Arbitration hearings are set to kick off next week, and it’s a potentially explosive period for the Edmonton Oilers.
The Oilers have a pair of right wingers set for hearings with Kailer Yamamoto (August 7) and Jesse Puljujärvi (July 29). While there’s been plenty of debate as to whether or not Puljujärvi and / or Yamamoto will fit into Edmonton’s long term plans, free agency has slowed to a crawl. The chances that Edmonton is able to find a top six player in free agency at this point is rather slim, and the club needs to do what it can in order to get both Yamamoto and Puljujärvi under contract for at least the 2022-23 season.
I would argue that you ought to go long on Puljujärvi, but I’ve been doing that for several years at this point. Cap space is proving to be a difficult number to manoeuvre, even after the Oilers have moved on from Zack Kassian (3.2MM) and Duncan Keith (5.5MM) have retired.
The Oilers have two potential moves that could be made in order to free up some vital cap space. I think the most likely one to happen would be Warren Foegele, who has a 2.75MM cap hit over the next two seasons.
Foegele became an Oiler a year ago almost to the day. Needing a new contract, he was signed to a three year deal valued at 2.75MM a year. The only Oiler to dress for all 82 regular season games, Foegele put up 24 points (11-13-24) most often with Derek Ryan and Zack Kassian. Foegele had a little bit of time on the power play, he had just a tiny bit of time on the penalty kill, and was a completely serviceable player.
During the Decade of Darkness, the Oilers often had trouble getting serviceable players to fill out their roster. Foegele isn’t chopped liver. With the likely emergence of Dylan Holloway this fall, Foegele’s role could be reduced primarily to the fourth line. On a club with Devin Shore, Mattias Janmark and Derek Ryan. Foegele’s cap hit is immediately noticeable on a club that’s pressed for cap space, especially on one that’s got two forwards heading towards arbitration.
Moving Warren Foegele would free up nearly 2.75MM in cap space, which could go miles towards a few things: namely a Yamamoto contract, a Puljujärvi contract, and a Ryan McLeod deal. Ideally, you want longer deals if you believe these players are a piece of the future. For now, the Oilers need to get them all locked up for a year, and 2.75MM would put the Oilers at about 8.5MM of combined cap space available for these three. Getting all three deals done with this number at the ceiling should be a slam dunk for Ken Holland.
Can a deal be had for Warren Foegele? Edmonton already used Arizona as a landing spot for Zack Kassian. It took two draft picks to send Kassian at 3.2MM to the Coyotes. Foegele provides value at his position, though his cap hit might be a bit rich for some teams. Anaheim hasn’t yet reached the floor, while the Sabres are right at the cap floor. Getting either of those teams to take Foegele might end up costing a pick, but it would easily be worth it in the end - just not a fourth round pick next year, or a third round pick in 2024, a seventh rounder in 2024, or a second round pick in 2025.