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Darnell Nurse and his next contract

One of the biggest storylines this season is going to surround Darnell Nurse.

The 24-year-old rearguard had his best season in the NHL last year scoring a career-high 41 points in 82 games while playing a career-high 23:49 a night.

And at the end of this season, he’s going to be due a new contract as an RFA with arbitration rights.

It’s going to be an important storyline to follow because he could be due for a big raise beyond the $3.2-million he’s being paid.

Not only because he’s begun to produce strong offensive numbers as a defenceman, but too because he’s a homegrown talent — something the Oilers haven’t had on the backend in some time.

It’s important to look at who Nurse is playing with when taking into account his next contract.

Over the last two seasons, his most common defensive partner has been Kris Russell with the two playing nearly 1500 minutes together 5v5. Whether it be corsi, goals per centage, or scoring chances, Nurse is around five per cent higher without Russell than with him.

That’s significant as it shows Nurse being a much, much better player without Russell than with him. Nurse with his second most common partner, Adam Larrson, shows positive numbers in the aforementioned categories.

Now, it’s important to look at some contract comparables around the NHL for young, point-producing defenceman and there’s two that jump out to me.

First and foremost, Jacob Trouba.

Just last week he signed a seven-year, $8-million deal with the Rangers coming off a 50 point season. Last year was the best of his career, having only had a career-high of 33 points prior.

I think his contract would be considered to be on the high-end for a comparable, but I would imagine his agent, Anton Thun, would use Trouba as a close comparison.

There are a few other players who signed in recent years that I would think are more comparable to what Nurse could make on his next deal.

Matt Dumba signed a five-year, $6-million deal in 2018 coming off a 50-point season. Last year was shortened due to a pectoral injury. This, to me, would be the closest comparable for what Nurse’s next deal should look like.

It keeps him relatively cost-controlled while keeping him in an Oiler uniform for a significant time.

This all, of course, comes before his contract season.

It’s going to be an interesting season here in Edmonton as the team is projected to have around $24-million in cap space next offseason.

Edmonton gets out of contracts like Brandon Mannings $2.25-million deal, Gagner’s $3.15-million contract, and Kassian’s $1.95-million hit.

The team will have a plethora of re-signings to make, but it’s clear Nurse will be the biggest — and most important — of the bunch.

On Twitter: @zjlaing



  • billsbills

    Nurse is 4″ taller and 40 lbs heavier than Dumba. A guy who’s probably never had a fight in his life.

    Nurse will beat the snot out of you in the corner and then skate the puck to the other end of the ice before you’re off your knees. If he hits 50 points and continues to beat the crap out of people, he’s going to get closer to Trouba money a rightfully so.

    • toprightcorner

      Hmmmm…..he can skate the puck,, but Lowtide and Willis have already shown that he is not great at passing the puck, something needed in todays NHL to quickly transition the puck to the forwards, especially when those include McDavid and Draisaitl.

      Nurse is a puck skater, not a puck mover.

      • Copper

        Agreed. I’ve been saying the same thing these past couple years. I like Nurse but he is not comparable to Trouba. His stretch passes far too often miss the mark for icing. When he does rush the puck, he seems not to know what to do with it after entering the zone

        • Derkus the circus

          Nurse thinks hes Bobby Orr and ends up with a giveaway/goal against too many times. Hope for 40 pts. Keep next contract lower…lets say 7 years and 45 mil… By year 2 or 3 he’ll be a bargain.

  • ed from edmonton

    With Lucic out his value to the Oil has increased. What he can get will depend on what kind of season he has, we will get a better feel as the year goes by. At this point about all we can say that for a long tern deal it will either start with 6 or 7.

  • Kneedroptalbot

    Josh Morissey, Jacob Trouba, Darnell Nurse all top tier young defencemen.
    I prefer Morrisey and Nurse ahead of Trouba. They will all be paid very well.

  • OriginalPouzar

    Yup, this is going to be a tough one but this is a player that the team is going to want in their top 4 for the next decade.

    Yes, he still has his warts, some inconsistent defending (issues with the back door and wandering) for example, however, this is a young, physical specimen who is an elite skater, mean, is seemingly tireless (can munch minutes) and is durable. He works his butt off, he plays for and fights for his teamates and he produces.

    Yes, I know, his offensive numbers seem to outshine his offensive instincts, however, he’s produced at 5 on 5 for three years straight now and the reason for the bump to 41 points this past season was the PP time when Klef was hurt.

    Over the last 2.5 seasons, he’s 10th in the NHL among d-men in 5 on 5 scoring. Yes, there is some McDavid zoom in there but all d-men are zoomed in points by their top end players.

    At some point, no matter how he “looks offensively”, one simply has to acknowledge that the sample size is real and he just produces at solid rates.

    I fully expect this contract to start with a 7 on a 7 or 8 year term and, although higher than I want, I’ve come to terms with it.

    I think the Trouba contract should be an absolute ceiling and, frankly, if Nurse puts up 50 points next year, he deserves his money.

    With some options for PP1 and PP2 such as Persson (maybe Bear at some point, maybe Bouchard at some point), he may not see much PP time (depending on Klef’s health and play) so the points may end up in the lower 30s which could be a good thing.

    At the end of the day, Nurse is a player you want on your team.

  • Beer_League_Ringer

    Nurse is a key part of our current and future core. The guy has gotten better every single year. If he is even better this year I hope Holland goes heavy on the term for the next contract. After he was drafted and I saw him play in the OHL vs. Connor, I predicted he’d be a #1 D in the NHL. I continue to believe Nurse will be an NHL-wide stud #1 D in about 2-3 years (yes, the offence #s will come too). This is how it happens. Draft and be patient. Poof!!! #1 D man.

    • fasteddy

      He was a seventh overall pick….save the “draft and be patient” rhetoric. Look at the facts; high picks have a significantly better chance of being high end players, or players at all. There is no magic development model that any team is using, period. Their high picks make it sooner and turn out more often, some lower picks surprise and make it, mostly they don’t. Period, end of story. Look it up…look up Nashville who Spector loves to say “does it right”….no more success than anyone else. Pick any team you like, the results are the same; there is no secret development or drafting model that teams are doing any better than the Oilers.

      • Beer_League_Ringer

        It’s not rhetoric, nor was my tone rhetorical. You missed, or didn’t acknowledge, the meat of my post. You instead take exception with the last (intentionally silly) sentence. My post is 99% about the player, his improvements, and how (now I’m bragging) I feel like I knew he’d be this good or better. Maybe fasteddy needs to slow his roll and read posts carefully before he ascribes meaning to them that isn’t there and responds like a know-it-all. Sheesh.

        How many #1 D-men have you predicted from seeing them play in Jr.? I’ve done it once and I’m proud.

        • fasteddy

          Fair enough! Sorry, I just get frustrated with the constant “we need to develop our players” drivel….the teams that “develop” their players typically do so because it was a 24th overall pick and they aren’t ready. If the same team picked a player 4th that player likely wouldn’t see a day in the minors. Anyway, you’re correct, I jumped on the comment unnecessarily. And the only one I’ve successfully predicted was Shea Theodore…and he’s far from an ace yet. It’s part of why I get frustrated with the comments; if you watch a lot of junior hockey you’ll know it’s very very difficult to predict how a player will do at higher levels. You see so many good players that never make it or play a handful of games in the show you start to not get over excited about a drafted player that’s doing well in junior.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    Nurse hasnt even come into his own yyet, when Klef was hurt he did fair pretty well and ate a lot of minutes, Nurse I would guys will be around the 6 mil a season mark and I dont see the Oilers signing him to a contract that’s under 5 years Imagine if Nurse gets a defensive coach that helps him work on the little things in his game just how much more those little improvements will make him even better. I like Nurse, he isnjt afraid to drop the mitts, he can skate and he isnt afraid to make plays and he can shoot it from the Point ( which I think the Oilers dhould be getting him to do more on the PP) Nurse wont be going anywhere

  • hagar

    6 million for one more season.

    Or 5 years at 5 million a year.

    He hasn’t progressed as much as he should have for anything more than 5 mill a year long term.

    • toprightcorner

      That is what he is actually worth, but with the much worse Meyers getting $6 mill and is 5 years older and Trouba getting $8 mill, Nurses market value will be about $6.75 – $7.25 on a long term deal.

  • camdog

    Next year is that game 300 plus stretch for Nurse. That’s when d-man line Pronger turned into studs. Regardless nobody even knows what the cap will be in a season. As it goes up year after year, d-men like Nurse even at his current level are going up in salary. Oilersnation may always be angry that these NHL players are getting over payed, that doesn’t change the reality that inflation an an additional team in Seattle equals paying up for d-men like Nurse or watching them play for another team.

  • Gravis82

    he is not that great defensively, which is what defense man are suppose to do. He score 5-7 more goals than most D men, so get a ton more money…but 5-7 goals wont really move the needle and forwards do not get a similar increase in pay for those goals. Trade him

  • Arfguy

    I like Nurse a lot. I think he could use some more power play time. I did not like Hitchcock taking him off the power play when Klefbom came back. I thought it really stunted a good season from Nurse. Personally, I’d like to see him away from Larsson and Russell. I think Nurse’s defensive game will come into it’s own this season, so maybe pairing him with Benning would work. I’d like to see the top 4 be: Klefbom+Larsson & Nurse+Benning, with Russell and Bear/Persson being the 3rd pairing.

