The Edmonton Oilers locked up their most important UFA last Wednesday in Zack Kassian. The focus of GM Ken Holland has now turned to pending RFA D Darnell Nurse.
Many expect Nurse and the Oilers to come to terms on a long-term contract in the $6,000,000 to $8,000,000 per year range. Reality is, though, that a long-term deal may not be in the cards at this point.
TSN’s NHL Insider Bob McKenzie touched on this topic Tuesday night as part of the network’s ‘Insider Trading‘ segment. McKenzie alluded to a potential short-term contract at lesser dollars to help ease Edmonton’s current cap concerns.
It is an interesting proposal that could change the course for the club this summer. Perhaps there will be more walking around money than we expected this July.
“Talks have been progressing over the last seven to ten days, after the Kassian deal was done,” McKenzie said on TSN’s ‘Insider Trading’. “The Oilers and Darnell Nurse have had some considerable discussion that could be headed in the right direction. Now, it is not by any stretch a done deal but they are making progress.”
There is a benefit to getting Nurse’s deal done early. After all, the defenseman’s last contract negotiation was a distraction into September. Both sides likely want to avoid that this time around.
“Now, in an ideal world, the Oilers and Nurse would do a six or seven or eight-year long-term deal, but the Oilers can’t do that because of their cap situation. They can’t, especially in the next year or two. So, the likeliest solution is to do maybe a two-year deal with Nurse, and I know Edmonton Oiler fans are going to say ‘oh my goodness in two years he’ll be an unrestricted free agent, you’re walking him to free agency’. That’s not really the point here,” McKenzie continued.
Two years is an interesting term because it gives the Oilers a lot of wiggle room. The club, in two years, could have Caleb Jones, Philip Broberg, William Lagesson and Dmitri Samorukov ready to play on the left side. They’ll have leverage over Nurse.
Perhaps the Oilers could use Nurse as a trade chip down the line as well. If the club has other pieces they are comfortable with, they could cash him in for a forward. That would give the team more balance.
That said, both sides have a desire for a longer term relationship. Not surprising.
“Darnell wants to be an Oiler long-term and the Oilers know that he is a core player. They’ve got to overcome the cap problem, and by doing a two-year deal, at a number maybe less than $6,000,000 per year, it would satisfy the short term needs and still allow for the possibility of coming back a year from now and doing a long term deal to get over the cap issue.”
Perhaps the Oilers will have close to $2,000,000 extra to spend this July as they continue to improve the club. Although a bridge deal might not be ideal for some fans, it could make a lot of sense for the club and the player.