Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The (Naked) Truth about the Draisaitl Deal

I’ve been zipping around the Al Gore over the last 24 hours, reading fan reaction to the Leon Draisaitl contract signing. I have discovered one thing: I’m too old for this. Folks, it’s a contract. Leon Draisaitl’s agent got him a good deal, and the Edmonton Oilers have a fine young player under contract for the heart of his career.


  • I thought the Vladimir Tarasenko deal was a comparable, and that $7.5 million AAV deal was signed two years ago. Source.
  • Draisaitl gets $1 million more per season and, even if you factor inflation, that is a lot.
  • There is also the matter of free-agent seasons purchased. St. Louis bought four of Tarasenko’s unrestricted seasons, Edmonton three from Draisaitl.

It was a very sweet deal for the player, based on those factors, in my opinion. It is not fatal and does not represent the end of Stanley Cup hopes. You should not do any bloodletting! Do not sell the house!

My belief as a neutral observer would probably conclude Draisaitl wanted a little sweetener and the Oilers felt the player important enough to sign off. Why? I’ll say one part playoff performance, one part McDavid’s deal and Draisaitl’s perception of his own value, and one part drawing a little blood from the organization over that stunt demotion at the threshold sliver point of that first year of his contract.


The other issue is that Draisaitl’s offense has been delivered with help from an impact player in each of his two full seasons. Here are the totals with and without:

  • Draisaitl with Hall 2015-16: At 5×5, Leon scored 2.32/60
  • Draisaitl w/o Hall 2015-16: At 5×5, he scored 1.13/60
  • Draisaitl with McDavid 2016-17: At 5×5, Leon scored 2.23/60
  • Draisaitl w/o McDavid 2016-17: At 5×5, he scored 1.79/60.

All of these numbers are via Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com and I would link but that website no longer exists in public form. The numbers show a gap for Leon offensively without Hall and then McDavid. Although LD’s without number 97 this past season is better, you’d still like it to be over 2.00/60 for the big man. Perhaps we’ll see it this coming year.


Leon Draisaitl is going to be in his prime during the heart of this contract. He will be playing for the Oilers during what should be a strong decade for the team, and he should be front and center. There is a chance he performs admirably as a river pusher on his own line. Even if he ends up playing RW with Connor McDavid, becoming a very well paid complementary player, there is value in posting big numbers there and that duo can make magic in the NHL.


I will tell you I am pleased that Leon Draisaitl is signed for the next eight seasons and the cap hit (for me) isn’t as much of an issue. Why? Leon’s next eight seasons are likely to be his most productive. Peter Chiarelli need only find a value deal to cover the overage, something he has shown an ability to do during his career.

What’s more, the McDavid deal may mean youth shall be served more and more as time rolls along across the National Hockey League. This (paying youngsters at the end of their entry-level deals) may become the new normal. We may see the McDavid and Draisaitl deals differently down the road, although it will probably be less ‘visionary’ and more ‘causation’.

I felt $7.5 million was fair, even with one fewer UFA seasons than Tarasenko. Draisaitl received $8.5 million for eight years. Peter Chiarelli is going to have to find a way to add a value contract somewhere to make up for that gap. It is certainly possible.

Leon Draisaitl is getting paid before we really know what he is as a player. That’s a risk. It would have been a risk at $7.5 million, too. If you feel good about the Leon Draisaitl signing, then you go right on feeling good about it. If you’re worried, I welcome you to watch with me to see what happens in 2017-18. I can’t wait to see what Leon Draisasitl does centering his own line. He turns 22 in October, how high can he fly?

  • JSR

    I think a three year bridge may have been the best option. One good year doesn’t warrant that kind of $$. Say 3 years, at 5 mil…
    That being said, I’m happy he’s signed, just don’t like the fact player movement from year to year will now increase considerably…

    • Bp123

      Bridge deals are safe… but if he does turn into the 1B center that we hope then we would be paying a hell of a lot more once that 3 year bridge is up. Signing a player based on potential is risky, but it’s also the only way to get a good player on a long term deal below their real value.

    • Dr.DanceEDM

      I feel ya man but all a bridge deal is allow Drats to light it up over the next 3 years and cost the team 10+ a year. If he projects like he should he will be a major bargain at 8.5

  • Kevwan

    Whats done is done and I’m glad Leon will be an Oiler for 8 years.

