Edmonton Oilers

Evaluating how the Edmonton Oilers can sign Ryan McLeod

With Ryan McLeod participating with the rest of the Edmonton Oilers in the informal skates, it’s got most Oilers fans pretty confident that, one way or another, general manager Ken Holland will find a way to get a deal done. So what’s the holdup?

The answer to that question is the salary cap and the Oilers’ roster construction. Holland signed most of his high-priority expiring contracts between July and August, and it didn’t take long for him to burn up available cap space. The Oilers are now almost $7 million over the cap before LTIR subtractions.

McLeod is the last restricted free agent on the team still in need of a new contract before the start of the season. This has many pundits and fans alike wondering how a deal gets done and what are the options for the Oilers?

McLeod’s 2020–21 season performance

Looking at McLeod’s 2020–21 season stats, we can see it was split between playing for EV Zug in the Swiss-A league, the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Bakersfield Condors, and even a small stint in the NHL with the Oilers. 

During his time with EV Zug, McLeod put up four goals and seven assists for 11 points in 15 games. I would say these are okay numbers considering he was playing on a new team with new linemates, not to mention playing in a new country entirely. However, he wouldn’t stay in Sweden long before the AHL season started after being delayed due to the pandemic. 

With the Bakersfield Condors, McLeod became a point-per-game player, racking up 14 goals and 14 assists for 28 points in 28 games. He seemed to be playing with confidence, using his incredible speed to get past defenders and capitalize on his chances. Generally, he outscored the opposition, finishing the regular season with a plus-minus of 23. 

Although it was not long, McLeod’s speed translated well into his short 10-game stint with the Oilers, but it was clear he was not yet ready for the jump in intensity and skill at the NHL level. 

McLeod’s improvements in 2021–22

McLeod’s 2021–22 season started with a brief stint in the AHL, playing seven games, scoring one goal, and posting four assists before being called up to the big leagues in Edmonton. While in Edmonton, he used his size, speed and high hockey IQ to snag a regular spot in the Oilers’ bottom-six as their fourth line centre, where he played with consistency and poise.

He would remain in this spot for the rest of the season. During the 71 games he played in the regular season, McLeod scored nine goals and 12 assists for a total of 21 points. 

How does Ken Holland fit in McLeod’s contract?

Although the Oiler’s cap situation is more than tight, there are still ways that Holland can make a deal happen for the budding prospect.

Making a trade

The first way the Oilers can create the cap space to sign McLeod is by making a trade. When we look at the roster, there are a couple players who would be prime candidates for this. 

The first is Tyson Barrie; this trade makes sense for the Oilers because I believe the value he provides the team as an offensive-minded defenceman will quickly be replaced by Evan Bouchard. Looking at the upcoming season, it is clear that Bouchard can quarterback a power play just as well, if not better than Barrie.

If the Oilers could move away from Barrie’s $4.5M average annual value contract, they would be left with more than enough money against the cap to get a deal done. If a trade does come to fruition, the Oilers will most likely look to find a cheaper replacement on the right side unless someone like Slater Koekkoek or Markus Niemeläinen steps up to fill those minutes and keep a clean sheet.

Another move that could make sense for the Oilers is trading Warren Foegele. Foegele’s lacklustre point production (26 points in 82 games) does not justify his contract ($2.75M until the end of the season) and he unfortunately provides little value to the team. Trading him can provide an opportunity for cheaper wingers like Dylan Holloway or Xavier Bourgault if they show well in training camp.

Foegele’s fit with Edmonton was just not as seamless as many had hoped, and if the Oilers want to shed his contract, there would likely be multiple suitors seeking his services.

The last move that could make sense for the Oilers would be trading Jesse Puljujärvi and his $3M contract. This would create enough cap room to sign McLeod, but with Puljujarvi’s currently low market value, the Oilers would not yield much in return for their 2016 first-round pick.

Shorting the Oilers roster

Another option for the Oilers would be to go into the 2022–23 season with less than a 23-man roster. This would help ease the Oiler’s cap situation merely because there are fewer players eating up the salary cap.

