Edmonton Oilers general manager (GM) Ken Holland pulled off the near impossible. He brought back Evander Kane, Kailer Yamamoto, and Jesse Puljujarvi while signing a number one goaltender and upgrading other areas of the roster. Holland has been overlooked as one of the best GMs in the league and has turned the Oilers into a real contender for the Stanley Cup. They made their deepest playoff run since 2006, and they should be able to compete for years to come thanks to Holland’s work signing players.
This list will include players on entry-level contracts and focus on the cap hit rather than the length, as it affects how the team looks heading into next season. Here are the organization’s top 10 contracts ranked.
10. Stuart Skinner
$750,000 AAV through the 2022-23 season
Stuart Skinner is finally going to get his shot at full-time NHL duties. He has been nipping at the heels of the big league, but due to the Oilers’ bad goaltending contracts, he could only earn time during an injury. The young goaltender will backup Jack Campbell and be expected to start about 30 games.
Skinner’s numbers in the American Hockey League (AHL) over the past two seasons have been very good, and he improved in every regard during his development. When he did get his call-up, he didn’t disappoint and proved why he should be with the team. In 13 games and went 6-6-0 while posting a .913 save percentage (SV%) and 2.62 goals-against average (GAA) with one shutout.
He makes $750,000, so however you look at it, the Oilers are going to get their money’s worth. As Skinner has improved every year in his young career, the expectation is that he is only going to get better. He has a familiarity with coaches Jay Woodcroft and Dave Manson, along with a number of players on the team. As far as backups go, he’s young, he’s talented, and he is very cheap.
9. Kailer Yamamoto
$3 million AAV through the 2023-24 season
Kailer Yamamoto took a step forward last season and solidified his role in the top-six alongside Leon Draisaitl. Yamamoto is hard working and battles for everything despite being the smallest player one the ice. He showed that he has a goal-scoring ability and is a great puck retriever for his line and Draisaitl.
He signed a new two-year deal at a solid price for a young player who put up 20 goals and 41 points. He’s a great complementary player who can finish while being a key piece to the Oilers’ second power-play unit and on the penalty kill. The contract works great for both sides. For Yamamoto, he hopes that two seasons in the top-six playing beside two of the best players in the game can boost his numbers and allow him to become even better, while the Oilers get one of their young talents for two seasons at a good price.
He may not drive plays, but both Connor McDavid and Draisaitl like to have Yamamoto playing beside them. If he can consistently provide the Oilers with 20-25 goals and 40-plus points, $3 million looks pretty good.
8. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
$5.125 million AAV through the 2028-29 season
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ deal may look pretty good right now, but it could be iffy down the line. He does a lot for the Oilers despite some criticism. The Oilers’ power play struggled when he was out with an injury last season because the top unit wasn’t able to enter the zone as cleanly with him as an option on the left side at all times.
Nugent-Hopkins knows how to get pucks through to the net on the power play and has a sneaky wrist shot from his off-side. He recorded 22 power-play assists last season because he can shoot effectively for rebounds or pull defenders in and pass the puck off for a better chance from one of his teammates.
The work of the longest-tenured Oiler goes beyond the power play. He is also one of the team’s top penalty killers and is able to produce offence while down a man. He has great chemistry with Zach Hyman while shorthanded, and Nugent-Hopkins recorded three shorthanded goals and five points last season. He played well alongside Draisaitl on the second line and, if needed, is able to slot in on the third line and create some really strong depth at centre. He sits in the middle tier of contracts for the team and helps out in all areas as a strong two-way player.
7. Brett Kulak
$2.75 million AAV through the 2025-26 season
Brett Kulak was acquired from the Montreal Canadiens at last season’s trade deadline and immediately made an impact on the team. He slotted in on the third pairing beside Tyson Barrie and elevated his partner’s game defensively, resulting in the most effective pairing down the stretch and during their playoff run.
Kulak re-signed with the Oilers for four years at a solid price. He is expected to start his new contract playing second-pairing minutes alongside Evan Bouchard but won’t be overpaid when Philip Broberg eventually passes him on the depth chart. Kulak is a great defensive defenceman who is a great skater and efficient at breaking the puck out. He should elevate any partner and will be a key piece on the penalty kill that was very good at times last season.
6. Cody Ceci
$3.25 million AAV through the 2024-25 season
Cody Ceci was also brought in during free agency last season. He was signed to replace Adam Larsson’s physicality and defensive ability. Ceci stepped up, and though he isn’t a replica of Larsson, was signed for cheaper and added offence.