    But thank you LT. – Someone in the media looking at this deal objectively. 7.5 x 8 was the fair number.

    • OTOF2

      Great perspective LT. I agree that Chia will need to find some value deals to offset this contract. It’s not as critical this season but It will be interesting to see what he can do in ’18-’19 when another $9M or so will be going to Connor.

    • Rugbypig

      So . . . . . your one of those that believes alienating a player to “get the best deal” works in the teams favor.
      Winnipeg tried that tactic and will lose their defenceman for it, Calgary just did it and Gaudreau has already publicly stated “he would like to play for Philly” etc
      People post to look “intelligent” but it doesn’t always work out that way.

  • OilCan2

    The true value of this deal will be the next few years. Those years are going to be packed full of exciting hockey for Oiler fans. The Cap will probably go up and that will sweeten the deal for the club. Leon may go on to stellar numbers even better than his recent seasons. I’m glad the deal got announced this week. It gives us something to blog about before training camp and pre season games. The McDavid signing certainly swayed Leon to match the term in my humble opinion.

  • Serious Gord

    This is as close as Lowetide ever gets to actually being pessimistic.

    It gives me pause that he might just be as worried about cap issues and a weak prospect pipeline as I am.

    I think that at 7.5 draisaitl gets offer-sheeted. Potential HHOF centres are so hard to find…

  • JimmyV1965

    Great article LT. Lots of handwringing over the deal, but what’s done is done. It’s an overpay, but I’m just glad he’s signed. To get my hockey fix in August I watched game five of the Oil Shark series again. That German kid was pretty dammed good in that game. What the stats sometimes fail to show is that on some nights Drai played with McDavid and was even better than him. Same thing happened with Hall too. The kid is the real deal.

    • TruthHurts98

      Where’s the link to that game? I watch highlights from time to time and it still gives me chills watching the game winner! Leon has the hands, size and smarts. He is the real deal!

  • madjam

    Leon has an incredible work ethic from what others have said (ex teammates ,etc.) and strives to be the best . He will continue to get better , and doubt the raise in pay will change that strong drive and desire .

  • TruthHurts98

    When Crosby signed he was taking 17.3% of the cap space, it went up considerably the next year when Malkin also signed for 8.7 mil/yr. He was taking 15.3% so between both of them that comes out to 30.6% of the cap. Connor and Leon are taking 28% of the cap this year and the salary cap is projected to keep rising. By the middle to end of their contracts it will be a bargain. I think Leon is going to keep improving and be a horse every playoffs driving his line. None of this fretting over the $$$ matters if we see the Cup paraded around Edmonton next year or in the near future. Especially if it’s multiple cups. PC is a good GM and knows how to build winners. We will be a legitimate Cup contender for years and that puts a smile on my face!

    • Serious Gord

      The cap is growing much more slowly than it was when Crosby was signed.

      Shawn horcoff looked like a stud in the playoffs too and signed for much more than he should have been.

      That said drai looks like a potential superstar. But the key word is “potential”. Making declarative statements on what a player will turn out to be is a mugs game.

      • VK63

        The revenue streams will get sorted out as in this contract we will see Vegas gain traction, a new barn in Calgary driving revenue, the new barn in Detroit and probably another team in Seattle, Quebec or both. Plus a new US TV deal to get brokered….. with Disney/ESPN owning BamTech and thus the digital arm of the NHL and MLB and new streaming happening all the time. Monetizing that side will get figured out soon enough with industry players of that level of power and capacity involved.
        The cap is going to see at least one rather major jump.
        The elephant in the room and the thing that looms large when projecting revenue growth. In this contract term there will be another shutdown (highly likely) as that’s the way Mr. Bettman roles. With that comes the risk of alienation that the league has got away with a couple times, will they get away with it again?

    • Rock11

      And the penguins didn’t win a cup after those contracts were signed for years. They needed time for the cap to grow to build enough quality around the big cap hits. Same is happening in Chicago right now. Same will happen here. Good players will have to go for lesser versions with lower cap hits. At least Pitt and Chicago had won before they paid their guys. Happy Leon is signed but it may be 3 years before the Oil can put enough talent around him and 97 to really win big.

