Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The Nuge Abides

Nobody on the Oilers has been through what Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been through. There is a reason everyone loves The Nuge, he’s a survivor. As the longest-serving player in the most dysfunctional franchise in the league Nugent-Hopkins has seen some serious shit over the first eight years of his NHL career.

This guy is at a point now where he could request a trade and 95 percent of Oilers fans would be ok with the team granting his wish a setting him free, but he won’t. The former first overall pick is not a quitter. No matter the issue on or off the ice Nugent-Hopkins has kept his head down worked hard and said all the right things.

There was one the thing he said during his year-end availability that stood out while at the same time being completely understandable.

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“The main thing is we’ve just got to figure it out and I think consistency with player personnel that does help. Personally, with me, I had a lot of wingers this year, I had to play the wing myself, I didn’t have a lot of stretches where I had the same line and I think that can be a little tough sometimes. You play with everybody so you do know each other but when you play together with a line for four or five games you start to build chemistry and start to find each other more and good things come from it. This year for me that’s not how it happened, so that’s got to be something I would like to see different in the future.”

That’s about as critical as Nugent-Hopkins has ever been and he’s absolutely right about everything.

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Edmonton Oilers new head coach Dallas Eakins speaks during a press conference in Edmonton, Alta., on Monday, June 10, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

If Nuge is frustrated about his lack of consistent linemates I’d love to know what he thinks about the rotating door behind the bench.

Canadiens: All-Time Drafted Roster

Nugent-Hopkins has now played eight seasons with the Oilers and the next head coach will be the eighth different bench boss he’s had.

It started with Tom Renney in 2011, followed by 49 games of Ralph Krueger, 113 games for Dallas Eakins and then a strange transition period from Craig MacTavish, which led to 51 games with Todd Nelson. Todd McLellan took over for 279 games, including playoffs, before giving way to Ken Hitchcock for the remainder of this season. I’m not sure any other player in the history of the National Hockey League has had a run like that.

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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

So just how crazy was usage around Nugent-Hopkins this year? Let’s take a look.

First of all, he played a lot this year, 1648:22 at all strengths to be exact, good enough to be the 20th most used forward in the league. Leon Draisaitl led the league with 1852:27 and even though he missed a handful of games McDavid finished 7th at 1781:18.

Nuge’s most common linemate at 5×5 this season was Connor McDavid at 376 minutes.

The only other two players he spent more than 200 minutes on the ice with were Puljujarvi and Lucic.

I find this to be somewhat interesting. There were seven players who played between 100 and 200 hundred minutes with Nugent-Hopkins. Kassian, Khaira, Rattie, Gagner, Draisaitl, Caggiula, and Rieder all took turns with 93 this season.

Nugent-Hopkins played five on five minutes with 19 different forwards this season ranging from McDavid at the high end down to what looks like a shift or two with Brad Malone.

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There we a lot of top end players who had similar ice to Nuge but for comparison’s sake I decided to take a look at players who played a similar amount 5 on 5 and also failed to make the playoffs. I narrowed the list down to Bo Horvat, Mika Zibandejad and Dylan Larkin who were 11th, 16th and 17th in time on ice among forwards 5 on 5.

NHL History: Edmonton Oilers trade Chris Pronger to Anaheim 14 years ago today

Bo Horvat had similar deployment to Nugent-Hopkins. Horvat played more than 300 minutes with Eriksson and Boeser and was on the ice for over 200 minutes with Virtanen, Roussel and Goldobin. He also played between 100 and 200 minutes with six other players.

Mika Zibanejad played 923 minutes with Chris Kreider, which was almost triple what Nuge played with his most common linemate. Zibanejad actually played more with three of his teammates than Nuge did with any of his. Zuccarello (607 minutes), Namestnikov (406) and Buchnevich (378) all played more with Zibanejad than Nugent-Hopkins did with McDavid. The Rangers only had two forwards who played between 100 and 200 minutes with Zibanejad, five fewer players than what Nugent-Hopkins had to deal with.

