NHL Salaries

Lowetide: Could the Edmonton Oilers look to the FRGs for a solution this summer?

NHL general managers face another tough summer. The cap increases slightly, agreements already signed leave teams with little wiggle room, and in some cases (like the Edmonton Oilers) previous buyouts stifle future management moves.

It’s a mess.

Part of the solution for many clubs may come from trading restricted free agents eligible for arbitration.

In the Oilers’ case, right wingers Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto enter the summer as RFAs with arbitration rights.

General manager Ken Holland revamped the left wing a year ago, adding Zach Hyman (free agent) and Warren Foegele (trade) over the summer, then winning Evander Kane’s signature run in mid –season.

The result was a stronger and deeper depth chart. Hyman (27 goals), Kane (22), Foegele (12) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (11) paved the way for a suddenly productive attacking position.

Can Holland do the same for the right wing?

RFA right wingers available

Including Edmonton RFA forwards who have officiating rights, what type of pool is available? All names below are in the same position as Puljujarvi and Yamamoto. All stats are five to five via Natural Stat Trick, all salaries courtesy of PuckPedia.

Player AAV last year Pts-60 Goal difference






















Both Edmonton wingers look good compared to the rest of the referee-eligible squad. Of the cheaper options, only New York Islanders winger Kiefer Bellows delivered more offense and that came in a protected role. Puck IQ has Bellows playing just under 75% of his five-on-five against mid- or deep-level competition in 2021-22.

There is no match in the group that combines superior performance and equal or lower AAV based on last season’s results.

There are other right wingers who are currently RFA and eligible for arbitration, but price is an issue for Edmonton.

If Holland can find some extra wiggle room and the organization wants to change the look of the front six forwards, there are some great options. The cost of the asset in the trade and the cap reached will be higher for each of these players.

Player AAV last year Pts-60 Goal difference
















It’s an impressive list, especially the first three names. If Edmonton are unable to sign Kane, any of Jesper Bratt, Artturi Lehkonen and Victor Olofsson would be quality additions.

The AAV on each man’s new contract would be far more than Puljujarvi and Yamamoto, and the demand from each of the teams that currently have the rights to those men would also be considerable.

Trades and the signing of Kasperi Kapanen and Dominik Kubalik would be possible, but more expensive than just staying the course with Puljujarvi and Yamamoto.

Other options

Holland has options for the front six, including Leon Draisaitl (he can play in all three positions), Hyman (who can play in both wings) and Nugent-Hopkins (left wing and centre). If the club runs Hyman on the right wing with one of Puljujarvi or Yamamoto, the club could consider an alternate position (left wing or pivot) to fill the top two lines with added value from restricted forwards eligible for arbitration .

Player AAV last year Pts-60 Goal difference




$3 million









This area of ​​restricted free agency offers a real opportunity if the Oilers choose to pursue it. These four players could be useful in several roles for Edmonton, and each team could need one from Puljujarvi or Yamamoto.

It’s an interesting seam for GMs who are reluctant to commit big bucks to these men, or so close to the ceiling that signing them makes further summer moves impossible.

Best Options

This is a select group of candidates to improve the Oilers’ top two lines, and many of the names listed will not be available this summer under any conditions. Among the group that could be available, four names stand out.

Martin Necas is in an interesting position with the Carolina Hurricanes. Sara Civic at Athleticism detailed several scenarios for the club this offseason, and the young forward would be an exceptional bet for the Oilers if he is available. The price would be expensive, but Necas is skillful and creative. This is the best option available among the arbitration-eligible RFAs.

Lawson Crouse could be the best candidate if the Oilers are unable to secure Kane this summer. He’s a power forward, plays a lot against elites (he struggles, via Puck IQ) and has had a few injuries in recent seasons. He’s not a pure goalscorer and his skill set doesn’t reach the levels of Puljujarvi or Yamamoto, but Crouse has the skills the organization covets. Crouse on either of the two skill lines in Edmonton is something Holland would no doubt pay a premium for to happen.

Artturi Lehkonen has been outstanding in the playoffs and is in line for a big raise. The Colorado Avalanche won the Stanley Cup and there’s a big list of players who need new contracts. It is possible that Lehkonen will be transferred in the next few days to a team with room to pay him and a need for this type of player. Lehkonen isn’t a big man and won’t score 40 goals, but he’s a smart two-way winger with a full range of skills. The Oilers aren’t necessarily in the market for this player based on published information, but there’s no doubt he could help either of the front two lines.

Dylan Strome is also an interesting option. Connor McDavid’s junior teammate (Erie Otters, OHL) has terrific skills, is a great passer and has a positive shot. He’s not a burner and has defensive coverage issues, but he could fill the net with either of Edmonton’s elite centers.

Negotiate RFA against RFA

The idea of ​​trading Puljujarvi or Yamamoto for another player in a similar situation (RFA with arbitration rights) is a bit like a needle in a haystack, but there are some interesting options.

The first thing Edmonton needs to do is decide if there’s room to keep both men under this year’s cap. In a Friday article for Athleticism, Daniel Nugent-Bowman delivered revealing quotes about where the Oilers and Puljujarvi stand. Bottom line: The big decisions for the summer haven’t been made yet.

If one of Edmonton’s RFAs is dealt, Carolina could be a good landing spot for Puljujarvi. Former World Juniors and Liiga linemate Sebastian Aho is a star player in Raleigh and could help propel Puljujarvi’s career to new heights.

Will the Oilers trade Puljujarvi or Yamamoto? Based on the stress of the cap and the need to improve the right wing position, it seems inevitable.

Will Holland cash in an RFA for another player in the same spot on another team? It could happen. Looks like Necas would be a ‘shoot the moon’ option, but a player like Crouse or Strome is within reach.

(Photo by Martin Necas: James Guillory/USA Today)