Cap will go up $1M next year to $82.5M— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) March 29, 2022
The salary cap will go up next season, and that’s fantastic news. The Oilers could use a little financial prop in this upcoming offseason. Unfortunately, that bump is just 1 million. This takes the upper limit from 81.5 million to 82.5 million, which, well, isn’t a whole lot in the grand scheme of things when you’re running a professional sports team. Let’s take a quick look at where this puts the Oilers in the upcoming offseason.
For this exercise, let’s assume that the Oilers don’t trade any contracts out. This could change at the end of the year via another team becoming willing to accept a contract from the Oilers, or if the Oilers choose to go the buyout route for another deal.
With an increase of 1MM in cap space, the Oilers will have about 9MM of available offseason space. They’ll have to spread it thin if they’re going to make this offseason a successful one.
- Evander Kane: Kane has shown that he can play well on the McDavid line. He hasn’t yet had much success away from the top line, but it’s hard to look away from his 15 goals in 28 games so far. Often called “the deadline acquisition” by those looking to assuage a fairly tepid Ken Holland trade deadline, Kane will be 31 by the start of next season and it’s fair to reason that he’ll be looking for a deal with term. If the Oilers go long with Kane, they’re likely going to have to say goodbye to one (or two) of their RFAs.
- Brett Kulak: The new left shot defenceman on the block is going to need a new deal at the end of this season if he’s to remain in Edmonton. The Stony Plain native is on the end of a three year deal at 1.85MM a year, they’ll need to shoehorn him at a nice price if Ken Holland wants to keep him around past the 20 games post deadline.
- Jesse Puljujärvi: I’ve been very critical of Ken Holland’s work the moment he became Oilers GM given a decade of poor cap management in Detroit. As tough as I’ve been on Holland, absolute praise must be given to Holland for getting Puljujärvi back in the Oilers’ fold at a sublime cap hit of just under 1.2MM a year. With Puljujärvi emerging as the best right wing on the Oilers over the past two years, Holland needs to do some more magic to ink this one a large extension.
- Kailer Yamamoto: Yamamoto’s been on fire in recent days, picking up a point in last night’s 6-1 win over the Coyotes. He’s gone through stretches without numbers, he’s back up to half a point per game right now. He’s easily the second best right wing on this team, and Holland will need to make it work in the coming months.
- Ryan McLeod: McLeod has turned into an everyday player for the Oilers this season. He’s played everywhere in the lineup, from top line to fourth line. He was rewarded with a pair of goals in last night’s victory over Arizona, and his stock continues to rise.
This list doesn’t include these pending UFAs: Mikko Koskinen, Derick Brassard, Josh Archibald, Kris Russell, Kyle Turris. If Holland wants to go back to the well with any of these folks, he’ll need to free up however much in cap space he’ll want to apply. I could see Koskinen coming back on a reduced rate, but not much else here.
Barring the movement of a deal to free up cap space, I don’t see how Ken Holland will be able to dip into the UFA pool which is set to open on July 13th. A buyout (or two) could be on the horizon for players like Zack Kassian (3.2MM through 2023-24) or Mike Smith (2.2MM through 2022-23), though the Oilers would be on the hook for a portion of those contracts for twice their length.
Whatever happens, Ken Holland’s got his work cut out for him this offseason. On a shoestring budget, he’ll do well if he can get his RFAs signed for term.