There’s a pocket of Oilers fans who appear to be frustrated with Ken Holland’s lack of activity during the offseason. I understand that to an extent because looking at the team on paper, it looks very similar to the group that they had to start last season, minus a competent third line centre. A little frustration is fair.
Now, the easy defence for Ken Holland and his lack of moves is that the Oilers are currently handcuffed by a lack of cap space and assets that were left behind by Peter Chiarelli. That is also very valid.
I’m on the fence when it comes to this, I do think Ken Holland maybe could have been a tad more aggressive this summer with a few trades and such but I also realize how difficult that is to do. Making trades and improving a roster is not easy and that’s why I’m willing to wait until a year from now before I make any real judgments on Holland. Here’s why:
CAP SPACE IS EVERYTHING
Right now, PuckPedia says that the Oilers will have $24.5 million in cap space next offseason. I feel comfortable saying that the ceiling will go up to at least $83.5 million, which means the Oilers will have around $26.5 million to spend next summer.
They have some RFA’s that will need to be signed with Darnell Nurse, Matt Benning, and Caleb Jones all needing new deals. On top of that, Zack Kassian, Sam Gagner, Joakim Nygard, and Markus Granlund will all be UFA’s. They will also need a backup goalie.
For the sake of this excerise, I’ll assume the caphits for the three RFA’s will be on the high-end of things (they always seem to be for the Oilers). I have Nurse pegged at $6 million a year, Benning pegged at $2.25 million a year, and Jones at around $1.5 million. We’ll say a backup goalie costs around $3 million.
After taking care of the defence and goaltending, Holland will $13.75 million available to spend on forwards. That’s enough to bring back two of Kassian, Nygard, Gagner, or Granlund (their performances this season determining their futures here and their value) sign a few depth pieces, bring in a $5-6 million winger and still have around $2.5-3 million left over for wiggle room. They could also move out someone like Kris Russell and free up some more space.
Those are rough calculations and different players performances this season will affect how much money they make and where the Oilers biggest needs are, but at the very least, Ken Holland will have enough money to bring in one fairly high-end free agent winger next season.
With a free agent class that currently includes proven top-six options like Chris Kreider, Mikael Granlund, Mike Hoffman, Alex Galchenyuk, Tyler Toffoli, Craig Smith, Evgeni Dadonov, and even lower tier options like Erik Haula and JG Pageau, the Oilers could make a real impact addition with their cap space.
This year we saw names like PK Subban, Colin Miller, Erik Haula, Phil Kessell, Andrei Burakovsky, and Jacob Trouba all moved because their former teams simply couldn’t afford them. If Holland avoids the free agent market, then maybe the Oilers could be one of those teams who reaps the rewards of having some wiggle room in the summer by grabbing an effective player at a bargain price in a trade.
THE NEXT WAVE
A year from now the organization will have a better feel for some of their prospects. Will Tyler Benson be able to step in and contribute 15+ goals at the NHL level? Can they bank on Kailer Yamamoto to be a regular top-nine player with the big club? Do guys like Cooper Marody and Ryan McLeod have strong NHL futures? I’m not saying they’ll know for sure, but the Oilers should have a much better sense about the future of some of their forward prospects they go through another full season of pro hockey.
The same can be said for the backend. After next season, the Oilers should know whether or not Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear can be relied on for full-time NHL work in the 2020-21 season. They will also have a better idea of if Evan Bouchard is capable of handling top four minutes the following season.
The development of those players might change how the organization values someone like Matt Benning or Kris Russel. If young players on ELC’s can bring just as much value to the lineup, then the Oilers might be on from older, more expensive options.
The last thing I ever want to do is come off as an Oilers apologist who just agrees with every move they make and never criticises the team but, I don’t think now is the time to feel frustrated with Ken Holland.
Next summer he will have over $25 million in cap space with just five forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie under contract. That’s when we’ll see him put his stamp on the Oilers organization.
After having such a blast over the past two years, we absolutely knew that we were going to organize another golf tourney for the summer and, after a few months of planning, we’re psyched to finally be able to launch our third annual golf tournament.
- When – August 29th, 2019 (Thursday). Tee off at 2 p.m.
- Where – Cougar Creek Golf Resort
- How much – $1000/team
- Teams – Groups of Four (4)
- How – Book your team here
As always, a portion of all proceeds from your ticket purchase will be donated directly to a local charity. This time we’ve partnered up with the Gregor Foundation to make sure that our kids are at their most handsome.