The free agent period is now less than one week away from opening up and there are several prominent players set to hit the open market while many teams have key restricted free agents to re-sign. Here is a breakdown of the Edmonton Oilers’ free agent situation.
Key Restricted Free Agents: F Leon Draisaitl. At 21 years old and coming off a 29-goal season (along with 77 total points), Draisaitl would likely be the most important restricted free agent in the entire NHL. The Oilers have already come out and stated they will match any offer, no matter how high to retain one of the franchise’s cornerstone pieces on their team and it will prove costly. The third overall pick in the 2014 draft has been unstoppable in just three short years and he’s nowhere close to his prime. Extending the young German forward is critical for the team and a big reason the team just traded Jordan Eberle to the Islanders to free as much cap space as it can to lock up Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, who they hope to extend this year as well.
Key Unrestricted Free Agents: F Tyler Pitlick. A few days ago, veteran defender Kris Russell would have been in this spot, but the defender signed a four-year, $4MM per year deal to stay with the Oilers. That leaves very little to worry about on the unrestricted free agent front. However, if you really look, Pitlick still has a lot of potential. The only problem is the 25-year-old center is quite injury prone. In the last three years, he has not played in more than 37 games a season due to various injuries with the most recent being a torn ACL back in December. Although, he was having a strong season before that, scoring eight goals in those first 31 games. However, considering the Oilers may be looking for cheap players with potential, they might consider giving Pitlick one more chance.
Projected Cap Space: With the Eberle contract now off the books and Russell signed long-term, that allows Edmonton almost $20MM in cap space to work with and they will likely need a lot of that to give extensions to Draisaitl and McDavid. While McDavid is not a restricted free agent until next year, the team can lock him up starting this summer and would be smart to do so. With what’s left, the team may look to add a few veterans to fill out the lineup and help guide this young team even further next year.