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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday Tidbits: Nurse contract and more

With every passing day Darnell Nurse’s agent is seeing more contracts signed. Joel Edmundson signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Blues yesterday, and Brandon Montour signed a two-year, $3.387 million AAV. Both had arbitration rights, which is a factor when comparing their salaries straight across with Nurse, but Montour’s deal makes me believe Nurse will for sure be in the $3 million range, and likely at $3.1 million.

A month ago I reported Nurse and the Oilers were looking at a bridge deal around $3 million and sources tell me today that is still the range. Jacob Trouba signed a two-year deal on November 7th, 2016 with a $3 million AAV, and I’ve been told that is one being used as a comparison. Ideally the Oilers would like to come in just under $3 million, while Nurse’s camp is above $3 million.

Expect them to meet in the middle and the deal will be near $3 million give or take 100 grand. (It would be great if we could all deal in those financial parameters of give and take..haha).

1. Admittedly, I am a big fan of Nurse. I believe he still has a lot of room to grow and I find it interesting why so many are quick to decide what his ceiling is. After his rookie season, when he played mostly with Andrej Sekera, on his off-wing, and Justin Schultz, Nurse didn’t have great numbers. The Oilers were not good, and many prognosticators (and some who believe strongly in analytics) declared Nurse was not going to be that good. They compared his underlying numbers to other young D-men and declared he’d never be more than a #4, second pair defender. I never understood those comparisons because there are many different circumstances from other players. Sekera struggled mightily on the right side, —he admitted he did not like playing there —combined with Nurse being a rookie and the Oilers being a dreadful team, Nurse’s numbers suggested, to me, he was going to be better in the future despite a tough rookie season.

2. Nurse is now three years into his career, and last season I saw more calmness in his game. His skating and toughness puts him in a rare group, but we saw improvements in his decision making and his positioning. He is only going to get better and I understand why Nurse will want a short term deal, because there is a good chance he could play his way into a big payday in the future. I don’t think he would have signed a six or seven year offer at $4.7 million this summer, even if the Oilers had the cap space. His camp believes he has a lot of growth left in his game and they are betting on him.

3. Nurse had a very solid campaign last year. He finished with 6-20-26 in 82 games. He played the most minutes of any defender, 1,824, and averaged the second most TOI/game at 22:15. He played 1,548 5×5 minutes according to Natural Stat Trick, and he only played 541 (34.9%) with Connor McDavid, in case you think his numbers were skewed by playing a lot with the best player in the NHL. Oscar Klefbom played 1,118 5×5 minutes and 418 (37.4%) with McDavid for a reference.

4. Nurse was paired most often with Adam Larsson (820 minutes) and Kris Russell (426). Nurse led Oilers defenders in EV points with 26, followed by Russell (19), Matt Benning (18) and Klefbom (14). When Nurse was on the ice the Oilers outscored the opposition 69-56 at 5×5. Benning was 50-47, Larsson 48-48, Russell 46-57 and Klefbom 44-57. Larsson and Russell were a combined -11 at 5×5, while Nurse was +13, and he played the vast majority of his time with those two. Nurse’s ability to skate the puck up ice is a major asset, and the one area he wants to improve his is play in the offensive zone.

5. When I spoke to him in May, after the World Championships, he said, “I will be working on improving my play in the offensive zone. I want to make more plays once I’m there.” Nurse is working with skills coach Adam Oates again this summer, and Oates has an excellent track record of improving puck handling, and play making abilities of NHL players. He works with over 50 NHLers now, ranging from elite top-end guys like Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos, to defensive defenders who want to improve their puck skills like Greg Pateryn.

6. Nurse’s 26 EV points tied him with Colton Parayko for 34th most among D-men in the NHL. He was one behind Mark Giordano, Zack Werenski, Aaron Ekblad, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Ryan Suter, Jake Muzzin, Morgan Reilly and Tyson Barrie. Of these top-34 scorers, Nurse’s EV GF-GA ratio was only bettered by Josh Manson, Victor Hedman, Matt Niskanen, Roman Josi, Drew Doughty, PK Subban and Ivan Provorov. All seven of those defenders played on playoff teams.

7. I believe Nurse quietly had a very good season. Of course he can improve, which I expect he will as he plays more, but Oates texted me this morning, “Nurse looks fantastic. He’s worked really hard and I’m looking forward to seeing how he uses what we’ve worked on in games.”

8. Without arbitration, or being a high-end producer, Nurse, like most players, doesn’t have much negotiating power right now, which is fine in my eyes. I’ve long argued teams should use this rare time, before arbitration, to sign a player to a value contract, because down the road the players often have the advantage in negotiating. I expect Nurse to sign a two-year pact, and if he progresses like I believe he can, the contract will be a very favourable one for the Oilers and the fans.