  • 2centz

    Depending how the team fairs with Sekera being hurt,I would look at possibly getting him to waive his NTC,instead of moving RNH. That said,one of those two will likely be playing their last season in Edmonton. I wonder if Chiarelli signs Jagr? I don’t see him going down the Iginla road again,as he didn’t seem to be high on him in Boston. Either way,if Vegas helps the NHL’s bottom line,we could see the cap increase,in which case 21m for two players will not be such a death sentence.

  • Svart kaffe

    Valid points. Chiarelli has already made a couple of deals that’s 0.25 or 0.5 millions cheaper than they could be. Draisaitl was the one he really wanted and needed so pay him and shave a bit here and there on other deals. That it all adds up in the end is what matters, not each individual deal.

  • Smyttys_Mullet

    Chiarelli should look into extending Puljujarvi after this next season (assuming he does well). A bridge deal could save the Oil some decent coinage and allow them to have some room to squeeze in some complimentary players to help beef up the bottom six.

    • themightypeace

      That is the truth. I think the lesson from the Draisaitl contract is to look at McDavid’s impact on his line mates as the same impact Mario Lemieux had on his line mates … its an instant lottery ticket. RFA contracts for high end picks like Pullijujarvi need to be managed accordingly, knowing that playing with McDavid will result in an immediate bump in stats. The only way to have avoided Draisaitl’s giant contract was to extend his contract to the end of his RFA eligibility before last season. With a contract like Draisatl’s $8.5M, you could have paid for 6-8 RFA contract extensions (%1M a piece) before getting burned. Extend Pullijujarvi, Yamamto, and 4 to 5 future draft pick contracts to the end of their RFA terms eligibility … if half of them fail in the NHL you are still ahead.

  • geeker99

    Really think Leon needs to drive his own line at this price. I think nuge is going to surprise a lot of people this year. Put him between jussi and kassian defensive capable players and he will be a different player.Last year Maroon admitted numerous times that he was lucky to be playing with Conner.Lets see what he says at contract time.

  • FISTO Siltanen

    For all the discussion about Yamamoto I think this deal cinches it that he return to junior.

    Even if he is more than NHL ready in camp, pre-season games and the 9 game freebie the Oilers absolutely need those three years of his ELC to start when McD’s and Draisaitl’s extensions both take affect.

  • MGD

    I understand the commentary that his point production drops when not playing with elite players… but, wouldn’t everyone’s? I remember a post-game interview when Todd Mc said he told Driasatl that he didn’t have to be 2nd best – he could be the best. I believe from that point on, he and Connor were neck-and-neck in scoring – then HE’S the one who takes his game to a whole new level in the playoffs. If everyone could elevate their game (or even just core contributors – Ebs, Poo…) like that, the Oil would have crushed the competition and would have gone from missing the playoffs for 10yrs to Stanley Cup Champs!

  • btrain

    Love that Leon is an Oiler for 8 years but as I have been saying Chia dropped the ball a bit here. If this was the only over pay or poor dollars and cents for the future decision I’m fine with that, but Chia overpays for both signings and trades and it’s a trend and it has been adding up. Leon wasnt going anywhere and if you have to hold out into the season to show you wont be leaned over a barrel, than you do that. But I can’t imagine a few more hard weeks of negotiation couldn’t have brought the number down to at least 8. 8.5 is bordering on unreasonable even on a team who would envision Drai as their top center, yet Chia hands it out for a guy who gets to play behind 97. The team will be fine but Chia still needs to show some ability to take a little back instead of just give to get and move on. From my perspective he tends to take the path of least resistance to accomplish his objectives and I don’t like it. Not for a GM in his position holding a 97 card in his back pocket coming off a very promising season. He has one of the easiest GM jobs in the league now, so I think we should expect more from him.

      • btrain

        Haha. If what I said is beyond common sense then maybe I should have put in a resume. But I am sure most can consider the logic of my opinion disagree if they like and move on or provide a little logic back to counter my view.

