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9 Million For Nurse?

Darnell Nurse holds pocket aces in this round of negotiations.

Edmonton Oilers v Winnipeg Jets - Game Three Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images

The price of poker keeps going up.

There have been an onslaught of new contracts over the last two weeks. Defencemen have been eating really well recently, and it looks like they will continue to do so for the time. Zach Werenski pulled a 57.5MM extension just last night with Columbus, while Seth Jones is due 9.5MM a season beginning in 2022-23 and for the next eight years afterwards. Cale Makar recently signed a six year deal for 54 million, and it’s Darnell Nurse’s turn at the wheel soon.

At Copper & Blue Industry And Heavy Machinery,™️ we’ve been a little skeptical of what Nurse’s next deal is going to look like. While I surmised his deal was going to easily hit the 7.5 AAV a little while back, the potential to push north of that number has grown quite a bit. 9 million is uncharted territory for the Oilers and Darnell Nurse, but the last couple of weeks might have changed things up. Good on him if he gets it. If he pushes, I think he does.

We’ve hashed, and rehashed the fact that Nurse gets the McDavid bump to his numbers, and that’s something that might work in the club’s favour if they incorporated it into their negotiating tactics. While we can quibble over Darnell Nurse being a six million dollar player, an eight million dollar player, or a nine, or a ten million dollar player, the fact is that Darnell Nurse is going to get paid for as many or as few years as he wants. Four year deal? Sure. Six years? Yes. Eight years, all the way? That too. It’s Darnell Nurse’s world, baby. He’s going to write the cheques.

Barring a colossal trade, there’s not exactly a stable of Oiler players or prospects waiting in the immediate background who would be able replace Darnell Nurse in the lineup. Nurse and Keith are your top two on the left side, and there’ll likely be some sort of mixed bag on the third pair with Kris Russell, William Lagesson, Slater Koekkoek (if he’s signed) or maybe someone new if the Oilers can scratch together some coin. I think it’s another year before any of Samorukov or Broberg make inroads towards the NHL, but either of those players would chance a look on third pair at this point in their careers.

There’s always a chance that Nurse takes a haircut to show good will, or “to keep the club together”. And let’s be honest, there’s a fighting chance an eight year deal gets done somewhere between 8 and 8.5. That could be a savings of a million in yearly cap for the OIlers, which isn’t exactly small change. After signing two bridge deals, I don’t know if that’s how it goes. He’s earned the right to get to unrestricted free agency, and I think the Oilers will find themselves closer to Nurse’s ask then they might have imagined even three weeks ago.

For better or worse, Darnell Nurse is the top defenceman on this club today. The club has been pretty adamant that they’d like to get a deal done. With unrestricted free agency looming at the end of the upcoming season, the Oilers will try to get the best deal they can. If the club is certain they want to go long, it’s probably in their best interest to get a deal done sooner than later.

If I’m the Oilers, I don’t want to give Nurse’s agent any more contracts to compare.