9. Scanning through random stats this week while looking at EV scoring for D-men, I also looked at the forwards. I knew McDavid had a great season at EV. He scored 84 EV points. In the last 25 years only Mario Lemieux (96 points in 1993), Jaromir Jagr (95 points in 1996) and Steve Yzerman (87 points in 1993) scored more EV points than McDavid’s 84. He was 20 points better than every player except Claude Giroux, who scored 66 points. The most surprising to me was McDavid had 33 more EV points than Sidney Crosby and John Tavares, who each had 51. It is ridiculous how good McDavid was at EV, and when the Oilers PP recovers, which it will, no one should be surprised to see McDavid flirt with 125 points.

10.  In August, Jason Strudwick and I will be starting a Get Active group. It will be something you do on your own, but you can post that you did the daily workout on The Jason Gregor Show Facebook page or on my Instagram page. August will be the warm up month, to get you active, if you aren’t already. It will be walk/jog/run 5K consecutively. In the first week (Aug 6th) you run 5K three days. Week two will also be three times, then in third week you run/walk four times and the fourth week it will be five times. Whatever your fitness level is, if you commit to it, just do it. Then in September, we will have a daily workout. It will be a body weight challenge you can do at home or work and experienced trainer, Jeff Woods, will be helping us with the daily challenge. We hope you join. There will be the odd random prize for those who finish the daily workout, but mainly it is about you wanting to be active. Our health is our most valuable asset. The page will only be positive comments. We will encourage anyone who needs the motivation to get moving that day. You can follow the Show page or my Instagram for more updates. I hope you join us.

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  • Vanoil

    “Nurse’s 26 EV points tied him with Colton Parayko for 34th most among D-men in the NHL. He was one behind Mark Giordano, Zack Werenski, Aaron Ekblad, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Ryan Suter, Jake Muzzin, Morgan Reilly and Tyson Barrie.” But lets pay like Brandon Montour or Joel Edmunson … While Nurse may not have arbitration rights this year, his agent is not stupid — based on use (TOI, Quality of Comp, and COF%) he is definitely worth more than something in the low $3M range. While he will definitely be signing a short term bridge deal to get him to Arbitration, the OIL would be naive if they think he would settle for much less than others in the league whose use and productivity is comparable to what his was last year. More importantly, his agent is aware that he is being paid for what he will do next year, which will almost certainly be an improvement from what he dis this past year. If he is playing more and doing more than Russel or Sekera, you can rest assured he will want to be compensated accordingly. If the OIL brass are willing to play hardball, we may just be opening the season with Both Sekera and Russell on the left side … if that experiment falters, I’m pretty sure Nurse will get what he deserves… Who are those first 10 games against?????? this may just be a VERY LONG October.

    • Moneyball

      Nurse is the most overrated defender on the Oilers. He had a good start to the season but disappeared for the last 1/3 of the season. Certainly a good prospect but nothing outstanding about this player.

      • Fat Steve

        I agree with money ball, he’s ok, he’s tough but nothing special. His play doesn’t bring me to my feet often, now some will say that’s not a defense’s job but I beg to differ. I wouldn’t lose sleep over him leaving while his stock is still worth something, which is significantly less than the 7th round pick that was used to select him. Whatevs…

    • Rock11

      EV points are a nice number but not the only number. The rest of that group had significant PP numbers and/or are at a point in their careers where their teams have to pay for UFA years. To suggest Nurse should be paid like Ryan Suter is one of the most bizarre things I’ve heard on a site where bizarre is the norm.
      Nurse has no arb rights, no UFA rights, no PP production, and no negotiating leverage. Ask yourself this. If you could choose one player between Montour and Nurse which guy would you choose. I think Montour is clearly the guy you pick though Nurse’s ceiling might be just as high. Any contract that pays Nurse as much or more than Montour would need to be added to the pile of Chiarelli overpays that is currently holding this team back.

      • Jason Gregor

        VanOil…he won’t get paid like Suter, OEL or others…First they didn’t get $7 mill out of their ELC.

        Also they have done it for many years. Last year was Nurse’s first, and the stat I used is just one. It doesn’t encapsulate everything about his game. He is on the upswing, in my eyes, but contract comparables in this case will be focused on players coming out of their ELC, not established vets who are paid in their UFA years.