Dylan Larkin had an excellent season for the Red Wings and did most of it while only playing with two players. Larkin played over 700 minutes with both Mantha and Nyquist. He spent over 300 minutes with Abdelkader and over 400 minutes with Bertuzzi.


If the next head coach of the Oilers wants to play McDavid and Draisaitl together the new GM will have to find someone to play with Nugent-Hopkins. The lack of consistency for Nugent-Hopkins this year is yet another reason I think a scoring winger should be the Oilers top priority this off-season. The Nuge abides; now help him.

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Previously by Dustin Nielson:

  • Serious Gord

    The oil have three all star centres.

    They can only afford two.

    Which one do you trade?

    RNH is the odd man out because he is the least great, has the shortest contract and is the oldest.

    Trading him now when he has maximum value – he has two full years of contract left – is the smart thing to do.

    And in two years the oil won’t be able to re-sign him because of cap and because of what several other teams – teams that will give him the first or second line role with good wingers that he deserves – will be prepared to offer him.

    Trading him now for wingers – NOT defensemen – is THE right – if painful – move to make.

    Which guarantees they won’t do it. (And the vast majority of fans will agree – and thus the serial, short-sighted mistakes will continue).

        • wiseguy

          The issue isn’t that they have 3 centers. It’s that they only have 3 NHL forwards. Trading 1 of those for an NHL forward will result in your having….. 3 NHL forwards…

          • Torgerson

            Nailed it. The Oilers are a poor team with insufficient depth almost everywhere. Trades can help a team when they are already strong and need to fill in some gaps. If they traded Nuge they would just have to start looking for another player like Nuge.

      • The Fox

        I agree 100%. Play Leon or nuge on The wing, the other at center. both have produced at 1st line rates on the wing with 97.You do not trade a high end center for a winger.
        Plus Nuge is one of the most under rated complete players, he is becoming a Patrice Bergeron type, and still mid 20’s.

    • Kevwan

      So you have the LW with the most points in the league (Drai). You want to convert him back to C so that you can trade Nuge for a winger? And the only C prospect anywhere near making the team is Marody?.

      The obvious move out is Sekera or Russell and maybe Benning because there is some prospect depth on D.

      If Nuge will resign at a reasonable rate and term then do it – if not then move him out next summer.

    • TKB2677

      I am a big fan of Nuge but I actually agree with you. Nuge had 28 goals, 69 pts. All career highs. So his value is sky freaking high right. But he played a lot with McDavid. Before that, his best totals where 24 goals, 56 pts and he was WITH Hall and Eberle on his wing. He said it himself, he prefers center. So if you have him as your second center next year which is fine, I don’t see him meeting those totals again and he will settle into a mid 50’s center. He’s play 8 seasons with the Oilers and he was 45.12% on faceoffs. He’s never been 50%. 8 seasons and he hasn’t improved and if you look at his last 5 seasons, he’s pretty much in that 45% range. If you look at the Oilers PK which is been lousy for a while now, Nuge is the center piece. I am not blaming him but he plays a ton on the PK and as a center, you NEED to win a draw on the PK. It makes a BIG difference. He can’t consistently after 8 years of working on it. There are lots of teams who need centers and who are going to look at Nuge’s almost 70 pts and think they can get at least that, maybe more from him. Which I don’t see. So if you can get 2 wingers for the price of Nuge and increase your overall depth, I think you are better. What if you hit the jackpot like the Flames did with Lindholm? Lindholm had a career high 17 goals and 45 pts. He scored 28 goals last year and 78 pts. I doubt the Hurricanes trade him if they thought he could do that.

