Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Life, death, and contract holdouts

Warm summer nights start to cool off around the end of August here in Alberta.

The grass will soon start to brown as leaves fall off the trees and the apples on the trees in your backyard will soon fall to the ground.

July 1st was a wonderful time. We still had the warm summer nights and the grass was a deep green. It also marked the first day that free agents of any kind were able to sign with teams previous to the ones they played for seasons prior.

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52 days ago, it was time for Darnell Nurse to get serious about contract talks with the Edmonton Oilers. 52 days later, we are still sitting on our couches, beets in hand, wondering when Nurse is going to sign his contract with the Oilers.

We have seen almost every possible defenceman sign a deal with a team from the Jack Johnson’s of the world, right up to the Jakub Jerabek’s.

It begs the question — how much longer until the Oilers are going to ink Nurse?

We have seen contract holdouts come to an end for defencemen this summer by the likes of Anaheim Duck Brandon Montour, who inked a two-year, $3.38-millon per year deal on July 24 and New York Ranger Brady Skjei, who signed for six-years at $5.25-million per year.

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I mentioned these two as it highlights the options the Edmonton Oilers have when it comes to signing Nurse. Does the team go the bridge route a la Montour, or do they go for the long-term deal a la Skej?

These are the million dollar questions being thrown around by Oilers brass and Nurse’s agent, Anton Thun. In mid-July, Thun told Jim Matheson that it was likely going to be a bridge-deal signed — which becomes even more apparent given the Oilers meager $3.9-million in cap space.

If that’s the case, then what is taking so long?

Could it be that Thun wants $4.5-million even on a bridge-deal? Who knows.

For one, I am okay with the Oilers playing hardball with Nurse. It’s something the team hasn’t done often in the past and frankly, it shows Nurse and Thun they are serious about starting the season with him on the sidelines.

It’s controversial given that the Oilers have now lost Andrej Sekera to an off-season Achilles tear likely sidelining him for the season.

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Right now, the Oilers depth chart looks a little bit grim without Sekera or Nurse.

Bringing out pairings of Klefbom – Larsson, Benning – Jerabek and Russell – Gravel/Bouchard/Bear isn’t going to be ideal.

But the Oilers have a brief window to let it fly.

The team’s pre-season starts on Sept. 17 with a matchup against the Calgary Flames, while their first regular season game isn’t played until Oct. 6.

With that, the Oilers will have nine games to decide whether Evan Bouchard is ready to play in the NHL — an opportunity I think the team will be giving him.

None the less, it will be interesting to see how the next number of weeks play out and when Nurse will cross the t’s and dot the i’s of his next NHL contract.

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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

  • A little less give the player what they want would help tremendously. Horcoff got Sedin money without breaking a sweat (All he had to was ask). Liked him as a player, but not worth what he got. The tradition continues with Benning and Caggulia , even with top heavy brass, no-one has a clue how to negotiate?

    • Him and Benning both should have received a minimum qualifying offers. That’s all the team had to do, but no, lets give them more , so we have less to work with. Darnell is not the one that should be getting hardball offers, but once again, with the astute advice of the architects of the DOD, they have painted themselves into a corner. At least we don’t hear stupid crap like “visually better” or actions like signing players that are ineligible because they did not read the third page. Franchise is a farce and will continue to be till those people have no say WHATSOEVER!

    • You can’t build a competitive team letting players like Caggulia walk. That’s how you end up with Will Acton’s in your starting lineup (no disrespect to Will). Drake has the potential to be an excellent bottom six player and that is the correct way to look at it.

        • Whats with all the trashes? Shining example of the nepotism that has plagued this franchise for years and continues to do so. You really think Will Acton would have made the squad if his Dad wasn’t on the bench? Not a chance. See Lowe, Keegan for current examples.

          • ifiwasgm

            Trashs are because Caggula got a contract that is consistent with his type in the NHL. He is to young and inexperience to show what he will be. He may end up being a solid bottom player.
            I don’t know why player have to be solid NHL contributors in their 1st 100 games here, thats not reality.
            If he proves after this contract that he doesn’t meet the grade then let him walk. Its not his and Bennings contracts that hurt the Oilers.
            Its more like Russel’s and Pouliot buy-out that hurt them more.
            Even Draisaitl, he got way more then NHL comparables.

