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Off the Top of My Head: Connor McDavid’s future in Edmonton, Evan Bouchard’s extension, and more

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Photo credit:Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Robin Brownlee
9 months ago
When Connor McDavid speaks, especially about anything to do with his future with the Edmonton Oilers, we listen. We hang on every word. Of course, we do. McDavid is the best player on the planet and any talk about bringing a sixth Stanley Cup to our town without him sipping suds from it is pure folly.
I’m in the same boat as many of you in that regard. In the past couple of weeks alone, I’ve written about what might be next for McDavid in Edmonton here and here. “Cup or bust” talk and what the Oilers hiring Jeff Jackson, McDavid’s former agent, as CEO of hockey operations might mean to his future here. We got more of the same this week based on a phone interview McDavid did with Mark Spector of Sportsnet.
Plenty of good stuff in that item, notably McDavid summoning his teammates to Edmonton for captain’s skates on Sept. 5 in what he called a team decision. It was McDavid’s answer to a question about how Jackson’s arrival might impact him signing a new deal here after 2025-26 that raised some eyebrows — at least with those expecting a guarantee he intends to play his entire career with the Oilers. That was not forthcoming.

WHAT HE SAID

“I love playing in Edmonton, and I really feel at home there,” said McDavid, whose fiancé, Lauren Kyle, has opened a business in our city. “Lauren loves being in Edmonton.
“There are a lot – a lot — of things that check the boxes for us in Edmonton. We’re super comfortable there. But with that all being said, it’s three years down the road. We’ve got to kind of see where our lives are at and kind of go from there. I don’t say that to raise eyebrows or cause panic. It’s just the way that it is. But I love playing in Edmonton, I’m 100 per cent committed to winning in Edmonton with this group . . . and we’re gonna see it through.”
That seems like a straightforward answer to me. As I wrote in the item I did about Jackson, my best guess is that his hiring greatly increases the odds McDavid will sign a new deal that keeps him here. That said, I don’t see McDavid, 26, recognizing that the next three years will play into things as a negative. There is more to life than the “Cup or bust” narrative.

ABOUT THE MONEY

Mar 20, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; San Jose Sharks goaltender James Reimer (47) makes a save on Edmonton Oilers defensemen Evan Bouchard (2) during overtime at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
I thought Evan Bouchard might have to take less than the $3.9 million AAV he got for two years on his $7.8 million bridge deal because the Oilers might want a 22-man roster instead of the 21 they’ll go with, but he still looks like a value deal at that price.
I don’t see Bouchard, 23, becoming the Norris Trophy candidate I read about in comments on the site even with a full season paired with Mattias Ekholm and running a historically good power play with Tyson Barrie gone. Still, he could be in for two big years and a pay day to match on his next contract.
After back-to-back seasons of 43 and 40 points and 23-66-99 totals after 184 career games, I can envision Bouchard becoming a 60-point player this season. Some people have him pegged higher than that. He tallied 4-13-17 in 12 playoff games last spring, but only a dozen blueliners hit 60 points in 2022-23.
What I don’t get is the moaning and groaning about the contract Bouchard will be looking at if he blows the doors off over the next two seasons because GM Ken Holland did a bridge deal. Is it ideal? No. But like it or not, the cap situation didn’t allow for more term or money now. Being an armchair GM is always easier.

WORTH REPEATING

Bouchard already had a good season on the go when Ekholm arrived from Nashville, but there was a notable bump up in his game when he was paired with the big Swede. He was lights-out offensively in the post-season.
“I think it’ll be great,” Bouchard said of Ekholm being in the fold to start the coming season. “He was very good to me. He’s very good for me and I think having him around for a full year will be great for everyone else as well, not just myself.
“When someone has that big of a part in the team and you get to have them for a full year rather than just half year, I think it’s going to help us grow.”

AND . . . 

While Auston Matthews will vault into the top spot in player compensation at $13.25 million in 2024-25, Leon Draisaitl isn’t even in the top 40 with the $8.5 million he gets on his current deal. Obviously, he’ll make a big jump up when new ink is done after 2024-25. McDavid’s next contract will put him atop the heap. As an aside, there are 157 players in the NFL earning $13.25 million a season or more. In the NBA it’s 118 players and in MLB it’s 114.

THE NATION VACATION TO SEATTLE

Much like every time we’ve ever done a trip like this, our first-ever #NationVacation to Seattle is going to sell out quickly so you’ll want to get your spot locked in as soon as possible. Need some details on what’s going down? No problem:
  • When: November 10 – 12th
  • Where we’re staying: Four Points by Sheraton Downtown Seattle
  • What you get: Your flights, three nights at the hotel, a ticket to the hockey game (Edmonton vs. Seattle), and a ticket to the football game the very next day (Seattle vs. Washington).
  • How Much: The total cost for the trip, flight, hotel, and entry to the game is $1999 per person (based on double occupancy) 
  • Tickets: Ready to dive in? Click this link.

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