Edmonton Oilers face a looming dilemma with Warren Foegele

Warren Foegele has turned out to be better than expected for the Oilers, which causes problems with him set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Los Angeles Kings v Edmonton Oilers
Los Angeles Kings v Edmonton Oilers / Leila Devlin/GettyImages

Even as the Edmonton Oilers take aim at finally helping Connor McDavid win his first Stanley Cup, the organisation always has one eye on the future. There are plenty of decisions to make, with their salary cap situation set to be similarly tight next season.

The Oilers have plenty of personnel set to become unrestricted free agents (UFA) this summer, including the likes of Adam Henrique, Corey Perry, Calvin Pickard and Mattias Janmark. However, the key player whose future needs to be determined, is Warren Foegele.

Foegele is having the best campaign of his seven seasons in the NHL. Among other things, he has already set career bests with 17 goals, 20 assists, 37 overall points and 28 blocks as of Tuesday morning.

The 28-year-old has the highest cap hit of all the Oilers' pending UFAs mentioned, at $2.75 million. It stands to reason that he is most worthy of a significant pay rise, given the combination of his form and being in his prime.

Foegele proving his worth

Foegele has finally found the consistency which has long eluded him and previously stood out as arguably his prime negative. As a result, he has found a home on the second line alongside Leon Draisaitl and, of late, Henrique.

As per Allan Mitchell of The Athletic, Foegele's five-on-five production has been excellent this season, with 13 goals and 19 assists for 32 combined points. For some context, consider that the only forwards on the Oilers with more points in this scenario are Draisaitl, Connor McDavid and Zach Hyman.

To further highlight the Markham, Ontario native's development into a top asset, he has also proved invaluable on the penalty kill. Again as per Mitchell, his GA-60 is best among all Oilers forwards who regularly play on the penalty kill, while his SA-60 is best on the team full stop.

Oilers are financially compromised

When taking all of this into account, there's no denying Foegele deserves a new long-term contract with an increased average annual value. However, the likelihood of the Oilers being able to afford this, is not promising.

As per Cap Friendly, the Oilers already have $73,266,667 tied up in their projected salary cap hit for the 2024-25 campaign. As we previously wrote, the salary cap for next season is expected to be between $87 million and $88 million.

If we take the more optimistic figure of $88 million, this still only leaves $14,733,333 of cap space available for the Oilers as things stand for next season. Now consider that on the current roster, if you also include other pending UFAs Troy Stecher, Vincent Desharnais and Sam Carrick, that's nine players in total the Oilers have to account for with just over $14.7 million available in cap space.

The situation isn't as top heavy as the Toronto Maple Leafs, in respect of Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner and William Nylander taking up effectively half of the roster's salary cap. At the same though, the Oilers are still facing a tough dilemma when it comes to Foegele.

One solution could be to trade the likes of Evander Kane ($5.125 million cap hit), Cody Ceci ($3.25 million) or Jack Campbell ($5 million). This is easier said that done however, particularly with Kane.

Foegele is too valuable of a commodity for the Oilers to risk losing. However, unless he -- and others -- are willing to take the so-called 'home discount' to remain in Edmonton, the team seems set to lose one of their best complimentary forwards after this season.

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