Friday, July 21, 2017

The Draisaitl Contract: Part 2b - A Bridge Deal and Cap Management

In addition to more time for player evaluation, a bridge contract would give Edmonton salary cap flexibility they wouldn't have with a long term contract for Draisaitl. Before we get to some of the aspects of cap management to consider, we should take a quick look at what might constitute a reasonable* bridge contract for Draisaitl.

From the perspective of the Oilers, when it comes to a bridge deal, a two year contract probably works best. Such a deal would provide three RFA years post-bridge to fold into a long term deal, while the two year term is also particularly useful in dealing with the combination of potential bonus overages and McDavid's new contract. Kucherov signed a three year bridge contract with a 4.8M AAV. How exactly one wants to allocate that money, from year to year, is maybe a bit of an art form, but most would agree that year 1 is different from years 2 and 3 due to the lack of arbitration rights. So, let's say the breakdown truly is something like 3.9M, 5.0M and 5.5M for each of the 3 seasons? Panarin had a two year bridge at 6M, but had arbitration rights for both years instead of one year like Draisaitl would with a hypothetical two year bridge. Panarin was also older, closer to UFA, and had better production. In looking at those comparables, if the Oilers want a two year bridge deal, is it reasonable to say 4.75M in year 1, 5.75M in year two, for a two year bridge deal at 5.25M AAV?  If not, how much more? 5.5M AAV?

Player Management

A bridge deal would allow the Oilers to push back a decision on Nugent Hopkins. If Draisaitl signs a long term deal for 8M vs. a two year bridge at 5.5M, that might mean RNH has to be traded prior to the 2018/19 season, a cap casualty of the combined 20.5M cap hit between McDavid and Draisaitl. But, with a bridge deal, Edmonton can probably keep Nugent Hopkins, using the 2.5M in cap savings for 2018/19. Not only that, but kicking the can down the road might allow a rising cap to create enough room for Edmonton to keep RNH throughout his deal; they would potentially be able to smooth Draisaitl's raise into a cap that has moved twice by 2019/20. If you want to argue that you'd still rather spend the money on someone other than RNH, were it your call, that's fine. The point remains that, whether it's retaining Nugent Hopkins, or Maroon, potentially signing Benning and/or Nurse longer term, acquiring a new player, a bridge to Draisaitl coupled with a likely rise in the cap should help mitigate the cost cutting that has to be done prior to the 2018/19 season. And if the cap rises to even 80M by 2019/20, the very worst of the cap cutting measures could potentially be avoided entirely.

Going For It!!!

McDavid's final ELC year, coupled with a Draisaitl bridge, might provide the best chance over the next couple of seasons for Edmonton to add complementary players and make a run for the Cup. The money saved from a bridge deal could go a long way towards facilitating a signing, or an in-season trade, strengthening the roster for a long playoff run.

Reduced or Eliminated Carryover Bonus Overages

Another advantage stemming from a two year bridge contract would be the potential alleviation of bonus overage concerns for both 17/18 and 18/19, if the Oilers choose to play it that way. The reduction in Draisaitl's cap hit would, all else equal, decrease the likelihood the Oilers incur a carryover bonus overage the following season (by staying further from the cap) while simultaneously making it easier to deal with an overage in 2018/19, should one occur.  For argument's sake, say the Oilers decide to "Go for it!" at the 2018 deadline, resulting in a 2M overage for 2018/19.  Coupling McDavid's 12.5M with Draisaitl's 8M cap hit, were he to sign long term, such an overage would create a serious cap crunch next season.  However, if they have Draisaitl on a two year bridge at 5.5M and incur an overage**, that's a lot easier to handle with McDavid and Draisaitl signed at 18M than McDavid and Draisaitl at 20.5M.

These three, somewhat unrelated, ideas are all connected through the cap. It's not necessarily easy to balance competing factors, but a bridge contract would give the Oilers some useful flexibility to address all three of these issues, to some degree or another, providing additional arguments for a Draisaitl bridge deal.

* One person's reasonable is another person's unreasonable, but bear with me!

**And, just to repeat, with Draisaitl signed to a bridge deal, it's less likely you incur an overage to begin with.

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