Late last night, the Edmonton Oilers were finally able to get their young up-and-coming defenseman under contract, signing Ethan Bear to a new two-year deal. The contract will carry an average annual value of $2MM through the 2021-22 season, leaving Bear a restricted free agent once again in two years’ time.
The 23-year-old broke out last season, suiting up in all 71 games for the Edmonton Oilers and logging nearly 22 minutes a night for the team. That earned him a tenth-place finish in the Calder Trophy voting, though he was continually overlooked thanks to some other incredible rookie defensemen in the Western Conference. While Bear may not be at the same level as Cale Makar, he’s still an extremely important piece for the Oilers to build around on the back end.
With Oscar Klefbom out for the entire upcoming season, Bear will be asked to do even more for the Oilers this season. Sure, the team has added Tyson Barrie as a powerplay quarterback and Slate Koekkoek as a depth option, but neither one seems like a long-term fit. Instead, Bear and other youngsters like Philip Broberg and Evan Bouchard will make up the next core of defenders for the Oilers, should they all fulfill their potential.
With Bear under contract, the Oilers have now finished all of their restricted free agent negotiations but find themselves slightly over the salary cap ceiling. Klefbom’s hit can be moved to long-term injured reserve to add some more flexibility, though the team will likely attempt to be compliant (under the $81.5MM cap ceiling) on opening day to maximize the relief of that move.
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