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Off the Top of My Head

I’d written a piece about what I expected Darnell Nurse’s new contract with the Edmonton Oilers to look like that was supposed to go right here in this spot today when Elliotte Friedman tweeted Friday that a deal was getting close.

Knowing you ignore the plugged-in Friedman at your own peril, I scrapped that piece, or least heavily edited and shortened it, and we posted the new version about an hour before the signing was made official. As we know now, Nurse’s new ticket is eight years with an AAV of $9.25 million (my best guess going in was that the number would be $9 million). It kicks in after next season.

As always, when given the chance to play armchair GM, fan reaction to the contract has spanned the spectrum of opinion. Ignoring the usual trolls and reaction-seekers braying on social media that Nurse’s contract represents the worst deal ever made, a substantial number of you fall into a reasonable middle ground. You like the player, but not the terms. You feel like it’s an overpay, be it in time, money or both. Fair comment. That’s the definition of the UFA market, no?

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At 26, I don’t know if there’s much more room for development with Nurse. Can he tweak some aspects of his game? I suppose, but at his age, he’s pretty much a finished product. For this contract to make any sense, Nurse has to play at the same level he did last season for the majority of this new deal. That’s the floor, not the ceiling. If he can play the kind of minutes he did, contribute at even-strength the way he did and provide the presence he has, I’m good. A little bump in all aspects? Even better.

As always, we’ll have to wait to see how things play out. What I like right here today, given GM Ken Holland’s win-now mandate, is that Nurse’s contract sends a message to Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl that owner Daryl Katz is willing to back up all the talk about contending now with money that ensures the core of this team will stay together at least until their deals expire. Draisaitl is up after 2024-25, McDavid a year later.

If the Oilers can make some noise as actual Cup contenders during this window of opportunity, I’m guessing there’ll be room for talks down the road about McDavid and Draisaitl re-upping with Nurse still locked in. For now, that’s an aside. Nurse has his work cut out to convince the critics he’s worth the term and dollars Holland just agreed to pay him, and that’s as it should be.

JUST IN TIME

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I heard a good time was had by all at a sold out The Toast of the Town event Thursday in support of the Cure Cancer Foundation. Most important, a lot of money – the goal was $200,000 — was raised for CCF that will go to the Cross Cancer Institute.

Kevin Lowe was the guest of honor. Brian Burke, Glen Sather and host Ron MacLean were also part of the fundraiser, as were several members of the Oilers alumni as well as businesspeople and fans. As it turns out, the timing of the event was solid as well.

According to the plugged-in Minnesota Wild beat man Mike Russo, the NHL has sent a memo to all teams prohibiting all organized corporate, community and charitable interactions with fans until further notice because of rapidly rising COVID cases. 

That memo will put a halt to events like autograph sessions, golf tournaments and speaking engagements. This latest COVID spike comes with training camps around the league not that far off. The league and NHLPA will monitor the situation. Hockey aside, we’ve got to get a handle on COVID once and for all, folks. 

We’re not there yet.

WHILE I’M AT IT

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of money RFA Kailer Yamamoto gets on his next deal. Coming out of his entry level contract, Yamamoto has 20-32-52 in 105 career games, including 8-13-21 in 52 games last season (AAV of $1.24 million). He’s been red hot at times but inconsistent, as many young players are. He scored just one goal in his final 25 games last season.

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Speculation is agent J.P Barry would like two years at about $2 million a season. I don’t see it. First, Yamamoto doesn’t have arbitration rights. Second, as noted, he was cold as a divorcee’s lawyer to end the season. If Yamamoto can come in above the QO, say, two years with and AAV of $1.5 million, it’s a win. Ink the deal and put together two solid years with the cap edging up.

  • Sidney Crosby turned 34 Saturday. Sid the Kid has played 1,039 games over 16 seasons, tallied 1,325 points, won three Stanley Cups and 12 individual awards. The older you get, the faster time flies. This feels like about 15 minutes to me

Previously by Robin Brownlee