When it comes to what the Edmonton Oilers may or may not do this offseason, the conversations seem to start with their plans for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. A number of insiders believe the two sides are keen to get a deal done and the player himself has said he’d like to stay in Edmonton, but NHL insider Elliotte Friedman notes that circumstances may have changed.
Friedman wasn’t able to specify where things have gone off the rails, but he did say during a spot on SN960 that “something has happened here”. He notes that there was a clear plan by the Oilers to bring Nugent-Hopkins back on an extension, but that throughout the season, talks have continually gone sideways and that getting these two parties back on the same page might be difficult.
While there’s still plenty of time for a deal to be worked out and GM Ken Holland maintains he’d like to have the player back, it’s probably a money thing and questions about where the Oilers would rather spend that money have started to pop up.
There are two potential scenarios that could play out here. First, the Oilers use the $6 million in cap space that comes from not re-signing Nugent-Hopkins and add a couple of players. In a flat salary cap market, there’s potential that two useful assets could be added which would make the Oilers a deeper team, more primed for an extended playoff run. The other scenario is that the Oilers may have identified a player they’d rather target with that $6 million.
Could the Oilers Take a Run at Hyman?
About two months ago, I wrote an article suggesting the Oilers consider Zack Hyman over Nugent-Hopkins. At the time, it was still believed the Oilers would get an extension done with Nugent-Hopkins and that both sides were eager to work it out. With the potential developments on that contract front and new comments from Friedman, I couldn’t help but think about that post again.
As mentioned in today’s NHL Rumors Rundown post, during his 31 Thoughts podcast, Friedman said he wouldn’t be surprised if the Oilers try to sign Hyman in free agency. He said it more than once throughout the show and while his co-host Jeff Marek didn’t ask him to elaborate, when Friedman was on Oilers Now with Bob Stauffer Friday, he was asked if Hyman could get $6 million x 6 years by a team this offseason. Friedman didn’t hesitate to say yes.
What’s interesting about this number if that it’s almost exactly the same type of money that was rumored to be where Nugent-Hopkins could fall if extended.
What Would This Mean from an Oilers Perspective?
If Friedman is suggesting the Oilers have seen something over the course of their negotiations with Nugent-Hopkins, and as a result, have changed their stance on what to offer him, maybe they wonder where he fits in their long-term plans?
Nugent-Hopkins was seen for years as a center. Sometimes he still plays that position. But, after many seasons, he’s not a good faceoff guy and the Oilers have a couple centers in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl that are better as a one-two option. In an ideal world, Draisaitl and McDavid are not on the same line. The plan should be for the Oilers to be deep enough they can separate them during 5-v-5 play.
Recently, Nugent-Hopkins has been tried at the left-wing spot and his chemistry with McDavid isn’t great. It’s certainly possible the Oilers now see Nuge as not much more than a second-line winger and don’t believe it’s a smart bet to pay $6 million for that. It’s also possible they see Hyman as easily being worth $6 million as a left-winger for McDavid and are prepared to overpay him a touch to pluck him from the Leafs.
Friedman Didn’t Say Exclusively Hyman
One thing to note is that Friedman didn’t say it had to be Nugent-Hopkins or Hyman. While he also didn’t suggest there would be room for both, it’s not impossible to envision a scenario where the Oilers take a run at Hyman first, see what they can get him for, then circle back to Nugent-Hopkins and try to get a deal done.
Imagine if the Oilers were able to scoop Hyman from Toronto and somehow get Nugent-Hopkins to stick around? The Oilers top-six would consist of McDavid (C), Draisaitl (C), Nugent-Hopkins (LW), Hyman (LW), Jesse Puljujarvi (RW), and Kailer Yamamoto (RW). Wow.
Word Of Warning on This Hyman/Nugent-Hopkins Theory
It’s a wonderful idea, but Oilers fans shouldn’t get too excited. First, the likelihood Edmonton can land both is low. That’s about $11.5 to $12 million for those two forwards over the next five-to-six seasons. This is a huge commitment with other contracts that still need addressing. Second, Hyman and Toronto figuring out an extension is still the most likely outcome.
Most insiders believe Hyman really wants to stay in Toronto and it would take the Maple Leafs lowballing him and being asked to leave millions on the table for that relationship not to continue.
Remember, just because Friedman believes the Oilers will take a run at Hyman doesn’t mean they’ll land Hyman. In fact, it’s as (if not more) likely the Oilers wind up with neither player as it would be they sign both.
Jim Parsons is a freelance writer who covers the Edmonton Oilers and news and rumors posts here at The Hockey Writers.
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