With every passing day Darnell Nurse’s agent is seeing more contracts signed. Joel Edmundson signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Blues yesterday, and Brandon Montour signed a two-year, $3.387 million AAV. Both had arbitration rights, which is a factor when comparing their salaries straight across with Nurse, but Montour’s deal makes me believe Nurse will for sure be in the $3 million range, and likely at $3.1 million.
A month ago I reported Nurse and the Oilers were looking at a bridge deal around $3 million and sources tell me today that is still the range. Jacob Trouba signed a two-year deal on November 7th, 2016 with a $3 million AAV, and I’ve been told that is one being used as a comparison. Ideally the Oilers would like to come in just under $3 million, while Nurse’s camp is above $3 million.
Expect them to meet in the middle and the deal will be near $3 million give or take 100 grand. (It would be great if we could all deal in those financial parameters of give and take..haha).
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1. Admittedly, I am a big fan of Nurse. I believe he still has a lot of room to grow and I find it interesting why so many are quick to decide what his ceiling is. After his rookie season, when he played mostly with Andrej Sekera, on his off-wing, and Justin Schultz, Nurse didn’t have great numbers. The Oilers were not good, and many prognosticators (and some who believe strongly in analytics) declared Nurse was not going to be that good. They compared his underlying numbers to other young D-men and declared he’d never be more than a #4, second pair defender. I never understood those comparisons because there are many different circumstances from other players. Sekera struggled mightily on the right side, —he admitted he did not like playing there —combined with Nurse being a rookie and the Oilers being a dreadful team, Nurse’s numbers suggested, to me, he was going to be better in the future despite a tough rookie season.
2. Nurse is now three years into his career, and last season I saw more calmness in his game. His skating and toughness puts him in a rare group, but we saw improvements in his decision making and his positioning. He is only going to get better and I understand why Nurse will want a short term deal, because there is a good chance he could play his way into a big payday in the future. I don’t think he would have signed a six or seven year offer at $4.7 million this summer, even if the Oilers had the cap space. His camp believes he has a lot of growth left in his game and they are betting on him.
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3. Nurse had a very solid campaign last year. He finished with 6-20-26 in 82 games. He played the most minutes of any defender, 1,824, and averaged the second most TOI/game at 22:15. He played 1,548 5×5 minutes according to Natural Stat Trick, and he only played 541 (34.9%) with Connor McDavid, in case you think his numbers were skewed by playing a lot with the best player in the NHL. Oscar Klefbom played 1,118 5×5 minutes and 418 (37.4%) with McDavid for a reference.
4. Nurse was paired most often with Adam Larsson (820 minutes) and Kris Russell (426). Nurse led Oilers defenders in EV points with 26, followed by Russell (19), Matt Benning (18) and Klefbom (14). When Nurse was on the ice the Oilers outscored the opposition 69-56 at 5×5. Benning was 50-47, Larsson 48-48, Russell 46-57 and Klefbom 44-57. Larsson and Russell were a combined -11 at 5×5, while Nurse was +13, and he played the vast majority of his time with those two. Nurse’s ability to skate the puck up ice is a major asset, and the one area he wants to improve his is play in the offensive zone.
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5. When I spoke to him in May, after the World Championships, he said, “I will be working on improving my play in the offensive zone. I want to make more plays once I’m there.” Nurse is working with skills coach Adam Oates again this summer, and Oates has an excellent track record of improving puck handling, and play making abilities of NHL players. He works with over 50 NHLers now, ranging from elite top-end guys like Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos, to defensive defenders who want to improve their puck skills like Greg Pateryn.
6. Nurse’s 26 EV points tied him with Colton Parayko for 34th most among D-men in the NHL. He was one behind Mark Giordano, Zack Werenski, Aaron Ekblad, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Ryan Suter, Jake Muzzin, Morgan Reilly and Tyson Barrie. Of these top-34 scorers, Nurse’s EV GF-GA ratio was only bettered by Josh Manson, Victor Hedman, Matt Niskanen, Roman Josi, Drew Doughty, PK Subban and Ivan Provorov. All seven of those defenders played on playoff teams.
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7. I believe Nurse quietly had a very good season. Of course he can improve, which I expect he will as he plays more, but Oates texted me this morning, “Nurse looks fantastic. He’s worked really hard and I’m looking forward to seeing how he uses what we’ve worked on in games.”
8. Without arbitration, or being a high-end producer, Nurse, like most players, doesn’t have much negotiating power right now, which is fine in my eyes. I’ve long argued teams should use this rare time, before arbitration, to sign a player to a value contract, because down the road the players often have the advantage in negotiating. I expect Nurse to sign a two-year pact, and if he progresses like I believe he can, the contract will be a very favourable one for the Oilers and the fans.
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9. Scanning through random stats this week while looking at EV scoring for D-men, I also looked at the forwards. I knew McDavid had a great season at EV. He scored 84 EV points. In the last 25 years only Mario Lemieux (96 points in 1993), Jaromir Jagr (95 points in 1996) and Steve Yzerman (87 points in 1993) scored more EV points than McDavid’s 84. He was 20 points better than every player except Claude Giroux, who scored 66 points. The most surprising to me was McDavid had 33 more EV points than Sidney Crosby and John Tavares, who each had 51. It is ridiculous how good McDavid was at EV, and when the Oilers PP recovers, which it will, no one should be surprised to see McDavid flirt with 125 points.
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10.  In August, Jason Strudwick and I will be starting a Get Active group. It will be something you do on your own, but you can post that you did the daily workout on The Jason Gregor Show Facebook page or on my Instagram page. August will be the warm up month, to get you active, if you aren’t already. It will be walk/jog/run 5K consecutively. In the first week (Aug 6th) you run 5K three days. Week two will also be three times, then in third week you run/walk four times and the fourth week it will be five times. Whatever your fitness level is, if you commit to it, just do it. Then in September, we will have a daily workout. It will be a body weight challenge you can do at home or work and experienced trainer, Jeff Woods, will be helping us with the daily challenge. We hope you join. There will be the odd random prize for those who finish the daily workout, but mainly it is about you wanting to be active. Our health is our most valuable asset. The page will only be positive comments. We will encourage anyone who needs the motivation to get moving that day. You can follow the Show page or my Instagram for more updates. I hope you join us.
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