Next Summer’s Cap Picture for the Edmonton Oilers

Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Tyler Yaremchuk
11 months ago
The Oiler’s lack of cap space is a big reason why Ken Holland has stayed relatively quiet so far this summer. Well, it’s probably the biggest reason if we’re being honest.
I’m sure the Oilers GM would have loved to go out and upgrade on Cody Ceci and bring in another strong top-nine forward, but they just didn’t have the money. 
The problem isn’t unique to the Oilers either. Basically, every team that considers themselves a Stanley Cup contender had to make some tough calls this offseason. The light at the end of the tunnel for these teams is an expected jump of at least $4m next summer.
For the Oilers, a lot of that will be negated by the Connor Brown bonus. The Oilers were able to add a legit top-six winger this summer for just $775k against the cap, but the downside is that they had to basically promise Brown a $3.25m bonus that will roll over to next season if the team doesn’t have enough cap space at the end of this season to squeeze it in, which they likely won’t.
That obviously has some people concerned that the team will just be stuck in a similar spot next summer while teams around them finally have the flexibility to make big splashes in free agency. I’m not that worried about it and let me explain why.
For the sake of this exercise, let’s use Cap Friendly’s current projection for the 2023-24 salary cap: $87.5m.
That would leave the Oilers with $18.9m in cap space. If we subtract Brown’s bonus, it shrinks to roughly $15.7m with seven forwards, four defenceman, and two goalies on the roster. 
My second assumption is going to be that both Ryan McLeod and Evan Bouchard are getting two-year bridge deals that total $5.7m in cap space.
That brings the Oilers up to a 15-man roster with $10m in cap space.


Next summer their RFAs are Dylan Holloway, Rafael Lavoie (assuming he signs a one-year deal this summer), Philip Broberg, and Markus Niemalainen. 
Their UFAs are Connor Brown, Warren Foegele, Matthias Janmark and Vinny Desharnais.
Holloway, Lavoie, and Broberg will all be relatively cheap. So will Desharnais. Let’s say an average of $1.25m per player. That’s another $5m off the books with 19 players on the roster.
So with $5m remaining, the Oilers will have ten forwards, seven defensemen, and two goalies signed.
Let’s say that filling Janmarks’ spot costs $1m, it would leave the Oilers with $4m in cap space with basically just one or two forwards to sign.
The way I’m looking at it: if Connor Brown pops off, the team will have enough money to bring him back. If he doesn’t, then they have the ability to go out and find a second-line winger with $4m in cap space.
I’m also assuming that in 2024-25, Lavoie will be ready for full-time NHL duty. If he’s not, then they could look at Xavier Bourgeault as an NHL option as well.
There are of course some ways that they could save money next summer as well. They could look to move on from Cody Ceci before the final year of his deal, they could trade Brett Kulak if Broberg takes a big step forward this season, or they could try and move on from Jack Campbell either via trade or buyout.
The big thing for the Oilers is that their core is locked up. Their top five forwards are all under contract through 2024-25 and so are the likes of Skinner, Nurse, Ekholm, and potentially Bouchard as well. 
While I made some glass-half-full assumptions, like the cost of re-signing some young players and someone like Lavoie being NHL-ready at this time 12 months from now, I also stayed on the low end of the cap projection. There are some people who think the cap could jump up closer to $90m and if it did, then all of a sudden the Oilers would have enough money to sign everyone that they need to and even upgrade their blueline.
The reason they could afford to do a deal with Brown that involved pushing his bonus down the line is that next summer, there likely won’t be a lot of heavy lifting to do when it comes to this roster. It’s more or less set in stone unless they want to make sweeping changes to their core.
Having the bonus get pushed a year isn’t ideal, but with the way the Oilers have set themselves up by signing a lot of their core pieces to long-term deals, they could actually afford to do it without having to be to worried about what their cap picture looks like a year from now.

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