Edmonton Oilers General Manager Ken Holland has two key free agents that need new contracts this off-season. First line LW Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is set to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career, while D Adam Larsson is also eligible to hit the open market.
Contract talks with Nugent-Hopkins occurred in September and October in the lead up to free agency, but died down and have yet to be revived. Larsson, meanwhile, has had no talks with the Oilers to this point according to reports.
RNH, Oilers Want Relationship To Continue:
According to sources, both the Oilers and Nugent-Hopkins were aiming for a long-term extension this past fall in the lead up to free agency. The sides, however, were far apart on dollars and weren’t able to close the gap enough to put pen to paper. Slowly, talks died down and have yet to resume. Normally, that’s a bad sign.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman gave Oilers fans a little bit of good news on Tuesday in his weekly ‘31 Thoughts‘ column.
While talks have yet to resume, there is still great interest on both sides in getting a deal done.
13. I believe this about Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: He wants to be an Oiler. Edmonton wants to keep him. When you have that foundation, you’re in a good place. The biggest challenge: The economic landscape is recovering slower than everyone hoped.
TSN’s Ryan Rishaug reported last week that the Oilers don’t want to lose Nugent-Hopkins for nothing, which seemed to suggest that if a contract isn’t going to happen a trade could. The Fourth Period, also on Tuesday, reported that it is “unclear if the Oilers would be comfortable going past the April 12th trade deadline without Nugent-Hopkins signed for next year.”
At 13-8-0 and in second place in the North Division, however, it is hard to imagine the Oilers moving Nugent-Hopkins for futures. The Oilers have excellent odds to be a playoff team, and could very well win a round or two if they get consistent goaltending. It would be hard to sell Nugent-Hopkins if the Oilers are still near the top of the North Division in roughly six weeks time. It may be more damaging than losing him for nothing.
One potential outcome? A short-term contract, say two years, at around $6,500,000 to $6,750,000 per year. It would keep Nugent-Hopkins in Edmonton, wouldn’t tie the Oilers up long-term, and would give RNH a slight raise will also creating flexibility on both sides to find common ground when (hopefully) revenue returns to a somewhat normal state.
All Quiet On The Larsson Front:
Adam Larson struggled mightily earlier this season. Since then, he’s settled in nicely and has once again become a force on the penalty kill and a strong presence in the defensive zone. The Adam Larsson the Oilers have been getting in the last ~15 games is an Adam Larsson that can help you win games.
The issue is, that Adam Larsson has appeared less and less over the years. The biggest reason? Chronic back injuries that have both kept Larsson out of the lineup and had him playing at well below 100%. While he’s a valuable player when healthy, it’s hard to invest term and dollars in a player that is too often banged up.
It’s an issue that Holland really hasn’t touched on to this point. The Fourth Period reported on Tuesday that talks have yet to begin between the Oilers and Larsson.
A source with knowledge of the situation confirmed to TFP on Monday that the Oilers have yet to reach out to Adam Larsson’s camp about a new contract and there are no talks currently planned.
With the Oilers likely to be in the playoff hunt, and potentially the division hunt, it’s hard to imagine the Oilers moving on from Larsson at the deadline.
It’s also hard to imagine Larsson getting a new contract from the Oilers. Ethan Bear is the club’s top right-shot defenseman, while Evan Bouchard has already emerged as an everyday defender for Dave Tippett. If the club re-signs Tyson Barrie, there isn’t room for Larsson.
It would appear that the decision for Holland comes down to Barrie and Larsson. With Barrie’s performance offensively so far, and with no talks planned with Larsson, it appears the team is clearly leaning towards a new deal for Barrie while allowing Larsson to walk this July.