How MacKinnon’s Huge Contract Will Impact Numerous Oilers

Nathan MacKinnon‘s whopping $12.6 million per season extension won’t affect the Edmonton Oilers now, but it will upset the applecart down the line. Not only did MacKinnon become the highest-paid player in the NHL (just a touch above Connor McDavid), but his extension supports the theory that teams are gearing up for what could be a massive salary cap jump in a few seasons. That has implications for both the stars on this Oilers’ roster and the depth of the organization.

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One could argue that MacKinnon is worth every penny of what he just signed his extension for. Others may argue this contract is a bit rich and more a thank you for playing so many years on a value deal. Regardless of where one stands on the contract, it sets a new standard for future contracts that will follow. How does this affect future negotiations in Edmonton?

Connor McDavid’s Next Deal

Pointing out that Connor McDavid was the highest-paid player in the NHL until MacKinnon’s deal, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that McDavid’s next deal will be one that potentially puts him back in that category. There’s not much debate when it comes to who the best player in the world is: McDavid has that distinction locked up. What’s a more intriguing question worth asking is where does MacKinnon rank?

Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers Nathan MacKinnon Colorado Avalanche
Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon skates against Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

If you slot MacKinnon in your top five of all NHL players, McDavid’s next deal — one that will be coming at the end of the 2025-26 season — will be higher; but, by how much? Assuming MacKinnon is still in the elite category, his deal might set somewhat of a limit that GMs try to argue over internally with their own respective stars. But, if MacKinnon is not in most people’s top five and he doesn’t put up numbers that rank him close, the gap between what MacKinnon makes and more productive forwards do (and probably should make) will be sizeable. As more players jump above MacKinnon, the gap with McDavid widens.

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When it comes to the expected salary cap jump in 2026 or 2027, the timing of McDavid’s contract ending as the expected increase kicks in should be a fascinating story to watch. McDavid may not want to commit for too long if he’s negotiating one year before the big increase.

Draisaitl’s Next Deal

To many, even Leon Draisaitl is considered better than MacKinnon. Not everyone agrees, but the production numbers seem to lean towards Draisaitl being the more effective player. Over the last four seasons, Draisaitl has out-produced MacKinnon, but like MacKinnon, Draisaitl has been considered wildly underpaid.

Leon Draisaitl Edmonton Oilers
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

When his current deal was signed — an eight-year contract at $8.5 million per — many believed that was an overpayment. It has turned out to be the exact opposite and as MacKinnon did, when it comes time to get paid, Draisaitl will cash in. He has three seasons remaining on his current deal. If Draisaitl remains consistently better than MacKinnon on paper, he’ll be asking for more. If he’s a lot better, he’ll be asking for a lot more. $15-$16 million isn’t out of the question if he keeps up his current pace.

The Oilers Depth

Assuming McDavid is making $18-$19 million and Draisaitl $15-$16 million, something will have to give. Eventually, depth players will want their piece of the cake too.

If Edmonton has to keep a certain amount aside for their top two stars, can the Oilers afford a player like Ryan McLeod who just signed a one-year deal and could get another bridge contract? The only way to do so might be to lock him up long-term next summer. Will Edmonton be able to lock in Evan Bouchard if he has a breakout season this year? Again, a long-term deal before the cap starts to jump is critical. What if Jesse Puljujarvi reaches his potential?

Shockingly, the fact that MacKinnon just got $12.6 million and that might not be among the top five highest-paid deals in the league when Edmonton’s two top stars need new contracts is a strong indicator of a future problem. If his new deal tells us anything, it’s that things could get extremely expensive for the Oilers in a few years.