logo

The Oliver Ekman-Larsson buyout year-by-year, and how it will affect the Vancouver Canucks in each season

alt
Photo credit:© Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
8 months ago
It’s All-Over Ekman-Larsson now.
Midway through the day on Friday, June 16, news hit that the Vancouver Canucks were buying out the remaining four years of Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s contract. With his no-movement clause, the man they call OEL got to skip the waivers that are normally part of the buyout process and skip right to the end.
On Friday morning, OEL was under contract with the Canucks. By Friday afternoon, he was not.
But although Ekman-Larsson himself is gone, his financial imprint remains in the form of the stiffest buyout costs and cap hits ever incurred by an NHL team.
Prior to the buyout, Ekman-Larsson’s contract was due to end in 2027. Now, he’ll be on the books at a reduced rate until the science-fiction date of 2031.
Below, we’ll break down all eight years of the OEL buyout to come, along with our best guesses as to how it will affect the Canucks in each season.
Year One: 2023/24
 Actual Buyout CostBuyout Cap HitOEL Original Cap HitSavings
Vancouver Portion of OEL Contract$2.127 million$147K$7.26 million$7.113 million
Estimated NHL Salary Cap: $83.5 million
Contracts Expiring Prior to Season: Ethan Bear, Collin Delia, Kyle Burroughs, Travis Dermott, Nils Höglander, Akito Hirose, Noah Juulsen
Impact: The Canucks receive the largest benefit from the OEL buyout in the very first year, which is arguably the point at which they need it the least. They probably already had enough room to get everyone they wanted to under contract, along with a little extra summer spending space via the eventual LTIRing of Tanner Pearson and Tucker Poolman.
Now, the Canucks have all that and an extra $7 million and change. With a particularly weak crop of UFAs on the market this offseason, some are worried that the Canucks are about to put this money to poor use, and that’s a fair fear — why would the team make this buyout now if they weren’t planning to spend at least some of the money immediately?
But, until that happens, all we can say is that the Canucks are suddenly much more comfortable and will enjoy much more flexibility this offseason, having gone with the team that had the least cap space for 2023/24 to right around the middle of the pack.
Year Two: 2024/25
 Actual Buyout CostBuyout Cap HitOEL Original Cap HitSavings
Vancouver Portion of OEL Contract$2.127 million$2.347 million$7.26 million$4.913 million
Estimated NHL Salary Cap: $87.5 million
Contracts Expiring Prior to Season: Elias Pettersson, Filip Hronek, Anthony Beauvillier, Tyler Myers, Vasily Podkolzin, Nils Åman, Dakota Joshua, Sheldon Dries, Jack Studnicka, Tanner Pearson, Arturs Silovs, Spencer Martin
Impact: Assuming the Canucks managed to avoid spending all that extra space in a long-term fashion the summer prior, this is the offseason in which they’ll really need it. The cap itself should go up dramatically as the savings from the buyout drops by $2 million, and the Canucks are going to need almost all of it as nearly half their roster comes due for new contracts.
The real contracts of concern are Elias Pettersson and Filip Hronek, each of whom will receive sizeable raises that are now conveniently covered by the buyout savings, at least for the time being. With that taken care of, the money gained from the departure of Tyler Myers can then ideally be turned into some genuine roster upgrades.
Year Three: 2025/26
 Actual Buyout CostBuyout Cap HitOEL Original Cap HitSavings
Vancouver Portion of OEL Contract$2.127 million$4.767 million$7.26 million$2.493 million
Estimated NHL Salary Cap: ~$92 million
Contracts Expiring Prior to Season: Andrei Kuzmenko, Brock Boeser, Phil Di Giuseppe, Guillaume Brisebois, Tucker Poolman, Christian Wolanin, Aatu Räty
Impact: OEL’s buyout cap hit shoots up for Years Three and Four, granting the Canucks just a little under $2.5 million in extra spending room (versus if they had just kept him around). That’s not a lot, but the good news is that the salary cap should be back to its regular $2 million-ish yearly increases by this point, and the bulk of the team’s most important players will already be under contract.
Re-signing Andrei Kuzmenko should be no real issue, with any raise he earns covered by the natural raising of the cap ceiling. Brock Boeser, if he’s still around, comes off the books and either signs back for cheaper or is replaced by someone younger. If all goes well, the Canucks won’t even feel the squeeze of the increased buyout penalty here.
