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The Remaining Cap Space and the Jeff Jackson Era

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Photo credit:© Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Tyler Yaremchuk
1 month ago
With Ryan McLeod now signed, the game plan for the rest of the Oiler’s offseason is becoming a lot more clear.
The Oilers need to sign Evan Bouchard and they do not have the money to go long-term with him. I know some people will be clamouring for the team to trade one of Warren Foegele or Brett Kulak in order to potentially try to get Bouchard signed to something longer than just a standard one or two-year bridge deal, but that’s not going to happen.
First, the Oilers are firmly in ‘win-now’ mode. It does not make sense to sacrifice trade pieces off their roster for nothing.
Secondly, even if they do trade one of those two players, they likely wouldn’t have enough money to convince Bouchard to sign a long-term deal.
Right now, the team has $3.5 million in cap space with 13 forwards, six defensemen, and two goalies. They could send one of their forwards down to Bakersfield which could open up more money. Let’s say Lane Pedersen starts the year in the AHL, that would give them close to $4.25m in space to sign Bouchard. 
Even if they moved out one of the two contracts I mentioned earlier, they would still only have around $7m in space. I don’t think that would be enough to get Bouchard to agree to a max-term deal.
The bridge deal is the play here and when you look at the deals that other young defensemen have signed already this summer, the comparables are pretty straightforward. 23-year-old K’Andre Miller signed a two-year deal with the Rangers that carried a cap hit of $3.875 million. 22-year-old Bown Byram and the Avalanche also agreed to a two-year deal with an AAV of $3.85m.
That should be the ballpark that Bouchard comes in at. Even if he wanted a little bit more, the Oilers could afford it.
Bouchard doesn’t have arbitration rights though, so unless he wants to sign an offer sheet somewhere or sit out the start of the season. I really can’t see him doing either.
Maybe there’s a chance that the Oilers could bring him down a little bit from his comparables, as they did with McLeod, and get him closer to $3.5 million. That $400k in savings may not seem significant, but it would allow them to keep an extra forward on the roster all season, which would be nice.
The Oilers of course could still look to bring in another free agent on a close-to-league minimum deal. There are a few candidates I like.
On the back end, there are only three free-agent defensemen who averaged more than 19 minutes a night last season. They are Matt Dumba, Simon Benoit, and Caleb Jones.
Dumba will likely be signing for more than the league minimum, so that takes him out of the conversation, and I wouldn’t be interested in a reunion with Caleb Jones. 
Benoit is interesting though. He has some size and handled some pretty tough minutes in Anaheim last season. Even if his numbers weren’t always solid, I wonder if he could be a solid seventh defenseman for the Oilers at $750k.
Yes, they currently have Philip Broberg and Markus Niemalainen in that slot but adding a layer of veteran depth is never a bad idea.
On the forward side of things, there aren’t too many interesting options.
I would be intrigued with the idea of Maxime Comtois. He’s scored at a 20-goal pace once before in his young career and could be a nice bottom-six piece for the Oilers next season. At just 24 years old, he’s young enough to believe there could be some untapped potential. He made decent money on his last deal with the Ducks so he could be convinced to sign a league minimum deal to try prove himself this season.
I also like Pius Suter if he’d be willing to sign for cheap enough. The Oilers fourth line centre right now will likely be Lane Pedersen so it would be good to add some competition and Suter has had some good seasons in the past.
Other names I’d be looking at include Noah Gregor, Nick Ritchie, and Tyler Motte. These aren’t game-changing players by any means, but they’re pieces that could really help round out the Oilers’ depth. There will always be injuries throughout the course of a season and it would be nice to see the Oilers build up a really solid layer of NHL-quality forwards at the bottom of their roster.

JEFF JACKSON TAKES THE WHEEL

Some people rolled their eyes when the news dropped that the Oilers had hired Connor McDavid’s agent, Jeff Jackson, to run the team. I don’t understand the hate.
Sure, on the surface this looks a little odd, but once you actually dig into who Jackson is and what he’s done in his career, this is a brilliant hire.
 
He’s been involved in hockey in many different capacities and isn’t your traditional retread hire, which is what I feared the Oilers would do next summer when changes were due to come. This is a nice breath of fresh air.
Also, there is literally zero downside to hiring someone to run your team that you know is close with your franchise player and knows a lot about what Connor could be thinking about his future in Edmonton.
Would Jackson have realistically taken this job if he knew that Connor or Leon were just going to bounce at the end of their current deals? I don’t think so.
The Oilers organization is in a better spot today than they were before they hired Jackson.

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