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Nick Bjugstad: Back with the Edmonton Oilers or gone in 2023-24?
By Cam Lewis8 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers made a pair of swaps ahead of this year’s trade deadline.
The big move came when they acquired veteran defenceman Mattias Ekholm from the Nashville Predators to fill a gaping hole on the team’s blueline. The other came when the Oilers added Nick Bjugstad from the Arizona Coyotes, which gave the team a versatile depth forward to replace Jesse Puljujarvi, who had previously been dumped to help make the Ekholm deal work financially.
Ekholm was in the first season of a four-year contract he had signed with the Predators and he’s undoubtedly a part of the Oilers’ plans moving forward. But what about Bjugstad? He’s set to hit unrestricted free agency this summer and should be able to command a raise following the strong season he put together between Arizona and Edmonton.
The Oilers would surely like to keep Bjugstad around. He provides depth scoring, kills penalties effectively, and can move up and down the lineup as either a centre or a winger. The question is whether they can afford to sign him given the tight salary cap situation the team is facing this summer.
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Projecting Nick Bjugstad’s next contract and whether he’ll sign with the Oilers…
Bjugstad broke into the league with the Florida Panthers in 2013-14 and scored 16 goals and 38 points over 76 games as a rookie. The Panthers liked what they had seen from the 6’6″ pivot so they inked him to a six-year, $24 million contract extension in December of that season.
He had an up-and-down run with the Panthers over the course of that contract and wound up getting traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2018-19 season. Since then, Bjugstad has been bouncing around the league on one-year contracts.
Bjugstad inked a one-year, $900k deal with the Minnesota Wild for the 2021-22 season and he scored just 13 points over 57 games. He signed an identical one-year, $900k contract with the Arizona Coyotes last summer and found his groove playing in the desert.
Over 59 games with the Coyotes, Bjugstad scored 13 goals and 23 points. He was moved to the Oilers in early March along with AHL defenceman Cam Dineen in exchange for prospect Mike Kesselring and a third-round pick with the Coyotes retaining 50 percent of his salary.
The Oilers got exactly what they were looking for out of Bjugstad. He provided four goals and two assists in 19 regular-season games and he buried three goals in 12 playoff games. Bjugstad also became one of Edmonton’s top options on the penalty kill, using his long reach to get his stick into passing lanes and making life frustrating for the other team’s power play.
This year’s free-agent crop is incredibly thin, so there’s no doubt that Bjugstad will receive plenty of interest around the league. Daily Faceoff projects Bjugstad’s next contract at $2.3 million annually over the course of two years. That deal might be a little rich for the Oilers, as they have only ~$7 million in salary cap room to work with this summer and restricted free agents Evan Bouchard, Klim Kostin, and Ryan McLeod are in need of new deals.
Keeping Bjugstad around might require adding an extra year of term in order to drive down the average annual value of the deal. If that doesn’t work, the Oilers will have to seek a cheaper replacement in free agency.
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