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WWYDW: How high would you go on RNH’s contract?

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.

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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.

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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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