Yesterday, both Jesse Puljujärvi and Kailer Yamamoto elected for an arbitration hearing. Neither the club nor a player really enjoys the arbitration process. The Oilers can continue to work on deals for both Yamamoto and Puljujärvi as an arbitration date approaches, but they’re stuck with whatever number pops up if a hearing comes to pass for a year.
Once again, the Oilers are not ripe with cap space. Soon to dip into the pool of LTIR, they’ll need every cap dollar they can find if they’re going to get one of Yamamoto or Puljujärvi under the cap. Add the idea of signing another bottom six forward (or bottom pair defenceman) and you can easily see that the Oilers won’t have much wiggle room. Ryan McLeod could end up accepting his one year qualifying offer, but the Oilers likely can’t make all of these deals work without something happening. With both Yamamoto and Puljujärvi likely due north of 3MM in separate arbitration hearings, things could get wild fast.
The Oilers have exactly zero NHL right wingers under contract for the 2022-23 NHL season. They could fix that in short order by moving some cap space around. Kailer Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujärvi might fall short of expectations for some, but the easiest and most effective thing the Oilers could do is to sign both players to deals.
Edmonton has been fortunate this offseason when it comes to cap relief. When Duncan Keith retired, Edmonton picked up 5.5MM in cap space. Another 3.2MM was due when Zack Kassian was peddled to the Coyotes. In seemingly the blink of an eye, the Oilers picked up nearly 9 million in cap space. They need a little more.
To Ken Holland’s credit, he’s done pretty well this offseason. He signed Evander Kane to a reasonable deal, if a year too long. Brett Kulak was some fine work at under three million a year for four years. Holland finally got his goaltender with Jack Campbell coming in for the next five years. As good as that gets, the Oilers still don’t have any right wings signed for next season.
Tyson Barrie (4.5MM x 2) is probably the easier of two deals (Warren Foegele has got two more years at 2.75MM) to move. Barrie’s got a good shot to be the third right defenceman on the Oilers come October. A club that could use someone to help run the power play might find interest in Barrie and his 4.5MM cap hit over the next two years. I’m looking at you, Montréal. 4.5MM in free space would go a long ways to helping nail down both Yamamoto and Puljujärvi, coupled with the near 6MM in expected LTIR, the club could likely afford a bottom pair defenceman and a bottom six forward.
The Oilers might have other plans when it comes to one (or both) of Yamamoto and Puljujärvi, though running with just one (or none) would be poorly advised. With unrestricted free agency all but grinding to a halt five days in, the Oilers need to be serious and take stock of their cupboards. A year or two of 56 and 13 is probably the best thing the club could do; they’ve just got to get a little bit creative for it to happen.