    I think 8 years at $7 million AAV might get it done.

  • OilCan2

    Jones, Bear & Lagesson are in their last year of waiver exempt status. Broberg & Bouchard are both top 10 picks and will be playing pro this season. Nurse has a career year under his belt looking at his contract season. This will be a VERY interesting year to be a fan in Oil Country.

    • Arfguy

      I noticed that the other day. The future of Oilers defence looks really, really promising. I am so psyched to see how Samorukov, Bouchard and Broberg end up doing in a couple of years.

  • Lazarus

    Of course Nurse is better without Russell then with him. Flames fans tried telling you Russell.was done.. Congratulations on seeing the light but keep Russell whatever you do!!

  • toprightcorner

    It seems fans need to be reminded of this little thing called cap space. Every contract sets a presidence for the future. Prime example of this is that Taylor Hall signed for $6 mill, then MacT signed Eberle for $6 mill, even though Hall was 10 times the player. a couple years later, Nuge got his $6 mill contract. He was better than Eberle but no wher close to Hall, him being a centre evened it out. Point being, whatever the first guy gets, the next guy that isnt as good gets the same and if he is better he gets more.

    Gaudrea signed at $6.75 and 3 years later Tkachcuk, a much inferior player, will get at least $8 mill.

    Nurse is a #3 or #4 dman on almost any NHL team and as Lowetide and Willis pointed out, it doesn’t look like he has the set off tools to be a top pairing guy. So if his market value is $8 mill and the Oilers get him for a “home town discount” at $7 mill, Holland has set the level of a 2nd pairing player. Klefbom is the #1 on this team and is better than Nurse in that position, when his contract is due, he will have to get more than the guy who is lower on the totem pole, so Klefbom gets $8.5 in 2 years with the market value of dmen exploding righ, or very close to it now. Lets say Bouchard does end of being a top pairing guy or very close to it after his ELC, maybe he gets a Bridge at $6 mill for one year, but he will get more than Nurse long term and maybe as much as Klefbom.

    How on earth are the Oiler going to improve the forwards if within 3 years they have a #3 making $7.5, Klefbom making $8.5 and Bouchard $6 on a bridge or $8 long term? It is impossible. The cap isn’t increasing that much, and the loss of bad contracts are not going to be enough. Those 3 players just got an increase of $15 mill and you need to resign Nurse, Benson, Marody, Jones, Persson and the year after will be Broberg.

    You cannot spend more than $5.5 mill on a 2nd pairing dman and he needs a partner that doesn’t make more than $4.5. The top pairing guys will make between $7 and $8.5 mill. If the Oilers give Nurse anything more than $6 mill, he will be the overpaid part of the blueline that prevents Holland from spending any money to improve the scoring up front

  • toprightcorner

    By everyones logic of signing Nurse to a $7-$8 mill contract, this is what the top 4 will look like within the next 3 years.

    Klefbom ($8.5 mill) – Bouchard ($6 mill bridge or $8 mill long term)
    Nurse ($7.5) – Jones ($5.5)

    That is $29.5 mill on your top 4 and there is now what the Oilers can afford that with $21 mill in McDavid and Draisaitl, then add $7.5 for Nuge (Hayes comparisson). There will not be any room to pay a 30 goal scorer, ever.

    Nurse will never be a top pairing player, so he can never be our highest paid dman. If you have over $15 mill in the top pairing, you can’t spend more than $5.5 and $4 in the second pairing and not chance Nurse signs for $5.5 mill.

    If you thinkt the Oilers are in cap hell now, pay Nurse over $7 mill and wait 3 years and 2019/20 will feel like money is falling from the sky.

    Nurse is currently one of the most valuable defencemen in the market. He has a cheap $3.25 contract that almost any team can easily make room for with one middle 6 player traded. Team does have control for 4 more years so not a lost asset like so many other options. Nurse could get a 30 goal scorer in return that is locked in for 5-6 years at $5-$6 mill. A 30 goal scoring UFA gets $8 mill (Skinner got $9.5) that is a huge savings and a super value contract for the next 5-6 years.

    Nurse could get Ehlers, Tyler Johnson +, Gallager+, Athenasieau, Rakell+, Couturier or Trochek.

    Overpayng your #3 deman befor you have to pay big dollars to fill out your top pairing is financial suicide. Hollands best and smartes mood is to trade him.

    That is

  • The Whispererer

    With reference to a Cult of Hockey article…
    If Nurse was a signing a new contract this summer, Evolving Wild has him projected at 5 x $5.55
    Other notables on same assumption…
    Klefbom 8 X $7.2
    Larsson 4 x $4.3
    Russell 4x $3.7
    Nuge 8x $7.9