The Bouch bomb is locked and loaded

Apr 23, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Evan Bouchard (2) moves the puck against the Los Angeles Kings during the third period in game four of the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 23, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Evan Bouchard (2) moves the puck against the Los Angeles Kings during the third period in game four of the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /
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For those of you who’ve been taking a break from social media, you might’ve missed the news that the Oilers have re-upped Evan Bouchard for two years at $7.8 million ($3.9 million per) on a bridge deal.

This was pretty close to what we expected Bouch to sign for here. After all, everyone and their dog knows the public situation the NHL’s salary cap is in – virtually all the good teams and a few bad ones are nestled right up against the cap ceiling, so the only way that young RFAs were going to get a better offer was to sign an offer sheet or get traded to a vastly inferior team, and there’s a good chance that both options would be a step back. Lots of young established RFAs knew this and took similar deals, like this guy for instance. They know the cap situation of every team so they are taking bridge deals now and over the next couple of seasons when the cap increases by an actually substantial amount that’s when they’ll cash in.

Evan Bouchard was no different. A vocal minority of Oilers fans were clamoring for the Oilers to lock him up long term just like Peter Chiarelli did with Oscar Klefbom in 2015.

Here’s the thing though – both parties have to agree to something like that. If you’re one of the dum-dums who’s clamoring for this did it ever occur to you that maybe Bouchard didn’t WANT to sign a contract like that? Maybe he read the direction of the market and fell in line with other RFAs. It’s incredibly unfair to critique Ken Holland when you don’t know the circumstances surrounding the negotiations which no one is privy to except for management, the player, and the player’s agent.

Like I said, both parties have to agree to contracts in pro sports. If one party doesn’t agree, then it’s back to the bargaining table, or work on a trade or release the player on waivers or send him down to the minors.

I have to assume that Bouchard also found it appealing to have a mentor in Mattias Ekholm next to him to help him solidify his defensive game, which in his case isn’t as bad as some players (looking at you, Erik Karlsson) but isn’t where it needs to be if the Oilers are to win the Cup and need everyone on the team regardless of role firing on all cylinders. No better mentor for him in the defensive side of things than Ekholm.

Regardless of what you think, facts and reality state that is par for the course right now. Bouchard wasn’t doing anything everyone else in his position wasn’t doing.

How this contract affects the cap situation going forward

Like 13 other teams in the league, the Oilers are now over the cap, by $390,372. The Oilers are fine for now but are not allowed to be over the cap per the CBA once the season starts. This means that as of now, the Oilers have three options available to them to become cap-compliant:

  1.  Trade for an LTIR contract, likely with Arizona, who has four of them right now. If Holland was going to go this route I have to think he’d have already gone this route by now.

2.  Trade another player to get under the cap – Brett Kulak, I’m looking at you. You are making                  way too much to play on the third pairing right now and your likely replacement is already                  on the roster in Philip Broberg

3. Take the cap hit on the chin going into next year when it will be deducted off of next year’s cap hit. This seems like the most likely scenario unless there’s a trade in the works that I                     don’t know about yet. After all, the player’s debt to the owners from the pandemic will be                   paid off by the end of this season so the cap will only be determined by revenues going forward from this season. It’s not even the NHL minimum for a player, so it’s completely plausible Holland will simply do nothing and take the hit next season when he’ll be in the clear and operating with cap space to spare if projections are correct. Just to be clear, this is the punishment for exceeding the cap if the Oilers don’t change the situation before the end of training camp.

There isn’t much of a presser from Bouchard but if you want to see it, here it is.

Tyler Wright is out, and Rick Pracey in

That same article I linked to also showed a peculiar move in the scouting department. Director of Amateur Scouting Tyler Wright and the organization have “mutually parted ways” – which could mean a lot of things – and replaced by Rick Pracey, who has worked for the past nine years in Philadelphia. No word in Philly of any players drafted of note, but prior to being in Philly he was in Colorado for six years where he oversaw the drafting of players such as Nathan Mckinnon, Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O’Reilly and Tyson Barrie.

Pracey is most known for finding gems in the lower rounds of the draft. My theory is this guy became available so perhaps that’s what prompted the “mutual parting of ways” with Wright – management said we’d rather have this guy at the helm so you can either leave voluntarily or we can fire you publicly, and Wright chose the former.

The timing is very peculiar though as Wright has only been determining the picks for four seasons, and most draft picks usually take about five years to develop, so we never really had enough time to determine how good of a head scout Wright was.

Ultimately this is one of those closed-door decisions that we’ll never know what really went on.

I suppose when the Oilers hired Jeff Jackson as CEO some change was inevitable in the franchise.