The Edmonton Oilers certainly don’t want to lose Darnell Nurse. But, if a recent report from the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson is correct, the top-four defenseman could want too rich a contract for the Oilers blood.
Matheson is reporting that Nurse’s reps have talked to the Oilers, more specifically GM Ken Holland, and let them know they are using Jacob Trouba’s recent contract with the New York Rangers as a comparable. If so, that means Nurse is seeking right around $8 million per season on a long-term deal.
Simply put, there’s no way the Oilers are going to give that kind of a deal to Nurse at this stage of his NHL career.
Not Time to Panic Over Nurse
There’s a lot of questions the Oilers will ask themselves prior to even contemplating handing over $8 million per season to a defenseman that may or may not be a No. 1 blueliner in the NHL.
First, ‘Does he deserve just slightly less than the current league leader in scoring?’ At $8 million per season, that’s Leon Draisaitl money we’re talking about here. Second, ‘How much does what Ethan Bear eventually get paid factor in?’
The answer to both of those questions suggests Nurse isn’t getting what he’s asking for.
The good news is, the $8 million Nurse is using to value himself is just an outlier and this is how typical negotiations in the NHL work. One side submits their ask based on contracts that came before them, the other side replies with what the player is actually worth using another player’s deal. At some point, a number in the middle is determined.
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But, Is Even $7 Million Too Much For Nurse?
Let’s suggest Nurse knows he’s not going to get the $8 million his group has thrown out there. Let’s also assume the Oilers know they won’t get him at eight years times $6 million per season. Is the middle point still too much money when you consider where Nurse slots in and for what he contributes?
The Oilers will likely use Josh Morrissey’s $6.25 million contract in Winnipeg when pitching their offer. And, that deal is much more accurate a reflection of what Nurse is actually worth by comparison. Nurse has two years left of team control, his numbers are down a little but he’s still a stable presence in the Oilers top-four. He’s been a great partner for Bear but at a 35-point clip and as a defenseman who no longer gets top power play time with a healthy Oscar Klefbom, he’s not a $7 million defenseman.
That said, it wouldn’t be surprising to see or hear he’s stuck on that number.
If Nurse knows salaries are going to explode and that his game could explode along with it, a $7 million ask isn’t outrageous. It just might not be all that reasonable for the Oilers today. Edmonton may then need to look at a bridge deal that will take Nurse to his UFA years and allow both sides to revisit this when everyone is completely aware of what Nurse is and isn’t.
Edmonton doesn’t want to lose Nurse, but they have the luxury of knowing their prospect pool on the blue line is strong. After two more seasons, the franchise will have taken a much closer look at a re-signed Caleb Jones, Evan Bouchard out of Bakersfield and Philip Broberg who isn’t lighting it up for Skelleftea AIK but has a very high ceiling. By that time, perhaps Nurse becomes expendable.
If so, the Oilers have options.
Don’t Move Him Now, But Don’t Pay Him Either
The Oilers can’t afford $8 million per season. They might not be able to afford a million less. A bridge deal is likely the only deal that works and Edmonton needs to convince Nurse this is the right deal for him.
That shouldn’t be too hard because he’ll still stand to make great money over the next two seasons and along with it comes an opportunity to step up his game even more. At that time, maybe $8 million is the norm.
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