When Oilers fans are taking a break from their figurative “tug-of-rope” game, that is the future of Jordan Eberle, the talk will usually shift to contract extensions.
Connor McDavid needs a shiny new deal, that will likely be agreed to with some form of a blank cheque. Then Leon Draisaitl will be signed to a long-term deal, just how much that deal will cost Katz is still very unknown.
But what most seem to be ignoring right now is that there are two defenders, both RFA’s after next season, who’s next deals will have massive impacts on this franchise as they attempt to win multiple Stanley Cups.
I’ll get to Matt Benning is a piece later on this week, but for now, I want to focus on Darnell Nurse.
22 years old, only 115 NHL games under his belt, yet he has impressed most who watch the Oilers regularly. He can skate pretty well and doesn’t hesitate to jump up into the play, but at times he makes some decisions that cause Oilers fans to wonder what’s really going on between his ears.
He finished 6th amongst Oilers d-men in total ice time this past season and wasn’t asked to do much defensively.
At 5v5, he was third in points/60 with 0.81, so as I said earlier, he doesn’t struggle with the offensive side of the game, although there is still room for improvement.
The big worry comes with him on the defensive side of things. This past season he ranked sixth amongst Oilers d-men with a 50% GF%. He was also 7th with a 2.51 GA/60. Although those are pretty basic numbers, they do show his struggles defensively.
THE NEXT DEAL
When it comes to Darnell’s next contract, he might be more inclined to take a short-term bridge deal and gamble on himself in the next 2-3 years the way we saw PK Subban do when he took a 2 year/$2.85 million deal in 2012.
Some other examples of this are Tyson Barrie signing for 2 years at $2.6million in 2014. Cody Ceci and Ryan Murray also took 2 years at $2.8 million coming out of their entry-level deals.
Although I’m sure the Oilers won’t complain about having Nurse on a contract under $3million, with the big contracts to McDavid and Draisaitl and future raise coming for guys like Kassian, Maroon, Caggiula and eventually Puljujarvi, they might want him on a longer term deal.
Of course, the obvious comparable is the deal just signed between the Leafs and Nikita Zaitsev, who got 7 years at $4.5m. But some other notables include Travis Hamonic signing for 7 years at $3.875 when he was also 22. When Roman Josi was 23 he got locked down to a 7 year/$4m deal.
ALL THINGS CONSIDERED
I think Darnell Nurse will anchor this team’s 2nd pairing for a long time, so with that said, I would feel very comfortable going long-term with him.
So that will mean having to overpay in the short-term, similar to most long term deals given to young defenders. If I had to put a number on this that I think is a good even ground for the two sides, I would say it’s right in line with what the Oilers gave Klefbom back in 2016 and what Adam Larsson make right now: $4.167 million on a 7-year deal.
I think this balances things out well and allows them to lock down their future top 3 for around $12.5 million as a group. An incredible bargain, which would allow them to make sure they don’t lose any key forwards as a result of insufficient cap space.
Now, there is still time for things to change over the next 5-7 months, but Darnell Nurse’s next deal is definitely something to keep in mind as we enter the summer of Leon and Connor contracts.