Ceci and Duncan Keith formed a formidable second pairing, but Ceci’s work saw him promoted to the top pair with Darnell Nurse for the second half of the season, shutting down the opposition’s top players. He played a key role on the penalty kill, did well playing above his weight class, and is signed to a very fair contract. His overall game allows him to be utilized up and down the lineup, and he is a great physical presence who blocks a ton of shots. He put up five goals and 28 points last season.
5. Connor McDavid
$12.5 million AAV through the 2025-26 season
The best player in the world could have been higher on this list, but McDavid is the highest-paid player in the league. That is for good reason, though, considering in just seven seasons, he has reached 100 points five times, 40 goals three times, 30 goals six times, and 697 points in 487 games played. He is also a four-time Art Ross Trophy winner, three-time Ted Lindsay Award winner, and two-time Hart Trophy winner.
McDavid is also coming off the best playoff performance in history, often carrying his team and scoring 10 goals and 33 points in 16 games. He was also a plus-15 and made 51 hits, reaching a whole new level to his game, something very few thought was possible.
McDavid can play with any winger and make them better. He keeps setting new career highs, and last season, scored 44 goals and 123 points while skating over 22 minutes a night, matching up against the best for every shift and even improving in the faceoff circle. No matter what contract he is given, it will be a good one.
4. Zach Hyman
$5.5 million AAV through the 2027-28 season
Zach Hyman was everything the Oilers could have asked for and more after they committed to him long-term. He was effective on both top lines, regardless of his linemates. His hard-working mentality, puck retrieval, and finishing ability played key roles all season and into the playoffs.
During the playoffs, the Oilers loaded up their top line. Hyman then stayed on the second line and scored in six straight games (seven goals), which encompassed the entire series against the Calgary Flames. He is a great penalty killer and plays great alongside Nugent-Hopkins, which I discussed above. Hyman put up one shorthanded goal and four points while he took over the net-front job on the power play as well.
Hyman is a great two-way forward and has received votes in three separate seasons for the Selke Trophy. He set career highs in goals (27) and points (54) and will perform even better if he is played with McDavid all season, gets increased time on the power play, and stays just as effective offensively and defensively on the penalty kill. In his prime, Hyman is key to the Oilers’ success.
3. Evander Kane
$5.125 million AAV through the 2025-26 season
The best mid-season pickup by any team last season was Evander Kane. Holland and the Oilers took a chance on the highly skilled goal-scorer, and it paid off extremely well. He totalled 35 goals and 56 points in 58 regular-season and playoff games combined. He put up record goals in the playoffs and brought the toughness the Oilers were lacking.
Re-signed at a great price, Kane will be with the Oilers through their Stanley Cup window. He has had nothing but great chemistry and success with McDavid on the top line as he can keep up and finish on many great opportunities that weren’t executed in the past.
Things should only go up from here, as Kane will now have a full season with the Oilers, and he is playing with a ton of confidence. He was on pace to score 40 goals last season, and almost all of his success came at even strength, which is even more impressive. He gives a boost to the second power-play unit, but it’s at five-on-five where he will continue to put up numbers and outplay opponents.
2. Evan Bouchard
$863,333 AAV through the 2022-23 season
Evan Bouchard surprised everyone and led the Oilers’ defencemen in scoring last season in goals (12) and points (43). He was basically a rookie, playing just one extra game in his first two trial runs to put him out of contention. Regardless, from starting last season on the third pairing to playing games on the top pair while earning top unit power-play time, he had a very impressive season.
Fortunately, Bouchard is still on his entry-level deal and will provide great value before he earns a significant pay raise next season. He should only improve upon his success and get a big boost from playing alongside Kulak. Bouchard struggled at times defensively, but that was to be expected from a young defender. If he scored any more goals and points, he would be approaching elite level already (from “Lowetide: Oilers’ Evan Bouchard is on the edge of stardom,” The Athletic, 7/20/22).
1. Leon Draisaitl
$8.5 million AAV through the 2024-25 season
The best contract on the Oilers, and one of the best in the league, is Draisaitl’s. He is one of the best players in the NHL and has been an absolute beast the past four seasons despite being overshadowed by McDavid.
Draisaitl has hit 50 goals in two of the past four seasons and 100 points in three of them. The one where he didn’t reach 100 points was the 56-game shortened season where he still put up 84 points. He was also incredible during the Oilers’ postseason run on one leg scoring seven goals and 32 points in 16 games while breaking some records.
Draisaitl is also a former Hart Trophy winner, Art Ross Trophy winner, and Ted Lindsay Award winner, all coming in the season when he elevated his line and dominated the competition without McDavid in the lineup. Whether he is running his own line, breaking power-play goal records, or sliding up to play on the top line and become unstoppable, the Oilers’ forward is the 39th highest-paid player in the league while performing as a top-five.
Those are the Oilers’ top-10 contracts ranked. Let me know what you think and if you’d change anything around.