Earlier today, the Edmonton Oilers announced that 21 year-old center Leon Draisaitl, who scored 29 goals and 77 points in 2016-17, signed an eight year extension with an $8.5 million cap hit per season.
That now leaves the Oilers with about $8.3 million left in cap space, according to CapFriendly.com. However, superstar Connor McDavid, who currently has a $925K cap hit, will have a $12.5 million hit after the 2017-18 season. Though the salaries of Mark Letestu, Patrick Maroon, Jussi Jokinen, Mark Fayne and Lauri Korpikoski's buyout will come off the books following this season, the Oilers will also have seven RFAs, including Darnell Nurse who need to be re-signed. Nurse could demand a lot of money if he has a good 2017-18. Also, they'd probably like to extend Maroon or Letestu, so a cap crunch from these deals could prevent them from doing so.
This brings us to a very, very similar situation in the Western Conference. Since their dynasty started in 2010, the Chicago Blackhawks' roster has been absolutely destroyed by the salary cap. Patrick Sharp, Brandon Saad, Johnny Oduya, Teuvo Teravainen, Kris Versteeg, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Dustin Byfuglien, Nick Leddy and Andrew Ladd are just some of the players Chicago has been forced to trade away. Imagine how amazing they'd be right now if they kept all those guys. I guess that's what the salary cap is for.
Also, the Blackhawks' top two stars, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have a combined $21 million cap hit. When McDavid's new contract kicks in, McDavid and Draisaitl will also have a combined cap hit of $21 million. This could lead to major problems for Edmonton!
If you are wondering who the Oilers could trade next year, I think defenseman Andrej Sekera could be on the block. The Oilers have four other top four defenseman in Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Darnell Nurse and Kris Rusell, so Sekera isn't needed. He's also 31, older than the other four. He has a $5.5 million cap hit through 2020-21. He could be valuable to a team in need of a top four defenseman.
But, this is still a full year away from happening. A lot of things could change in a year, so next off-season, we could be looking back at this saying "What kind of an idea was this?", or "Man, I wish they did that back then." So, with that said, it's way too early to decide.
This means that the upcoming 2017-18 will be a very important year for the Oilers. They'll need to have a lot of success this year, or the cap crunch could hit them hard.