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Photo Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Three Things: Day One

So, the Edmonton Oilers opened their 2018 training camp today with physicals and defenceman Darnell Nurse wasn’t among the players pumping the bike and being poked and prodded with the ink still damp on the two-year bridge deal everybody expected to be done by now. How does this happen?

Even as August turned to September without Nurse and agent Anton Thun having worked a deal with Oilers’ GM Pete Chiarelli, I was sure getting a bridge contract done was a certainty and so were many of you. With Chiarelli having painted himself into a cap corner by over-spending on other contracts, two years with an AAV of something in the $3 million to $3.25 million range made sense. Nurse, who doesn’t have arbitration rights, seemed fine with two years. A new deal, it seemed, was a formality.

“It’s a funny process,” Nurse told Post Media Aug. 28. “It’s very educational. I’m learning a lot through this whole contract process. It takes time. I have a lot of faith I’ll be there in camp…I know for me personally, I want to be there with the guys when camp starts. Those guys are like brothers to me, like family to me so it’s important.”

It’s a process to be sure. Funny? I’m not sure fans would describe it that way today with Nurse, who had been in town skating with his teammates, a no-show on Day 1. Nurse said he wouldn’t come to camp without a contract and he hasn’t. Unless Nurse and Thun have thrown the Oilers an unforeseen curveball in negotiations and are being outright unreasonable, Chiarelli has to wear this and it’ll look worse on him with every passing day because there is no good reason for it to have dragged on this long.

Maybe the ink gets done today or tomorrow or the next day and all the angst disappears. Maybe not. If there’s any truth to speculation the parties are only $200,000-$300,000 apart a season on a two-year bridge, why hasn’t this already been agreed to and signed? What, Chiarelli is going to play hardball with Nurse after playing fast and loose with money on other deals, like the $2.5 million he handed a back-up goaltender? Really?

I’d like to think it’s not possible Chiarelli has bungled things so badly that this becomes a drawn out holdout by Nurse, who has now flown out of Edmonton with no talks scheduled for today, but we can’t be sure. The Oilers, after all, lost a player for less of a difference than we’re talking about in discussions between Thun and Chiarelli – Ryan Smyth. Get the ink done, already. Get Nurse into camp before things get raw and something stupid happens.

THAT LEFT SIDE

Dec 23, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defensemen Andrej Sekera (2) skates against the Montreal Canadiens at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

With Nurse and Andrej Sekera not in the picture on the blue line right now, I’m looking forward to seeing how Caleb Jones fares in main camp and how much of a push he can put on to stick around on the back end. Beyond Oscar Klefbom on the left side, things, for the time being at least, are pretty wide open. Might Jones turn that into something?

Unless Kris Russell moves over to the left side, I see Jones in the mix behind Klefbom with Jakub Jerabek, Kevin Gravel, and Jason Garrison, who is here on a PTO. I’m not saying Jones makes the roster to start the season, but at the very least he’s likely going to get a longer look based on how he performed in rookie camp and who isn’t here right now. He’s worth keeping an eye on.

JUJHAR OR SCOTTIE?

Feb 15, 2018; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Colin Miller (6) fights Edmonton Oilers left wing Jujhar Khaira (16) during the third period of play at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

On left wing, it looks to me like the battle for a job on the fourth line comes down to Jujhar Khaira and Scottie Upshall, who is here on a PTO. If the first three spots belong to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Milan Lucic and Drake Caggiula, that leaves Khaira and Upshall, a proven vet who has history with Kyle Brodziak, looking for one roster spot. Is Pontus Aberg a fit for a fourth-line role? I don’t think so, but I’ve been wrong before. My guess is Khaira has the inside track because he’s bigger and younger and is trending up, but Upshall will push him.

Previously by Robin Brownlee

  • Spydyr

    ” If there’s any truth to speculation the parties are only $200,000-$300,000 apart a season on a two-year bridge, why hasn’t this already been agreed to and signed?”

    Chia pisses away 300k in cap space to allow Gryba to sign with another team , signed a KHL goalie for way to much, overpaid on other RFA’s and now he is not signing Nurse because of 200-300 K?

    Asinine ,the Oilers are truly dysfunctional.

    • Reg Dunlop

      As dysfunctional as the oil are they pale in comparison to Ottawa who gave up the best D-man in the game for a bunch of nothing. So, at worst, the oil should have the second best shot at 1st overall next draft lotto. Hooray.

