The Edmonton Oilers have a number of poor contracts that will continue to be anchors for this team over the next few years. Fans wanting to buyout these contracts and move on from them as quick as possible is certainly understandable, but would doing so with any of them really be the best move?
When I first mentioned the words “buy out” chances are the first name that jumped to your mind on the Oilers roster was Milan Lucic. #27 has 4 years remaining on his 7 year contract and has an annual cap hit of 6 million. Edmonton needs another top 6 winger and the 6 million a season the Oilers are paying Lucic makes that difficult.
Should Holland decide to buy out Lucic before the beginning of the season, here is how the numbers would break-down.
2019/2020 – $3,625,000
2020/2021 – $5,625,000
2021/2022 – $4,125,000
2022/2023 – $5,625,000
2023/2024 – $625,000
2024/2025 – $625,000
2025/2026 – $625,000
Next season Edmonton would have just under an additional 2.5 million/ 2.5 million on it’s own likely results in a middle 6 forward, or is more savings towards a top 6 player; let’s use Ehlers in Winnipeg and his 6 million per season cap as an example.
The next three seasons would be brutal for Edmonton with almost negligible savings. In 20/21 and 22/23 the Oilers are still essentially paying Lucic’s full cap in pure dead space. One could hope that the cap continues to go up but no matter what way you want to spin it, having 5+ million in dead cap space is not good management. Eventually, in the distant future of 2024, the 625,000 is a fine pill to swallow but overall buying Lucic out… at least this season, is not a feasible option for Edmonton.
Holland and Tippett have both gone on record, discussing the importance of having defensemen who can jump up into the play, transport the puck, and avoid spending too much time defending in their own zone. None of these areas Kris Russell excels at, and at 4 million a season, he is an expensive third pairing player.
2019/2020 – $916,667
First off, let me state that if the Oilers do want to move Russell’s contract, I believe they could do so in a trade rather than a buyout. Overall though, this would not be too bad of a pill to swallow. The 2020/2021 season is the only tougher year to manage but aside from that, Edmonton would have just over 3 million a year extra.
2019/2020 – $2,500,000
2020/2021 – $2,500,000
2021/2022 – $1,500,000
2022/2023 – $1,500,000
Similar to Russell, I believe if the intention is to try and move on from Andrej Sekera‘s contract, a trade would be plausible, potentially having to retain some cap space. Last season when Reg returned, for the first time since the 2016/2017 playoffs he was healthy and looked like a competent player. Sekera is 33 years of age with two years left on his current contract at 5.5 million per season and while he could be a top 4 player this season, realistically he is probably best suited on the third pairing and similar to Russell; that is a ton of money to pay for a third pairing player.
There are no major poor years of buyout with this option. The team saves an additional 3 million a year over the next two seasons and then only have to deal with an extra 1.5 over the next two. If there is a specific player the Oilers are targeting and need the cap space, I could see this happening, however I expect more likely that Sekera will be a member of the Oilers at training camp in September.
I always had a soft spot for Sam Gagner and on a personal level was happy to see him return to wearing the Oilers colours. However there is a reason why the Oilers were able to acquire him for Ryan Spooner. Both players had contracts just over 3 million a season remaining and both players struggled to produce.
2019/2020 – $1,016,667
2020/2021 – $1,016,667
Next season, Gagner has a cap hit of $3,150,000 and depending what kinds of changes Holland is able to make to the wing depth, could mean Gagner is playing on the fourth line. Similar to the Sekera scenario, I believe that unless the team is desperate for that extra 2 million in cap, it makes more sense for the team to bite the bullet, let him play out the remainder of his contract (only one year for Gagner) and be done with the contract then as opposed to carrying more dead cap space moving forward.
So no buyouts?
All in all, I don’t see buyouts as an option, at least for this season. The team could save a couple million on a couple deals in the short term, but would have to worry about dead space in the years to come. Edmonton is still paying for Benoit Pouliot, years since he last wore an Oilers uniform. If Holland is able to find a way to trade some of these players, acquire some kind of asset and more importantly, clear space with no strings attached then he will be the best GM that has rolled through Edmonton in years.