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Bridge Deal for Evan Bouchard Close, But Could Be a Big Mistake

Edmonton Oilers face tough decision on Evan Bouchard’s contract: bridge deal or long-term commitment?

The Edmonton Oilers are facing a crucial decision regarding restricted free-agent defenseman Evan Bouchard. While a bridge deal may seem like the most practical option, some voices within the Oilers community suggest exploring alternative paths. Journalist Jonathan Willis of The Athletic argues that settling for a short-term contract might make sense in the short term, but that it also complicates matters down the line, as Bouchard’s value is projected to rise significantly.

With reports coming in that the two sides might be close to finalizing terms on a bridge contract of two years, estimates are placing Bouchard’s next deal with the Oilers between $3.5 million and $4 million. Willis warns against missed opportunities and that not locking up Bouchard now means massive dollars not saved later. He points out Bouchard’s impressive performance after Tyson Barrie’s departure, accumulating 19 points in 21 games. He then suggests that securing a long-term contract now, even if it requires difficult roster adjustments, could prove more beneficial in the future. By making strategic moves such as a buyout, trading without retaining salary, and optimizing roster spots, the Oilers could potentially create ample cap space for both Bouchard and Ryan McLeod.

Willis acknowledges some drawbacks, such as weak goaltending — as a result of a Jack Campbell buyout — and potential loss of flexibility, but emphasizes the long-term gains of locking in two promising young players. Furthermore, he highlights the need to consider the overall cap implications, ensuring that the positives outweigh any negatives resulting from a potential buyout and trade of a player(s) like Brett Kulak, Cody Ceci, or Warren Foegele.

Evan Bouchard Edmonton Oilers bridge deal
Evan Bouchard Edmonton Oilers bridge deal

While the Oilers understand the importance of securing Bouchard’s services, there is always the long-shot fear of competition from other teams that may consider submitting an offer sheet. Bouchard, at just 23 years old, is already seen as a top defenseman. The recent contract signed by Bowen Byram of the Colorado Avalanche, a comparable player, could provide insight into Bouchard’s potential contract terms.

The Oilers are now tasked with finding the optimal solution that balances short-term cap management with long-term player development and team success. The clock is ticking as they aim to secure Bouchard’s future and solidify their blue line for the seasons ahead. Going with a bridge deal now might be kicking the can down the road, but when the Oilers finally catch up to that can, how much is what’s inside it worth?

Next: Controversy Surrounds John Gibson’s Trade Request Rumors



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