      • Bottomsix

        “ A bunch of nothing “ ? Hahahaha
        Typical Oilers fan. You know nothing.
        You look at the Oilers and think that this team is full of overvalue players and depth. The rookies lost to Calgary twice by a lot.
        No other team out there values Klefbom, Nurse, Yamamoto or Puljujarvi.
        Seems to me the Oilers have a bunch of nothing. 3 actual first line players, a defence core that doesn’t have a decent 1st or 2nd pairing, a bunch of PTO’s and UFA’s that no one else wanted. The whole team is basically made of bottom 6 players.
        Even Vegas has more depth than Edmonton and they been in the league for one year.
        Sharks will be making playoffs again while Oilers will still be in the gutter.

    • toprightcorner

      I know it looks like a bad move to buy him out, but with knowing he will be buried in the minors and that this would have been his last chance to make an NHL team, Buying Gryba out was the classy thing to do and with him signing an NHL contract with NJ, he gets 1 last chance to play in the NHL. Personally, I like what they did, it was the right thing to do.

      Plus $300 k towards the cap is not what put them in cap trouble.

      • Its about a combination of idiotic decisions, it was the right thing to do for Gryba , but not for the team. The team should be managements first priority. It is a business. I own a business and if the people I hire to run different branches publicly mused about two tier customers, I would fire him, because the customer should come first. I have hired buddies as well, but when they fail they get fired, not promoted or reassigned. Like any other business except the Oilers.

  • jesse says yep

    There must be something cooking that has a connection to Nurse. Quibbling over loose change seems totally out of Chia’s character. I can’t imagine that Nurse’s agent is going off the deep end with their demands either, they really don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to setting value. There is another shoe to drop, or at least that is what I have convinced myself.

  • Muddy

    I feel that sometimes Chia is reading “GM for Dummies” and his decisions made are based on what chapter he is on. I’d love for Khaira to be battling for that 3rd line spot and Drake and Upshall compete for the 4th. I’m seeing a surging playing with Khaira and a player that took a step back last season in Caggiula.

  • dsanchez1973

    I would take issue with the characterization that the cause of the holdup might be that Nurse is being “unreasonable”. Maybe he just wants a completely in line with the market long term deal such as 6x5M. That Chiarelli can’t provide it isn’t Nurse’s fault, and he would be in no way unreasonable for indicating that as the price for his services. I’d also like to just remind everyone that a team like SJ (if they were to miss out on Karlsson) could offer sheet Nurse exactly that 6x5M and I have no idea how the Oilers would be able to deal with it. It’s unbelievable that a team like SJ doesn’t do that and essentially take a team with the best player in the world out of playoff contention for nothing more than a late 1st rd pick, especially given that due to the Oilers cap situation, they would never be able to retaliate.

    • IRONman

      Are they trading Nurse? Why wait? Weird??? PC always over pays. Does Nurse want 3.9? There is only so much left. Nurse is the player I would want in a trade.

    • “Unless Nurse and Thun have thrown the Oilers an unforeseen curveball in negotiations and are being outright unreasonable, Chiarelli has to wear this and it’ll look worse on him with every passing day because there is no good reason for it to have dragged on this long.”

      I haven’t characterized this as Nurse being the problem. The entire tone of the piece is that Chiarelli has put himself in a cap corner with other contracts for lesser players and it’s ridiculous that it appears he’s now playing hardball with an important player. I only included the above sentence to allow for the possibility that Nurse and Thun have made a bigger ask than we’re aware of.

      • Kneedroptalbot

        I agree 100%, pretty darn disappointing when your GM painted himself into a corner and he can’t sign one of his top 2 defencemen long term. A 23yr old, 1st round draft pick who plays more mins (22 AOI )than any other defenceman on your team. He plays with an edge and always near the top in physical/cardio tests too.

  • Cowbell_Feva

    The fact he has left town does not exactly make me feel warm and fuzzy.
    I really, really hope ChiaPete has an ace up his sleeve….I mean Bob Nicholson stuck with him after hearing his “vision”.

    If that vision was to bring in left over table scraps on PTO’s, sign low risk low budget guys like Reider and Brodziak, and then let your best Dman from 2017 head home on a contract holdout, while paying Koskinen $2.5 million, I would think Nicholson needs to go too!!!

  • BobbyCanuck

    Chia just needs to admit he F**’ed up the salary cap big time. Going to have to trade a few roster players for picks if he wants to sign Nurse.

    Said it before, and will say it again. I cannot believe that a 25th place team is up against the Cap

  • Derian Hatcher

    Just looking at the other side of the coin…is it possible that Nurse and his agent are asking for too much, even on a bridge deal? Everyone writer I have read says 3 to 3.25 is reasonable on a bridge…
    I, like every oiler fan, just hope this gets done

  • MrBung

    Chia is one of the worst GM’s in the league. He will be gone by the end of this season after the Oil miss the playoffs again. And now with Karlsson going to San Jose, the Pacific got even tougher.

  • Three thoughts:

    1 – Shame on Oilers for embarrassing Nait, but as you can see, what comes around goes around. Flames handed it right back.

    2 – This Nurse thing could derail Oilers season. I’m surprised he hasn’t received an offer sheet.

    3 – At least it’s not snowing.

    • Derian Hatcher

      Are you referring to the Oilers PLAYERS for embarrassing NAIT /McWEWAN? Or the organization for setting up these exhibition games when they had better competition from the Golden Bears.
      (Absolutely no shade towards the NAIT /MC players. I believe most of them played tier II while the Bears are made up of former WHL ers).

      • @ Derian Hatcher

        The answer is both.

        1 – NAIT is no match, Oilers prospects should have taken their foot off the gas. Shots were 60 something to 16. Score 9 – 1. Like comeon.

        2 – Oilers management bungled this tournament. Young Stars in Penticton was good, this is not. Oilers didn’t like the rules, so they packed their bags and went home. A tournament against Canucks, Flames, Jets and Sharks, turned into a game against NAIT, and two against Flames, both games played outside of Edmonton. Bad Bad Bad!
        Go big or go home,and pouting Oilers went home.

        • toprightcorner

          Both Calgary and Edmonton wanted to have 1 Young Stars game in Alberta, but Vancouver did not so both teams opted out. this is not on the Oilers, they were trying to give the Oilers fans a chance to see all of these rookies in person as most won’t be at main camp.

  • Arnie

    Vegas and Sharks loading up, Oilers very precarious at the back.
    Soon as they can claim Sekera’s salary back for the season (I think he is gone for the season) Trade Benning/Yamamoto and our 1st in 2019 for Krug. Then sign Krug for another 3 years at 6.0
    Sign Nurse 2 x 3.25 then trade him straight up for Trouba sign Trouba to a 5 year extension at 6.0. Sekera and Russell NTA are over at the end of this season trade them both or trade Russell and put Sekera on long term disability.
    This year we would have
    Krug/ Trouba
    Klefbom/Larsson
    Russell/??? That is a very good looking D and we wouldn’t be forced to rush one of the younger D

    • gr8haluschak

      God you people are stupid, tell me when did Edmonton all of a sudden move to the United States? because that is where Trouba wants to play, jesus this site is full of idiots.

      • MrBung

        The only “stupid” that is of any concern is the one that is running the Oilers into the ground. This organization is the embarrassment of the league and there is general disbelief that after all these years and now a generational talent they are still missing the playoffs. Brutal.

  • Abagofpucks

    I was worried this could happen a month 1/2 ago and ppl trashed my comments .
    Now here we are no nurse in camp, something tells me he wont be on the team for the 1st game of the season also.
    Petey should be driven to the city limits and told to never be seen or heard from again.

  • toprightcorner

    Nobody should consider Drake Caggiula a lock for the 3rd line. Khaira has shown more to be a 3rd liner than him. I think the Drake is battling not to start the season in the pressbox. I do, however, expect him to come to camp with a much better mindset of what is expected of him and actually try to carve out a role on the team.

    • rivid

      I can’t understand why these writers continue to push Caggiula in the line up. He is by far the worst player the Oilers have and by no means should be guaranteed a roster spot. Any of the players on with a pto are better and cheaper options that him. Cut the ties with him already. If Drake makes this team then the Oilers are in a lot of trouble this year.

  • toprightcorner

    My guess is that Nurse camp is being stubborn on one of a few things:

    1) they want more than $3.5 on a 2 year bridge. PC would probably give Nurse an inflated $3.5 as to help the team get off to a good start, if Nurse’s camp want more than $3.5, I wouldn’t sign him yet either

    2) They only want a 1 year deal and betting on himself to take another step forward and get a long term deal next year when the Oilers could trade Russell and or Sekera. With that, they are still wanting over $3 mill. If they only want 1 year, they need to take less money to get what they want. You can’t get market value and 1 less year for term. 1 year deal should be worth around $2.5-$2.75. If it were me, I would sign Nurse to a 1 year deal. If he takes a step forward, sign him long term to about $5-$5.25 mill. If he takes a step forward in each of the next 2 years, the way salaries for 2nd pair dmen ore going, he would be in line for a deal in the $6 mill range. Oilers could save $750k a year on a long term deal if signed in 1 year vs 2.

