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Photo Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

It looks like a bridge deal is coming for Darnell Nurse

Yesterday, Jim Matheson posted an interview with Darnell Nurse’s agent, Anton Thun, that talked about Darnell Nurse’s next contract and it gave us a pretty good idea of what’s likely to happen. In his agent’s own words, it doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing Darnell put pen to paper on a long-term deal but rather a shorter bridge contract until the cap situation relaxes a little bit. Let’s break it down.

Now, I’m not going to post the whole interview because you can go read it over at the Sunurnal, but there are a couple of quotes that stuck out to me that I wanted to touch on. Since the season ended, we’ve spent a lot of time wondering what was going to happen with Nurse’s next contract and whether or not he would get locked up for the better part of the next decade or to something much shorter like a two-year bridge deal. Well, in his agent’s own words, it doesn’t seem like the long term route is something they’re all that interested in doing right now.

“They’ve sent us a proposal and we’ll see where that goes. I don’t see with their cap space being what it is that they can entice us with much term.”

Alright, so right now the Oilers have about $4.9(ish) million left on the cap with Nurse to sign as well as 10th overall pick Evan Bouchard. That’s not a lot of wiggle room to get both guys locked down without having to send some money out of town to make it work. That’s not exactly news, I know. Where things got interesting, though, is when Thun tipped his hand a little bit in terms of what it would take to get a long-term contract done.

“If they’ve got $5 million in cap space (now), it’s not going to be a long-term deal.”

Correct me if I’m wrong but this quote kinda seems like the Nurse camp won’t bother looking at a long-term deal that comes in under $5 million per season. Just me? I definitely get why they would want to maximize their dollars, and maybe this is just some clever negotiating by the agent, but that would be a lot a lot of cake for a guy that is still solidifying himself as a reliable top-four option. Looking at the Oilers cap situation, the only defenceman currently on the books with a cap hit above $5 million is Andrej Sekera, a guy that came to town as an unrestricted free agent.

Two guys that are currently ahead of Darnell on the depth chart, Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson, are both signed to long-term deals worth just over $4.1 million each which makes the idea of Nurse coming in at $5 million a little bit pricey for my liking (similar cap percentage relative to when they signed, though). Unless he’s doing what all agents do and trying to negotiate a higher price for his client, I think it’s more likely to see Nurse sign some kind of ‘show me’ contract that gives the organization a little bit of insurance against a long-term overpay as well as motivation for the player to work towards a larger cash call in a couple of years.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

In this week’s WWYDW, I posted some comparable contracts from guys drafted in 2012 with a similar draft pedigree that were coming off of their entry-level deals in a list that looks like so:

  • 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 if we’re talking about going short-term with Darnell, then we could be looking at something similar to Ryan Murray’s second contract. In 2015-16, his third NHL season, Murray put up four goals and 21 assists for 25 points in what was his highest points totals to date and was only a single point off from where Nurse finished this past season. You could also look at Matt Dumba’s $2.5 million contract that he signed when his ELC was finished after he posted 10 goals and 16 assists for 26 points in his third NHL season. Both of those guys not only put up similar numbers to Darryl in the last year of their respective ELCs but also were (generally) given similar minutes as the Oilers defenceman as well.

From Nurse’s perspective, his camp would probably want to look at Jacob Trouba’s second deal in Winnipeg that saw him signing for $3 million per season after he finished his third NHL season with six goals and 15 assists for 21 points. Given the importance of Trouba to the Jets’ top six and contract that followed, it’s not unreasonable to assume that Nurse’s agent would try and shoot for something in that same ballpark given how big a role ol’ Darryl will be expected to play. In Vegas, Colin Miller just signed a four-year deal worth $3.785 per season but that was coming off of a 41 point season, so it almost seems likely to expect that he’ll fall somewhere between Trouba and Miller.

So what does it all mean? Based on the interview and the Oilers cap situation, I would guess that Nurse’s next contract, based on his comparables, will be a two-year deal (he would still be an RFA after those two years) in the neighbourhood of $3-3.5 million per season. For the team, that deal would give them two more years to assess the player before committing long term, and for Nurse, it gives him two years to show that he’s worth a massive pay increase. From where I blog, a bridge deal gives both sides more time to see how things play out before the Brinks truck backs up to Nurse manor. That said, a bridge deal is still a gamble for both sides and it’s going to be interesting to see what actually happens after he signs his name on the dotted line.

What do you guys think?

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

 

  • ROILYDoGG$

    Not sure if he’s even close to being a 5 mill dman, however he will be over the 200 game mark and could make a huge leap so this could be expensive. His agent and Nurse are betting on him to take a big step.
    Trade him and Lucic to the sens for Karlson ….
    or go with a bridge deal …
    option 3 if they really believe he is the poop cut something small and give him 4 mill plus bonuses if he hits 50 points … not sure if that’s an viable option

  • Rockinghockey

    They should either sign him to a 2 yr 2.5 mil per or 3 yr 3 mil per. He proved last year when playing on the top pairing that he could not handle the top players. When he was playing third and second pairings he could handle it. He is not ready for top pairings and I see Nurse as a second pairing dman. He won’t be a 23 plus dman per night against top fwds from other teams shift after shift.

    • Big Nuggets

      don’t know why you are so quick to put a ceiling on his ability. Nurse is 23 years old. Many defensemen don’t even enter the league until 23. He has another level that he is yet to reach.

  • Vanoil

    Keep hoping. If you want to look at/assess comparables you have to look at player usage and deals as a % of the then existing salary cap. Trouba was a 5/6 Defender who sat out before he signed because he didn’t have arbitration rights. Nurse was used as a top four and elevated to top pairing when Klefbom struggled. How many top pairing defenders are making less than $3.5M // 4% of the salary cap on each team??? He plays more than Sekera or Russell and is given more responsibilities, yet the OIL want to pay him less? His agent said nothing less than $5M b/c its relative to the over-all increase in the cap over time.

    • Big Nuggets

      He got extra minutes because of the Sekera injury, not because he outplayed him. Although Nurse getting at least 5 mil seems likely, especially considering other recent contracts.