  • tileguy

    J.G. Wrote “Leon Draisaitl is getting paid before we really know what he is as a player”

    Everybody forgets their was a third season to judge Draisaitls worth, and that was the playoffs, the hardest season of them all. Some players fade away like a shrinking violet, others step up. If Leon did not step up like he did, and remember he was sick for a few games he wouldn’t of gotten his 8.5. He did and I’m glad for all sides.

  • Harry2

    Chiarelli has found or signed 4 exceptional contracts already. Klefbom, Larsson, Talbot and Maroon.

    I swear some Oiler fans and media must have loved being the worst team in the league. Chiarelli has done an exceptional job turning this team around.

    • Hemi

      I tend to agree that the negative view points of some fans are either based on the decade of darkness or they are just negative people in general. Some folks are happy being miserable I guess. I believe the local media are not so bad to be perfectly honest about it. The cap is a thorn in the side to most decent teams, the Oil will be no different. Bottom line, if we didn’t pay up, we loose the best two players the Oil have had since the glory days.
      I can’t imagine the bloody out cries if the Oil went cheap and just did not want to fork over the bucks. This is what the cost is for the modern day Gretzky and Messier (IMO). Some may change Messier to Kuri…..

      Either way, the Oil will be contenders more so with Leon on the team than of the team.

      Go OIL!

    • btrain

      He has done an admirable job getting this team back on track. However this doesn’t mean we should blindly support every decision he makes. Since turning the team around he has continued to be overly generous in trades and signings. He also was in my opinion careless and impatient with the Pouliot buyout.

  • VK63

    Vlad is a decent Proxy for Leon. They both kill penalties and are creative in the o-zone. Vlad is probably more dynamic and Leon is more responsible. Where Leon kicks Vlads butt is in the off ice dedication department, Vlad is kind of a butter ball…… comparatively.
    The intoxicating thing about Leon’s playoff run is that it came after a season that saw him play more freaking hockey than anyone on the planet with much of that in a pressure packed role. That kind of stuff can entice an organization into extrapolating his durability. FWIW at some point the Oil are actually going to get some growth out of these high priced bets, it is inevitable, randomness alone predicts it.

  • TKB2677

    I am a big Leon guy so I am very happy he is signed for 8 years. I am confident he will be the Oilers Malkin. I thought that the Johansen deal of 8 mill per would be the high mark for Leon. I had him in the 7.5-8 yr range as Kuznetsov signed for 7.8 and if you look at their points over the last few seasons, they were almost the same. With all that being said, when there was talk about the Leon contract and the McDavid extension at the end of the playoffs. I had it in my mind that the combined number couldn’t be over 21 mill. At 12.5 and 8.5, that is 21 mill. I thought McDavid probably took at least 1 mill less than he could have and Leon got 1 mill more than maybe he should have. So it cancels out in my books.

    Regardless, I believe that the Oilers now have one of the best 1-2 center punches in the league which will quickly become THE BEST 1-2 punch very soon.

  • Pouzar99

    A few points on the Tarasenko-Draisaitl comparison. Draisiatal scored more points last year, at the age of 21, than Tarasenko, who is 25, has scored in any single season. Tarasenko has established his level the past three seasons, averging a very impressive 74 points per. VT got to that point level at the age of 23, Draisaitl at 21. LD likely has another level to reach, which LT has already projected for him for this coming season. I note that Leon had 8 points in the first 16 games last season, 69 in the final 66, and 16 on 13 playoff games, indicating he will likely be a PPG+ player in the prime years he is entering. In addition, Leon is a center who is rapidly improving in the faceoff circle, playing a more important role than Tarasenko, who is a winger. The one extra UFA year for Tarasenko is balanced by the minus of his final season being played mostly as a 31-year-old, when almost all players are past their prime. Draisaitl will turn 29 during the final year of his contract. Overall the Blues got a good deal. So did the Oilers.

  • camdog

    Ever since video games allowed for signing players and building your own team, everybody thinks it’s just that easy. The naked truth is we all knew what it was going to cost to sign both McDavid and LD long term and now some are having buyers remorse, just to be negative. McDavid took that discount conditional on getting LD signed long term. McDavid could have taken that extra 750,000 and then the Oilers could have signed LD to a bridge deal. I’d prefer the route the McDavid and the Oilers chose.