There has been a lot of talk about the Oilers using their upcoming buyout window to buyout the contract(s) of Nikitin, Purcell, and/or Ference. The logical explanation for buying out a contract would be to make room for the addition of a defenceman either via trade (Seabrook perhaps) or through free agency (Franson or Ehrhoff). Personally, I believe Franson makes the most sense for the Oilers. He would fill the role that Justin Schultz is in now more effectively than Schultz, and would be cheaper and cost no assets to acquire, unlike Brent Seabrook. While Ehrhoff would also be a decent, and likely even less expensive option, Franson adds depth to the weakest organizational position, right-handed defencemen.
I took a look at how the Oilers could potentially add Franson, on a 6 year, $30m contract ($5m AAV) without using a buyout, and also did some armchair GMing to determine the cap implications for the next few seasons:
[table id=11 /]
In this scenario, instead of buying out Nikitin’s contract, I have him being buried in the minors, freeing $0.950m in cap space and resulting in $3.550m in buried cap hit. The additional $0.050m in buried cap space is from Anders Nilsson’s contract. I believe that Scrivens will beat out Nilsson for the backup job. Chances are, if Nilsson was sent to the AHL, he and the Oilers would just agree to mutually terminate his contract, allowing him to return to Europe, or he would be loaned to a team in Europe, allowing the Oilers to retain his rights. I have Andrew Miller making the team because I don’t think he would clear waivers and I thought he played very well in his limited time here last season. Another very important thing to note is that Draisaitl, Reinhart, and Nurse are all in the AHL. Of course, I doubt that any of them will spend all season in Bakersfield, but in this case this will be a development year for all 3 for most of the season. The addition of Franson reduces the need to bring Nurse or Reinhart into the NHL too quickly. The “Maximum” amount referenced in the table refers to the cap hit that would exist if all bonuses were achieved. In this scenario, we would see a $0.988m overage carried into next season:
[table id=12 /]
In this case, I only listed the bonuses that fit under the bonus cushion as “bonuses” in the final cap calculation. The rest, approximately $4.234m worth of performance bonuses are included in the “Cap Hit” to show that the Oilers would not be above the upper limit. Current salary cap projections have the cap staying about the same due to the low Canadian Dollar, so we’ll assume the cap remains at $71.4m. This means that the Oilers would be carrying a $1.988m bonus overage into the 2017-18 season, at most.
Let’s take a look at some of the roster moves that lead to this roster for 2016-17. Amongst forwards, I have Teddy Purcell, Rob Klinkhammer, and Andrew Miller leaving via free agency, and Lauri Korpikoski being buried in the minors. Essentially, Draisaitl replaces Purcell, Slepyshev replaces Korpikoski, Pakarinen replaces Klinkhammer, and an additional forward, from either within or outside the organization replaces Miller. On defence, Ference is bought out of the final year of his deal, Nikitin and Gryba walk as UFAs, and the Oilers either trade or let Justin Schultz walk. Klefbom is re-signed to a long term deal at $4.5m a season, while Reinhart, Nurse, and a defensive prospect, I have Oesterle, join the big club. In goal, Scrivens walks as a free agent and is replaced by Brossoit on a 1 year bridge deal. Cam Talbot is re-signed to a 4 year, $5m AAV deal.
In the 2017 offseason, I figure that the Oilers will have some tough roster decisions to make, with the large bonus overage and several key re-signings coming up such as McDavid and Nurse. I came up with this for the 2017-18 season, using a projected salary cap of $73m:
[table id=13 /]
First off, the two major moves are trading Nail Yakupov and Mark Fayne. Mark Fayne would be traded because with the development of our young defencemen, he would no longer fit. It is the last year of his deal so the team should be able to find a taker. I chose to trade Yakupov because he is a RFA at this point and I don’t believe the Oilers would be able to re-sign him to a reasonable amount. The desired return would include a young right-handed defenceman to play on the third pairing with Reinhart.
For some of the more minor moves, I have Draisaitl signing a bridge deal similar to Ryan Johansen’s. Anton Lander re-signs to a deal around 3-4 years with a $3m AAV. Pakarinen re-signs to a bridge deal and Yakimov joins the team full time on a small one-year deal. Hendricks walks as an UFA. On defence, Reinhart is re-signed to a long term deal. It’s difficult to project his AAV until we know what he can provide to the team but I have put it at $4m. Laurent Brossoit is re-signed to a $2m AAV bridge deal for a couple seasons. This roster carries a $0.386m overage.
Finally, into 2018-19, where we’ll predict a $76m salary cap:
[table id=14 /]
Here the last year of Benoit Pouliot’s deal is traded as well as Cam Talbot, who is replaced by Laurent Brossoit. McDavid and Nurse are both re-signed to long term deals. Yakimov and Slepyshev are re-signed to bridge deals, and the Oilers are left over with $810k in cap space.
Now of course, the chances of everything I have said happening to the exact are very, very low. There are a lot of things we are relying on to happen here. We assume that Draisaitl, Nurse, and Reinhart all pan out, which is likely to happen, but we also assume that Pakarinen, Yakimov, Slepyshev, etc. become useful NHL players. While this scenario outlined what would happen in the seasons following the Oilers just signing Franson or obtaining another defenceman at similar value, a similar thing would likely happen if Nikitin had been bought out and replaced. Unless the cap increases significantly, if the Oilers do decide to add another defenceman to the team, there will have to be players traded to make room.
As for the quality of the team itself, here is a possible lineup for the 2018-19 season:
Hall – McDavid – Draisaitl
Lander – Nugent-Hopkins – Eberle
Slepyshev – Yakimov – Chase
? – ? – Pakarinen
Nurse – Sekera
Klefbom – Franson
Reinhart – ?
? (Possibly Laurikainen)
This looks to be a very good team. That first line could be absolutely deadly, and there is an excellent defensive core, assuming all players develop to their potential.
One last thing that’s important to mention is the contracts for all of these players. It’s difficult to predict some of these contracts. Even for Franson himself, I have him signing for $5m, but he may want more. There are many bridge deals that could come back to haunt the team, but ultimately, if the Oilers want to achieve the most depth possible they may have to look an less expensive bridge deals as a way to open cap space.
We also have a bunch of new shirts available at the Beer League Heroes Store, so be sure to check those out as well.