Benoit Pouliot has been placed on unconditional waivers for the purpose of a buyout.
The buyout saves the Oilers $2.67 million against his $4 million cap hit for both the 2017-18 season and 2018-19 season, but comes with an additional penalty of a $1.33 mil cap hit in both 2019-20 and 2020-21.
This move is puzzling for the simple reason that, at this moment, the Oilers don’t need the cap space this year. Even if Draisaitl signs for $9mil (which seems a little high), the Oilers cap situation for this season is more than manageable.
We can argue the merits of Pouliot as a player. He takes penalties (but still draws more), he had a down season, he’s probably a bit over paid even when not coming off a down season, but he’s still an NHL player. He’s not going to hurt the Oilers in any way this upcoming season.
The best bet for the Oilers is to have him come back and see if he can have a bounce back year. If he can, you can probably find someone to at least take half of his contract for 2018-19. You save $2 mil in cap space that year instead of $2.667 mil, but you don’t have 2 years of dead cap space at $1.33mil for 2 more years.
Worst case scenario, Pouliot has another down year and you buy him out next summer. You save $2.667 mil in 18-19 and then just 1 year of a $1.33 mil cap hit.
What the Oilers have created is another hole in the lineup. I know we all expect Puljujarvi to come out next year and be an NHLer, but what if he doesn’t? What if he needs more time in the AHL? Speaking of the AHL, there aren’t a lot of guys in the Oilers system knocking on the door to come up. Slepyshev might be able to handle more responsibility, but then that’s another hole lower in the lineup. It always makes more sense to move a guy down when someone else takes their spot, rather than moving a guy up and hoping they can do the job. We witnessed for 10 years what happens when you try and play the “We’ll rely on development for improvement” game.
This just seems like an unnecessary movement. Hey, maybe there’s a list of NHL veterans looking to sign a short deal to play on the same team as McDavid. I have doubts about that, but I also never thought we’d be down to just Ryan Nugent-Hopkins from the original gang.