    • TKB2677

      Vanoil. I am a big Nurse fan but the offense isn’t there to justify being put in the same category as the dmen you listed. Nurse will be a big, tough, nasty, physical, really good skating dman who will hover around 30 pts. Maybe he can score slightly more than 30 every so often but that’s it. If you look at the dmen that are similar in age that have signed bridge deals, all of them score more points. Maybe Nurse played slightly more in ice time so that justifies him being in the 3-3.25 range but that’s it. Parayko signed last year for 5.5 mill. Parayko scored 35 pts, played 22:37 and is a right shot. Right shots are worth more than a left shot in the NHL for the most part. Then you move to Dumba who just signed a long term deal for 6 mill per season. Dumba had 50 pts last year playing 23:49 and is a right shot. I am a huge Nurse fan but Nurse and his agent are dreaming if they think they can even get Parayko money. If they want to start at 6 mill as their high starting point. Go for it but that’s it. Nurse’s numbers don’t come close to comparing to Dumba’s. Dumba plays more, is a right shot and had twice as many points last year. Nurse has 197 NHL games and has 47 pts. Dumba who’s 1 yr older has 310 NHL games and 128 points. It’s not close. Even Trouba who got a lot on a 1 yr deal from the arbitrator has way more experience and way more points than Nurse. So Nurse is dreaming if he thinks he will get that kind of money.

  • Abagofpucks

    Hes still trending up and was a plus defender on a really bad team last year. I totally believe in nurse and think he will be an allstar dman in the near future , And if he isnt ill eat a cat turd lol.

  • McNugent

    Great article. Points 4 and 6 are really eye opening.

    This kids potential is astronomical. Wish he would take a long term deal around 5 mil, but like you mentioned – he would rather bet on himself. Good for him.

  • Bond 0097

    Darnell is a keeper, he can skate like the wind, hit like a hammer and he doesn’t take crap from anyone. He will stick up for a teammate and he has progressively trended upwards year over year. He is the type of young defenceman EVERY team would love to have.

  • Redbird62

    It is really too bad about Crosby’s injuries in the prime of his scoring years. Starting at age 23, over a 3 season stretch from 2010-2013, he played 41, 22 and 36 games (concussion from the middle of one season thru to 3/4 of the next then the strike year with a broken jaw). In those 99 games, Crosby scored 159 points, which is 1.61 ppg or 132 points for an 82 game season. At even strength, he scored 111 points, which translates to 92 even strength points per 82 games. Only 8 other players in the league averaged more than 1.0 ppg during that stretch, with Malkin in 2nd place at 1.2 ppg followed by Stamkos at 1.16 ppg. The overall scoring in the league is higher now, but power plays are down, but I think Connor is more than capable of scoring at those kinds of rates with the Oilers.

  • OilCan2

    A two year (3M per) bridge would open the windows on Sekera & Russell movement options. Over those two years at least one of Bouchard, Bear & Jones will move upwards. Nurse & Co must be betting that he looks better than Sekera or Russell in that time.

  • McNugent

    It’s just what you might expect from a seventh overall pick (2013 NHL Draft), a player that combines skill, savvy and smarts, just as he displayed throughout his Ontario Hockey League career with Sault Ste. Marie.

    When he wasn’t being a difference maker at the rink, Nurse, who hails from Hamilton, ON, was working overtime in his Grade 12 University Prep courses.

    He was named the Ontario Hockey League’s Scholastic Player of the Year for 2012-13 after carrying an 85 per cent average in six Prep courses.

    He joined some notable names in winning the award, a list that includes NHL stars Dustin Brown (2001-03), Steven Stamkos (2006-07) and Matt Duchene (2008-09).

    “School is a big part,” offered Nurse. “I think you have to be intelligent in order to excel. The guys that get in trouble are people that don’t really focus in school or take other things lightly. For me as a young kid, I mean, going to school was always a priority. I couldn’t play unless I had good marks. So I think the intelligence not only helps you off the ice but it helps you on the ice.”

    Nurse is actually a pretty smart kid. Not sure where this narrative of him lacking hockey sense comes from.

    Points 4 and 6 show he was great at both ends of the Ice, while carrying his teammates.

    • Serious Gord

      I know lots of smart kids who don’t have any hockey sense.

      Nurse to my layman’s eye doesn’t seem to have above average nhl hockey sense. Perhaps that could be because of his gangliness. This season will likely prove who is right.

      PS – he looks like a poor body checker to me.

      • Fat Steve

        ^^^^^^^^^
        PS – he looks like a poor body checker to me.

        This 100x over, he misses a lot and puts himself out of position in the corners and doesn’t have the foot speed to recover or the wherewithal to disrupt the play, either way he f^cks up too much for me…they all do. Oh well at least it’s summer and I love to read these articles when I eat my lunch at break.

        • McNugent

          He was +15 on a team that had no other + defenders.

          His most common defensive partners were much worse without him. He basically carried them. So this narrative that Nurse is not good defensively is inaccurate. I think it has more to do with how he looks than how he plays.

