vancouver’s penalty is much easier to absorb. This year it will be $146,667K, then it jumps to $2.346m next season, followed by two years at $4.76m and the final four are $2.126m.
The first two years they will save significant cap space, but in years three and four, when they seemingly should be competitive, they will have $4.76m of dead cap space, and even with the salary cap projected to go up, that is still a big hit. OEL was quite good in Arizona, but his play in Vancouver fell off much quicker than I expected. I’m curious what team will sign him and for how much this summer? He could be a solid third pairing defender, who could moonlight in the second pair, based on recent play, and his cap hit should reflect he is a #5 Dman until he proves otherwise.
— Staying in Vancouver, Ethan Bear had shoulder surgery and is expected to be out for six months. Bear is an RFA and needs to be qualified at $2.2m. Vancouver could not qualify him, thus making him a free agent. Prior to the surgery, I thought that was very realistic based on their acquisition of Filip Hronek. Do they want to pay Bear $2.2m to be their third pair defender? They liked how he played last year, so I’m interested to see if they qualify him, or if they don’t and opt to re-sign him to a lower AAV. The latter makes more sense for them, but it would be disappointing for Bear.
— Earlier this week I wrote Travis Konecny wasn’t the biggest need for the Oilers. I like him as a player, but the makeup of the Oilers lineup doesn’t need more scoring, at least not before better defending. If they are looking to add a player with a $5m+ AAV it should be a defender.
Brett Pesce has one year remaining with a $4.025m cap hit. He is a solid defender. The challenge for the Oilers is what do they have to offer that Carolina would wan? The Hurricanes need a top-end scorer. Pesce won’t fetch that on his own, but maybe in a package deal. I don’t see Edmonton moving any of its top-end offensive players. Pesce makes sense, but I’ve looked at many trade options and I don’t see one that really works for both teams. Moving Cody Ceci and Philip Broberg is equal in cap hit, but unless Carolina believes Broberg will really emerge in the coming years, why would they make that deal? Do you see a trade that makes sense for both clubs?
— The Oilers could use a right winger, assuming Kailer Yamamoto doesn’t return. The UFA options include Connor Brown, Garnet Hathaway, Pierre Engvall, Jesper Fast and Corey Perry. Edmonton doesn’t have the cap space to look at Alex Killorn, Patrick Kane or Vladimir Tarasenko, unless they take a major discount, which I don’t expect.
Brown is eligible for a bonus-laden contract with a lower AAV, but I don’t expect him to sign one. There will be interest and his new deal likely starts with a three. Hathaway has improved and became a solid third line winger. He’s the most physical of this group. I think Engvall will get overpaid. He’s big, can skate and has shown decent offence at times. Fast lives up to his last name, and is a consistent third liner, but I’m not sure he does anything great. He’s solid and probably will cost $2m, but will he help a team in the playoffs? Perry will be the cheapest, but has his footspeed diminished to the point he can’t be effective consistently?
There is one other name, and I think he might be the best fit for Edmonton. Evgenii Dadonov is 34 years of age. He scored 4-6-10 in 16 playoff games for Dallas. He scored 28, 28, 25, 13 and 20 goals in his first five years in the NHL. Last year he only had seven in 73 games between Montreal and Dallas. A one-year deal at $1.3-$-1.7m is something I’d think about. He could be the complementary top-six winger Edmonton needs. I’d look at him on a one-year deal.
— The Devils signed Jesper Bratt to an eight-year, $7.875m deal on Thursday. He turns 25 in July and the deal expires when he is 32. He’s produced back-to-back 73 points seasons and should be a solid point-producer for most of this deal. I won’t be shocked if he has a few 80-point seasons. He should be a solid signing. The Devils are working on re-signing Timo Meier. He is a due a $10m qualifying offer by June 30th, and the Devils would prefer to sign him to an extension prior to that at a lower AAV. Meier turns 27 in October, and I view him as a player who can be a much more impactful player than Bratt, especially in the playoffs. An eight-year deal somewhere around $9.25m seems likely.
— Would any of these UFA forwards, who likely will have an AAV of $800K to $1.5m, be of interest for the Oilers? Danton Heinen, Zach-Aston Reece, Brett Ritchie, Tyler Motte, David Kampf, Luke Glendening, Trevor Lewis or Ryan Reaves.
Edmonton will need to add a bottom-six forward. Ideally a centre. There are some decent options, and with Edmonton being a legit contender, they don’t need to overpay a fourth line centre.

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