        • Dan 1919

          Your presentation seems to be getting you trashes but I think your point is valid. There must be a lot of dressing room attitude that the Oiler brass loves about guys like Caguila or Benning that we’re missing or something. I mean they’re solid young fringe guys and I hope they have long successful Oiler careers; but as of right now I see two fringe guys that get treated WAY better than other fringe guys, especially Caguilla.

      • Gravis82

        “Drake has the potential to be an excellent bottom six player”

        This is exactly why you let him walk. There are established bottom 6 players available every year on waivers and in the UFA market.

        When he is an established bottom 6 player, and not an AHL player, he can go find a job there.

        Keep the young guys coming along as top 6 forward replacements. When its clear they are not that, move on and spend your money better elsewhere.

        When its clear they are? Then you have a top 6 forward on your third line until one of your established forwards becomes too expensive or starts to decline. Trade that player for assets and move on. This is not hard.

    • Dwayne Roloson 35

      Well he was our highest scoring winger outside of Maroon and pretty much doubled his goal totals from the year before. Not sure why he’s the goat. Are we supposed to run our highest producing winger out of town every year?

      • The point is most teams are cautious with their cap dollars. Very few give over and above what is required to qualify unless it is a star in the making, which neither he nor Benning are. Both are fringe players. Both should have gotten no more than the minimum qualifying offer that is required by the CBA.

        • crabman

          Benning was never just getting a qualifying offer. He is a right shot defencemen who finished top 3 in most catagories for Oiler defenceman last year. There are some teams in the league he probably wouldn’t make, or he would be a #7, but there are more than half the teams in the league with only 2 RHD. Right hand defenseman
          have value. Benning would make those teams for sure. There have been articles writen this summer before and after his signing that showed Benning has been paid at a very comparable rate to his most comparable players. Some got a little less, some a little more. I would have liked to see him come in at the $1.6-1.7M range but he was never going to be just qualified. He has been better than that.

  • Redbird62

    Sooner would be better, but no need to panic yet. Just last year several players being signed to their second contract, including Pasternak, Horvat, Severson, Wennburg, Connor Brown and Sam Bennett did not sign until very late August thru early October. Most of those signings did not end up being bridge deals though Bennett’s sure was. I can’t see Nurse holding out to start the season – that strategy hasn’t really paid off for Trouba yet – and its not in Nurse’s best interest to miss camp either since if he is almost certainly on a bridge deal, he needs to hit the ground running to prove his worth for the next big contract. Maybe the debate between the sides is if it is sub $4 million which is all the Oilers have to offer, Nurse’s camp is countering that they will only do 1 year at the level and hope that the Oilers will have more room next year, with the possibility of the cap going up, or the eventual trading of Sekera and/or Russell.

  • Redbird62

    The gap between the sides could also entirely be under the cap with the Oilers still only offering say in the low 3 million range and Nurse’s camp wanting close to or the full remaining $3.9 million. At least there is no public negotiating going on or any signs of animosity or difficulty. All Nurse’s agent hinted at is that the Oilers didn’t have the room to sign Nurse long term, which was a reasonable position to take.

  • ubermiguel

    I love Nurse as a player but the Oilers have to be willing to let an RFA sit if they are making unreasonable demands. If they are at an impasse I’m glad it has been kept out of the media, management in the past was all too willing to air dirty laundry with the media.

  • Abagofpucks

    Oilers cant depend on either bear or bouchard to be ready this yea, better let them get there training camp and maybe a few games in preseason and back to where they can develope.

  • Kevwan

    Maybe the Sekera injury has opened up the opportunity to sign Nurse long term?

    Trying to figure out this salary cap mumbo jumbo should be left to someone smarter than me but I’ll try anyway. The team can go over the cap by 10% in the “off season” but must be cap compliant by the end of training camp. The LTIR cap relief can be applied once the season starts. They also have enough money in expiring contracts that the “tag rule” woudn’t apply

    So add that all up and the Oilers could sign Nurse to a long term deal after the season starts. A bridge deal makes sense but a long term deal fits the MO of the Oilers Management.

