Pros and Cons: Oilers Rumored 4-Yr Extension for Adam Larsson

Facebook is an interesting place. While it has it’s obvious drawbacks, one thing it can be good for is gauging the consensus of a massive group of people about how they feel regarding any given topic. In this case, I posed a question regarding rumors that the Edmonton Oilers were working on an extension with defenseman Adam Larsson and asked if four years was too long to re-sign the blueliner for.

I asked the question for a couple of reasons. First, it wasn’t long ago that Larsson wasn’t a defenseman many believed the team would hang on to. A strong first season when he arrived in the Taylor Hall trade, Larsson struggled with consistency until the 2020-21 campaign. Second, while this year he’s been one of the Oilers best shutdown blue and he’s earned himself another deal, is four years too long if there are injury concerns or other contracts that need to take priority?

The Reactions on Larsson’s Potential Deal

When the question was posed to a couple of notable Facebook groups, the responses, as expected, were varied. Also as expected, I needed to weed through a number of throw-away responses that suggested Larsson was one of the worst defensemen on the team or suggestions the Oilers give him upwards of $6 million long-term.

Edmonton Oilers Adam Larsson
Edmonton Oilers’ Adam Larsson (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

That said, most people offered strong arguments for or against and the majority of fans seemed to be ok with the four-year term rumored by Elliotte Friedman in his 31 Thoughts post and during the Saturday Headlines report for Sportsnet. Responses ranged from “2 years max” to “I think 4 years is fair. He’s a good D man we never talk about. That’s the point of a good D man. Plus come playoffs he’s a big hitter.”

One of the more well-thought out responses was:

He’ll be 29 to start next season so 4 years is a comfortable area . He is a solid shutdown 3-4 Dman that the team can count on back there. He also has the ability to work with the young Dmen that are coming up in the system and help them develop. If they land him for $3.6 to $4 million a season it’s a solid signing.

More fans were in favor of the extension than not, but even though four years represents a lengthy commitment from the team, most seemed ok with that too.

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Larsson on a 4-Year Term Makes Sense

I considered the more than 100 responses and came to the following conclusion: four years works. Anything more would be a risk. Ideally, if the Oilers can do a three-year contract, that’s the play but that fourth year is likely to get the annual AAV down to around the $3 -$3.5 million mark and this is important.

Currently, Larsson is making $4.16 million and finishing off the last year of his deal. A pending UFA in a flat cap NHL, there are a few things at play on both sides. One, Larsson can leverage a strong season into a decent deal with another team. Two, he probably knows that he’s a unique type of defender on an Oilers blue line that is full of young, but offensively-gifted right-shot defenseman.

At the same time, the Oilers know he’s unlikely to get a raise and if he wants to make the same kind of money he’ll have to leave. While Larsson has had a strong season, so have the Oilers and the team is betting he doesn’t want to take off right when the getting is good.

Age Works on Both Sides

As some of the Facebook fans pointed out, Larsson is currently 28 years old. On a four year extension, he’ll be 33 when it expires. This is just the right age for a young Oilers team with a core that is a few years younger than he is. Larsson isn’t too old to be separated from the leadership group of the hockey club, but he’s also old enough to be an experienced leader.

Darnell Nurse, Leon Draisaitl, Joseph Gambardella
Edmonton Oilers celebrate Leon Draisaitl’s hat trick. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

His skills won’t be diminishing and at worst, he starts to lose a little bit of what makes him so unique in the last year or two of that deal. He’s not an offensively gifted blueliner so the Oilers aren’t signing him to produce in that respect. GM Ken Holland simply needs to ensure that Larsson’s body can handle the type of game he plays for four more seasons.

Is Injury a Concern?

A number of fans brought up the fact that injury could play a factor. In a way, his style of game could lend itself to more issues than a typical defenseman. This might be the one reason to limit an extension if the Oilers were really concerned about it. He has missed some time, including a chunk of games in 2017 and an injury did factor in during the play-in round versus the Chicago Blackhawks last season.

That said, how many players stay injury free in the NHL? Few, and considering how few games he’s missed compared to the type of game Larsson plays, his man-games missed stats are pretty good.

Other Oilers Contracts

The biggest concern is actually the timing of other defenseman and their pending contracts. Darnell Nurse will be getting a hefty raise just before the 2022-23 season. Evan Bouchard will be an RFA and need a new deal just prior to the 2023-24 campaign. Ethan Bear will be offered a new deal in 2022-23, as will Caleb Jones. On a four year-deal, what Larsson makes will factor in to what the Oilers can afford to pay some or all of these players.

The best bet for Edmonton is to either sign Larsson to a higher-priced one-year deal that expires ahead of Nurse and Bear needing new contracts, or go longer-term with a smaller AAV. Keeping Larsson as low as the team can in those years will be key to extending others.