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How the Oilers can create cap space this summer

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Photo credit:Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Tyler Yaremchuk
23 days ago
Last week, I discussed Jack Campbell’s future with the team and how the Oilers likely have no choice but to buy him out this summer. It will be one of many tough decisions that Jeff Jackson and whoever becomes the Oilers’ next GM will have to make.
The Oilers have a few things working against them as they head into the summer. The main one is the dead money coming due to the bonuses for both Connor Brown and Corey Perry. Those two will total right around $3.5m and basically eat up all of the projected $4m salary cap increase that’s coming this offseason.
That on top of the final year of dead money attached to the James Neal buyout leaves the Oilers with $5.4m of wasted cap space.
Now, I know some of you reading this will argue that with all of that dead money on the books, why would the team sign up for more wasted cap space with a Jack Campbell buyout? Well, if Campbell is going to sit in the AHL, he carries a $3.8m cap hit. If he’s bought out, his cap hit is only $1.1m. You can go sign a veteran third goalie, like Calvin Pickard, for $850k and you’re still ahead almost $2m.
Yes, there is some dead money down the line, but it’s only $1.5m, and as the cap continues to climb, that number will only become less painful.
The good news for the Oilers and their cap picture is that they have a handful of young players who should be able to crack their roster next season and that will help them manage a very tight cap situation.
Dylan Holloway, Raphael Lavoie, and Philip Broberg should all be full-time members of this team next season and none of them should get more than $1.25m on their new contracts. That is incredibly valuable.
On top of finally committing to letting some young talent make an impact at the NHL level, there are three other ways I think the Oilers could try to make some cap space this summer:
Trading Cody Ceci: With one year left on a deal that carries a cap hit of $3.25m, moving on from Ceci shouldn’t actually be that difficult especially when you consider that he doesn’t have any trade protection. If you were to give him away for free, some rebuilding team would probably sign up for half a season of Ceci and then they could try and flip him at 50% retained at next year’s deadline and turn him into a draft pick.
They’ve been experimenting with Nurse and Desharnais as a pairing recently and I think part of the reason why is to see if they can trust Desharnais in a bigger role next season. Of course, they’d have to bring in someone on the right side for depth but if they feel like Desharnais can survive in that spot, they might just roll with into next season with their top four as currently constructed.
Trading Brett Kulak: With two more years on a deal that carries a cap hit of $2.75m, Kulak might actually have some value on the trade market. Similar to Ceci, he doesn’t have any trade protection so that will help. The Oilers have a built-in replacement for him with Philip Broberg sitting in the AHL so by moving Kulak and replacing him with a younger option, the Oilers will save anywhere from $1.5-1.75m against the cap. This would also be a good way to grab a mid-round pick that could be used at next year’s deadline as well.
Move them both: The team has Broberg ready to take a step forward and they should be looking to upgrade on Ceci. If you could move on from both veteran defensemen this summer, it would really give the Oilers some financial flexibility.
It would lead to this blue line looking very different next season, but it is a very realistic possibility especially when you consider that there is likely going to be a new GM running things come July.
There is also a fourth way to create some cap space, but it’s a bit trickier than the other ones.
Trade Evander Kane: This one is tough because while Kane is shown himself to be a streaky scorer, when he’s hot, he’s a very impactful player. He’s also scored some big goals for this team in the playoffs. At the same time, he isn’t getting any younger and his $5.125m cap hit is higher for a player who’s spent a decent amount of time on the third line this season.
I generally like Kane as a player, but if you’re looking to really change things up this summer, moving on from him has to be considered and not to make the same point twice here but whoever the new GM is, he likely won’t feel any loyalty to Kane.
The tricky part with this is that with Kanes full no-movement clause, he fully controls where he could go. That will hurt the Oilers ability to move him.
Last summer, we didn’t see the Oilers make a lot of major moves. They ran back more or less the same roster. Regardless of how this upcoming playoff run goes, I think it’s safe to assume that next year’s opening night roster won’t look close to the same as it does now.
That adds some pressure to this group. If you want to win together, the time is now.

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