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Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse appears on Daily Faceoff trade targets list

Edmonton Oilers Darnell Nurse
Photo credit:Yannick Peterhans-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
23 days ago
Darnell Nurse’s tenure with the Edmonton Oilers has hit a fork in the road.
Amid a playoffs in which he’s struggled mightily, caught on the ice for eight more five-on-five goals against than any other blueliner, Nurse’s name has appeared on Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli’s first offseason trade targets list.
Nurse has six years left on a contract paying him $9.25-million, loaded with $24-million in signing bonuses over the last four years of his deal.
Here’s what Seravalli wrote about Nurse’s appearance on the list, coming in at No. 19 out of 20:
We outlined the short and long-term problem that Nurse presents for the Oilers on Tuesday. This would be a difficult, complicated transaction to tackle – and there are so many unknowns now, including: who will be the next GM in Edmonton? What will his view of the situation be? At the very least, the Oilers should be looking for ways to be creative, maybe swap one problematic contract for another. Because Nurse could rebound into a solid Top 4 defender. But he’s already not on the first unit power play or penalty kill, he’s stuck on the second pair, and that doesn’t leave him much opportunity to play up to his $9.25 million cap hit. Other teams are already leery of his contract structure with regards to the $24 million in backloaded signing bonus that makes it almost impossible to buy out.
This marks the first time in Nurse’s tenure that a potential trade has been remotely floated. Despite ups and downs throughout his career, Nurse has remained a mainstay on the blue line, racking up 76 goals and 267 points in 640 games breaking even in terms of his underlying numbers.
While his regular season numbers have remained steady throughout his career, the same can’t be said in the post-season. His point-per-game rate drops from .42 to .27, and his underlying numbers, especially in the last three post-seasons, have fallen off a cliff.
Moving on from Darnell Nurse and his contract wouldn’t be easy for whoever is in the general manager chair. Given the structure of the deal and his signing bonus, it’s essentially buyout proof. It offers massive penalties in the 2026-27 through 2029-30 seasons, resulting in -$333,333 in savings.
Beyond Nurse having a full no-movement clause for the next three years, his contract could be the largest block in any trade, giving teams—including the Oilers—limited options. While a buyout would be more tenable when those bonus years kick in, giving roughly three-quarters of a million in savings, the juice may not be worth the squeeze.
As Seravalli alluded to, there’s the possibility of finding a “problem for problem” trade, similarly to how the Oilers swapped Milan Lucic for James Neal at the beginning of Ken Holland’s tenure. In Seravalli’s Trade Targets list, there’s little in the way of problem contracts.
The few that could theoretically make sense for the Oilers would be a trade with the St. Louis Blues, who are listed as possibly trading any of Torey Krug, Justin Faulk or Nick Leddy. The latter of the three has two years left on a deal paying him $4-million, while the other two each make $6.5-million through the remainder of the 2026-27 season.
This would surely offer the Blues the shakeup they’re looking for in their blue line, while the Oilers would be able to acquire a top-four defenceman in return. Krug or Faulk would be the stronger options for the Oilers.
The other name that could be a possibility is Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins. He was at the forefront of trade talks earlier in the season after requesting to move on from the organization. With three years left at $5.4 million, he remains a good-not-great netminder who needs a change of scenery.

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 zach@thenationnetwork.com.

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