      • Gravis82

        This is crazy. Nuge is good value at 6million. Keep him. Trade players who are well overvalued instead and replace them with value contracts. That is how you increase deptth. oh, and draft well

      • Big Nuggets

        He didn’t play a lot with McDavid. McDavid was his most common linemate but all that shows is that he had a rediculous revolving door on his wings. More importantly though, Nuge lets us play Drai on McDavid’s wing, which is a money combo. It would be foolish to seperate those two and we aren’t going to find a better 2nd line center than Nuge. Nuge’s value is at an all time high because he is playing the best hockey of his career. Why not keep players that are playing well and in their prime?

        Anytime a player does well people get excited about their trade value. It’s surprising considering how trades have worked out the last few years. I really think for the situation the roster is in now, trades are not the answer. Move out some cap space if possible, other than that build with youth. There are no shortcuts, this team won’t be a contender until some young players make an impact. Don’t do anything stupid until then I say.

      • crabman

        I agree Nuge may find it difficult to push 70 points again next season but he should be a 60+ point player if he stays healthy. 4 of his 8 seasons, and 2 of the last 3, he had a points/game that prorates to 60+ points per season. although McDavid was his most common even strength line mate this year it only amounted to 32% of his even strength time on ice. And considering his next 2 most common even strength line mates were Puljujarvi and Lucic, not top 6 caliber players, Nuge scored at an impressive rate. Nuge scored 40 even strength points and only 11 of those involved McDavid. I don’t see why he can’t repeat his even strength scoring next year if the team can get him a couple consistent line mates better than Puljujarvi and Lucic. Nuge scored 26 pp points, most involving McDavid, but unless he is taken off the 1PP there is no reason to think he can’t score in that range again next year.
        I think moving Nuge would be a bad idea unless it was in a move like the Calgary/Carolina trade as you suggest. If they could fill a need at puck moving RD while adding an equally offensive forward for Nuge and a LD I would consider it. But to move a center in his prime for a scoring winger makes no sense to me.

    • Dan13

      I’m not going to pretend I know enough about hockey to say you’re absolutely wrong, but I’d rather see them clear out a couple of the guys who are actually overpaid so they can pay a solid 2nd line winger to play with RNH on a consistent basis.

      • TKB2677

        I agree. If you can move out other guys, go for it. But any decisions made should be all about building a good, deep team that can actually compete, not making us all feel better because we all love Nuge.

        The only 2 untouchables on this team should be McDavid and Leon. Everyone else for the right trade can be had in my books.

    • polarcap

      It is all about building culture and character. Both of which are RNH hallmarks. You build from the core. Changing core players weakens the team. You share the obsession of many fans who want to feel they can add by subtracting. Petry, Shultz, Eberle were all fan targets who would have been part of the solution.

    • Gravis82

      This is one of the most ridiculous non-troll post I have ever seen. Who said we cant afford only two? We can afford three good forwards. You must work for the OEG

      • Serious Gord

        They can afford to re-sign RNH in 2 years? Do you have any idea how much other teams are going to offer him? 9 million? 10?

        I don’t care about the next two years. It’s three years before this team has any chance of competing for a cup. All moves that are made need to be made with that in mind. Hanging on to rnh takes away from that goal.

        Trade him now.

        • Gravis82

          Its only 3 million more. Get a grip. Stop overpaying for players who dont contribuite and pay the players that do. There is no way we are losing hall AND RHN because of Lucic’s contract. I dont care. You do not let nuge go, ever. Deal with it. You have a good player and you lock him in. Find value elsewhere.

          • Stallions #35

            If there is light at the end of the tunnel ( playoffs and possible Stanley cup contention) I can see Nuge taking a discount in a couple of years to stay close to home, win a cup with the team that drafted him, see it through especially after all the bs hs has been through….re-up him another 4-5 years at 7-7.5 mill/year…

    • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

      Why trade him for wingers when we have a plethora of talent coming up? Yamamoto, Benson, McLeod, Currie, Marody, Gambardella. These guys, and others, are going to be coming up from Bakersfield, eliminating the need for us to trade for anyone. They’ll be cheap, skilled, and have developed properly.

