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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

WWYDW: Darnell Nurse’s contract – bridge or long term?

With Ryan Strome signing last week, it seems like one of the last bits of housekeeping the Oilers have to get done is a new deal for defenceman Darnell Nurse. In this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday, I’m asking you what you would do with Darnell Nurse’s next contract?

Since being drafted 7th overall, Darnell Nurse has spent the last three years steadily climbing the Oilers defensive depth chart and has since found himself playing some major minutes in the top four. So far in his young career, the former 7th overall pick in 2013 has played in 197 games for the Oilers and has put up 14 goals and 33 assists for 47 points with this past season being his biggest step forward to date. During the 2017-18 season, Nurse averaged 22:15 per night with 19:24 coming at even strength and the rest on special teams, mostly the penalty kill. Needless to say, the Oilers will need Nurse to continue his progression into being a complete, well-rounded defenceman if they hope to get back to the promised land.

Looking ahead, ol’ Darryl will be expected to play a major role for the Oilers on their blue line, but before we can get there he needs to be re-signed first and that’s where you come in. After finishing up his entry-level contract, Nurse is looking for a new deal and I need you to put your GM hat on and make the call on what that should look like. Would the Oilers be wiser to try and go with a short-term bridge to make Nurse show them that he’s worth it while also delaying a bigger payout, or do they use a big chunk of what’s left of their $4.9 million in cap space to try and get him signed for the long haul? There could be benefits either way.

BRIDGE OR LONG TERM DEAL?

Regardless of what kind of the deal the Oilers and Nurse settle upon, there are going to be pros and cons that go along with it. What this negotiation really boils down to is whether the Oilers want to gamble on a long-term deal and assume that Darnell Nurse is going to keep developing the way we all hope he does, or sign him to a ‘show me’ type of bridge deal to make sure of it before committing long term. Will they try to save money now because their cap space is so thin or will they try to spread that saving out? Which answer is the right one?

Part of me thinks that a bridge deal would be best for Nurse because it will give the team some insurance against overspending on a somewhat unproven commodity. It would allow them a larger sample of seeing if Nurse is the real deal and able to handle the rigours of playing in the top four on a nightly basis. Another part of me believes that Darnell Nurse has the toolbox required to keep developing into the stud defenceman we so desperately need, and locking him up long term would be the best way to keep him cost controlled for the next eight years.

When thinking about Nurse’s next contract, I thought we should first look at some players with a similar draft pedigree from the defenceman-heavy 2012 draft and see what they signed for after their ELC was over. Here are some of the blueliners’ post-ELC deals:

  • Ryan Murray (second overall, 2012) – Two years, $2,825,000 cap hit
  • Morgan Rielly (fifth overall, 2012) – Five years, $5,000,000 cap hit
  • Hampus Lindholm (sixth overall, 2012) – Six years, $5,205,556 cap hit
  • Matt Dumba (seventh overall, 2012) – Two years, $2,550,000 cap hit
  • Jacob Trouba (ninth overall, 2012) – Two years, $3,000,000 cap hit
  • Cody Ceci (15th overall, 2012) – Two years, $2,800,000 cap hit
  • Olli Maatta (22nd overall, 2012) – Six years, $4,083,333 cap hit

So what should the Oilers do? I don’t have the answer. Fortunately, this feature depends solely on what you guys think and I’m asking what you guys would do in this situation and how you would handle Nurse’s upcoming contract. Would you go with a short-term bridge deal that gives the organization some insurance and leaves Nurse hungry, or would you look at something like an eight-year deal to try and keep his cap hit as low as possible over the better part of the next decade?

What do you guys think?

DARNELL NURSE’S CAREER SO FAR

Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM +/- GP G A Pts PIM
2014-15 Edmonton Oilers NHL 2 0 0 0 0 -2
2015-16 Bakersfield Condors AHL 9 0 2 2 7 2
2015-16 Edmonton Oilers NHL 69 3 7 10 60 -13
2016-17 Edmonton Oilers NHL 44 5 6 11 33 0 13 0 2 2 6
2017-18 Edmonton Oilers NHL 82 6 20 26 67 15
NHL Totals 197 14 33 47 160 13 0 2 2 6

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  • puckle-head

    If the space is there, sign him long term. That’s the type of gamble more teams should be making. When you bet on a promising young player, the risk is minimal (moving a 25 year old on a bad contract is a lot easier than moving a 30 year old) and you could win the gamble in a big way. When you bet on an older, more accomplished player in FA, it’s not really a question of winning or losing. You’re going to lose, you’re just gambling when.

  • Bills Bills

    Nurse was over his head in year one and should have been in the AHL. But anyone who is saying he has hit is ceiling is either dumb or a troll. He has shown inconsistencies like most young players that are playing above their weight class, yet he has still improved year over year. I would bridge for 2 years at 3-3.5 million. In that time Sekera and Russel are long gone and Bouchard will still be on his entry level contract. (This GM is sending him back to junior this year).

