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‘I’m going to do what’s best for me:’ Oilers star Leon Draisaitl opens up on expiring contract in Sportsnet interview
By Zach Laing1 month ago
Once a quiet, humble player from Köln, Germany, just trying to find his way in the pro game, Leon Draisaitl’s emergence as the best player from his country and one of the best players in the world has been significant.
Doubly so, considering his eight-year deal paying him $8.5-million per year has turned into one of the best value contracts the league has seen in the salary cap era. 275 goals, 650 points, a Hart Trophy, an Art Ross Trophy, two nods to the All-Star game and a 110-point season across his 484 games on this deal are hard to argue with.
It’s also hard to argue with the fact that Draisaitl hasn’t captured the most important accolade of all: a Stanley Cup championship. So far, it’s alluded he and Connor McDavid — two of the league’s fiercest competitors.
For both players, the clock is ticking. In Drasaitil’s case, he can put pen to paper on an extension with the Oilers that would make him one of the highest-paid players in NHL history on July 1st of this year.
And in an exclusive interview with Sportsnet’s Mark Spector, the German Gretzky — well aware of his contract status — opened up on his future for the first time.
“At the end of the day, he’s going to do what’s best for him, and I’m going to have to do the same thing for me,” Draisaitl told Spector, on the topic of he and McDavid long been considered a package deal.. “We’ve had a lot of success together, and we would like to have more success as a team, of course. I’m sure at some point, there’s going to be some conversations.
“But at the end of the day, he’s going to do what’s best for him and I’m going to do what’s best for me.”
Aware of other contracts signed around the league, like William Nylander’s eight-year, $92-million pact, or Auston Matthews’ four-year, $53-million deal, Draisaitl said he knows what looms ahead for him.
“Oh yes,” he told Spector. “There’s a lot of thought, a lot of conversation that goes into it. With family. With my agents, of course. Right now, I think everyone just wants me to focus on playing.
“I know the situation come July 1. But there’s another side to it as well. You know, the Oilers have a say in this as well. Come July 1, at least. After that, it’s up to me.”
Draisaitl’s options would be endless, as he would have more than enough suitors looking to him as a free agent. Spector pondered of the LA Kings, a potential fit given Todd McClellan coaches there, and that Draisaitl’s girlfriend, Celeste Desjardins, is an actor.
And even with a rising salary cap, the Kings have $38.57-million committed to a forward group of Anze Kopitar, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Kevin Fiala, Phillip Danault, Adrian Kempe and Trevor Moore when Draisaitl’s new deal would kick in in 2025-26. An additional $11-million is committed to Drew Doughty, and $4.125-million for Mikey Anderson. Things can surely change, and the Kings would likely call, but some clearing of cap space would need to be done.
The Rangers, another Spector-suggested team, would have even more committed to their group, with Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Vincent Trocheck and Filip Chytil accounting for $40.3-million up front, Adam Fox and Jacob Trouba for $17.5-million on the blueline, and goaltender Igor Shesterkin hitting free agency the same year. They could be a longer shot.
Finally, Spector also mentioned the Boston Bruins as a potential option and if there was a team Oilers fans could be concerned about, this would be the spot. The Bruins have mountins more of projected cap space for the 2025-26 season, and have pieces like David Pastrnak, Charlie Coyle, Pavel Zacha, Charlie McAvoy, Hampus Lindholm and Brandon Carlo locked up through that season.
Boston, however, is in the process of finding a new identity in the post-Patrice Bergeron years. they retired after the club had one of the best regular seasons in history last year, only to be bounced in round one. While Draisaitl isn’t the Selke-level two-way player, he’s undoubtedly a superstar who would push that team to another level.
But before we get too carried away, there’s something still looming in Edmonton: winning a Stanley Cup.
“Of course, I want to finish the job. That’s why I pour my heart, my emotions — my body language, sometimes — into it every day,” he told Spector. “That’s the way I’m wired. I care a lot. Of course, I want to finish the job. And I want to finish it here.
“But there are lots of things that go into it. Lots of things that play a role in these situations. And at the end of the day, I’m going to give you the boring answer again: We’ll see.
“We’ll see how it plays out.”
Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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