After a busy offseason, the Edmonton Oilers have only one unsigned player remaining. Fortunately, Ryan McLeod is a restricted free agent, and it would be smart for him to sign a deal before training camp opens in less than a month. The young centerman is entering his second season after a successful but underrated rookie season (from “Ryan McLeod is Edmonton Oilers’ new poster boy for developing from within”, Edmonton Journal, 7/31/22).
Though McLeod isn’t a star, he is an important part of the team and has finally given the Oilers a strong third-line centre who can produce and perform at both ends of the ice. He must be signed before the season starts despite that management can fill the gap.
It makes little sense for McLeod to hold off as it will hurt him if he misses any part of training camp. He has the opportunity to sign a bridge deal (of one to two years) to grow and elevate his game before he earns a larger payday. Right now, the Oilers are strapped for cap space and can’t offer McLeod much, but there are three ways they can sign him and fit him on the 2022-23 roster.
Similar Deals to Yamamoto/Puljujarvi
General manager Ken Holland has either already made moves to clear cap space, or he’s gotten lucky this offseason. Zack Kassian was traded in a cap dump to the Arizona Coyotes, while Duncan Keith retired. Mike Smith is also headed to long-term injured reserve (LTIR) to free up more cap space. With all of that and Oscar Klefbom staying on LTIR for the remaining year of his deal, the Oilers were able to bring back a very similar team to the one they had last season while adding a starting goaltender in Jack Campbell.
Now, the organization is just above $6 million over the cap before Klefbom and Smith’s contracts head to LTIR. That would give them a couple hundred thousand to work with to sign McLeod, which isn’t nearly enough, not even for a league-minimum contract.
So, to start, the Oilers need to work out a deal that will force McLeod to prove himself for more than one season before considering any significant raise. That means signing him to a deal similar to the ones Kailer Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi signed over the past couple of seasons. Both forwards came in at $1.1 million annually, and they played in the top six. McLeod centers the third line, so the Oilers should offer him $1.5 million, at most. That would allow for a little room to work with to hold more than 21 players on the roster.
Oilers Limit the Roster to Begin Season
Speaking of the roster, Holland has stated that the Oilers may not be heading into the 2022-23 season with a full 23-man roster. A team only really needs 20 players (12 forwards, six defencemen, and two goalies), but allowing room for scratches and extras helps to create more competition and reduces the chance of complacency.
There are only a few spots up for grabs, and it is mostly within the bottom six of the forward group. The team has rookies who will be trying to earn a spot, as well as some 2021-22 regulars or fringe players. Ideally, a roster has two extra forwards (14 total), one extra defenceman (seven total), and two goaltenders. Without a move to clear cap space, the Oilers are looking at entering the season with one extra, at most.
Oilers Make a Trade
Now, the final and most important move the Oilers can make for McLeod to join the roster is to make a trade. There has been talk throughout the offseason about players who would help the team if traded. Here’s a look at two possibilities, and one in particular: Tyson Barrie and Warren Foegele.
Related: Oilers’ 5 Worst Contracts of 2022-23
Though it would benefit the Oilers to move Barrie for a better defensive defenceman on the third pairing, which would surely free up more than enough cap space to sign McLeod and have more than a 20-man roster, Foegele seems like the likeliest player to be traded this offseason.
Foegele had a disappointing season for the Oilers; he was often streaky and was a non-factor in the team’s playoff run. He has a cap hit of $2.75 million for two more seasons and is now a fourth-line winger, at best, on a bolstered team. Though management would likely have to move an asset for a team to take on Foegele’s salary, it won’t cost as much as it did with Kassian and would be worth it.
Options are somewhat limited for the Oilers at this point, and a possible trade has been the topic of conversation for long enough to help finish the transformation into a Stanley Cup contender.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News and trade talks.
You can find more of his work here.