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Pacific Peeks: Oilers offseason one of overcompensation

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Mismanagement may end Edmonton’s era before it begins.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-San Jose Sharks at Edmonton Oilers Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Editor’s Note: The boring part of the summer is upon us. Training camps are still about two months away, and arbitration season in winding down. With many teams close to calling it a summer, it’s a good time to check in on what the Sharks’ rivals have done in our newest series: Pacific Peeks. Today, we look at the team that eliminated San Jose last spring, the Edmonton Oilers.

The list of former first round picks that Edmonton Oilers General Manager Peter Chiarelli has traded got longer this offseason. Winger Jordan Eberle was added to the likes of Phil Kessel, Joe Colborne, Tyler Seguin, Taylor Hall, and Nail Yakupov when he was traded to the New York Islanders last month.

Much like the Hall trade a summer ago, Chiarelli received a 2011 first round pick in return, as the Oilers acquired the fifth overall pick from that year, Ryan Strome. Adam Larsson solidified Edmonton’s blueline last year, but it came at the expense of one of the league’s best wingers. Eberle slumped last season, but Strome has scored 58 points over the last two seasons after scoring 50 in his rookie campaign. A look at their respective underlying numbers, courtesy of Own the Puck, doesn’t paint a pretty picture.

Of course, playing with Connor McDavid could do wonders for Strome’s offensive production, while 2016 first round pick Jesse Puljujarvi could also potentially provide cheaper top-six acumen if he makes the team. In fact, the cost savings from the trade were arguably the biggest benefit for Edmonton, as it opened up $3,500,000 (Eberle’s salary minus Strome’s) from their salary cap for next season. Buying out Benoit Pouliot added another $2,666,667, but will keep $1,333,333 on the books for each of the next four seasons.

The Oilers did not wait long to use that newfound space. The day after Eberle was traded, the team re-signed oft-criticized defenseman Kris Russell to a four-year, $16,000,000 contract. It follows Chiarelli’s playbook from a summer ago, when he signed then-28-year-old winger Milan Lucic to a seven-year, $42,000,000 deal after trading Hall.

Underwhelming trade returns for Hall and Eberle aside, clearing salary cap space isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as the space is used wisely. Paying Lucic and Russell a combined $10,000,000 annually over the next four seasons (and $12,000,000 more for Lucic over the two seasons after) is not that.

Now, the Oilers’ offseason was far from a disaster. McDavid signed an eight-year, $100 million extension that will keep him in Edmonton throughout his 20s. They also locked up Zack Kassian at a team-friendly $1,950,000 AAV for the next three seasons, signed depth defenseman Eric Gryba for $900,000 per year over the next two seasons, and picked up Jussi Jokinen out of the bargain bin on a one year, $1,100,000 deal.

But their long-term flexibility remains an open question. With McDavid’s contract extension set to kick in next summer, the Oilers have $52,283,667 committed to 12 players next season. Assuming the salary cap remains flat, that leaves Edmonton $22,716,333 in cap space, and that’s without considering Leon Draisaitl’s next contract, as he remains an unsigned restricted free agent.

Next summer, Strome, plus defensemen Matthew Benning, and Darnell Nurse, will need new contracts as restricted free agents, while Patrick Maroon will be due for a substantial raise from his bargain $1,500,000. It will almost ensure the trade of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the last remaining first round forward pick from the pre-Chiarelli era, but they’ll need to find a way to replace him, too.

The Oilers have enough space ahead of this season ($16,828,000) to re-sign Draisaitl and even potentially acquire another player. However, they still probably would have had enough space to do that if they kept Eberle, and been able to trade him next summer to clear room for McDavid’s extension.

When a generational talent is signed so cheaply, you have to strike while the iron is hot and use those savings to surround him with talent. Chiarelli has had mixed results trying to do so, and has limited Edmonton’s future flexibility in the process.

McDavid’s reign over the NHL is just beginning, but as things stand right now, the Oilers aren’t ready to join him.

Arrivals

C/RW Ryan Strome (traded from New York Islanders), LW Jussi Jokinen (one year, $1,100,000 AAV), D Yohann Auvitu (one year, $700,000), RW Ty Rattie (one year, $700,000 AAV), D Ryan Stanton (two years, $700,000 AAV), LW Brad Malone (two years, $650,000 AAV), RW Brian Ferlin (one year, $700,000 AAV), G Edward Pasquale (one year, $700,000 AAV), D Keegan Lowe (one year, $650,000 AAV), RW Mitch Callahan (two years, $700,000 AAV), C Grayson Downing (one year, $650,000 AAV)

Departures

RW Jordan Eberle (New York Islanders; trade), D Griffin Reinhart (Vegas Golden Knights; expansion draft), RW Tyler Pitlick (Dallas Stars; three years, $1 million AAV), C David Desharnais (New York Rangers; one year, $1 million), D Jordan Oesterle (Chicago; two years, $650,000 AAV), D Andrew Ferrence (retired), G Jonas Gustavsson (Linköping HC, SHL), LW Jere Sallinen (Örebro HK, SHL), G Eetu Laurikainen (JYP, Liiga), C Anton Lander (Ak Bars Kazan, KHL)

Re-signings

C Connor McDavid (eight years, $12,500,000 AAV), D Kris Russell (four years, $4,000,000 AAV), RW Zack Kassian (three years, $1,925,000 AAV), D Eric Gryba (two years, $900,000 AAV), RW Iiro Pakarinen (one year, $725,000 AAV), LW Jujhar Khaira (two years, $675,000 AAV), D Ryan Stanton (two years, $700,000 AAV), D Joey LaLeggia (one year, $700,000 AAV), D Dillon Simpson (one year, $700,000 AAV)

Unsigned

C Leon Draisaitl (RFA), LW Matt Hendricks (UFA), RW Justin Fontaine (UFA), D Mark Fraser (UFA), LW Zach Pochiro (non-tendered UFA), D David Musil (non-tendered UFA), RW Henrik Samuelsson (non-tendered UFA)

Next up: We take a look at Calgary’s offseason on Thursday.