Oilers have plenty of work to do with next season's salary cap

The Edmonton Oilers have been right up against the salary cap for the majority of this season, and as things stand, it's not going to be any better in 2024-25.
Calgary Flames v Edmonton Oilers - Game Four
Calgary Flames v Edmonton Oilers - Game Four / Codie McLachlan/GettyImages

On Tuesday, we wrote about how the Edmonton Oilers face a dilemma with Warren Foegele once the current campaign has finished. With him set to become an unrestricted free agent (UFA), he's proven himself worthy of a contract extension with a higher annual value, which will mean more than his $2.75 million cap hit for this season.

However, there is the question of if the Oilers can afford to keep Foegele, even though he has become a valuable commodity as a complimentary two-way top six forward. Based on the current situation, the chances are not promising.

Consider that Foegele is just one of nine pending UFAs on the Oilers roster as of Wednesday morning. The others are Adam Henrique, Mattias Janmark, Connor Brown, Corey Perry, Sam Carrick, Troy Stecher, Vincent Desharnais and Calvin Pickard.

Financial restraints for the Oilers

Now, as per Cap Friendly, add in that as things stand, the Oilers are already projected to have a cap hit of $73,266,667 for next season. With the salary cap predicted to go up to $87.5 million in 2024-25, this means just over $14.2 million remaining to sign their nine pending UFAs.

Of course we're not anticipating that the Oilers will want to re-sign all nine players, but it does give some idea of just how tough it's going to be to balance the books for next season. In order to bring back Foegele in 2024-25 at an increased cost, you're then looking at around just $10-11 million of cap space remaining.

Despite Brown's recent productivity, he's one of the players not expected to be back in Edmonton next season. However, as part of the Oilers' financial restrictions, he will still count for $3.225 million against the cap in 2024-25, due to his performance-based bonus for reaching 10 games this season. (Although performance seems a bit of a stretch, given how he was playing at the time.)

So how do the Oilers go about putting themselves into position to bring back the likes of Foegele, Pickard and Desharnais (and fill out the roster in general)? All are deserving of raises, as well as being players the Oilers should want to bring back to help keep the team strong and competitive.

Pricey trade candidates

One of the simplest ways in theory, is to trade away the likes of Evander Kane, Jack Campbell and Cody Ceci who, for some perspective, will have a combined cap hit of $13.375 million for the 2024-25 campaign. They have two, three and one years remaining respectively on their deals after this season.

However, the key phrase in that previous paragraph is 'in theory', because moving any of the trio is easier said than done. This is particularly the case with Kane, who has baggage from each of his previous stops in the NHL, and Campbell, who has the talent but has never been able to live up to his potential on a consistent enough basis.

Buyout possibilities

Another option is to buy out players, with us previously referencing this idea in respect of Campbell, who has an annual cap hit of $5 million. The issue is, if the Oilers did decide to buy him out in June, he would still be on the books for another six seasons.

As per Cap Friendly, the 2022 NHL All-Star's cap hit for the next six seasons would be: $1.1 million, $2.3 million, $2.6 million and then $1.5 million for each of the last three seasons. This is the dilemma facing the Oilers if they can't find a buyer for Campbell, although for what it's worth, he had been playing well of late in Bakersfield, prior to suffering an injury.

Along similar lines, Kane could be another option for a buyout, with two seasons remaining on his current deal and an annual cap hit of $5.125 million. Again as per Cap Friendly, buying him out would be a big hit initially, with a cap hit of $3.5 million for next season, then $2.25 million in 2025-26, before dropping to $1.125 million for each of the final two seasons.

To add to all the fun and games, let's also not forget that Leon Draisaitl will be in the final season of his current deal in 2024-25. It's hard to imagine the Oilers letting him became a UFA -- assuming of course he wants to stay in Edmonton -- combined with needing to pay him more, thus meaning an increase on his cap hit of $8.5 million for this season.

This doesn't mean any deal agreed will count towards next season's cap, but it does give you some idea of the ongoing financial challenges facing the Oilers. Although we appreciate this is the case for most NHL teams, in does seem to be particularly tight in Edmonton these days.

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Overall, while the Oilers have theoretically been in win-now mode in each of the past few seasons of the Connor McDavid era, you can make an argument it truly is the case this season. Pending how things play out, as things stand it's going to be tough to have a roster of similar strength and competitiveness in 2024-25.

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