Year Four: 2026/27
 Actual Buyout CostBuyout Cap HitOEL Original Cap HitSavings
Vancouver Portion of OEL Contract$2.127 million$4.767 million$7.26 million$2.493 million
Estimated NHL Salary Cap: ~$94 million
Contracts Expiring Prior to Season: Thatcher Demko, Ilya Mikheyev, Conor Garland
Impact: Year Four is exactly the same as Year Three in financial terms, but the cap should be even higher and there’s more salary coming off the books.
It’s unlikely that Conor Garland is still around by then, but Thatcher Demko and Ilya Mikheyev probably will be. Whether or not either of them is re-signed is hard to say, and depends heavily on the advancement of prospects like Arturs Silovs. Either way, with the cap at an estimated $94 million, and quite possibly even higher than that, the team is either going to be able to re-sign its players or seek out worthy replacements on the open market.
(Again, so long as they haven’t added any additional onerous contracts to the mix in the interim, which is far from a certainty.)
Year Five: 2027/28
 Actual Buyout CostBuyout Cap HitOEL Original Cap HitSavings
Vancouver Portion of OEL Contract$2.127 million$2.127 million$0-$2.127 million
Estimated NHL Salary Cap: ~$96 million
Contracts Expiring Prior to Season: Quinn Hughes
Impact: This is the point at which Ekman-Larsson’s original contract would have ended. Thus, any cap hit at this point represents a penalty instead of savings. Still, it’s $2 million less than was on the books the previous year, and the cap should have gone up another $2 million or so in the meantime, so the impact will be minimal.
For the remaining four years, OEL hits the books like an average bottom-pairing defender who just doesn’t ever get to hit the ice. In the first year of this phase, the Canucks are going to have to re-sign Quinn Hughes, presumably with a sizeable raise included. But if they’ve kept their noses clean over the four years prior, that money should be easily available, and the $2.127 million due to OEL won’t be a make-or-break factor by any stretch of the imagination.
Year Six: 2028/29
 Actual Buyout CostBuyout Cap HitOEL Original Cap HitSavings
Vancouver Portion of OEL Contract$2.127 million$2.127 million$0-$2.127 million
Estimated NHL Salary Cap: ~$98 million
Contracts Expiring Prior to Season: Unknown
Impact: There’s only one other contract on the books that goes longer than this, and it’s JT Miller’s seven-year extension. Here, we’re almost too far away from the present day to make any sort of prognostications. But we know that several other signings will have occurred, that the cap will have risen consistently, and that OEL’s buyout hit will remain the same.
In short, the closer we get to Year Eight, the smaller a percentage of the cap ceiling OEL’s hit will represent, and the less it will get in the way of any additional spending. Or, put another way, the buyout penalty of the previous year is wiped out entirely by the natural increase of the cap ceiling, so the Canucks feel like they’re gaining space at this point, not losing it.
Year Seven: 2029/30
 Actual Buyout CostBuyout Cap HitOEL Original Cap HitSavings
Vancouver Portion of OEL Contract$2.127 million$2.127 million$0-$2.127 million
Estimated NHL Salary Cap: ~$100 million
Contracts Expiring Prior to Season: Unknown
Impact: What more can we add here at the end of the decade? Other than how weird it is to be writing about something happening in the ’30s that isn’t, like, the Great Depression. By this point, the Canucks have probably drafted Kevin Bieksa Jr. or something strange like that, and OEL’s buyout penalty will count for around 2% of the total salary cap.
Year Eight: 2030/31
 Actual Buyout CostBuyout Cap HitOEL Original Cap HitSavings
Vancouver Portion of OEL Contract$2.127 million-$2.127 million$0-$2.127 million
Estimated NHL Salary Cap: ~$102 million
Contracts Expiring Prior to Season: JT Miller
Impact: Even when JT Miller’s still-yet-to-officially-kick-in seven-year extension finally comes to a conclusion, OEL will still be on the books for another year. Assuming no further pandemics or other world-threatening events, the NHL cap ceiling should crest $100 million by this point, making the buyout penalty as unimpactful as it’s ever been.
And then? It’s over. The Canucks pick up an extra $2.127 million in cap space to start the 2031/32 season and none of us ever think about the OEL contract ever again.
Right?

Check out these posts...