Monday Musings…

NHL rookies will arrive in 31 cities next week, followed closely by rookie tournaments, and the start of NHL main camps is only 18 days away. Another NHL season is right around the corner, and as usual, there is much excitement, and some concern, in most markets. I’m refreshed after a relaxing two-weeks away from work, but September is one of the best sporting months of the year and I’m pumped to be back working.

As we get closer to main camp, here are some thoughts on what to expect from the Oilers.

1. Darnell Nurse‘s contract is the main topic in Oilersnation right now. With the injury to Andre Sekera the last thing Oilers fans want to see is Nurse not on the ice for the first day of training camp. I understand the concern, but there is still ample time to get a deal done. Nurse is among four good young RFA defenders yet to sign, along with Josh Morrissey (Winnipeg), Shea Theodore (Vegas) and Noah Hanafin (Calgary). All four teams and the players’ camps could be waiting for the others to see if a new negotiating line will be set, but I don’t see Nurse’s bargaining position on a bridge deal changing very much regardless of whether the other three sign deals.

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2. Neither side wants to negotiate publicly, which is wise, and from conversations I’ve had, the lack of contract in no way suggests animosity. This is a business. Some deals take longer than others, but the Oilers really like Nurse. This is one of the few times NHL teams have more bargaining power. Nurse, like the other three RFA defenders, doesn’t have arbitration rights, so in theory, the team has a bit more control in the negotiations. The reality of negotiations is both the team and the agent will look at comparables, and the fact is there haven’t been many two-year bridge deals for big money.

3. Jacob Trouba had a $3 million AAV on his two-year deal in 2016. He signed it on November 7th and missed the first 14 games of the season. PK Subban also held out in the lockout-shortened 2012/2013 season and missed the first six games before signing a two-year deal worth $2.875 million/year on January 28th, 2013. Subban had produced seasons of 38 and 36 points prior to holding out, and then he won the Norris Trophy in 2013. He signed an eight-year extension on August 2nd, 2014, worth $9m/year. Nurse’s camp should try to get as much as they can, but they don’t have much negotiating power at this point, and sitting out a month won’t get him a bigger contract based on past history.

4. I understand Nurse’s camp wanting to get as much as they can for their client, and they could use Brandon Montour’s two-year, $3,387 million/year as a comparable. He signed with the Ducks in July after producing 32 points last season. He is a different style of defender, but when you see his contract I see no reason why the Oilers and Nurse can’t agree on something in the range of $2.9- $3.2 million/year.

Monday Musings...

5. The Oilers additions to their roster this summer have not been big-name acquisitions, and I understand those who believe they haven’t done enough to improve after last year’s disappointing season. However, I think the additions to the coaching staff will pay off. Trent Yawney will add a lot to the blueline. He knows how to work with young D-men and his more upbeat approach will be a welcome addition. Glen Gulutzan had a lot of NHL experience and a fresh voice. And after coaching against the Oilers the past few years, he will know first hand what they did well and where they were vulnerable. I think Manny Viveiros will also add a lot, especially on the power play, and his reputation of being a great communicator and coaching in Europe will help Jesse Puljujarvi’s development. I’m not expecting a sudden, drastic surge from Puljujarvi, but the more he and Viveiros get to know each other, the more he will improve. Much of his improvement will come from simple age and experience, but I won’t be surprised if he and Viveiros work together a lot.

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Mar 27, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) celebrates a first period goal assisted by forward Connor McDavid (97), his 100th point of the season at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

6. Speaking of the power play, I could see the Oilers mirroring Pittsburgh model: load up the top unit and play it close to 90 seconds. I think the first four spots will be Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Oscar Klefbom. The fifth spot is up for grabs, and while a right shot makes sense, I see them missing a net front presence, so I don’t think it has to be a right shot. The key for the first unit will be: are the players working hard enough? Last year the top unit simply didn’t outwork the penalty killers. There was a lot of focus on the system and Jay Woodcroft, but the harsh truth was the players didn’t work hard enough or smart enough at times. That will have to change this year. They can’t just assume they will produce because they have elite skill in McDavid and Draisaitl. They will need to work harder.

7. I know many want Jesse Puljujarvi on the first unit PP, but I wouldn’t have him there ahead of Nugent-Hopkins just because he shoots right. I don’t think Puljujarvi is a net-front presence type player just yet, and neither is RNH. I’m very curious to see who gets the opportunity there. Milan Lucic did well there in 2017, but historically he hasn’t been a great PP producer. Drake Caggiula, Jujhar Khaira or even Pontus Aberg might get a look in that specific role. The net front player doesn’t have to be a great shooter. They have to have good instincts, read the play well and also be able to win puck battles.

