Yesterday the Edmonton Oilers signed former third overall pick Leon Draisaitl to a 8 year $68 million contract. Draisatil has been a huge contributor for the Oilers in the past two seasons putting up 128 points in 154 games. He was also a star in the playoffs where he potted 6 goals and added 10 assists in 13 games. Considering the rumor was that Draisaitl was asking for $9 million per season, Edmonton got a bit of a bargain. The Oilers still have $8,328,000 in cap space going into next season after the Draisaitl deal. But you have to remember that does not include the massive Connor McDavid deal that kicks in at the start of next season. In the 2018/2019 season McDavid and Draisaitl will combine for $21 million against the cap, exactly the same as the Kane and Toews contracts in Chicago. With the flat cap of $75 million right now, that is 28% of Edmonton’s cap which creates a bit of a problem for the Oilers.
Now you can argue whether or not McDavid and Draisaitl are worth that much (which I believe they are). However you cannot argue how essential to the Edmonton offense the two of them are. The one-two punch down the middle is huge and similar to the setup in Pittsburgh with Crosby and Malkin. Putting the two of them on the powerplay is also a huge weapon for the Oilers. In my opinion the McDavid and Draisaitl contracts are not bad for the caliber of players they are. The problem they run into is the contracts previously given to the players around them.
Milan Lucic is not a bad player by any means. But giving a 28 year old forward on the decline $6 million per year until the end of time is going to put a huge handicap on the Oilers for the next six years. It is also a buyout proof contract and will basically be immovable as years go by and he continues to decline. Unfortunately you overpay for just about everyone in free agency so in order to get him you had to give him a silly amount of money. Putting him on the top line with McDavid also turned out to be a disaster as he was far to slow to play even close to the pace of McDavid. He is still fairly effective on the powerplay but struggled in 5 on 5 play this season.
The Oilers are also now paying Ryan Nugent-Hopkins $6 million for the next four seasons to be their third line center. He is still a very solid player but has been buried on the third line for the past two seasons. This contract is not a product of the new regime in Edmonton however, so you can’t blame current management for this. Nuge is still 24 years old and a solid second line center and could even develop into a first liner if he is placed in the correct situation. A trade makes most sense for Nuge. It frees up cap space and could give Nuge a better opportunity to shine in a more prominent role. Also he has plenty of trade value. Former first overall pick, second line center on a reasonable contract, and still a very productive 5 on 5 player. I would imagine a team in need of a second or even first line center would pay a decent price for RNH. Nashville and Montreal are two spots that come to my mind.
Now this contract makes me want to vomit. How the hell is Kris Russell worth $4 million over four years? He had one goal in 68 games and had 12 assists playing 21 minutes per night. It would be one thing if he were Niklas Hjalmarsson like in his defensive game. However he continuously gets hosed in his own end and can’t break the puck out to save his life. Sure he blocks a lot of shots, but that’s because he is always trapped in the defensive zone. Andrej Sekera (his defensive partner) literally carried him and did all of the heavy lifting between the two of them.
Getting rid of Jordan Eberle saved them some money however along with the fact that he could have used a change of scenery. The only problem with getting Ryan Strome in return is that he is an RFA at the end of the season and will more than likely will ask for more than the $2.5 million he is making right now. Cam Talbot is also a UFA in two seasons and if he continues to play like a Vezina candidate and 70 games per season he is going to be a very highly paid goaltender. Darnell Nurse and Jesse Puljujarvi to resign in the next two seasons.
I must praise their top three defenders and the contracts they are on. I am a huge Andrej Sekera fan and having him at $5.5 million for the next four years should be very solid for Edmonton. Hopefully he recovers from his injury fully and returns to his very solid form. Adam Larsson for as much criticism as he gets for the Taylor Hall trade is on a very solid deal and is a very steady top 4 defenseman. Oscar Klefbom is the Oilers best defender in my opinion. He is locked up for the next 6 years at just over $4 million.
Given the cap crunch Edmonton is going to face in years to come, the best time for Edmonton to win is now. The Oilers are on similar paths that the Blackhawks and Penguins took. Blackhawks drafted Toews and Kane back to back. They missed the playoffs the first year with those two, which was followed by a first round loss in the following year. The year after that? They won their first of three cups. Prior to that, Pittsburgh took Malkin and Crosby back to back in 2004 and 2005. Missed the playoffs in the first Crosby year (05/06) then in the following season they took a first round loss. The next season they lost to Detroit in the cup final, but beat them in the cup final the next season on route to their first of three cups as well.