The Edmonton Oilers weren’t expecting it to come this soon, but the offseason is here, and management will need to start preparing to make changes.
Despite a frustrating exit at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Oilers’ window remains very much open heading into 2023-24. That said, they have both some unrestricted and restricted free agents that will need to be re-signed, and at this time don’t have a lot of cap space to do so.
As far as UFAs go, Nick Bjugstad, Derek Ryan, Mattias Janmark, and Devin Shore are on expiring contracts. The chances that all four will be brought back are slim, but it is likely that at least two are brought back on inexpensive deals as depth options.
The RFA situation is where things will get trickier for the Oilers, as Evan Bouchard, Ryan McLeod, and Klim Kostin are all up. McLeod and Kostin won’t command a lot, but the 23-year-old Bouchard is expected to see a significant raise from the $863,333 cap hit he had this season.
What makes this a problem is that as of now, the Oilers are set to have just $5.97 million in cap space next season. The cap ceiling is expected to increase marginally, but still not enough to the point where Oilers GM Ken Holland is able to bring back the players listed above. In order to do so, he will need to move out salary. Here are three players he may look to do just that with.
1. Kailer Yamamoto
Aside from a brief stint in 2019-20, Kailer Yamamoto has struggled to consistently produce offence for the Oilers. This is despite the fact that he’s getting plenty of opportunities, as a good chunk of his ice time comes alongside either Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl.
Yamamoto has one more season remaining on a deal that carries a cap hit of $3.1 million and is no longer a necessity to have on a team that possesses a number of other talented wingers, including Evander Kane and Zach Hyman.
2. Cody Ceci
Though the four-year, $13 million deal he was given by the Oilers during the 2021 offseason raised some eyebrows, Cody Ceci quickly proved in 2021-22 how good he is capable of being when at his best. Unfortunately, he was far from that this past season.
While the Oilers’ right side on the blueline isn’t very deep, the emergence of Evan Bouchard may have management feeling comfortable enough to part ways with Ceci and his $3.25 million cap hit.
3. Brett Kulak
Since being acquired on deadline day last season, Brett Kulak has been a very solid piece on the Oilers’ back end. It didn’t take the organization long to realize this themselves, as they rewarded him with a four-year, $11 million deal just months after trading for him.
As good as he has been, he may very well be expendable this summer, given that Darnell Nurse and Mattias Ekholm slot ahead of him on the left side. Moving Kulak would allow Philip Broberg to get a regular spot in the lineup and would help free up $2.75 million in cap space for the Oilers.
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