Now that we’re on the other side of the Decade Of Darkness, it’s time to expect to win. I’m serious, it’s time to expect even more. A second round playoff appearance after a season filled with 103 points and a Hart Trophy winner is great. It’s a giant drink of water after aimlessly walking in the desert for a decade, but the Oilers are approaching a very unique time in the near future.
The Oilers need to make 2017-18 a year where they are absolutely positively all-in on the Stanley Cup. It’s all got to do with the salary cap and Connor McDavid.
McDavid is on the last year of his entry level contract in 2017-18. With all the bells and whistles of this deal, his cap hit could rise to the still very bargain-bin number of 3.775 MM a year. That number will be three or four times that size when McDavid’s extension kicks in for the 2018-19 season, but there’s an incredible amount of value still left in 97’s deal. It’s exactly one year’s worth. Add in what we will guess is a 7 or 8 million AAV a year for Leon to begin in 2017-18, and the Oilers will open free agency here in a couple of days with roughly seven million in cap space.
The caveat is important: it’s for 2017-18 only. Once next season ends, McDavid’s first contract after his ELC will belly up to the bar. He’ll be worth every penny, but management must recognize this moment in time for the value it can bring.
Seven million (or so) in free cap space? That could get them a piece or two along the way. That should get them a piece or two along the way. Maybe they can slice it up like a tasty cheesecake and lure in a stopgap defenceman. Maybe it’s Cody Franson for a year. They can float Radim Vrbata some cash and hope he will come crash your pad to play alongside Connor McDavid for a year. Heck, why not both?
The point? There’s a glut of cap space available to the Oilers for a year. They’d be foolish not to take advantage of it.
The Edmonton Oilers are about to enter a very, very important free agency period this weekend. This next season could be the absolute best season you’ve seen since 1989-90. Peter Chiarelli and the rest of his management crew need to maximize every opportunity they can for the 2017-18 season, because cap space will become quite scarce soon after.