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What Should Ryan McLeod’s Next Deal Look Like?

Once again, the Oilers again have an opportunity to buy low and save.

Colorado Avalanche v Edmonton Oilers Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

Ryan McLeod had quite a successful 2021-22 NHL season. Now due a contract, the Oilers might have an opportunity to lock up a good, young player for a nice price.

It’s Ken Holland’s time to shine.

The 40th overall selection from the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, Ryan McLeod was an everyday player for the Edmonton Oilers this past season. McLeod averaged just under thirteen minutes a game, he picked up 21 points in 71 games (9-12-21), and he played in all 16 of Edmonton’s playoff games. He’s an early favourite to emerge with the 3C position to start the 2022-23 season, and the Oilers really can lock down an emerging fan favourite to a deal with term.

McLeod was most often teamed up with Zack Kassian and Warren Foegele this past season, folks who aren’t especially well known for their prowess in the offensive zone. If he remains on a line with both players, he’s probably not going to score a whole bunch. Naturally, he’ll likely do better in the top six if that’s where he ends up. With Andrei Kuzmenko choosing Vancouver (and Evander Kane likely heading for greener pastures), the chances of McLeod getting into the top six aren’t unrealistic. If he does, his numbers likely shoot north. His cap hit will likely follow.

While not (yet?) a big point getter at the NHL level, the soon-to-be 23 year old McLeod ticks off a few boxes for the Oilers:

  • dependable two-way player
  • skilled, and fast
  • can play up the lineup, can play special teams
  • play is more often in the opposition zone when he’s on the ice

McLeod’s greatest value is his utility. McLeod could be found in the top six from time to time, he finished with 80 minutes on the penalty kill, and nearly 60 minutes on the power play. The Oilers struggle when their top two lines are off the ice, they have a player who can help a line break even in McLeod. You can play him on the fourth line too, though the Oilers aren’t blessed enough on the third line to allow for that to happen

There’s plenty value in a player with this skill set. Depending on McLeod’s ask, there may be an opportunity for the Oilers to get in low and enjoy a few years on the cheap.

RFA

McLeod’s 2021-22 season was his rookie campaign, and he’s got another year of service before he’s eligible for arbitration. The Oilers hold quite a few cards in the negotiation process, it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

  • The Oilers could offer him a qualifying offer, which would be just a hint above 900K. McLeod would be forced to take the deal if he wanted to play in 2022-23, which would bring the Oilers right back to this spot in a year’s time. The only difference is that McLeod would be arbitration eligible. There’s no guarantee that the Oilers and McLeod would require a hearing, but I’d rather get a few more inexpensive years in before another negotiation takes place. If you’re expecting this player to improve next year (and at age 23, why wouldn’t you?), you’d rather buy now and save.
  • The Oilers could offer a two or three year deal. This would be a little more expensive than offering a QO, but even if you’re spending 1.75-2 million, it’s a deal. The Oilers are tight against the cap this year coming up, but they are free of Duncan Keith’s 5.5MM cap hit at the conclusion of the 2022-23 season. Two or three years of McLeod would take him closer to UFA status, but there’d be room for another (read: pricier) deal at the end.
  • The Oilers could go long - but I highly doubt they’ll do this. This would be the priciest deal, but it would also likely come in at the most value. If you think Ryan McLeod will be more than a 3 million cap hit in 2026, you might think about this option. The Oilers are up against the cap wall right now, and while this might be an appetizing option for a club that’s good with the cap, it’s likely not an option for the Oilers right now. If the Oilers are moving cap space at a furious pace this offseason, I think it’s more likely that they’ve got their eyes on re-signing Evander Kane. I’d take McLeod, Kulak, Puljujärvi and Yamamoto for a more reasonable number overall.

The Oilers have a good young player on their hands. The Oilers ought to bring McLeod back in the fold for at least a few years ($2MMx3). A few extra dollars on the cap is a good bet for an up-and-coming player who can play nearly anywhere in the lineup.