The main concern with this option would be injuries; it would only take a few all at once for the Oilers to be looking at a situation where they may be starting a game shorthanded simply because they don’t have enough healthy players to ice a full bench. Other NHL teams have done similar when up against the cap, such as the Vegas Golden Knights doing so in various combinations in past seasons.

With the Oilers AHL farm team—the Bakersfield Condors—being located in California about a three hours drive north of Los Angeles, it could mean it may take a day or two before they can call up a replacement player, especially there are hardships or restrictions in travel this year.

The other concern with this option is the workload would be increased for the players on the team simply because fewer players are playing the same 60 minutes; this could make for a greater chance of injuries. On the contrary, when you have elite players like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, more time on ice could be beneficial as they have the ability to dominate third and fourth line competition.

Putting ink onto the contract

All in all, there are ways for Holland to get McLeod signed, and I expect him to sign sometime soon before training camp starts in a few weeks. My guess would be a sorter deal similar deal to Kailer Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujärvi in term length and coming in around $1M per season. Get it done, Ken, get it done.

Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire


  1. Thanks for the write-up Layne.

    1) McLeod’s demotion back to the AHL early last season was on merit. He had a very poor training camp and early season and hadn’t seemed to develop in the main required areas which was really a willingness to “play in the muck, go in to some of the hard areas and battle for the puck and his space. While he will never be an aggressive player or a banger, once he was recalled he showed much more of a willingness to engage in contact and his game transformed.

    2) If we are going to talk about McLeod’s game, we have to mention special teams. He was on the PK from his first game as a rookie pro in Bakesfield and was elevated in that role as soon as Woody took over – culminating on PK1 and being 2nd among forwards in PK TOI/G in the playoffs. He was also sneaky good on PP2 – among the leaders of the PP2 forwards in P/60.

    3) There seems to be a good chance that Holland doesn’t trade anyone out and goes with a 21 player roster. Layne, the issue with that and injuries is not the length of time it takes to get a player in from Bakersfield but that there wouldn’t be any cap sapce to actually recall a player. A player on regular IR still counts against the cap so, unless the player will be out a min of 24 days AND 10 game to go on LTIR, there will be no cap space to replace him on the roster (unless another player is assigned down).

    4) Happy to get in to the emergency recall rules if anyone wants? I did research those a little while back so know how they would work in this situation.

    5) I think the contract is essentially done and the parties are waiting to see if there will be a bit of extra cap to get him signed to a 2 year deal closer to $1.3MM (as opposed to a one-year deal around $950)..

    6) I don’t think there would be ANY chance that they trade Barrie without bringing in another established right shot guy – whether it be Subban as a UFA or someone like Mayfield or DeMelo (which I don’t see happening at all). They will definitely have 3 NHL RD in the org and it will be interesting to see who fills in if an injjry comes – Both Murray and Kulak have played the right side at the NHL level, Murray quite a bit in Columbus – I think he’d be option 1. Broberg played a ton of the right side in Sweden but not in the AHL (he did a bit in the NHL last season) – I bet ya he gets lots of reps on the right side in camp and exhibition.

    1. I appreciate you taking the time to read and provide your knowledge on these posts.

      Your totally right; McLeod’s contributions to the PK were huge and stood out to me.

      I would love to hear what you know about the emergency call-up rules, as this is an area I am not super familiar with!

      1. On the emergency call-up rules, essentially, if due to incapacitating injury and/or illness a team falls below the ability to ice 2G/6D/12F they can call a player up on an emergency basis (and they can be returned within a certain time without waivers being an issue, etc.).

        With that said, they don’t get cap relief right away. If the Oilers have a 20-21 player roster due to cap issues, they won’t have cap room to make an emergency recall.

        After the team has played short of 18 skaters for a game, they can make an emergency recall to fill their lineup and get cap relief – that player called up has to have a cap hit of not more than league min plus $100K, so, for this year, $850K.

        So, if the Oilers carry 21 players that is just cap compliant and just one extra skater and two guys go down short term (i.e. not enough to go on LTIR, which is a min of 10 games AND 24 days), they will need to play a game short, only 17 skaters, and then could call up an $850K or less player to fill.

      2. Thanks for explaining this! Some cap situations can be so complicated, you did a great job of breaking it down so it makes sense.

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