Jason Gregor at Oilers Nation wrote an interesting piece taking a closer look at the injury situation for Edmonton Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom and how it potentially affects the Oilers salary cap. Most know that the Oilers intend to place Klefbom on LTIR, but there are wrinkles and complexities to that move which may alter the team’s decision. More specifically, the Oilers will need to decide when they should claim for LTI with the player.
In the NHL, players can be placed on LTIR before or after the season begins. If before, the salary cap you submit at that time becomes your cap for the season. If after, your team has to be cap compliant on your opening day roster, meaning you have to be at, or under, $81.5 million. Gregor believes the Edmonton Oilers will place Klefbom on LTIR before next season begins so they can bump their cap to around $85.3 million and get a deal done with restricted free agent defenseman Ethan Bear.
It’s crafty and the cap allows for such a move, but it’s also a decision that has some risk. First, whenever you invoke LTI, that cap number doesn’t move at any time. The Oilers would potentially be maxed out on their cap on day one of the season and wouldn’t have the ability to call a player up from the minors to replace an injured player.
Second, players with hefty performance bonus would need to be on the team so as not to create issues going forward. There’s a somewhat complicated loophole that exists in regards to those bonuses counting against the cap and being placed in a different silo at the start of the season. Without getting into too much detail on it, what we’ll say is that it means a player like Evan Bouchard would be on the Oilers opening night roster.
An Alternative Option for the Oilers
There is another option for the Oilers which would be to sign Ethan Bear and then look to move some salary off the roster before opening night. Or, the Oilers can place a few players to start the season on IR, have a few more bodies on the active roster, and can shuffle them off and have same amount of space.
Finally, there is the potential option of paper transactions to “send” players on one way contracts to the AHL. You wouldn’t want to do this with players who need to clear waivers unless the Oilers are willing to lose them, but someone like James Neal, Alex Chiasson and/or Zack Kassian could be moved to save money on each player.
It’s not a slam dunk decision by any means and there are some pros and cons regardless of which way the Oilers go.
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