Edmonton Oilers’ GM Peter Chiarelli was stating the obvious during his season-end availability with the media when he said signing Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl to new contracts are his top two priorities. There’s not a lot of stop-the-presses stuff with that revelation.
“Again, order of events is, and we can’t officially sign Connor till July 1st, but it’s going to be Connor then Leon and then we’ve got a cluster of other guys I’d like to have back but I’ve got to get through those,” Chiarelli said, responding to a question by Terry Jones. “Cap wise we’re OK next year.
“We could basically stay the same and it’s the following year when Mr. McDavid’s contract will kick in, so I have to be cognizant of that. But we’ve got a lot of different rosters we’ve looked at in the sense that at numbers for specific guys terms but cap’s expected to stay flat or raise a little bit, so we’re working off a $73-$75 million cap to see where it’s at. We certainly will have the resources to put another contending team in place.”
The only questions that matter, of course, are how much money and term McDavid and Draisaitl get – keeping in mind how what will undoubtedly be the two biggest contracts in the history of the franchise will impact keeping a contending team together over the next five to eight years. How might these deals look?
If McDavid, 20, isn’t the best player in the game right now, he’s close. He’s going to be paid like it with his next contract, which his agent and the Oilers can begin negotiating after July 1. While McDavid could get as much as $14 million a season in a max deal (20 per cent of the salary cap over eight years), I don’t see it. What I do see is a new contract that bumps him ahead of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews ($10.5 million), Anze Kopitar ($10 million), Alex Ovechkin ($9.538 million) and Evgeni Malkin ($9.5 million).
Statistics aside, McDavid is the linch-pin on which this franchise has turned after a decade of failure and ineptitude. McDavid energized this city on the way to claiming the Art Ross Trophy as scoring champion (he should win the Hart Trophy) as the Oilers reached Game 7 of the second round of the playoffs, and he is fast becoming the face of the entire league. He gets paid. I think the AAV on his new deal will be right around $11.5 million.
What’s making the rounds on media row now is the possibility that McDavid could take a bridge contract of, say, five years, which would still leave him in the heart of his prime when it came time to negotiate another mega-deal. Crosby and Malkin did it. So did Kane and Toews, as well as Steven Stamkos.
“One of the theories is that what McDavid might do is copy some other star players who went for five-year deals, which gives the opportunity to have another big deal when he’s 25 years old,” said insider Elliotte Friedman recently during Headlines on Hockey Night in Canada. Hmm.
An eight-year deal would provide the Oilers cost certainty on McDavid. It would provide McDavid security that more than sets him up for life regardless of any other contract he might sign down the road. A five-year deal still provides the Oilers an opportunity to win a Stanley Cup or two during that time frame. Of course, it also provides McDavid an out — with a line-up of teams waiting to pay him — if he chooses to move along.
If I’m Chiarelli, I’m selling that eight-year deal all day long. If I’m McDavid, I see no downside to signing for five years and then re-assessing because the money is somewhat secondary when that five-year term is up. The chance to win trumps all for the vast majority of players, and if McDavid sees the chance to win here he signs on again and stays. If not, he moves on.
WHAT ABOUT LEON?
So, given the kind of money McDavid will be commanding with his next contract, what is Draisaitl’s next contract worth as a RFA after he finished eighth in the NHL scoring with 77 points and then followed that up with 16 points in 13 playoff games? How much term does he get?
We’ve seen what paying two players in excess of $20 million combined over any length of time has done in Chicago with Kane and Toews. In a salary cap world, that limits what a GM can do with the rest of his roster. That much we know. So, if McDavid gets in the neighborhood of $11.5 million, if not more, how does that play out for Draisaitl?
Chiarelli has already said that inking Draisaitl is a priority, but, as good as he was this season and in the post-season, he is clearly the second-banana to McDavid. That doesn’t mean Draisaitl has to settle for spare change, but with other big tickets still on the payroll as of now – $6 million for both Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – that will play into things. It has to, at least until some of that money gets moved.
A lot of people are pegging Draisaitl at $6 million to $7 million a season. I think that’s a reasonable range and where Chiarelli would like to land when the ink is finally done. As for term, I’d certainly be willing to buy some UFA years with Draisaitl. I’m just not sure how many. Might a bridge deal for $35 million over five years be the answer?
For me, getting contracts for young, emerging stars like McDavid and Draisaitl completed for under $20 million combined per season would be a win because that would provide at least some wiggle room when it comes to addressing the rest of the roster down the road. Of course, Chiarelli’s comfort level may vary from mine.