202
Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Thoughts on RNH’s Eight-Year Contract

It looks like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will become only the second player in franchise history to play 1,000 games with the Edmonton Oilers. RNH has signed an eight-year deal with a $5.125m AAV to remain in Edmonton according to TSN’s Ryan Rishaug. 

RNH is currently 12th all-time in games played for Edmonton while sitting ninth in goals and 10th in points. He has a great chance to surpass Kevin Lowe in games played, but likely will finish seventh in goals and in points. He has the opportunity to be the longest-serving Oiler of all time and that means something to him.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

RNH will move into eighth spot in GP by the end of the season and will just keep climbing. Will he finish his career in Edmonton? It is still too soon to say that with any certainty. He will be 35 when this contract expires. With more players playing into their late 30s, there is a very good chance he will sign another deal. It is rare for a player to spend their entire career with one organization, especially if they never win with that team. The Oilers will need to win a Cup, or be a consistent Cup contender for him to sign again. But that is eight years away and RNH signed in Edmonton with the belief they will be able to compete in the future.

HOW I SEE CONTRACT…

Jan 24, 2021; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) is congratulated by his team mates on his goal against the Winnipeg Jets during the second period at Bell MTS Place.

Edmonton could be getting great value on the AAV in the first years of the deal. Over the past three season RNH is 43rd in the NHL in points with 165. He is 17th in powerplay points with 70. He is elite on the powerplay, though you’d like to see his 5×5 production increase, especially because he gets to play with the league’s top-two scorers at 5×5 in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

From 2019-2021 McDavid leads the NHL with 170 points at 5×5, while Draisaitl is second with 155. RNH is 86th with 82, and he was 150th in points/60 among forwards. RNH has never been an elite 5×5 player, and I don’t suddenly expect him to become one, but if he can finish in the top-60 at 5×5 over the next three or four seasons then this new contract will give the Oilers incredible value.

Because of his powerplay prowess, the deal will be quite good for the first half of the contract for sure. The final few years might be a concern, but if the salary cap goes up and RNH continues his powerplay role then it shouldn’t be horrific. For the immediate future it should be great value which is what Edmonton needed. The reward comes early and the risk is at the end. Expecting an UFA contract to have little risk is extremely low, unless you sign a one or two year deal. RNH is a good skater, with exceptional edge work. He is more quick than fast, and he is smart. Smart players figure out how to take different angles to compensate for a reduction in speed as they age. The concern in the latter years would be if his 5×5 really drops off or he runs into injury trouble, but the latter is impossible to predict.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

It is also fair to point out that RNH does need to produce more 5×5 regardless of his contract AAV, because he will be playing with one of the league’s top-two offensive players most of the time.

In the past three seasons RNH has skated 2,810 minutes at 5×5.
He has played 49 minutes with both McDavid and Draisaitl.
He has skated 783 minutes with McDavid and 660 with Draisaitl.
So a total of 1,492 minutes with one them.

The 49 minutes together is mainly from line changes. In those 49 minutes they outscored the opposition 9-4, however, six of the goals came when they were on the ice together for 0:01, 0:01, 0:03, 0:03, 0:12 and 0:16 seconds. So a total of 36 seconds they scored six goals and they mainly came just after a powerplay expired. So whenever you look at the line tool at naturalstattrick.com for players who don’t usually play together at 5×5 I recommend checking the game log feature to see how they scored.

The truth is those three rarely play together at 5×5 and I don’t expect them to moving forward, other than the odd moments.

This past season RNH didn’t score how he wanted when playing with McDavid. He only scored four goals and three assists in 390 minutes with McDavid. I’d make a strong wager he would produce more if given the same minutes next season. He has had more success playing with Leon Draisaitl, but again it is misleading to focus on their ridiculous 25-game hot streak in January-March of 2020 as realistic production.

Last season RNH had 2.07 P/60 with Draisaitl. From 2019-2020 he had 2.04 P/60 playing with McDavid, but this past season he only produced 1.07 P/60 with McDavid. I would argue that is likely an outlier more than expected production. I can see the argument why you would play RNH with Draisaitl, but not because I think RNH will score at a much higher rate. I’d do it because I believe Jesse Puljujarvi can play with McDavid and so you split up your four best forwards into two duos.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Nugent-Hopkins wasn’t happy with his 5×5 production this season and when I asked him what he wants to work on specifically he mentioned his skating, but also his shot.

“My shot this year, I thought it could have been better. I had some chances, where I don’t think it wasn’t that I didn’t bear down, but I didn’t put them in. Shot is an easy one you can work on and this summer I will get it back to where I want it to be,” he said.

He is correct on being able to improve his shot, and in his case getting it off quicker will be a primary focus.

Overall this is a very good deal for the next four seasons for Edmonton. They hope it will be longer, but the latter years could be a concern. The good news is his yearly salary makes the contract less of an issue. Here is the annual salary structure starting next season.

$5m base salary.
$5.25m salary.
$6.25m salary
$6.25m salary
$4m salary and $2m signing bonus.
$2.25m salary plus $2.5m signing bonus.
$2.5m salary and $1.25m signing bonus.
$3.75m salary.

NEXT MOVE…

Mar 15, 2021; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Adam Larsson (6) skates against the Calgary Flames during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Sign Adam Larsson to an extension. They have lots of time, by negotiation standards, as Seattle is unable to talk to Larsson until July 18th. I expect Larsson deal to be signed and I think the term and AAV are quite clear based on recent signings. I’d be more surprised if a deal wasn’t reached.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Ken Holland needs to sign another top-six left winger and with RNH in the fold there are options available: Brandon Saad, Zack Hyman, Tomas Tatar and Jaden Schwartz. Edmonton needs to sign one so they have legitimate top-six depth. I didn’t include Blake Coleman because I get the sense he is going to sign in the USA, and quite possibly in his home state of Texas with the Dallas Stars.

Earlier this summer I calculated the Oilers cap space. If James Neal is bought out and Kyle Turris is in the AHL, the Oilers had $27,693,027 in cap space. After the Devin Shore and RNH signings they now have $21,718,027 to spend. If we assume Larsson’s AAV is $4m that leaves $17,718,027 to spend. They will need a second pair left D-man, as well as two left wingers, a third-line centre, and re-signing Mike Smith or another goalie.

With over $17.7m in cap space it seems very realistic that Holland can sign, or trade for those five pieces. He won’t get his first choice in all five spots, but the Oilers cap space does give him some flexibility not to have to be desperate and overpay. The fact Tatar isn’t playing in the playoffs will benefit teams looking to sign him. Fair or not, his lack of playing time in the post-season will force him to sign a lower AAV. He’d still be a great value bet, just like Tyson Barrie was last off-season.

Recently by Jason Gregor: