So, the long weekend is over and the kids went back to school today after summer holidays, which means training camp is fast-approaching for the Edmonton Oilers. Not a moment too soon, if you ask me. Several Oilers, including Connor McDavid, are already back in town and took an informal twirl on the ice today.
Before we resume debate about special teams, who fits where and with whom and whether the Oilers will throw youngsters like Evan Bouchard and Kailer Yamamoto into the mix when camp breaks for the 2018-19 season, I’ve got three questions on my mind today – all of them fall into the “what about?” category. Here goes.
WHAT ABOUT DARNELL?
Everybody knows Darnell Nurse, who was on the ice today, needs a new contract. While some people are more than a little on edge that the ink hasn’t been taken care of by now, indications from people closer to the team than I am – Oilers Now host Bob Stauffer and TSN’s Ryan Rishaug, to name two – are that agent Anton Thun and the Oilers are working away at a new deal. It looks like, and this isn’t news, it’ll be a bridge deal, likely two years.
“My understanding is there are still consistent talks happening between the two sides,” Rishaug told Dustin Nielson this morning. “They’re still working on things. I don’t think there’s a large level of concern on either side. We heard Nurse talk to the media, I think it was last week, he seemed pretty calm about things.
“My belief is the Oilers are confident as well. I think this is a virtual lock this is going to be a bridge deal. I don’t think there’s going to be a long-term deal on the table. There just isn’t the (cap) space, realistically, to try and fit him in. It’s notable right now, and it’s definitely a little eye-brow raising and we watch closely because you’re getting into that week or two before camp starts, but there are others around the league, right?”
While I’d rather have seen GM Pete Chiarelli not fritter away money on overpays here and there that have put the Oilers in a cap pinch, I’ve got no problem with a bridge deal, a longer look, before the Oilers commit to a long term and big money for Nurse. A deal will get done with time to spare before camp opens. I’m thinking we’ll see an AAV of $3.25 to $3.5 million.
WHAT ABOUT MILAN?
We all know that Milan Lucic needs a big bounce back season after struggling mightily in the second half of last season. There’s been plenty of debate whether we’ll see that or if the wheels have fallen off with lots of term and money left on his deal. What I want to know is what, if anything, has changed this off-season regarding a situation between Lucic and the Oilers that Frank Seravalli of TSN described in July as “almost untenable?”
The part of an Seravalli’s interview, done with TSN 1260’s Allen Mitchell, that grabbed me: “I mean, you talk about Erik Karlsson and what a mess that has been in Ottawa, and you talk about Jeff Skinner and the fact that he hasn’t been traded from Carolina, and Justin Faulk and some other guys where you feel like the can has been kicked so far down the road. I don’t think Milan Lucic is really in all that different of a category when you consider what he’s gone through and really the position the Oilers are in. It’s almost untenable.” There’s more here.
Was that, in fact, the case in July? Is it the case now with camp approaching? Lucic was on the ice today. Did Seravalli overstate? I haven’t read or heard anything more about this. We’ve gone from “almost untenable” to, well, no news. Odd.
WHAT ABOUT AL HAMILTON?
The Oilers unveiled new jerseys and a shoulder patch celebrating the team’s 40th NHL anniversary today. Sharp looking outfits, too. The patch includes likenesses of five Stanley Cups and the retired numbers of Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr, Mark Messier and Glenn Anderson. The seventh retired number, the No. 3 of Al Hamilton, isn’t included.
I couldn’t reach anybody with the Oilers media relations staff this morning to get an explanation, but I can only guess the decision was made to include the numbers of the six Oilers in the HHOF rather than the retired numbers in the rafters. The way I see it, that’s a bit of a snub to a former captain (WHA) and a man who has been a first-class citizen in this city for decades.