    • CMG30

      Gord I swear you must be a flames fan by how badly you’re trying to gut this team. Anyway, your premise is incorrect: The Oilers CAN certainly afford the 3 centers. Trading RNH just means they need to go out and find another center… which is harder than finding wingers.

    • Who says the odd man has to be one of the big-3 centers? If the younger defensemen in the system grow steadily in the next 2 years why can’t we move one of Nurse, Klef, Larsson and/or whatever wingers we have on the team at that time? You don’t seem to realize that Nuge can actually save us money by being able to play wing and preventing us from overpaying someone on the market(eg.Neal or Lucic). You don’t always evaluate your cap situation by position, sometimes you gotta evaluate the entire roster by importance and what they bring.

    • Anton CP

      Man…I feel bad for you because you are trying to preach to bunch of hopeless fanboys that still unable to get over the fact that the Oilers are such a terrible team with TWO 100+ points players and still fall far short of making playoffs.

      Only the Oilers fanboys believed that Nuge has the value on NHL markets. They don’t recognize the fact like, RNH with 69 points only ranked 56 overall. Gregor did point out before that with the career high of points that Nuge also has a career worst +/-. Also, Nuge only managed to get 4 points more than last year on EV. His 21 points improvement has lots to do with his increase PP, he is the one that riding on BOTH McDavid and Draisaitl’s coat tail.

      The only reason that Nuge is still with the Oilers simply because no other teams willing to pay for any significant price for him. From many years ago that someone said Nuge is bona fide third line C, at best, a 2B.

  • Big Nuggets

    Nuge needs a winger, unfortunately that is not the teams biggest need. I’d say a quality puck moving defenseman would help the most. After that we really need a 3rd line center. A real 3rd line center will help the wingers sort themselves out as to who plays where. Then we need a winger that has offensive ability. Hopefully they find a way to get all 3, but with this roster it will take a top shelf GM.

    • Puck moving d men should be solid within the next year. Bouchard bear one and two pp quarterbacks next year? Keep Sekera pushing them from behind and I feel like they have that upside.

      • Big Nuggets

        I have high hopes for a bunch of the young d but they still have to earn their spot in the line up. if we can upgrade the Russell spot, 2nd pair RD, that would be ideal. Also Nurse will probably look better with a skilled partner.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    Yes trade Nuge and find someone else to put up 70 pts for under 6 mil? I am sure every GM ion the league would like that, but the GM’s who have guys right now that can do that and under that salary are not going to trade them, and those who are its due to a contract ending and a new contract with significant bump in salary coming up. Ther are other moves the Oilers could make to free up salary and trading Nuge shouldnt be at the fore front. Nuge doesnt just play centre , he can play on the wing, he kills penalties, he is part of the PP unit but the biggest thing is he isnt detrimental to the team when he is on the ice, find someone else who does that wont be easy and it will cost to get them. Why do that when we have a guy who does that here. I dont get why we would trade off a 70 pts guy and hope a replacement gets as many points, specially when the Oilers need scoring and a lack of it is one of the team needed fixes. hard to win games when you dont have enough players putting up points.

    There are a lot of Other moves the Oilers could make to free up salary and this shouldnt be one of them

  • madjam

    Nuge has had good wingers in the past like Eberle and Hall , but never produced any better than what he did this year . His use scoring this year was his best despite his whining . It is not like the sky is falling !

  • A-co

    Just keep lucic as far away from the top 2 lines as possible if he isn’t moved..finding nuge a winger should be a priority…maybe they can package up a couple of the D prospects they gave collected over the years and find one

  • I’m sick of the trade Nuge rumours. Never trade a good centre. For years, Nuge was the only good centre the Oilers had and everyone said we needed centres. Well now they have it, if not the best trio of centres in the league, and they can afford them.