    It leaves some cap flexibility and if Darnell shows that he is still improving and warrants a bigger raise, the money is there and I am happy to pay it.

  • toprightcorner

    The way contracts are increasing significantly each year, the best play it to try and sign him long term. What is valued at $4.5 mill this year will be $5.5-$6 mill in 2 years when the bridge is done, and that is if Nurse just stays the same.

    Last year, Calvin De Haan got $3.3 for 1 year. He missed most of the season so didn’t really play enough to show improvement and signed for $4.55 over 4 years and he is older but a close comparison to Nurse. That was a 1 year with no proof of improvement.

    If you sign Nurse to a bridge for 2 years, he will command closer to $5-$5.5 with marginal improvement and $5.5-$6 with some improvement.

    If the Oilers could sign Nurse to a 5-8 year deal to around $4.7 mill, that will be a value contract long term. Even if Nurse has reached his peak, it will be an easy contract to trade at any time.

    To make cap room, you can trade Kassian, sign someone for $1 mill and still have some room.

    If that cannot get done, the best bet is to sign Nurse to only a 1 year bridge. Russel and Sekera can be traded next summer, so you trade 1 or both of them, then sign Nurse long term. It will cost a little more, but still less than if he has a 2 year bridge. This gives you cap flexibility this year and gives you best value for Nurses cap hit long term.

    • DavidMcDavid

      Good thoughts here. My thought incrementally is that the AAV on a short term deal will be less than that on a long term term.

      The reality is that if we can not clear cap space, we will be limited to an offer that is south of $4.5M a year.

      Knowing that, I think the best strategy is to present two offers.
      – A long term deal in the range of $4.0M to $4.5M AAV range for six to seven years. Olli Maatta comparable, similar value to Klefbom and Larsson as well so it doesn’t disrupt the team.
      – A short term deal in the range of $3.0M AAV for three years ideally, but he may only take two years (betting on himself).
      The former will be great value as Darnell at worst projects as a top 4, and at best will be a top 2 Dman. The latter gives us flexibility to get through the contract years of Sekera and Russell if we can’t move one of them out.

      Signing a long term deal only makes sense for the team if the value is good.

    • puckle-head

      Agreed. The Oilers also have maximum leverage before he hits UFA status. There downsides to a bridge deal are much higher than the downsides to a long term deal.

  • Bond

    Wehave developed and dumped far too many nhl players, Stoll, Greene, Brodziak, Petry to name a few. Darnell is young, tough, a great skater with a mean streak and nothing but upside. He is just reaching the point where young defenceman start to shine. SIGN HIM LONG TERM, he’s one of ours and if we lose him who replaces him?

  • BendingCorners

    Nurse is probably a top-pair or even a #1 defender by the time he is 25. For cap reasons the Oilers will need to bridge him on a 2 or 3 year deal at 3.0 or 3.5 per year. Chiarelli normally overpays for players he likes but his own cap mismanagement likely forces him to behave responsibly this time; too bad for Nurse but good for the Oilers.

  • GotYouPegged

    What they should do: sign him long term if they can get him at under $5mil (4.5 idealy). This is an opportunity to get value long-term. The risk/reward index on Nurse leans heavily to reward. In two years we could be looking at 6-7 mil range. What a savings that will be. Nurse has incredible tools (size, meanness, skating, reach, puck control etc) that are just coming together and will be desired by others. Lock him up.
    What they will do: bridge-him at 3+mil. and in two years give him 6+mil long-term. They’ll miss this golden opportunity because they are in budget trouble now. Dumping a salary like kassian is needed to make the long term deal work.

  • Redbird62

    Another important consideration in how Nurse’s contract is handled has to be the 2020 expansion draft for Seattle. I understand the rules will be the same as they were for Vegas. What are the implications for protecting Nurse if he signs a two year deal (and it doesn’t get extended after 1). As well, if Sekera and Russell aren’t moved by then, do they still have to be protected at that time, along with Larsson, because of their nmc/ntc clauses or can they be left unprotected if Seattle is on their trade list?

    • OriginalPouzar

      I disagree – the expansion draft doesn’t play in to this contract at all.

      If he signs for 8 years, they will protect him.

      If he signs for 2 years (and is an up and coming RFA at the time of the draft), they will still need to protect him.

      He cannot have any trade protection in his contract at that time (NTC/NMC are only available for UFA years of the contract).

      • Redbird62

        Not sure your last sentence is true. According to Capfriendly, Larsson’s NTC kicks in this year, 1 year before he would have been eligible for UFA status.
        Also, hopefully by then, the Oilers prospects will have developed enough that the Oilers can be in a better position to bargain with Seattle about who Seattle will or will not take off their roster. As well going into the draft having to protect an RFA and not knowing the cap hit of keeping him is not ideal if cap space is still tight for the team.

