Edmonton Oilers

Ryan McLeod files for arbitration, Oilers in limbo with re-signing Bouchard

The Edmonton Oilers have two unsigned restricted free agents (RFAs), Ryan McLeod and Evan Bouchard. Of course, Bouchard is highest on the priority list after a phenomenal breakout season in 2022–23 after Tyson Barrie was traded, but unfortunately the Oilers are in a bit of a holding pattern right now.

McLeod’s arbitration filing

An integral part of Edmonton’s bottom-six, McLeod is a key piece for the Oilers and due to his age and experience, earned arbitration rights this offseason. He’s coming off a very cheap one-way deal that paid him $798,000 last season, and is no doubt looking for a substantial raise.

McLeod was squeezed with his contract last year, and won’t be doing the Oilers any big favours this time around. Some are projecting his next contract to be a one- or two-year deal somewhere between $2M and $3M. That’s bad news for the Oilers’ salary cap, however.

McLeod’s contract impacts Bouchard

Recently, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Freidman reported that Bouchard is expected to sign a bridge deal, something like a two-year deal worth between $3.5M and $4M.

As it stands, the Oilers have a projected $5.62M in cap space. If Bouchard’s deal is in the reported range, that leaves somewhere between $1.6M and $2.1M for McLeod. It’s extremely tight.

The Oilers will now have a second buyout window that they could utilize to open up more cap space, but short of that or making another trade, the Oilers have no choice but to wait until McLeod’s arbitration case is resolved before signing Bouchard, whether that’s a settlement before an award or taking it all the way to the hearing and resolution.

The roster is coming together

Because the Oilers are so tight to the cap, and both McLeod and Bouchard are important pieces, it’s safe to say that this business will get done. We might not know what the term and dollars look like at this point, and it might be difficult for the two sides to agree, but at the end of the day we know what the Oilers’ opening night roster will look like to a large degree.

Bouchard has no choice but to wait, the only risk now is him using this in a future contract negotiation.

Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire

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