    Hopefully, they’re not resigning Reider and Petrovic, so that’s $3.95m, but they’ll use that to resign Chiasson, Khaira, and maybe Rattie and Gravel.

    They won’t find a trading partner for old Oilers Brodziak or Gagner, so they stick for another year.

    Does Stolarz stay as the backup?

    Lucic could be on LTIR.

    Russell is the preferred trade after July 1. That’s $4m.

    Hold on to Benning until Bouchard is ready.

    So really, the team roster won’t change much and only a new coach can invigorate more wins out of them and please Gord, Koskinen improves that glove hand, otherwise, no play offs once again.

      • 99CupsofCoffey

        Not if McDavid turns the management of the team around and the Oilers have a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup. If that’s the case, Nuge isn’t going anywhere.

      • Ratt McNuge

        How about waiting until his last year before trading him? What’s the rush? Oilers will lose any trade offered up for him. Oilers have to keep good players. Trading away good ones and replacing them with bad contracts is the reason the Oilers are in such a predicament. Nuge is full value for his contract.

    • Stallions #35

      Dare I say it, we have our Crosby, Malkin and Staal in these three…except Drai and Nuge are inter-changeable at 1st line winger and 2nd line center…why would anyone give up?

  • TKB2677

    Rieder and Petrovic are gone so there is 3.95mill they aren’t spending.

    I don’t think anyone is taking Manning, so you could bury Manning in the minors for his last year and you would save a little more than 1 mill.

    Cave who is currently on the roster, counting against the cap and is making 675 K can take over the 4th line center spot from Brodziak. I doubt anyone trades for him so you could also bury him in the minors and pretty much his whole 1.15 mill salary is saved off the NHL cap. Every AHL team needs a few AHL vets on the roster. So rather than resign Malone and Callahan and Stanton to be your AHL vets, you have Brodziak and Manning.

    I wouldn’t resign Gravel or anyone else to be the #7 dman. You have Jones, Lagesson on the farm who are sounding like they are ready for a spot. You have Perrson coming over from Sweden who will be pushing for a spot. You have Bear who might push for a spot. If your #7 is just there to mostly sit in the pressbox and play spot duty, you have Keegan Lowe on the farm, already signed for 675K NHL money who could be a #7 if needed. Gravel is a defensive dman who brings zero offense, a mediocre skater and not a great puck mover. Is that not Lowe? SO what’s the point in resigning Gravel when you already have one.

    I do think Russell will be moved. When Mitch Marner is getting huge praise for blocking a shot rather than putting up points, teams still value what Russell does.

    • Ric Flair

      Marner is getting praised because he’s putting up points, and not being afraid to sacrifice the body to block a shot. Russell only blocks shots, no team values what he does at his cap hit.

      • TKB2677

        So what does:
        Ian Cole who signed last July with the Avs for 4.25 mill for the next 3 years. Who had 15 pts this season and a 178 shot blocks and has never had more than 26 pts EVER in his career do that Russell doesn’t?
        Jack Johnson do who signed for 3 yrs at 3.25 mill with a “good” organization like the Pens do that Russell doesn’t? Johnson has 13 pts in 82 games.

        Dan Girardi a guy who got bought out by the Rangers because he can’t skate anymore and who got signed by the supposedly best GM in the NHL Yzerman to a 2 yr 3 mill deal do that Russell can’t? He had 16 pts this year, 18 last year.

        Marc Methot got traded for by Dallas 2 yrs ago. Methot is a defensive dman who doesn’t score points, doesn’t move the puck well and doesn’t skate that great. He makes 4.9 mill. Now he’s been hurt a ton since coming to Dallas but what exactly does he do that Russell doesn’t?

        Jay Bowmeester. Bowmeester signed 5 yrs ago for 5.4 mill per season. Over that time the highest he scored was 19 pts. He’s going to be 36 in Sept, had 17 pts this season and the Blues just resigned him to a 1 yr 3.25 mill with a full no move. So what exactly does Jay Bo do that Russell doesn’t?

