Navigating the salary cap is one of the more important tasks for any GM. Teams that can avoid total cap chaos by walking the tightrope of inking players to deals that match their value (or compensate for future value without breaking the bank) remain successful. Those that don’t see struggles and front office changes.
PHR will look at every NHL team and give a thorough look at their cap situation heading into the 2022-23 season. This will focus more on players who are regulars on the roster versus those who may find themselves shuttling between the AHL and NHL. All cap figures are courtesy of CapFriendly.
Current Cap Hit: $88,531,333 (over the $82.5MM Upper Limit)
F Dylan Holloway (two years, $925K)
D Evan Bouchard (two years, $863K)
D Philip Broberg (two years, $863K)
As talented as the high-end players on the Oilers are, the team also possesses a number of exciting young players and prospects. A key player in Edmonton’s continued success is Bouchard, a talented two-way defenseman who had a breakout 2021-22 with 12 goals and 31 assists in 81 games, all career-highs to-date. This season, Bouchard could see increased time at the point on the powerplay. Bouchard’s 2022-23 will have a strong influence on what his next contract looks like, a further breakout setting him up for big money on his next deal, more than likely a bridge for what will be a 23-year-old defenseman.
The eighth-overall pick in 2019, Broberg made his NHL debut last season, getting into 23 games, tallying three points. At 6’3 and 199 pounds, Broberg brings good size to a two-way style of play and should figure to see regular NHL minutes this year. Having two years remaining on his ELC, the 21-year-old will focus on continuing to develop his game to succeed at the NHL level before turning to his next contract in the summer of 2024.
Another of Edmonton’s promising young players, and another former first-round pick, Dylan Holloway made his NHL debut last season in the playoffs, getting into just one game. Though he has virtually no NHL experience, a solid AHL debut last season (22 points in 33 games) and a tight cap situation in Edmonton set the soon-to-be 21-year-old up well to play regularly in the Oilers lineup this season.
Signed Through 2022-23, Non-Entry Level:
F Jesse Puljujarvi ($3MM, RFA)*
F Derek Ryan ($1.25MM, UFA)
F Mattias Janmark ($1.25MM, UFA)
F Devin Shore ($850K, UFA)
D Oscar Klefbom ($4.167MM, UFA)
D Slater Koekkoek ($925K, UFA)
G Stuart Skinner ($750K, RFA)*
G Mike Smith ($2.2MM, UFA)
* – Puljujarvi and Skinner will both be arbitration eligible
The most intriguing name on this list is no doubt Puljujarvi, a name that was featured heavily in trade rumors this offseason. Evaluating the player Puljujarvi is and what he is worth is an interesting proposition and one that he and the Oilers will have to chew on over the next year or so, and if they cannot decide, that may simply be up to an arbitrator. The former fourth-overall pick didn’t have the start to his career he and Edmonton had hoped for, but after returning to the NHL, he began to find a rhythm, scoring a career-high 36 points this season. If he wants big money, he’ll have to take another step forward this season, but even if Puljujarvi simply repeats, Edmonton will have to accept his legitimate market value. Given the tricky negotiations this summer, seeing the two sides head to arbitration next offseason wouldn’t necessarily be a shocking turn of events.
Ryan, Janmark and Shore all represent a similar brand of player: depth forwards who can play all 200 feet on the ice. All three also come at a particularly affordable price tag and with Edmonton facing tough cap decisions in the coming years, having pieces like these are incredibly valuable. Still, a team with this cap situation may have to sacrifice some veteran depth in lieu of younger, even more affordable talent. This won’t be an issue for Edmonton given the group of young players coming through their system. It’s unlikely any of these three will increase significantly in value this year, so should the team choose to keep one or two around, the door should be open.
Koekkoek, much like the three veteran forwards, is an important depth piece for the Oilers who could give way to younger talent. The 28-year-old is one of four left-handed defensemen on the active roster behind Broberg, Brett Kulak, and Darnell Nurse (Klefbom is likely headed to LTIR) and figures as the team’s seventh-defenseman. With Smith’s expected retirement (likely LTIR this season), Skinner slots in as the Oilers’ backup goaltender. Skinner is somewhat of an exciting option in the role, entering his age-24 season, he has been a highly-regarded prospect in Edmonton’s system and has just 14 games of NHL experience, though he’s impressed in that span.
Signed Through 2023-24:
F Kailer Yamamoto ($3.1MM, RFA)*
F Warren Foegele ($2.75MM, UFA)
D Tyson Barrie ($4.5MM, UFA)
Yamamoto has had an up-and-down career so far, but has the potential to be another among Edmonton’s group of dynamic forwards. After a pair of relatively unimpressive NHL stints as a 19 and 20-year-old, Yamamoto broke out with a strong 26 points in 27 games in 2019-20 and appeared to be another weapon for the Oilers, however he regressed to just 21 points in 52 games the year after. This season, the playmaking winger seemed to rebound with 41 points in 81 games, his 20 goals a career-high, but it still wasn’t the performance 2019-20 saw from him. Now almost 24, Yamamoto signed a two-year, $3.1MM contract this offseason. His performance on this deal will likely dictate whether he is viewed as the star many believed he could be, or a solid option for secondary offense in a team’s middle-six.
At 26, Foegele has established himself as a reliable secondary scorer and gritty two-way winger. Traded to Edmonton for Ethan Bear last summer, Foegele continued to bring his effective game over from Carolina. Although he’s not the most exciting player on the Oilers, Edmonton has two years remaining of a valuable role-playing forward that just about every Stanley Cup Champion seems to have at least one of. As the Oilers look to secure a Cup of their own, Foegele will play a key piece.
