Oilersnation Roundtable: First thoughts on the Evan Bouchard contract?
Photo credit:Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
By baggedmilk28 days ago
Did the Edmonton Oilers get a fair deal on Evan Bouchard’s two-year contract? We’re offering our first thoughts on the deal in the latest Oilersnation Roundtable.
Yesterday morning, Elliotte Friedman tweeted that the Oilers and Evan Bouchard would get a two-year contract done at $3.9 million per season. For some of us, that number was exactly what we expected his new contract to look like while others believe the number is too high for what he provides. Since being taken 10th overall at the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, we’ve all hoped that Bouchard would develop into the puck-moving defenceman we’ve been missing for so long, but when it comes to getting paid like one, some fans were very much split on whether or not this new deal is fair value.
Last season, Ken Holland clearly felt that Bouchard was ready to take the next step in his evolution and shipped Tyson Barrie+ to the Nashville Predators in exchange for Mattias Ekholm. Bouchard seized the opportunity and stepped into Barrie’s role admirably, scoring 19 points in the final 21 games of the regular season and adding 17 points in 12 playoff games. Needless to say, Dad popped at the perfect time to merit an increase in salary, but what we don’t yet know is if this deal is good value or not.
For this week’s Oilersnation Roundtable, we’re looking at the reported Evan Bouchard contract and offering our first thoughts on the money and term. At $3.9 million for two years, did the Oilers get a good deal on their best offensive defenceman?
Mar 9, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Evan Bouchard (2) celebrates with center Mattias Janmark (26), left wing Warren Foegele (37) and center Nick Bjugstad (72) after scoring a goal against the Boston Bruins during the second period at the TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
For me, this was basically the contract that I expected him to sign even though I hoped he would come in under $3.5 million to give the team a little bit more cap flexibility. That said, we all know how expensive point producers can be at the NHL level and I don’t think anyone would disagree that Evan Bouchard is one of those guys. That doesn’t mean he’s a perfect player — far from it — but I do think that we’re seeing a player that’s getting more polish with each passing game. I’m also interested to see what Bouchard can do with a full season beside Mattias Ekholm as his partner. Maybe having Ekholm guiding Bouchard is exactly what Dad needs to figure out the defensive side of the game? Either way, I think this contract is going to be a steal for the Oilers throughout the two-year term, and the only concern I have is that it likely sets Bouchard up for a monster contract once this current bridge deal is over.
The contract makes sense from a bridge deal contract, and keeping Evan Bouchard an Edmonton Oiler now and into the future is going to be critical for this franchise. This is a 23-year-old right-shot, offensive defenceman who flourished down the stretch run last year. In the final 21 games of the season after Tyson Barrie was traded, he scored five goals and 19 points in all situations — tied for seventh most among defenceman over that stretch. Two goals and eight points came on the powerplay, while in the playoffs, he absolutely blew up. His 17 points were four more than the next closest defenceman, and that total was sixth among all playoff players.
The issue I have with this contract is that it puts the Oilers in a similar position as the one with Darnell Nurse years ago. Nurse came out of his entry-level deal, got bridged twice, and is now making more money than he probably should. The concern with Bouchard is his next contract is going to be massive if he continues on the path that he’s on right now. The salary cap is expected to climb significantly in the coming years which will help, but I would’ve much rather the Oilers planned better for this contract and been in a position to sign Bouchard to a long-term deal now.
I wasn’t really surprised. Throughout the course of the summer, we’ve seen young defensemen like Bown Byram and K’Andre Miller get more or less this exact same deal. While Bouchard’s offensive numbers are better than those two, and I believe he will be the best defenseman of that group, the fact that the Oilers could point to the fact that he picked up a decent amount of his points while playing on the best powerplay in NHL history probably helped keep his number in range with those other two players. I was hoping that Bouchard would give the Oilers a bit of a deal so that they could keep an extra player on their roster next season, but it is what it is. They will still have a bit of wiggle room and a $3.9m cap hit for Bouchard should be an absolute bargain for the next two seasons.
Given the contracts that similar restricted free agent defencemen signed this off-season, Evan Bouchard’s deal really comes as no surprise. The long-term contract wasn’t going to happen because the salary cap is going to rise considerably over the next few years and Bouchard’s camp will wait until that happens to lock into what will almost certainly be the biggest contract of his career. As much as we’d all like to see the team have more cap flexibility during the season, at least the deal is done and there’s no genuine worry that Bouchard is going to sign an offer-sheet somewhere else. Let’s enjoy watching Bouchard quarterback the league’s best power-play and hope his next contract in the summer of 2025 isn’t another two-year bridge that walks him into unrestricted free agency.
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