Should the Oilers consider buying anyone out?
Photo credit:Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
6 days ago
The Oilers are in a cap crunch this summer. As things stand right now, they’ll be hard-pressed to bring back all of their pending RFAs (Bouchard, McLeod, Kostin) and find ways to improve the team. Whenever a team is up against the cap, the idea of buying out some overpaid players is floated around.
Now, the Oilers have gone this route plenty of times in recent memory and that’s led to fans being rightly dismissive of the idea. After staring at years of dead cap space for players like Benoit Pouliot, Andrej Sekera, and James Neal (who’s still on the books for two more seasons) I can understand why people would be hesitant to even read this article. Dead cap space sucks but the savings you get in the immediate future certainly do not.
A good NHL front office explores every option available to them and the Oilers should be considering all options when it comes to creating cap space, so let’s look at some potential buyout candidates on the Oilers roster.
Despite signing a five-year contract worth $25 million, this conversation started happening back in November of this season when Campbell was struggling out of the gates. A buyout would save the Oilers $3.4 million this season, $3.8 the following year, and $2.6 for two more seasons after that. Then, they would have four more seasons of dead cap space on the books. A buyout would stretch Campbell’s contract out for eight more years. That’s insane.
We have seen plenty of goalies in the past get off to rough starts with a new team and I think betting on Campbell to bounce back is the easy choice here.
He had a couple of decent stretches this season and his last few starts in the regular season were very good, even though they were against a terrible Anaheim Ducks team. His .888 save percentage on the season as a whole was terrible, but I also think with a full summer to clear his head and reset, Campbell will have a much better season in 2023/24.
I also don’t think there’s a trade market for this player. He’ll be back next season and that’s not the worst thing considering the Oilers have Stuart Skinner under contract for $2.6 million. Spending $7.6 million on your goaltending tandem is not that bad.
May 14, 2022; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; The Edmonton Oilers celebrate a goal by defensemen Cody Ceci (5) against the Los Angeles Kings during the second period in game seven of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
I think one of the major priorities for Ken Holland should be to try and find a new partner for Darnell Nurse on the Oiler’s top pairing. Cody Ceci really struggled with that assignment this season and while his cap hit is a very manageable $3.25 million, I think the Oilers need to upgrade that spot in their lineup if they want to contend for The Stanley Cup next season.
Will Ceci have a lot of trade value? No. I think there’s an outside chance that they could move him for a late-round pick or maybe for a forward who’s paid a similar amount and needs a change of scenery but they won’t get a big haul for this player and moving him in general without adding a sweetener might be tough.
So would a buyout make sense? In the short term, the answer is an obvious yes. The cap hit for next season would drop to $83,000. That’s remarkably low and would give them more than $3 million to upgrade him. The year after the cap hit would be $1.0m, so a $2.2 million saving. The team would then have two years of dead cap space at $1.3m per season. That would obviously suck.
The team needs to upgrade on Ceci, but his contract is not so bad that it needs to be bought out. That dead space for two years after is not insignificant and they would have to spend to upgrade him in the meantime.
I see there as being two options when it comes to Ceci. Either trade him now and sign a free agent to replace him or bring him back to start the season and shop around for an upgrade at next year’s trade deadline. A buyout would be foolish.
Surprisingly, Yamamoto is the most obvious buyout candidate on this team.
I really like the player. He seems like a great guy and really fits in with the Oilers’ core. There’s a reason why he always gets slotted next to either McDavid or Draisaitl in the lineup.
Still, the team needs to add a more consistent piece on the right side and unfortunately, they’ll need to move Yamamoto’s $3.1 million cap hit to do so. I think trading him is the most likely outcome and considering that he only has one more year left on his deal and is an RFA at the end of next season, I think there would be a handful of teams interested in test-driving him for a season.
I could see the Winnipeg Jets, Chicago Blackhawks, Seattle Kraken, and Arizona Coyotes all being interested in him, but that’s purely speculation on my part.
A trade is likely but if for whatever reason no teams are willing to make a move for him, then a buyout is actually fairly appetizing and it’s because of his age.
Since Yamamoto is early in his career, he’s subject to different buyout rules than players like Ceci or Campbell. The Oilers could buy out Yamamoto for ⅓ of his current contract instead of ⅔.
That means Yamamoto’s cap hit would drop to $433k for this upcoming season, saving the Oilers around $2.7m in cap space, and then there would be a $533k penalty the year after, which is fairly easy to stomach considering the cap should really jump up by then.
Still, a trade should be fairly easy to pull off and that’s obviously the route the Oilers should explore first.
Buyouts should always be used as a last resort and I don’t see the Oilers being at that point with any of the players I mentioned above. Campbell is a good bounce-back candidate and the other two can likely be traded.
I don’t see the Oilers being willing to buy any of these players out and that is ultimately the smart play. Even if it means running back the Nurse-Ceci pairing for the start of next season and trying to upgrade at the deadline, then that’s a risk that I think the team’s GM should make.
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