The Oilers have reportedly settled with one of their restricted free agents, avoiding an arbitration case. Per a team announcement, the Oilers and RFA forward Kailer Yamamoto have settled on a two-year contract with a $3.1MM average annual value.
The financial structure of the deal is as follows:
Yamamoto, 23, is coming off of the most productive season of his young career, save for a 27-game run in 2019-20 where he had 26 points. Yamamoto, often playing next to former Hart Trophy winner Leon Draisaitl, scored 20 goals and 41 points in 81 games. He also chipped in seven points in 14 games during the Oilers’ run to the Western Conference Final. It’s similar production to another one of the Oilers’ young wingers, Jesse Puljujarvi, who also settled before his own arbitration case, receiving a deal with a $3MM cap hit.
Perhaps the best development in Yamamoto’s play has been the recent refinement of his overall game. Some might look at the five-foot-eight winger and immediately peg him as an offense-first, perimeter player. But what might be surprising to those people is that Yamamoto actually spent more time killing penalties in 2021-22 than he did on the power play. Yamamoto averaged 1:09 short-handed ice time per game and 0:49 of average power play ice time per game. Yamamoto isn’t going to win Selke trophies, don’t get the wrong idea here, but his time spent short-handed is genuinely encouraging and an indication that he’s found a way to remain an impactful NHLer even if he’s in a scoring slump.
A $3.1MM cap hit is a fair number for what Yamamoto provides, and it allows the Oilers to re-engage with him on long-term extension talks as a restricted free agent in two years’ time.
The Oilers are now over the salary cap, but they will get relief in the form of Oscar Klefbom and Mike Smith being placed on long-term injured reserve. They still have Tyler Benson and Ryan McLeod as RFA’s to sign, so they’re not out of the woods just yet. A trade may be necessary to help their salary cap situation, although they could also opt to carry less than the maximum number of players on their roster and slowly accumulate cap space as the season goes on.