8. I don’t have Kailer Yamamoto on the opening night roster. There is nothing wrong with developing his game in the AHL. If he is on the NHL roster he is in their top-six, and that means playing against tough competition. I don’t think he has the strength just yet. He has also needs to improve the velocity on his shot. I’d play him on the top line in the AHL and on their first PP unit and let him get used to battling against men. The jump from the CHL to the AHL is very difficult and at this point I don’t see Yamamoto being more effective than Ty Rattie. Yamamoto’s long-term ceiling is likely higher, but right now I think it is best he starts in the minors.

Report: Oilers begin talks to #KeepNugeForever

9. I like the Scottie Upshall PTO. He is very competitive and is an upbeat, talkative player. The Oilers could use an experienced voice around now and then, and Upshall has proven he can fill a specific role and do it well. Unless he really struggles, I see him signing a one-year deal before the season starts. I don’t know much about Jakub Jerabek, but got this from an Eastern Conference scout. “He has good hockey sense, good puck mover. Can start a breakout. Lacks some size, but competes. If given a real opportunity he could be a solid, reliable third pairing defender.”

10. I applaud the NHL for not reinstating Vyacheslav Voynov. Here is a great opportunity for the league to make a stand. They do not accept domestic abuse. Voynov is free to make a living playing in the KHL, and I hope the NHL doesn’t change their stance on his eligibility moving forward.

11. What a great story for Brooke Henderson. I love seeing Canadians succeed in anything, and for her to win in Canada was awesome. She is the best Canadian golfer right now, and at only 20 years of age she could become the greatest Canadian golfer, male or female, we’ve ever produced. It has been fun watching her career to this point, and I’m intrigued by what her future holds.

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12. I didn’t buy the Marian Hossa skin allergy, nor am I buying the Henrik Zetterberg back injury. Zetterberg played all 82 games last season producing a solid 56 points. Hossa had 26 goals in his final season, but then over the summer both had ailments that were too tough to overcome. Is it that or the fact their salaries dropped significantly? I’m going with the latter. Yes, some doctor said Hossa has a skin allergy, and I don’t doubt he does, but when he was making $5 million he could deal with it, and now Zetterberg has a wonky back. Please. And the teams don’t fight it because they get the cap space and move on, while the players get paid. Next year Roberto Luongo’s salary will be $1.6 million and then he has two more years at $1 million. I won’t be stunned if next September he is battling an injury.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • ed from edmonton

    I think there is a waiting game between Nurse, Morissey, Theodore and Hannifin. When one signs and “sets the market” the others will follow quickly.

  • ed from edmonton

    I hope that KY starts the year in the AHL. Nothing against him but I’m hoping guys like JP and Rattie can show enough to keep KY in the AHL for a year. We knew the Oil were in trouble last year when KY was the best RW during the preseason.

    • That's My Point

      Karlsson only had 5 goals and 21 assists in his 1st NHL season at 19 years old, he’s currently 6’0′ and 191 lbs.
      Bouchard will be 19 in October and is 6’2″ and 193 lbs now.
      I betting Bouchard does MORE in his rookie year this year than Karlsson did in his!!!!!!!!!!
      (maybe they should have sent Kalsson down to develop more) lol

  • 18% body fat

    Caggulia on the pp was a fail. Don’t repeat the mistake. If your going 5 left handed players on the first pp put ones with skill or some sort of use on it.

    • ifiwasgm

      McDavid and Draisaitl on the power play was a fail. I hope they don’t repeat that mistake too.
      For all these people to keep saying players are a failure because they haven’t finished development, or had a bad year (Eberle) is so annoying. Lets run em out of town.

  • Ginbaby

    Perhaps Hossa and Zetterberg are tired of battling through their respective ailments that no doubt take a toll emotionally on a person and the desire to play through them goes away. Classless to attack them for it, but I guess that should be expected from this “journalist”.

    • ed from edmonton

      If their desire to play has gone away, they should retire. But retiring means no pay check. I agree with Gregor, these guys are playing the system.

      • ubermiguel

        If you had a legitimate medical problem and you were given the choice between long-term disability with pay or retirement with no pay, every person reading this would make exactly the same choice. If you’re going to reply “I wouldn’t because I’m so perfect” you’re a liar or an idiot.

  • Rama Lama

    Agree on all points……..of course #10. Exactly why do you feel this way about Vyacheslav Voynov? Granted all normal people would stand against violence to women, has this guy not paid his dues?

    I think we all agree that our judicial system is flawed and too lienent on most of the horrific crimes committed in this country………exactly what did this guy do to deserve a lifetime ban?

