“Chatter” is a word that I don’t really love when it comes to the NHL. You’ll hear trade “chatter”, or the more serious sounding “rumblings”. The nicer sounding “trade winds”, and when it’s all about to happen, the “trade tracker” shows up.
With that being said, there’s been plenty of chatter when it comes to the Oilers and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The Oilers are a better team with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on it. Getting this next contract right is a huge test for Ken Holland and his Oilers management team.
Depending on what you’ve read (and how long ago you’ve read it), talks have been close, they’ve fallen off, and they’ve been close again. If Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is brought back into the fold for the Oilers, his contract shouldn’t come until after July 21st when the expansion draft occurs. I think Holland likes the player, and he’ll at least do some moving towards getting him inked to a deal.
Nugent-Hopkins just completed a season that’s got two sides. He finished third among Oiler forwards in scoring with 35 points (16-19-35), which extends out to about 55 points over a full season. That’s not bad. The concern? Of those 35 points, only 14 of them came at even strength. Over a full season that’s just over 22 points at evens, which is at least a little concerning knowing his recent numbers were in the mid 30s. I’m not going to pretend that scoring a lot of points on the power play is a bad thing, but it’s worth looking twice when you see a number tail off for whatever reason. 5 on 5 scoring is a pretty important number.
Nugent-Hopkins spent most of his time on the top line with Connor McDavid and Jesse Puljujärvi. McDavid had himself a world beater of a season, yet Nugent-Hopkins had just fourteen even strength points on the year. Nugent-Hopkins played a little bit more than 54% on this line, and fourteen points is a bit low. 50 games of sub 5v5 play isn’t really enough to scare me out of a new contract, I still think the Oilers are going to get solid two-way play and a good look at 55+ points a season for at least the next few years.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
While I think the general feel is that most would like to see a contract get done with Nugent-Hopkins, there are no doubt at least a few who would like to see the Oilers move on. I don’t quite understand that train of thought, as the Oilers could already use one top six left wing. If Nugent-Hopkins is expected to play left wing for the time being, the Oilers will then need to somehow acquire two top six left wings. If you let Nugent-Hopkins walk, are you going to throw twelve million bucks at two players who can’t play centre?
PUTTING PEN TO PAPER
I think this is as close to a no-brainer for the Oilers as possible. 93’s latest season is probably not what he wanted, and it wasn’t exactly what the Oilers would have liked as well. I don’t know if Holland feels comfortable with floating another six year contract at six million, but consider what a UFA will cost to come in and play with term.
Six million doesn’t seem unlikely for a player who will likely be older than Nugent-Hopkins and play only one position. If Holland and Nugent-Hopkins can’t get it done, the Oilers could have a situation where they’re looking for two top talents during free agency. How much does it cost for Zach Hyman and Taylor Hall? While Holland had a successful enough offseason signing players like Dominik Kahun and Tyler Ennis, he struggled to get Jacob Markstrom and was forced to re-sign Mike Smith for a year.
Let’s not do that with Nugent-Hopkins. Finding one top-six scoring forward is difficult enough. No need to make it two. A successful offseason will almost depend on bringing back Nugent-Hopkins for the right price.
Will Holland get it done?