Evan Bouchard is poised to have a massive season for the Edmonton Oilers. Ready to take another step from his break-out 2021-22 campaign, the Oilers are likely to move Bouchard to the top spot on the team’s power play, plus play him in elevated minutes as he gets more comfortable in the NHL and against tougher competition. That means Bouchard will have had two years of strong results and be in a good position to capitalize financially.
Bouchard will still be an RFA at the end of his current deal, thus they’ll have some leverage and team control over the player. That doesn’t mean the Oilers shouldn’t be exploring all of their options, and the best one might be locking up Bouchard to a long-term deal as soon as they can.
Bouchard is Worth Investing In Now
Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff recently broached the subject of the Oilers locking up Bouchard sooner than later. Noting that he agrees with those who say Bouchard’s production will go through the roof this season, it would be best for the Oilers to get ahead of the game here.
The NHL insider said:
“If that happens and if he scores 20 goals, which I don’t think he’s quite going to get there, anytime you spend a significant amount of time on that power play you’re going to have a real opportunity to get there. Wouldn’t that mean you’d like to get a contract extension done with Evan Bouchard before the season starts and before it gets potentially more expensive?”
Seravalli added that he checked in on any possible contract negotiations between the two sides and said he’s learned there has been no progress made on that front. When co-host Tyler Yaremchuck hinted that Bouchard could produce 50-55 points, Seravalli quietly pointed up to the sky as if to suggest the point totals could be much higher.
The Salary Cap Projections In the NHL
If the Oilers do what a number of teams are doing and get ahead of the curve that could be the jumping salary cap by 2024, the organization could wind up getting Bouchard at a great value. They will have to pay him to lock in and ultimately give away years of his unrestricted free agency status, but doing so now and offering him a fair rate with his levels of production versus waiting until he cracks 50 points seems like a no-brainer. Not only that, but if they lock him in for seven or eight years, he’ll only be 31 when that contract expires. These will be his prime years with a few left if he becomes a regular top-pairing guy.
Teams have looked at the potential rise in the salary cap and said to themselves that the expensive deals they do now could be manageable later. They might seem costly on the surface, but they won’t seem so crazy when the cap is $92 million. Not only that, but if Bouchard signs a bridge deal, he’ll come due as a UFA right when things start to shoot up to incredibly high levels. Negotiating with him then could get beyond pricy, especially with two or three more years of strong production on his resume.
Don’t Repeat the Darnell Nurse Mistake
Darnell Nurse is a good defenseman. Unfortunately, he’s going to need to be all-worldly to get back in the good graces of fans who say his new contract is way too high for the level of production he brings. The Oilers paid market value when they signed him, but that they put themselves in a position to have to was due to their kicking that contract can down the road and bridging him twice. The trick here is to learn from their mistakes.
The best deals are ones the club signs when they correctly project into the future how a player is going to do. Nurse could have been signed long-term for likely $2 or $3 million less per season if his deal was done before the price of comparable defensemen landed in the $9 million range. That particular extension should be a lesson in what not to do, whereas Leon Draisaitl‘s extension was handled perfectly, even if it was questioned at the time.
It is incumbent upon the Oilers to make the right call at the right time with Bouchard. He’s a big part of their future and getting him locked in at a reasonable number while they can is going to pay massive dividends down the road.
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Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”