Oilers Benefit in Multiple Ways by Ryan McLeod Signing

Just as general manager Ken Holland promised, the Edmonton Oilers got a deal done with restricted free agent Ryan McLeod ahead of training camp opening. There was never any worry that a new contract would get done before the season, and it was just a matter of time. The signing allows for salary cap gymnastics to be able to stay under the cap.

It’s not the most ideal situation for the Oilers, but the number McLeod and the Oilers agreed upon helped a ton, considering they are right up against the cap. A lot can happen in a year, and the one-year contract he signed will give that much more time for the Oilers to figure things out with their roster and free up money. The young forward brings a ton of value to the Oilers, and he’s looking to elevate his game even more this season.

1 Year Can Make All the Difference for Oilers

McLeod spent a short stint in the American Hockey League (AHL) last season, but that won’t be the case in 2022-23. He has more than proven to be a top-nine talent very early in his career, and there are many benefits to both sides having the deal be only for one year.

The Oilers will free up $2.25 million in dead cap from Milan Lucic ($750,000) and Andrej Sekera ($1.5 million). These are results of two bad signings by former GM Peter Chiarelli that Holland has had to work around. Any sort of dead cap is tough to deal with, especially for a team like the Oilers with a massive amount of great talent and young players needing contracts.

Not only will that dead cap get freed up, but other contracts will also come off the books. Depth unrestricted free agents after this season include Devin Shore, Mattias Janmark, Derek Ryan, Slater Koekkoek, and Ryan Murray, and three of those players will more than likely find themselves waived by the end of the preseason.

Related: Oilers’ Puljujarvi Could Still Be Traded Before 2022-23 Season

The one year the Oilers have to work with after locking up McLeod to a steal of a contract will allow Holland and company to analyze other players, as well as McLeod. Players like Jesse Puljujarvi (if he isn’t traded), Stuart Skinner, and Evan Bouchard are all set to be restricted free agents after the season, along with McLeod again. Holland can judge who will be in the long-term plans and have the time to move money around through trades.

Steal of a Contract Compared to Other RFAs

Comparing McLeod’s contract to that of other more recent signings around the league, the Oilers got the absolute best deal. The only players who have recently signed cheaper deals were fringe NHLers and AHL players (“There are value contracts, and then there’s what Ryan McLeod just signed with Edmonton Oilers”, Edmonton Journal, Sept. 22, 2022).

Ryan McLeod Edmonton Oilers
Ryan McLeod, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

McLeod was a rookie last season, so let’s first look at the two other recent signings around the league from rookies that had the same leverage. Barrett Hayton, another centre, signed his first deal off his entry-level contract at a $1.775 million average annual value (AAV) for two seasons. He scored just three more points but is a top-nine forward like McLeod. Sean Durzi is the other rookie who signed, and he also got over double what McLeod is earning on his contract at $1.7 million AAV for two seasons.

This next group isn’t rookies, but they are around the same age as McLeod and inexperienced all the same. Sam Steel ($825,000 x 1), Filip Zadina ($1.825 million AAV x 3), Kirby Dach ($3.363 million AAV x 4), and Kieffer Bellows ($1.2 million AAV x 1) all got higher average annual values. McLeod could have easily asked for a higher number and even longer term. He has as big of or an even larger role than any of these forwards. As for the defencemen Erik Brannstrom ($900,000 x 1) and Mikey Anderson ($1 million x 1), they were both nearly rookies and got higher AAVs for the same amount of years.

This great signing of McLeod shows two things. The first is the player’s commitment and mentality. He said he didn’t think it was worth it to miss any time at training camp just to gain a little more money, and he’s confident that he’ll have a good season. If he does, he’ll certainly benefit on his next contract. The Oilers will also have the funds to reward him next offseason. The second is a testament to the great things Holland is doing with the Oilers and signing many pieces at very fair prices to help bring the Stanley Cup back to Edmonton.

McLeod Brings a Lot of Value to the Oilers

McLeod was a top-nine talent last season and continued to get better throughout 2021-22. This season, he will once again be in the top-nine with the opportunity to play higher up depending on how the Oilers create and shuffle the lines. Though he is likely the third line centre, Daniel Nugent-Bowman of The Athletic stated that McLeod was playing left wing on day one of training camp.

The Oilers could either load up their top-six as they’ve done in the past or spread out the talent through the top nine. The latter would likely allow McLeod to shift over to the wing and even get top-six time.

As Bob Stauffer writes, McLeod is a key player in all aspects of the Oilers’ game. He makes the forward group better, is a great penalty killer, and is a driving force on the second power-play unit. If he spends the majority of this season and future seasons at the third centre position, it is one less thing to worry about. For a long time, the Oilers had struggled to find a third line centre, and McLeod is the best option they’ve had in years. He’s also just 22 years old and now on an amazing contract.

This is a big season for the Oilers and McLeod alike. Both benefit from a short-term deal like the one he signed, and the Oilers are a much better team with him in the lineup. Drafting and developing in Edmonton has become a theme, and McLeod is a prime example of that and the changing tide of players willing to take deals to stay there and win.

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