With the conclusion of the regular season, we can now begin to see the final numbers on performance bonuses in player contracts from the 2021-22 season. Two of these bonus figures will end up posing a small issue for the Edmonton Oilers, who owe $896K in performance bonuses to Evan Bouchard and Ryan McLeod (link). Bouchard, who just finished the second year of his three-year entry-level contract, earned $850K in performance bonuses this year for goals, assists, points, and points-per-game. McLeod, who is in the final year of his entry-level contract, earned $46K out of a maximum $57.5K games played bonus. Altogether, Edmonton owes an additional $896K, which counts against the salary cap.
Because the Oilers finished over the salary cap by using LTIR, the entire $896K will now count against next season’s salary cap for Edmonton. While this number may not seem like much at all, the NHL is currently in a flat salary cap period, and therefore every dollar counts. With the salary cap for the 2022-23 season at $82.5MM, Edmonton has already committed just over $70.2MM in salary for next season, and just under $4.3MM of it belongs to James Neal, Andrej Sekera, and Milan Lucic – none of whom play for the team any longer.
The $12MM Edmonton has in remaining cap space may also seem like a comfortable margin, but factoring in their six UFAs, including defensemen Kris Russell and Brett Kulak, who have become key pieces that could each earn a raise next season over their $1.25MM and $925K cap hits respectively, and forward Evander Kane who has rebounded nicely since signing with the club in January, their situation becomes a bit more tight. The Oilers also have three pending RFAs in Jesse Puljujarvi, Kailer Yamamoto, and McLeod, each likely due at least a modest raise (the two former each made $1.175MM this season).
Edmonton is not exactly in a dire cap situation this offseason, having their core, including two of the best players of their generation, signed long-term for the most part. However, their situation, especially in a flat-cap, is an example of how even the most seemingly harmless of concerns, like an $896K bonus overage, can have a ripple effect for the organization and its offseason planning.