    • Redbird62

      That strategy might be really problematic at the time Sekera comes off LTIR (I assume he will eventually – I don’t want to assume the worst for the guy at this point). If he comes back in March and they have signed up Nurse to a big deal $5+ million, then straight up their annual salaries would be well over the cap at that time. What I am not clear on is if the Oilers sign Nurse to say $5.5 and use LTIR to get back well below the cap how the team gets to bank any space they have if after LTIR they are running $ 3 million below the cap for most of the year through March and whether they only have to count a pro-rated salary for Sekera when he gets back. For sure, unless this is career ending for Sekera they would have a huge problem next summer. Next summer already has its own cap challenges for the team without increasing the necessity that you will have to move out some larger $$ contracts to get things to fit. The team may want to move out Sekera, Russell or others then, but their bargaining power is further reduced if they have made their cap situation even worse.

      • jesse says yep

        Unless Im mistaken, the team is only responsible for the remaining portion of the season and the portion that is paid to the player through the insurance that pays the player while on LTIR isnt applicable to the cap. Can anyone clarify?

        • Kevwan

          That’s my understanding as well. I believe that Sekera’s salary against the cap would be prorated. If he spent 50% of the season on LTIR then only half of his salary would count against the cap for this year. Chia would have next summer to straighten out the books.

          I am not supporting this approach is as a good idea. Its just given the Oiler’s history of signing young “core” players to long term deals, I think it’s a possibility .

        • Redbird62

          This example would seem logical to me. Sekera comes back for 27 games at year end (one third of the season). So for him the cap hit would be around $1.85 million for the balance of the year. The Oilers could drop someone to the minors, but that would only save 1/3 of a smaller salary say $300,000. Still leaving the Oilers with $1.55 million cap add from Sekera returning. So if banking is allowed, the Oilers will have had an annual average cap space of roughly $2.4 million (with Sekera’s salary already removed)
          which would allow them to bank $1.6 million during his absence. Again not sure if it works, but I think that is why teams hold off on LTIR until day one of the season in case they do have that space and want or need to bank all of it. So if they sign Nurse for $5.5 and LTIR Sekera’s $5.5, they would presumably have $3.9 million of space to start the season assuming no other changes. If my example is correct, at this rate, Sekera could not come back any earlier than about the 45 game mark or the Oilers would definitely be over the cap. Bonuses may make this worse. Sure doesn’t leave much wiggle room. Lawyers wrote the CBA so not always crystal clear how to interpret so does anyone else know if this is how it works?

  • jesse says yep

    I wonder if it has been delayed for two different reasons.
    1) They were hoping to trade out some salary (lucic) to make room to sign Nurse long term. When that became apparent it wasn’t going to happen they started working on a bridge deal.
    2) Sekera’s injury has opened up the possibility of a longer term deal and they have gone back to the table….
    Total speculation on my part of course but both seem plausible. I think if Nurse was playing hardball and talking of holding out, one side or the other (most likely Nurse’s agent)would be working the PR side through the press to add some pressure and gain an advantage. Most hold outs end up in the press before long.

  • CMG30

    The Nurse camp is likely using the Sekera injury as leverage now. They certainly know that the Oilers don’t have tremendous depth on defense and may be hoping that:
    A. the Oil are now under more pressure to sign him.
    B. The cap relief from LTIR gives them more dollars to throw at Nurse.
    C. They’re dealing with money-grows-on-trees Chirelli. If I was Nurse, I would be insulted that they’re playing hardball with me when I look around and see the kind of money and term they’re doling out to 3rd paring defenders like Russell.
    I really hope they get a deal done soon but I wouldn’t be shocked if Nurse sat out the start of the season like Johnny G down south.

    • jesse says yep

      You are of course assuming that it is Chia playing hardball right. To be honest how much leverage does Nurse’s camp really have? If he sits out he is going to lose money and there is still no reason for the Oil to cave in. They could just as easily let him sit and sign someone else. Nurse is an Oiler for at least 2 more years regardless of what Nurse decides.

