The Edmonton Oilers and restricted free agent forward Kailer Yamamoto have come to terms on a one-year bridge deal. The team has announced that Yamamoto has agreed to a $1.175MM contract for 2021-22. Yamamoto will be a restricted free agent again next season.
Both sides are inherently taking a risk with such a short deal. Yamamoto, 22, is betting on himself with this contract. He took a considerable step back last season after a stunning run of 26 points in 27 games in 2019-20. His numbers fell off across the board, eventually including his ice time, as his offense dried up almost entirely late in the year leading to a final tally of eight goals and 21 points in 53 games. For a player of Yamamoto’s skill and creativity, more is expected than .39 points per game, even at his young age. If the 2017 first-rounder cannot improve, he may be stuck with a multi-year contract at or close to his qualifying offer at best.
Of course, if Yamamoto greatly outplays his miniscule salary this season – which should be easy to do – then the pressure will all fall back on the Oilers. While the cap-strapped team is happy to have their young weapon under contract for cheap money this season, they may be regretting not coming to an agreement on a longer term next summer. Yamamoto has already showed that he can score with ease in the NHL, even if that was two years ago. If he can get back on track, likely slotting into one of the more talented top-six groupings in the NHL, he could put up massive numbers in 2021-22 and his price tag will skyrocket.
At the end of the day, the two sides got a deal done without negotiations dragging on into training camp and the relationship growing contentious. That was crucial, as Edmonton needs affordable young talent to buoy several big-money contracts and Yamamoto would be hard-pressed to find a better place to improve his own scoring potential and earning ability than by playing with the likes of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The two sides could continue talking into the season and come to terms on an extension well before next off-season, potentially mitigating the impact on either side somewhat. However, a one-year bridge deal always leaves open limitless possibilities for what could come next.