Eight days after getting Taylor Hall's name on the richest deal ever signed by an Oiler, a seven-year $42M extension, the Oilers were once again busy this time handing out big money and term to his line mate Jordan Eberle, who signed to a six-year extension worth $36M. As guessed by many over the last few days, Eberle's extension works out to an average of $6M just like Hall's. At this point it's probably a safe bet that $6M is the Oilers new unofficial cap.
Last season Eberle, in his second in the league, blew away expectations by scoring 34 goals and adding 42 assists for 76 points in 78 games. His nearly point per game pace saw him finish as the Oilers leading scorer, 23 points ahead of his closest team mate, Taylor Hall. He was even nominated for the Lady Byng as the league's most gentlemanly player. To say that it was a good season would really undersell it, it was a great season. But while I was very happy with the Hall's contract I am much more skeptical about this one.
The reason for that scepticism is simple - regression. Eberle's shooting percentage last year was 18.9%. That's very, very high and likely unsustainable. The issues surrounding Eberle's season go beyond that single number but it's the one that raises the questions. A lot of people smarter than me, Scott Reynolds, Jonathan Willis, and Tyler Dellow have all done some excellent work in trying to answer those questions so I'm not going to waste my time or yours by rehashing the details here. And besides, at this point you either agree with the conclusions or you don't, a few more words from me isn't going to change your mind.
From where I sit, with an average value of $6M the Oilers need Eberle to be a very good hockey player, someone who averages 65 top 70 points a season and scores 30 to 35 goals. Eberle might be that good but with the evidence we have today I'm not positive that he is. So the Oilers are taking a risk by signing a deal this big for six years when it's not clear exactly what his potential is. If the Oilers think they've locked up a player who scored 76 points as a sophomore and consistent 80 point seasons lie ahead they could be in for a very rude awakening.
It's that risk in Eberle's future that I find most troubling about this is deal because it's not a risk the team had to take on. The team could have taken another season to watch Eberle and see just what kind of player he is before committing to a long term contract, something hardly unheard of for players with similar scoring numbers to Eberle. Beyond the risk associated with Eberle himself there is also risk in the uncertainty of what a new CBA will hold as well. Yesterday I looked at what the Oilers cap situation might look like next season under the newest CBA proposal from the NHL and it isn't good.
In the wake of the Hall extension I said that "it's hard to argue that the Oilers didn't get good value with this contract." I can't say the same thing today.