    3) Chia thinks he may be able to get Nurse long term, but he needs to clear out some cap and is hoping to replace Kassian with Chaisson to save $1 mill and also se how Upshaw and Aberg perform and see if they can make the team. Once the season starts, he can put Sekera on LTIR and then the Oilers will have the cap space to sign Nurse to a $4.75-$5 mill range. For this reason, Chia is not wanting to sign a bridge at all and that is why Nurse left town.

    I am hoping for #3 and the Oilers can figure out how to sign Nurse long term. Signing long term this year will probably save them at least $1 mill a year on cap space compared to signing after a 2 year bridge.

    I really don’t see it being a problem if Nurse misses training camp. Playing in the BioSteel tourney and skating for the last 6 weeks, I don’t expect it to take him long to get back into game shape, he already is in game shape.

  • toprightcorner

    I think neither the Oilers or Nurses camp expected a contract to be signed before camp. Not once did any side say they were confident Nurse would be signed before camp opened. Chia brought in Garrison and it was not to make the team or help the team this year, it likely could have been to fill the Nurse void for a few weeks until the season started adn the Oilers could put Sekera on LTIR and then easily sign Nurse long term, or at least Chia could have a crack at it.

    The reason no side has said much as they did not want to to be seen as circumventing the cap. Play the “hard negotiations card” and nobody points fingers saying this was the plan the entire time.

      • Dallas Eakins Hair

        JJ will jump ahead of Cagguila IMHao after the season he had last year, JJ became a fan favorite and the coaches seemed to like what JJ was bringing to the team. Kassian has the most to lose, JJ basically took Kassian’s role from him and Kassian seemed invisible out on the ice, like you almost didn’t realize he was even playing . If JJ continues to excel and Chaisson makes the team, I would think Kassian or Cagguila will be on the way out the door

  • daryl

    Everyone myself included has accused Peter of over paying and now with Hanifin signed for 6 years at $4.95 mil we know Darnell is not worth what Hanifin is making so get off Peter’s back and let him handle the GM’s job. This is on Darnell and Peter has to stick to his guns.

  • CMG30

    Sorry Chia, but you’ve played fast an loose with the cap your entire career and now you want to hard-ball Nurse? Really? If I was Nurse I would be seriously pissed. As a GM you need to treat all the players with the same level of respect.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    This whole Nurse thing is on Chia. I said before signing Strome, Cagguila, Benning and Koskinen to over paid contracts hampered the Oilers ability to get a deal done with Nurse, and with Sekera being out it only shines the spotlight even more on the failure to execute by Chia. Chia didnt have to open the vault for Nurse, but he should have been able to get a contract done well before the other 4 were signed to deals, now Chia is in a corner, not much money to play with and he risks alienating Nurse and puts the Oil in a bad position in gettinga good rythm in camp going to carry into the new season and get his pairings set, because there seems to be this belief that are Saviour Benning will be able to slide into a 2nd tier pairing and save the day, how the hell someone thinks Benning is going to fill a role like that is beyond me, I have Benning as a 6th or 7th defence man and even that is being generous, I would have benning as 8th on the depth chart.

    I dont believe there were teams kicking down the Oilers door saying yeah I have to have one of either Strome, Cagguila, Benning and Koskinen… seriously, imho these were all overpayments to guys who could have been easily replaced, if the oilers had to not sign one of them to use the money to help sign Nurse to a bridge deal, I would be more than fine with that and use some of that to sign the other three, fair enough.

    Vhia was already in the Oilers fans doghouse over last years , lets rely on hope that this player will step up , or these guys have a break out year and even when it wasn’t working Chia stood fast determined to let his plan go forward and we were out of the playoffs before a quarter of the season was over and once again the reliance on hope and a breakout season is in front of us no real solid changes to the line up, a key injury before the season starts and one of the oilers defence men that was relied on last year, sitting out because Chia decides this is the contract he doesnt want to over pay on and that he wants to establish himself as a tough negotiator, yeah great pal, I think Chia picked the wrong hill to die on especially with Sekera out and Nurse needed, but the real thing is that it just points to more of people thinking Chia is not the man to lead the Oilers and that his flaws as a GM are leaving the Oilers exposed and fans frustrated at his running of the organisation and inability to see the landscape with in his organisation and the NHL as a whole. I wont even get started about how he pissed away a buyout on Gryba’s pittance of a contract

    • Kneedroptalbot

      At the end of last season I looked at the Oilers personell closely. I asked myself where do they really need to improve to be competitive?
      My Top 4 areas:
      1. Need much more team speed.
      2. Improved secondary scoring (after Nuge, Mick David, Driasaitl).
      3. Consistent goaltending (NHL caliber starter and backup).
      4. Healthy D-core. (Larsson and Nurse in particular).
      I really don’t think the Oilers have improved much if any from last season.