Oilers Re-Sign Darnell Nurse on Two-Year Deal

It was a deal that took a little bit longer than expected, but a few days after NHL training camp opened, defenseman Darnell Nurse has signed a two-year extension with the Edmonton Oilers. The deal is worth a reported $3.2 million per season. John Shannon was the first to report the news.

While restricted free agent contracts almost always get done with their respective teams, there was some concern the deal between the Oilers and Nurse was getting tricky. A deal that seemed like an easy one to complete, this one took some time, but the Oilers eventually got their blueliner signed at a number that should be seen as one that works for both parties.

The Nurse Rumors

Speculation was that Nurse’s side believed the player was worth in excess of $5 million per season on a long-term deal and as much as $4 million on a short-term contract. Meanwhile, comparable players like Josh Morrissey signed a similar deal in Winnipeg at just over $3 million. It was the Morrissey deal that was rumored to finally get the Nurse deal done.

Darnell nurse - Edmonton Oilers
(Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

Rumors from Nurse’s agent playing the Oilers based on their tight cap situation to the player just wanting to join his teammates were everywhere. In reality, despite the varied reports, there was never really a concern the deal wouldn’t get done. It was simply about the dollar figure.

Related: NHL Rumors: Nurse, Rask, Nash, More

The Nurse Facts

Without a contract heading into training camp, versus staying in Edmonton, Nurse eventually went back home to Toronto. Should he have missed any time with the Oilers, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world but the ideal situation was to get him into camp, have him practicing with the team, taking part in preseason games and watching game video. The more time he’d miss, the more he’d be behind the curve and with Edmonton expecting bigger things out of Nurse this season, they wanted to make the most of that time.

Still, the Oilers weren’t willing to budge on salary. A team already tight against the cap, they couldn’t afford to set new standards on a Nurse deal and to them, he hadn’t proven to be worth more than a player like Oscar Klefbom. In the end, Nurse got a fair deal and the Oilers got two years out of a player that will get a chance to prove he’s much more valuable when it comes time to re-negotiate a long-term extension.

What Nurse Brings to the Oilers

In 82 games last season, Nurse scored six goals, 20 assists and had a total of 26 points. In 197 NHL games, he’s got 14 goals and 33 assists for 47 points. He played an average of 22:15 per game in 2017-18 and while he hasn’t proven himself to be an offensive juggernaut, there is hope he could round his game into one that includes not only strong defense and rugged play but some goals and points making him one of Edmonton’s most complete blueliners.

Darnell Nurse - Edmonton Oilers
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He’s already shown himself to be a strong character on and off the ice, ready and willing to go to bat for his teammates and as he gets more game time, is showing himself to be more responsible in any situation. His ceiling is high and the Oilers are expecting a lot.

Related: Nurse Contract Update & Oilers Camp Notes

The Nurse Contract

A two-year bridge deal was not a surprise. The team would have liked to lock Nurse up long-term but with uncertainty as to what Nurse might eventually be worth and little room to negotiate a bigger salary without first clearing out space on the cap, something shorter term was inevitable.

Signing restricted free agents is often about comparables and the numbers of the restricted free agent defensemen that started coming off the board made finding those comparables quite easy for the Oilers. Morrissey’s deal was the trigger and today, Oilers fans are quite happy about it.