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A Tip Of The Cap?

Cap space is tight right now. It doesn’t get any easier next year for Ken Holland either.

2020 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Michael Bobroff/NHLI via Getty Images

This offseason, Ken Holland has made his mark on the club with the cap space he’s had at his disposal. He signed several UFAs including Zach Hyman and Cody Ceci. He brought back Mike Smith and Tyson Barrie for three years and he made a couple trades bringing in Duncan Keith and Warren Foegele. The roster is probably complete save for a depth defenceman at this point, but Holland needs to get a deal done for Kailer Yamamoto, and it sounds like he’s putting the finishing touches on a deal that will pay Darnell Nurse handsomely beginning in 2022-23.

The Oilers will be right up against the cap ceiling this season, as they look to win a playoff series for the first time since 2017. What will the Oilers’ cap look like in 2022-23?

Before we get into the thick of it, Frank Seravalli reported that the cap is likely to increase a million next year to 82.5. That’s good, because the Oilers are going to need every dollar’s worth of space as they can get.

So what are we looking at for next year’s cap space situation?

I hope you like cap space, because you’re not likely to see much of it in the near future. Next year is going to be a little bit tighter, and there will probably be some significant casualty involved with the forward group that is currently on the club.

I went ahead and penciled in Darnell Nurse for a 9 million dollar a year cap hit. That might be a little bit rich, but not by too much. Does your opinion change if he’s 8x8? 8x8.5? Maybe a little, but not much? Whether Nurse is 8, 8.5 or 9 doesn’t change much of anything for the Oilers, that die has already been cast.

For better or for worse, he Oilers are committed for the next few with this roster. Unfortunately for the Oilers, there are a lot of pieces that are missing after this year and not a whole lot of cap space to fill them in.

After a year that saw cap space splashed around like a bathing elephant, they’ll need to tighten it up considerably next year. With 13 million projected in cap space, they’ll need to figure out what they’re going to do on the right side. Not surprisingly, Zack Kassian is the only right winger signed with term. The Oilers will need to figure out what their long term plans are for 2016 fourth overall selection Jesse Puljujärvi and 2017 first round selection Kailer Yamamoto. They’re going to need a goaltender, and something’s going to have to happen on defence, especially if the Duncan Keith - Cody Ceci plan falls through.

Ken Holland’s clubs are known for “overripening” prospects, though he’s probably not going to be afforded the opportunity in the coming years. If cap space isn’t able to be freed up this season, the club will be counting on at least a few prospects to take steps a bit quicker than Holland would likely hope. Dylan Holloway will be pushing for a roster spot by 2022, Philip Broberg or Dmitri Samorukov will hopefully be ready to take a big step on defence. The club would love it for Ilya Konovalov or Stuart Skinner to become a big piece in the crease.

How does Ken Holland make next year’s cap space work? Some of that’s up for debate. If he isn’t able to clear out some cap space between now and then, it sure looks like he’ll rely more heavily on the youth movement than we’ve seen him do in any of his previous work.