What’s next for the Edmonton Oilers? Notes on their restricted free agents, team depth, and more

Photo credit:© Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Cam Lewis
9 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers made a handful of additions when free agency opened on July 1.
They signed Connor Brown, Connor McDavid’s captain from his days in the OHL, to a one-year, performance bonus-laden contract to round out the team’s top-six forward group. They also signed forwards Drake Caggiula and Lane Pederson along with defenders Noel Hoefenmayer and Ben Gleason to add to the team’s depth.
The roster shown below carries a cap hit of $77,117,500, which leaves the Oilers with $6,382,500 in cap space to fill the rest of the spots…

The goal now for general manager Ken Holland is to get restricted free agents Evan Bouchard and Ryan McLeod signed while maintaining enough cap space to add a couple of extra skaters. Last season, the Oilers were pressed so tight to the salary cap they had to play most of the season without a full 23-man active roster, which is something the team would surely like to avoid in 2023-24.
Working backwards from that $6,382,500 figure, if Holland wants to leave two league-minimum salary slots ($775,000) open on the roster for depth players, he would have $4,832,500 available to sign Bouchard and McLeod.
That seems doable if both restricted free agents are brought back on one-year pacts, but Frank Seravalli suggested on Saturday that the Oilers are looking at two-year bridge deals for both players. “I would ballpark Evan Bouchard in the two years, $3.75 million range and I would put McLeod in the two years, $2 million range,” Seravalli said.
It would be ideal for the Oilers to lock up both RFAs to cost-controlled, multi-year contracts so that they aren’t having to sort out raises on a year-by-year basis, but those aforementioned deals would leave the Oilers with just $632,500 in cap room and a roster size of 21. It might be necessary to sign one or both of Bouchard and McLeod to cheaper one-year deals in order to leave more room open for reserves and shutting players up and down from AHL Bakersfield.
There’s also the possibility of moving another player from the roster in order to open more cap room. Holland knew the Oilers couldn’t afford to give Klim Kostin a raise following his breakout season so the Oilers used him as a sweetener for the Detroit Red Wings to take Kailer Yamamoto’s contract. The Wings then bought Yamamoto out and re-signed Kostin to a two-year deal worth $2 million annually.
Bouchard isn’t going anywhere considering he’s one of the league’s best young defenders and the Oilers wouldn’t be able to replace what he brings for less than what he’s going to be paid. That isn’t necessarily the same case with McLeod. He’s an effective two-way forward who kills penalties but Holland might opt to flip him for a draft pick and use the savings to add a couple of cheaper players left on the open market.

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