McDavid to Sign Monster Extension With the Oilers

The contract extension coming between the Edmonton Oilers and Connor McDavid is a monster. McDavid will be officially the highest paid player in the NHL since the new eight-year maximum contract terms for free agents were introduced and for a player people outside of Edmonton liked to say might jump ship when permitted, will be an Oiler for the next nine seasons.

This extension is a good news, not-so-good news thing for the Oilers. The good news is that arguably best player in the NHL — a player who just swept the NHL Awards to win the Hart, Art Ross and Ted Lindsay awards — is now the captain of the team for eight more years after this coming one. Meaning, the team will have the face of their franchise leading the way for the foreseeable future. The not-so-good news is, the $13.25 million he’ll earn per year will take up over 17 percent of the team’s annual salary cap.

The McDavid Deal

Connor McDavid, Upper Deck, CIBC, Edmonton Oilers
Connor McDavid is one of the 20 faces for Upper Deck’s new coin collection. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

There was never really a doubt that McDavid was going to get paid handsomely. He was in a position to dictate the terms of his extension and the Oilers weren’t really in a position to argue. The team’s only hope was convincing their captain and megastar center that a team-friendly deal would be best for everyone. If the deal goes through as expected, in a way, some will argue he actually took one.

The rules of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) dictate McDavid could have asked for up to 20 percent of the team’s cap (which would have been $15 million per season). The Oilers probably would have given it to him. Who wouldn’t? There are countless teams who would have backed up the truck to gladly hand over as much money as McDavid would have wanted.

That the team also got him locked up for the maximum eight years allowed is also a win. This last season was one in which McDavid scored 100 points. It’s a rarity in the NHL, but very few people expect McDavid not to repeat what he accomplished over and over again. This eight-year extension helps the Oilers avoid a bridge contract or having to renegotiate a deal when the cap is higher and McDavid has shown over multiple seasons why he’s the best in the league.

The reality is, as much as this deal looks likes a monster in every way, McDavid should be worth every penny of it and in the next few years, the annual salary could look like a bargain if the NHL salary cap continues to rise.

The Draisaitl Deal

2018 Olympics
Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers

When the original process of negotiating began between the Oilers, McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, there was hope that keeping the two players under $20 million was going to be possible. With McDavid making $13.25 million per season, that possibility has likely been thrown out the window.

To expect that Draisaitl — whose production was about 80 percent of McDavid’s — would take $6.5 – $7 million per season (50 percent of McDavid’s salary) isn’t realistic. McDavid’s new extension means that Draisaitl will be more in the $8 million and up per season range. Draisaitl was top-eight in NHL scoring last season. In many ways, that would make an $8 million deal fair. Some are suggesting Draisaitl might be looking for as much as $10 million per season.

Going Forward

This deal, and the Draisaitl deal that is sure to follow, will put the Edmonton Oilers in a position to have to surround the two superstars with depth that doesn’t cost money. It explains the moves to send Jordan Eberle to the New York Islanders ($6 million cap hit) and their trade of Taylor Hall last season ($6 million cap hit).

It makes the signing of Kris Russell curious and it shows how valued contracts like Zack Kassian and Eric Gryba might be as the Oilers move forward.

Darnell Nurse, Matthew Benning
The Oilers will have to negotiate cautiously on the next contracts for Darnell Nurse and Matthew Benning. Photo: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The two deals will also explain why the Oilers may not be big players in free agency and at best, will likely look to add one-year value contracts later into the summer. The Oilers can no longer afford to take on deals like the one they gave Milan Lucic. They won’t be able to keep Patrick Maroon if he has another 27-goal season (unless he takes a massive discount) and they’ll have to be extra cautious with extensions for players like Darnell Nurse and Matthew Benning.

When the deal is official, it will be a wonderful day for Oilers fans. But, it will be only the beginning of the work general manager Peter Chiarelli has to do in managing his team’s payroll for the next number of years. It’s doable, but it won’t be easy.