        I can find more if you want. I am not sticking up for Russell. My preference is he is gone but to say no team values what Russell does for his price point isn’t true what so ever. I just listed off 5 guys who all play for teams who EVERYONE would consider to be better run organizations who all have either signed or traded for guys who’s skill set is the same as Russell for similar money. If all the guys I listed were making 1/3 he money, then you’d be right. But they aren’t. Some are making more, some are making just slightly less.

    • Big Nuggets

      2 small quibbles with your post. There’s no room for Manning in Bakersfield next year. And not all plugs are created equal. Gravel is better than KLowe. as well, if Jones, Lagesson or whichever bakersfield defenseman gets called up they should play games or be sent back down. Still need a bench warmer #7 dman, if you ask me.

        • Gravis82

          bury and deal with it. We are not good enough next year or the year after to need to spend to the cap on a FA to put us over the top anyway. Once you can win your division with mostly home grown players, then you can fill out your cap space with a mature star player

        • crabman

          we are stuck with Manning. If there is no room in Bakersfield maybe he can be loaned to another AHL team like Vancouver did with Gagner. Still need to eat his salary but he doesn’t take a roster spot from a prospect. Or just tell him to go home and collect his checks.


    Fact is , when the Oilers right the ship and were heading to the playoffs next year. Well be talking about how much to resign or contract extension for Nuge.

  • Chad88

    I liked when Jujhar was playing with Nug, they seemed to play well, I don’t understand the logic on demoting JJ when he got injured, he should’ve slid right back on that line IMO. And samwise playing 4th line? I think he could’ve been right on that second line since his return. Instead 4th line duties? I don’t know the logic behind a lot of how they deploy lines, but those were a few things I found annoying.

  • billsbills

    Nuge should not be traded. Everyone has talked about this team trading away skill, so the answer is to trade away more? Yeah okay, PC has left the building, you can stop the lunacy now.

    Develop who you have and suffer through the mistakes. The team needs some common sense not brash or “bold” moves.

    Some of the weight has to be lifted but you can’t do that by getting rid of good players.

    • Ratt McNuge

      Young, cheap, diamonds in the ruff are what will save the Oilers. Agreed. Not easy to do, but Nuge is an excellent 2nd line centre. Find him some youngsters who can put the biscuit in the net. Not easy, but who said this was going to be easy?

  • Serious Gord

    I’m really curious: how many readers think that the oil can re-sign RNH when he becomes a free agent in two years

    Thumbs up for “yes”

    Thumbs Down for “no”.

  • I say we wing this boy up with two qualified 2nd liners, maybe shake up the d somehow in aquiring said wingers to gain some cap space, and play up some of our young d. Nuge deserves a replacement for hall.

  • camdog

    The Oilers don’t have enough guys that can play NHL centre and some posters want to trade a centre for wingers. Running 2 centres next year wouldn’t even work in the video games….

  • ricardo2000

    The Oilers’ problems are pitiful team defence and poor passing up to the offence. Check out Eberle and Hall when they have adequate defence. Check out ALL THE OTHER PLAYERS who suddenly become competent and useful on other teams once they are taught a proper defensive role, and recover self-confidence after arrogant fan abuse here in Edmonton. It’s no accident that Columbus, Vegas, and the Islanders are monsters these playoffs: listen to the players praise their fans in after-series interviews. Listen to Sportsnet commentators caution LeafsNation to not go off the deep end after a loss.

    Plus/minus stats tell the story: McD is at +3, Drai is at +2, and Nuge is at -13. SAT% are all under average as well. This means that the Oilers gift the other team offence at record-setting pace. All those early goals were down to the opening lineup. Every team in the league knows that confining the Oilers to their own end leads to goals. Until this is solved it won’t matter who is on whose wing, or who plays centre.