In this week’s 31 Thoughts column, Elliotte Friedman had a very brief note about where the Oilers and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are at in terms of contract negotiations…
17. Edmonton and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are grinding to find common ground.
There obviously isn’t much said here, but Friedman’s note does indicate that both sides are working hard to figure out a new deal that would keep the Oilers’ longest-tenured player in Edmonton.
Back in mid-March, Ryan Rishaug of TSN reported that the Oilers and Nugent-Hopkins were talking about a deal in the $6 to $6.5 million range before contract talks ultimately broke off. A few weeks later, Frank Seravalli said on Insider Trading that Edmonton had offered Nugent-Hopkins a deal, likely in the five-year range, and that it wasn’t flattering to the player.
While we don’t know exactly what the Oilers offered, we can infer based on Rishaug’s earlier report that it was likely below the $6 million annual salary that he was being paid on his seven-year contract. I would guess it was closer to $5 million annually.
At one time, it was reasonable to assume Nugent-Hopkins could command north of $7 million on a deal based on what comparable players were signing around the league. But the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in a situation in which the salary cap ceiling will remain flat for multiple years coupled with Nugent-Hopkins’ poor season offensively in 2021 has seriously impacted his ability to earn a raise.
That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday ACTUALLY ON A WEDNESDAY question. Given the information from Friedman that the Oilers and Nugent-Hopkins are grinding to a middle ground, what’s the highest you would offer the former No. 1 overall pick if you were Ken Holland?
There’s no doubt that Nugent-Hopkins’ season was underwhelming. He scored 16 goals and 35 points in 52 games and only 15 of those points came at even-strength. These results are particularly damning given the fact his most common linemate was Connor McDavid.
That said, it’s only one season. Nugent-Hopkins has been excellent in recent years, posting 61 points in 65 games in 2019-20 and scoring a career-high 28 goals in 2018-19. Beyond that, Nugent-Hopkins plays a solid defensive game, is a well-liked teammate, part of the team’s leadership group, and he offers positional versatility that few other forwards on the free-agent market can match.
There’s obviously a limit to what you can pay him, but Nugent-Hopkins is somebody you’d like to keep around.
In my mind, the sensible middle ground is to offer Nugent-Hopkins more term on his contract in order to decrease his annual salary. He just recently turned 28 years old, so Nugent-Hopkins should have plenty of good years left in him. If the Oilers give him a seven-year deal, he’ll be 35 years old at the end of it. That term on a contract that pays $5 million annually seems reasonable for both sides.
What say you, Nation? How much would you pony up for Nugent-Hopkins? Would you go as far as seven years in order to keep the cap hit lower? Let us know!
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