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The Edmonton Oilers’ Cap Crunch: Makin’ It Work

Connor’s signed. Leon’s signed. Everything’s in place for 2017-18, but there’s a cap crunch ahead.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Anaheim Ducks at Edmonton Oilers
When he goes, the return will be very underwhelming.
Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

It took some weeks longer than one would have liked, but the Oilers and Leon Draisaitl have reached a deal that will keep Leon in Oiler colours for the next eight years. The deal is valued at 8.5MM a year until 2025. While it’s great to have him next to Connor McDavid for a dominant top line, it would behoove the Oilers if they can get an effective Draisaitl to centre the second line so the club can have two big scoring lines to drop on opponents.

Whether or not Leon is on the first or second line, now seems a pretty good time to check out how everyone’s cap situation will affect the club in the near future. All the big signings are done, let’s see how they look on the ledger.


If the Oilers head to training camp with the roster that they have, they’ve got about 5.3MM in cap space. This takes into account any bonuses that Connor McDavid, Drake Caggiula, Jesse Puljujarvi, Matthew Benning and Darnell Nurse. It does not take into account any LTIR which may come into play with respect to Andrej Sekera. It does not also take into the nearly 1MM in relief should Mark Fayne start in Bakersfield this year. Unless the team trots out a fire drill in the first month of the season, I don’t think there will be any significant additions to the club.


Here’s where it all gets really interesting.

If there is no increase to the salary cap, the Oilers will have about fourteen million dollars in free space. If there’s a nominal cap space increase (say, 2 million, like it did this past season), that number will inflate slightly to about sixteen million.

Sixteen million to sign

  • Patrick Maroon (or a UFA replacement)
  • Ryan Strome (RFA)
  • Anton Slepyshev (RFA)
  • Matthew Benning (RFA)
  • Darnell Nurse (RFA)
  • Mark Letestu (or a UFA replacement)
  • Laurent Brossoit (RFA, or a different backup)

To make a long story short, the Oilers aren’t going to be able to afford all of these deals (or their replacements) on sixteen million dollars. Full stop.

One (or more) of these expiring deals will need to be moved away, or the Oilers will have to move a current contract in order to make numbers work, which is why you may have been hearing those Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-for-Sawdust type deals as of late. Nugent-Hopkins has a 6MM AAV per year for the next three seasons, and the Oilers would have to accept little to no cap in return (hello, ugly trade involving a draft pick). If you were unimpressed at the returns for Taylor Hall or Jordan Eberle, I’d advise you to steer clear of Twitter if and when RNH gets moved.


I’m not going to spitball numbers or even suggest that the Oilers are able to sign all of those players from the above list. Maybe Chiarelli gets Maroon for a couple years on the cheap, or he swings him in a deal. Let’s say that the Oilers spend close to the cap and get their affairs in order for the 2018-19 season. Believe me, it won’t be hard with the Lucic and Russell deals by this point. And, we’ll again suggest that the cap will go up something nominal like two million. They’ve then got to work out deals for

  • Jesse Puljujarvi (RFA)
  • Cam Talbot (or a replacement)


The nice thing about knowing you’re about to encounter a giant cap crunch? Chiarelli’s got a year to work it out. With that being said, it’s in the Oilers’ best interest to hold onto Ryan Nugent-Hopkins this year and hope for a deep playoff run. Nugent-Hopkins is worth a heck of a lot more to the team than empty space or 19 year old prospect. For now? Enjoy this season. The Oilers have Connor McDavid for the next nine years. That’s good. With Connor McDavid’s last year of his entry-level deal taking place, it should be a priority for the Oilers to swing for the fences.

In the meantime, Peter Chiarelli’s got a fair bit of accounting to work out.