      • GK1980

        Can someone break into chia’s Office and take a picture of his whiteboard so we can all see his “plan”? Anyone else curious what the hell his plan is?

    • Big Nuggets

      Seatle can still claim him if he is an unsigned RFA. We will have to protect Nurse which will invlolve trying to trade the NTC’s. Hopefully the other GM’s will forget about the expansion draft and take Russell off our hands. if not we may have to buy him out in order to protect our good defensemen.

      • OriginalPouzar

        Yes, if we cannot trade Russell prior to the expansion draft he will 100% need to be bought out – there is zero way we can protect him.

        Thankfully, Sekera’s NMC dissipates prior the expansion draft.

  • Goaltender Interference

    Cap issues will most likely force a bridge but if that issue wasn’t there Nurse should be inked long-term.

    Might be slightly higher than he deserves the first year but a long-term signing would be viewed as a value-contract in as short a time as a couple years from now. This is exactly how smart teams manage their cap situations and for that reason it’s something the OBC would never think to do.

    But yeah – given the criminal mismanagement of our cap dollars over the past couple of years we don’t have the capability of offering Nurse anything except a bridge.

  • Cowboy Bill

    When you look at draft pedigree the only two names that are close in comparison are Ryan Murray , who was a 2nd OVA pick and Matt Dumba . Murray got a two year deal @ $2.82M slightly more than Dumba’s two years @ $2.5M . Nurse is less proven than these two comparable . He is a 23 year old with much to prove and was drafted higher than he probably should have . Chiarelli must not sign this player long term until he proves his worth . Due to their cap constraints , a one or two year deal that fits under the cap and allows them ample room to sign another forward is necessary . 1 year @ $1.5M show us what you got deal or 2 year @ $2M .

  • Big Nuggets

    Its weird that there as so many Nurse naysayers. All evidence points to a player who has not yet peaked, he already plays in the top 4 as a really young defenseman, not to mention he brings the toughness and willingness to scrap that Oilers fans typically love. Personally he is one of my favourite Oilers.

    The charges against him are pretty weak. ‘he has peaked’ – obviously not true, ‘he lacks hockey intelligence’ – Also not true and is a typical charge against black athletes that smells of racism, and ‘he’s not an offensive player so doesn’t deserve to be paid’ – His 5 on 5 scoring was good for a young player and he didn’t recieve any PP time. I don’t know what his offensive ceiling is but he isn’t getting any worse so locking him up long term before he has any sort of offensive breakthrough could be prudent.

    If I was GM I would have locked him up long term already, assuming he is willing to make a deal. Mucking about with this bridge deal to add another 4th line player just doesn’t sound worth it. Cap savings will be more important when McDavid and Drai are 24 and 25 yrs old and we can potentially put together a contending team.

  • GK1980

    So a little off topic but why don’t local Edmonton guys want to play in Edmonton for good contracts? Maroon…Tavares….. there are a ton of Edmonton born nhl but they don’t seem to want to play in Edmonton. Kinda sucks

    • BobbyCanuck

      Ummm…have you seem how we treat our Oiler players: their kids get slagged on the play ground cause dad did not play well last night, social media rips them all a new one just about every game, frikken freezing, cultural wasteland…need I go on?

      • MrBung

        No. Players want to play for winners and competent management and ownership. Oilers have been one if the poorest run hockey and pro sports organizations in all NA pro sports over the last 12 plus years. One of the poorest records.

      • Daryl Katz

        i don’t have a problem with guys coming home as long as they can still play and Kyle can appear to still be able to whereas Ference couldn’t….but that didn’t stop Mr. Bold, MacTavish from signing the bum anyways!

  • Dr. Merkwurdigliebe

    Darnell is still young and Dmen usually take a bit longer to develop than forwards. He’s big, strong, and has a mean streak. Sign him long term. 5 years at 4 mil.

      • Bills Bills

        3 would be a bad idea too. Currently only Klefbom has a contract beyond 3 years, leaving Larsson at UFA status and if history tells us anything Bouchard will need a new contract as well as Nurse. That is a lot of eggs in one summer basket on defense. Ideally Larsson is extended before then and Bouchard won’t be coming off his ELC until the following year. But as the need for Bouchard is pretty high right now, something tells me they burn his first year this year.

  • bazmagoo

    If we can sign Darnell at a number similar to Larsson/Klefbom, I think you do it for 8 years. If not, a bridge at $3 million for 2 years would probably be market value.

  • Kepler62c

    I think it largely depends on the number for that long term deal. If he signs an Olli Maatta deal (~$4.08M) then I’d take that, but if it’s a Lindholm or greater ($5.2M) then you are getting into overpay territory if Nurse doesn’t continue progressing.