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Offseason Worklist: Darnell Nurse’s Contract

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It’s less than you think

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Vancouver Canucks Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Entering the season last year, Darnell Nurse had himself straddling the line of bust territory. After being taken 7th overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, he hadn’t lived up to expectations at the NHL lever. He was great in Junior, winning defensive player of the tournament in the 2013 WJC, but was still struggling to play well in the big leagues. No one was quite sure how this year would go, his injury in 2016-2017 sure didn’t help him.

Luckily, he made major progress this year. He Scored 26 points and cemented his status as a top-4 defenseman in this league. He started the year a lot stronger than he finished it, but I think next year with Oscar Klefbom being healthy for the first time in his career, Darnell Nurse should further excel in the middle pair.

Now, because of the Oilers upcoming Cap situation, a lot of people are very concerned about the Darnell Nurse extension. It seems to be the great divide between people like me who don’t think this team is going to have a hard time with an 80M cap, and others who think it’s going to be extremely tight due to bad contracts like Kris Russell’s and Milan Lucic’s. Some of these numbers I hear fans citing are unbelievable. I’ve heard 4, 4.5, and on a few occasions, a number as high as 5 Million Dollars. 5 Million! If I go through the comparables, I can safely say that those numbers are unnecessary concern.

First up, Ryan Murray. Ryan Murray was drafted second overall behind Nail Yakupov in 2012, and has never really lived up to his draft status. That being said, he signed a two year deal in the last yer of his ELC while he was in the process up putting up 25 points. That’s pretty close to the 26 point Darnell Nurse put up this year. The Deal? A 2-year contract worth 2.825M per season. It’s a perfect bridge for a player who has a lot of potential but hasn’t quite delivered.

Second, Matt Dumba. Another high pick in the 2012 Entry draft. Matt Dumba has delivered a lot more on his end than both Ryan Murray and Darnell Nurse so far, but I’m a lot more concerned about what happened at the time of signing. Matt Dumba scored 26 points in the final year of his entry level deal and was really starting to his his stride. It’s a very similar situation to Darnell Nurse right now. What did he get? A two year deal with a 2.55M cap hit per year. Dumba structured his to have a 2.75M qualifying offer at the end of this deal, but that shouldn’t matter much, he’s getting a big raise on the next one anyway.

Third, Jacob Trouba. It should be pretty clear that none of these players are as good as Jacob Trouba, that guy is fantastic. That being said, he scored 21 points in the final year of his ELC, refused to sign a contract trying to hold out for the money he’s really worth, and ended up signing in November of the following year. His Reward? A two-year contract with a cap hit of 2.8125M. His is a little bit different because of the late signing, but still, it’s a very reasonable deal.

Fourth, Cody Ceci. Cody Ceci is one of the most overrated players that the Senators constantly try to trade. I’m not a fan of his at all. That being said, he finished the last year of his contract scoring 26 points (How many times will I be writing this?). His contract? 2 years, 2.8M cap hit. He managed to get himself a 3.35M qualifying offer, but it’s still an appropriate price based on the mountain of young defensemen who score 26 points.

Fifth, Nikita Zadorov. Another first round pick who was struggling until the very end of last season, right before he got injured. Zadorov is honestly a fantastic player at the moment. He though, only put up 10 points in 56 games at the end of his contract. After holding out for a while because he had an incompetent agent who was fired moments before he signed this year, Zadorov and his new agent settled on a 2 year deal worth 2.150M.

For the record, I’m well aware that there is a hell of a lot more to being a defenseman than how many points go up; However, they play a huge part when it comes to contract lengths and compensation. Nothing drives up a contract like a high scoring Dman, even if they’re not very good.

I also find it funny. The amount of fans that think Nurse can command a 4-5M deal makes me think that people wouldn’t bat an eye if he actually got that. When Leon Draisaitl signed his massive contract, there was no shortage of fit-pitching and calling it a huge overpay. Draisaitl’s deal is a 1M overpay at the very most, but the outrage there was bigger than an overpay of 2M for Nurse would have been. Is this just sticker shock? A big number causes big outrage even if a smaller number with a bigger overpay does more damage? Luckily we’re no going to have to find out. Darnell Nurse is going to get 2 years, and right around the 2.5-3M mark. There are no shortage of comparables who are eerily similar.

It’s also not like Darnell Nurse is getting that shaft here. Why would he even want term on this deal? He knows he hasn’t played to his potential just yet, and I’m sure he knows he progressed a ton this season and is on his way there. A bridge deal could be very advantageous for him long term. A player as confident as him, I’m sure is willing to lay it on the line and get the big bucks. A long term deal at 4M is signing up to either be a whipping boy, or underpaid for years to come. It’s not a winning situation for anyone, player or team. I don’t think PK Subban regrets taking his ridiculously low bridge deal, it ended up making him one of the highest paid players in the league two years later.

Point being, the market for Darnell Nurse is shockingly well established. He’s not breaking the cap, we don’t have to trade Oscar Klefbom or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to get Nurse done, and it’s quite likely that there’s going to be enough room to add a player or two. So, calm down abut Nurse, even if this deal doesn’t get done til September, I’m pretty confident that I can ball-park the number. It’s team friendly.