          Aka… Subban in Montreal

          • Fat Steve

            Unreal!!! You are assuming something about me that you know nothing about. My wife happens to be from Uganda…Which makes my kids half Ugandan. So I’d like you to stop with that narrative, or at least stop with the assumption that I condone it, because I do not. McNugent I do not appreciate your comment.

  • lee

    At the worlds he started on the 1st line and ended up on the 3rd line.
    Nurse is a solid D man, he still makes young d men mistakes and even he admits offence is not his strong point.
    Of coarse his agent will ask for more than he is worth, most agents are lawyers which pretty much says it all.
    Nurse will get around 3 mill for two years, that gives he and his agent plenty of time to show the Oiler’s that he is worth more.
    Right now Larsson and Klefbom are #1 and #2 after them there is a drop off.

  • Jimmer

    Face it…we will be lucky to make the playoffs this year. However, in 2019-2020 you could potentially have Bouchard, Nurse, Klefbom, and Larsson making $925K, $3.3M(est.), $4.17M & $4.17M. That is decent value. The big issue is getting rid of $9.0 of cap space used up by Russell and Sekera.

  • Kneedroptalbot

    Nurse is a diamond in the rough, if they bridge him they will pay dearly when he is UFA eligable. Smart GM’s look toward the future. See Anaheim: Hampus Lindholm or New Jersey: Damon Severson, or Dallas: John Klingberg.

    • The Future Never Comes

      Not sure if I equate diamond in the rough with a seventh overall pick, pretty sure that’s on the radar by almost all. Diamond in the rough may apply more to a 7th round pick who works himself up through every corner of hockey to finally reach the show.

    • sweetweb

      @Kneedroptalbot all those players you mention are better than Nurse. Plus don’t you think Nurse WANTS a BRIDGE? He’s betting that in 2 years he’ll get a Matt Dumba like contract.

      • TKB2677

        If Nurse and his agent think he is worth Dumba money, they need a reality check. Dumba had 50 pts this year, 34 the last year and 26 the year before that. Nurse has had 26, 11, 10 pts. The points aren’t there for Nurse. Nurse would have to have 2 fantastic seasons to warrant 6 mill.

  • camdog

    Jeff Petry discussion all over again – is the d-man worth the contract? Hopefully Nurse plays his prime years in Edmonton, rather than in another market. He’s getting better every year, with most d-man their growth is slow. He’ll never be that stud #1, but he can still be a solid #2.

  • Tubby

    Sorry but many of you need to take off the homer glasses and watch Nurse in games this year. Is he tough, yep. After that he has so many glaring holes in his game. In the defensive end he panics constantly when he has the puck and only “attaempts” to ring it around the boards, which while it seems like a play, isn’t because no one but the other team is there to receive his “pass”. Excellent athlete but totally lacking in real hockey sense which means he has hit his ceiling. Sign bridge deal then seek out best trade option before rest of league figures out just how average Nurse is as a defenceman.

    • camdog

      Yes Nurse has holes, but most d-man do. If we expect perfection out of our young d-man we are more likely than not too run them out of town before we know what we have. We haven’t learnt from Jeff Petry as a fan base. Petry’s number one problem in Edmonton was he was playing with Andrew Ference. Ference couldn’t keep up anymore and he was playing some first pairing with Petry, it was bad. We all remember the mistakes he made earlier in his career and never forgot, even later in his Oiler career. We do this with all of our young d-men.

      Oilers defenceman have trouble finding a forward to pass the puck to. There are 2 reasons for this, the d-man’s ability and a group of forwards that were not good at getting into the right places. In Edmonton we always tend to give the forwards a free pass. Was it Petry’s fault Sam Gagner couldn’t play defence at NHL level as a centre? Last year that forward group there’s only 3-4 guys that were able to get open and take a pass. Please tell me I am wrong in respect to that group of forwards. I keep hearing about d-man ringing it off the boards, I see a hockey team with one forward line capable of a proper break out.

      Last year I commented numerous times having doubts about Nurses game. Last year when it mattered he along with McDavid and RNH were the only Oilers that came out too play. When the season was over his game regressed into the old Nurse. He’s got another level to his game. We can’t afford to give up on another d-man because he’s playing with a bad forward group.

    • Big Nuggets

      I can’t understand why anyone would think Nurse has hit his ceiling at 23 yrs old after showing improvement every year. Not to mention he acts like a leader and has great ambitions to keep improving. Still training with Oates; hasn’t even recieved meaningful PP time. over 20 minutes of icetime a game last season many of those minutes against top competition, and only 34 percent of them with McDavid.

      Every contract is a gamble. With young players there is added gamble because you hope the player will improve. To me Nurse is a good bet. The guy is a stud. He is more determined than the average player and has already shown top 4 ability.