    • cfour

      I agree with you Lama, mactavish and heatley killed somebody and they got back in no problem, I’m sure he’s not the first nhl’er charged with domestic abuse and I don’t remember anyone else being banned, certainly don’t condone what he’s done and would make sure he is on a very short leash if signed, but I believe he has served his sentence and should be allowed to continue to play if someone wants him

      • Redbird62

        The actions of Mactavish and Heatley were very serious tragic mistakes, but their intentions were never malicious. Voynov’s wife’s original account of the beating she sustained does not describe a mistake. Bashing her head into a TV, choking her and punching and kicking her on the ground sounds like a pretty intentional vicious assault. The police basically corroborated that her injuries were consistent with that description of the assault. Seems Voynov’s wife tried to back down her account of the assault only when it became apparent Voynov would be deported as a result of all this, but at this point very few believe this account. While McTavish and Heatley are both extremely remorseful, Voynov has never seemed to admit he had a problem, never truly admitted his guilt and it is unclear that he even did all the court mandated counselling in Russia. In many cases, people guilty of domestic abuse can earn a second chance, but the evidence does not suggest that Voynov has done that.

        • cfour

          Don’t disagee with you on much of this but still think he has paid for his crime and has kept his nose clean since (as far as we know) Wonder how the NHL would act If it was a true blue Canadian or American player, cause I certainly think his Russian citizenship is not helping him

    • Big Boss

      Gregor virtue signaling again. By his logic, a criminal who serves time in prison should never be employed again. In the end Voynov was charged with a misdemeanor for domestic violence. Meanwhile, MacT was charged with vehicular homicide and driving under the influence. Dany Heatly was charged with second degree vehicular homicide. Both men finished out their careers in the NHL. Now I’m sure the Heatly and MacT cases would be handled much differently today, but what’s the point of having a justice system if people who commit crimes are not allowed to reintegrate back into society once they’ve served their time? We might as well have absolute justice where criminals are locked away for life no matter what the crime is.

      • As stated above , no malicious intent, basically rich kids making 1 bad decision while under the influence. (Could have happened to many of us in our youth). He can ply his trade in Russia where neanderthals still think there is some reasonable excuse to continue this abuse.Abusers never stop, until one or the other is six feet under, hopefully it is him instead of her.

  • Abagofpucks

    Ky has to prove he can be a success in the A before he makes the Oilers lineup
    Pj has to show in training camp and preseason, and probably the first 10 games of the season before anybody knows where he belong’s.
    Cam just has to show he’s really our No.1, and im sure he will be better but how much who knows.
    And a big shout out to brooke way to go kid you make us proud.

  • A-co

    If the oilers had to give up picks to sign a coach and a gm that were let go by their teams the league should crack down on these teams that have players retiring due to “illness”…your right Gregor it’s funny these injuries seem to overwhelm the players when their salaries are at their lowest point…
    Bitter Oilers fan

  • ManagerForHire

    The NHL allowed the contracts to be set up with low salaries on the backend knowing full well that both players and teams can/would take advantage of it.

  • Harry2

    If the Oilers get just average PP, PK and goaltending they will be in the mix for a playoff spot. They were so terrible in those three aspects that simply average will vault this team into top 16 in the west for sure

  • FISTO Siltanen

    Can anyone explain why the NHL doesn’t just go the NBA route and have cap hit equal salary for that season?

    If you sign a 3 year deal at $5M/$3M/$2M your cap hit won’t be $3.33M per season. It’ll be $5M/$3M/$2M.

    Eliminates this practice completely.

  • Rusty

    Great point bringing up the mystery ailments. I wish some intrepid reporters would dig into this more. I believe the League needs a more player friendly buyout rule that doesnt count against the team cap. let the players make the money they were contractually promised but allowed to pursue a living on other teams.

  • Shredder

    Hey Gregor;
    I love that you’re passionate about the NHL not re-instating Voynov. Stopping domestic abuse is a very worthwhile cause…Plakas is my personal trainer and I’m trying to get him to do a YWCA “Walk a Mile in her shoes” team for his whole gym – think you can add some pressure and tell him he can’t walk the full distance without rolling his wimpy ankles? Or if you can tell him Jeff looks better in heels…any help by calling him out would go a long way. You’re an influential guy, use your powers for GOOD!

  • Soccer Steve

    If Nurse sits out 5-10-15+ games waiting to sign a contract, Edmonton fans will chew him up and spit him out. Sorry, but it’s true, we’re a hard bunch to please. As we should be. But this won’t end well if that’s how it ends up. I hope he signs soon.