  • Abagofpucks

    Ok lets say this 1 more time (KARLSSON DOESNT WANT TO COME HERE) and caggulia would be more usefull as a goat, think of all the lawn care money he could make and eco friendly too.

  • Loil

    I’m going to be that guy.

    Darnell Nurse… no i’s or t’s in his name so I don’t expect him signing that contract.

    I understand the phrase though, i’m just stirring the pot.

  • ed from edmonton

    So I’m wondering if there is a waiting game goin on between Nurse and Morissey and maybe Hannifan as well. Nurse and Morissey are remarkably similar, both drafted the same year (7th and 2th) and similar initial 3 years in the league. When one signs the other may follow quickly. Th Jets have a lot of cap room this year but have a slew of FAs to deal with next year including Laine, Connor, Truba (again) and the capitain. They will need to keep this is mind when deciding what they can offer Morrisey.

  • Panda1383

    You could also get cap relief be burying a tweeter like Cagiulla in the minors for another 1m to get under the cap for day 1 then recall him once Sekera is on LTIR.

    In effect there is more space available to sign Nurse than 3.9

  • OilCan2

    Nurse threw a wrench into the team morale watercooler last fall. They got off to an early exit from playoff contention. If he does that again by holding out I would make SURE he sits until he’s on a bus outta town. Bear & Bouchard are both EAGER to play.

  • the reasonable person

    It’s beyond belief to me that cagguila, koskinen, and jerabek got done before nurse. A joke even for a guy who should be a big part of this franchise for a long time to come. Of all guys to play hardball with….
    If that’s what’s going on.

    • QuitForRealThisTime

      Waaayyyy, more moving parts on the Nurse contract. Do they sign long or bridge? What does Nurse want? Does the Sekera injury opens cap for long term There are 2 other very comparable players in Morrissey and Noah Hanifin, all three may be waiting on the . other to sign. Nurse is a legitimate and pretty decent young NHL player, the three you mention can be chucked to minors if required.

      • Redbird62

        In addition, Koskinen and Jerabek were UFAs, so the Oilers would have to worry about competing with others on a timely basis to get the deals done. Since Nurse is an RFA, the Oilers have way more control as they only have to worry about an offer sheet, which is highly unlikely, and they can still match or take compensation. Even though Cagguila was an RFA as well, I agree his situation was way simpler for both parties.

  • Oiler Al

    For the 3 years he has been in the NHL and Oiler camp, his progress has not been great. At one time I taught he could be a Hedman. [not happening] Hopefully Yawney can help him out because his past Oiler coaching did not help him.

    • Bills Bills

      Hedman was a better passer coming out of the draft but in his first few seasons, his progress wasn’t that much ahead of Darnell. Having said that, I want Darnell to be Darnell. He’s got more of a mean streak than Hedman but will likely never be the passer that Hedman is.

    • Still no edit button?

      PC low balling? I think if anything he is trying to high ball nurse. Stating russel gets 4 mill you should get 8. Nurse is smart and does not want to screw over team so he is holding out for PC to come down

  • Kneedroptalbot

    The Oilers still have Paul Coffey on payrole as a defenceman consultant. Perfect he can advise Darnell how to handle his contract negotiations. Coffey spared with Glen Sather and knows a thing or two about contracts.

    • Reg Dunlop

      Coffey got busted with the ultimate slump buster, Pocklington’s wife. If Darnell wants out of the gong show, maybe visit the Katz mansion one afternoon when the lady of the house is a bottle of wine and a diazepam into her day, and the king of the castle is conducting ‘interviews’ of aspiring actresses.

      As always, submitted for your elucidation and entertainment.

  • Bills Bills

    Noah Hanifin, Josh Morrissey, and Shea Theodore also have not signed. They will likely all get bridge contracts in about the same range and Darnell’s agent was quoted saying “I would think the first one won’t be Darnell Nurse,” Thun said. “But that could all change with one phone call.”

    Clearly they are playing a wait and see game. I am not worried.


    People are so hard on players in this town, Benning and Cadjula have 2 years in the pros with zero Ahl experience. Being thrown into the wolves I thought they have done quite well and by year 3 they should both take a big step forward. Paying a rookie that has potential to play for many years with some upside I have no issue paying them 1.5 mill.