A longtime Colorado Avalanche star, Tyson Barrie struggled after being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2019-20. After that season, Toronto let him walk and Barrie signed a one-year deal in Edmonton. That turned out to not only be a great decision for Barrie, but also for Edmonton. The veteran defenseman rebounded strongly in 2020-21, recording 48 points in 56 games. He wasn’t as dynamic this year, with just 41 points in 73 games, but nonetheless found himself a key contributor in Oil Country. As Edmonton works around their cap situation, Barrie could be a casualty, more likely traded as opposed to bought out (if at all), given their depth of offensive talent on their blueline, specifically in that of Bouchard. Should he finish his deal in Edmonton, he may price himself out, especially if he continues to impress as one of the league’s highly-regarded powerplay specialists.
* – Yamamoto will be arbitration eligible
Signed Through 2024-25:
F Leon Draisaitl ($8.5MM, UFA)
D Cody Ceci ($3.25MM, UFA)
Frankly, there’s not much to say about Draisaitl. One of the game’s very best players with a very good chance to be Hall of Fame bound when all is said and done, his three years at $8.5MM per season isn’t cheap, but represents some of the best value in the NHL today. The German-born forward will spend those next three years trying to add a Stanley Cup to his resume and continue to build value for when he hits the UFA market just a few months before turning 30.
Like some other players on this list, Ceci has had himself a bit of an up-and-down career. Prior to the 2020-21 season, the Pittsburgh Penguins signed him to a one-year deal, where he took a big step forward, becoming a reliable shut-down defenseman in Pittsburgh. The Penguins ultimately let Ceci walk, however, and he signed in Edmonton on a four-year, $13MM contract. The contract was met with some skepticism, however Ceci continued his impressive play, showing his resurgence was no fluke. Now a part of the organization’s long-term plans, Ceci becomes part of a formidable right-side alongside Barrie and Bouchard.
Signed Through 2025-26 Or Longer:
F Connor McDavid ($12.5MM through 2025-26)
F Zach Hyman ($5.5MM through 2027-28)
F Evander Kane ($5.125MM through 2025-26)
F Ryan Nugent-Hopkins ($5.125MM through 2028-29)
D Brett Kulak ($2.75MM through 2025-26)
D Darnell Nurse ($9.125MM through 2029-30)
G Jack Campbell ($5MM through 2026-27)
Put simply, the Oilers have their core locked-up for a longtime. Looking at it one way, having seven roster players signed for at least the next four years, including arguably the best player in the world, puts a team in an enviable position, setting them up for several runs at the Stanley Cup. On the other hand, one could say it handcuffs the team in salary cap for at least that duration, preventing it from making any substantial moves to take another step. With Edmonton, that issue is ripe for debate.
In the first instance, the team has McDavid and Draisaitl together for the next three seasons guaranteed, cementing one of the greatest duo’s in league history. Add to them a top-pair defenseman in Darnell Nurse as well as secondary scoring in Hyman, Kane, and Nugent-Hopkins, all signed at least through the three-year window the organization has with the two superstars. Another asset the team hasn’t had in their recent history is a true number-one, All Star goaltender, which they now have signed long-term as well in that of Campbell. Even if the situation is less than ideal several years from now, the organization has all the pieces to make a few runs at a championship now, not to mention a pipeline of younger players, many of whom are still in the development stages.
From the other lens, the Oilers only have Draisaitl signed for three more seasons, who will then be due a massive raise, and McDavid for four more seasons, who may also be due a raise from his $12.5MM AAV. The players signed with real length are Hyman, Nugent-Hopkins, and Nurse, all of whom are talented, but aren’t the front-line stars that McDavid and Draisaitl are. Their cap hits, especially Nurse’s, could actually serve as roadblocks to extending the two superstars, and even if not, it may prevent the team from keeping their younger players or replacing others when their deals expire.
Ultimately, if the team can bring home a Stanley Cup, the poor cap situation it might find itself in down the road won’t be as sore of a subject – just ask the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, this analysis is looking ahead and projecting, and though a Cup or two makes things look better, when mapping out a salary cap structure over the next decade or so, one can guarantee the money, but not the championship.
F James Neal (three years, $1.917MM)
D Andrej Sekera (one year, $1.5MM)
Retained Salary Transactions:
F Milan Lucic (one year, $750K)
Still To Sign:
This year was McLeod’s first full NHL season, recording 21 points in 71 games, with a brief stint in the AHL mixed in. The 22-year-old was one of Edmonton’s more important bott0m-six forwards and figures to play a prominent role with that group for years to come. Because he had just 21 points this season, and only one in 10 games in 2020-21, he won’t see too much of a raise over his ELC, however seeing as Edmonton is already over the salary cap and only has around $300K to offer once Klefbom and Smith are put on LTIR, finding a way to squeeze McLeod’s contract in will be a challenge regardless of the cost.
Best Value: Leon Draisaitl
Worst Value: Darnell Nurse
Considering how little space the Oilers have to re-sign McLeod and the LTIR being used, they figure to have trouble managing the cap this season, limiting the flexibility they will have. But, with the talent the team possesses, few would blame them for believing they could utilize the group they have in front of them now to pursue the Stanley Cup.
Since the team has its core locked in for the most part over the next three years, they’ve set themselves up well, at least to avoid losing any key pieces while their window is open. When the salary cap ceiling increases in the next coupe of seasons, the organization will find increased financial flexibility, however much of this may be needed to re-sign their big two up front. Overall, the short-term future, even if complicated and with slim margins, is very promising for Edmonton, primarily having two of the league’s best players as a part of that payroll. The long-term projection does look a little troublesome in five or six years, but may be worthwhile so that Edmonton can open it’s window wide for a few seasons right now.