The Nurse deal part of an on-going commitment from the Edmonton Oilers ownership to keep their core intact: 9 Things

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The Edmonton Oilers core is locked in.

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The players central to the team’s success in the next 4-5 years are entrenched. And key prospects who will be needed to fill in the gaps on their entry level deals in the post-pandemic NHL economy are on promising trajectories.

None of the above guarantees success, of course. But you sure won’t win without it.

That and more ahead in this edition of…

9 Things

9. Not to tell the Edmonton Oilers Events Team how to do their jobs, but would the lid not come right off Rogers Place if Olympic Gold Medallist Stephanie Labbe were to drop the puck on opening night? The Edmonton-born athlete with the $1,000,000 smile played her 1st game as a keeper on a Spruce Grove pitch.

8. The Professional Hockey Writers Association has awarded four NHL squads their annual Dick Dillman Award for PR excellence. The Oilers PR team, overseen by Tim Shipton, was among them. These past 18 months have been tough for everyone in journalism trying to do their “normal” jobs under abnormal circumstances. Well deserved.

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7. I see the Oilers giving Kyle Turris every opportunity to earn the 13th F position. If he can do it Turris would be a very useful piece. He has on his resume many of the traits required, like flexibility, an adept faceoff man and solid 2-way play. Turris has committed his summer in Edmonton on an aggressive training program. We all know how last year went (or didn’t). But I give the guy credit for putting in the work.

6. Don’t be surprised if 20-year old D Simon Kubicek is invited to Edmonton Oilers main camp. The undrafted 6’2 D-man was acquired by the Oil Kings from Seattle in January. He played most of his 2020-21 season in the Czech professional league save for when he was on the Czech World Junior club (in Edmonton). A tough defender with a big shot, Kubicek could be a nice organizational add under the right-shot Defence column.

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5. Expect the Oilers will add at least 1 more veteran depth D-man between now and training camp. They’re probably looking to spend Trevor van Riemsdyk money ($950k). Two primary names to keep an eye on are Slater Koekkoek and Jordie Benn. We should assume the Oilers and agent Rich Winter have already chatted about returning the 27-year old Koekkoek. He made $850m last year. 34-year old Jordie Benn could also be an option. Might his agent J.P. Barry be interested in doing the Oilers a favor after one of his other clients, Adam Larsson, suddenly departed Edmonton in the off-season? Benn made $2m last year. More on the Defence coming up…

4. The Oilers have signed LW Brendan Perlini to a 1-year, 2-way deal at the league minimum ($750k). This didn’t happen overnight. It was a culmination of a conversation that started around the 3rd week in May. Perlini was a 1st Round 2014 pick, 12th over-all, by Arizona. At 6-3 211, he fits the mold of a power forward’. He can skate and really shoot. But his issue has been inconsistency and he finished last year in the Swiss “A” League. Dave Tippett was his head coach when Perlini broke in and scored 14 & 17 goals his 1st 2 seasons before things veered off course. This has “project” written all over it. But if Perlini can return to his former self and play (3-4LW)? That would make Ryan Nugent-Hopkins an easier 2-3C option and take some pressure off Ryan McLeod.

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3. I have every expectation that Evan Bouchard will start off the season paired with Kris Russell. That seems to me to be a smart play. Russell has a reputation of being great with young players and is highly respected in the room. And at 34, Russell still moves well enough to be a steady 6-7 in this league. But I expect the Oilers would like to see Bouchard graduate up the RHS to pair with either Duncan Keith or Darnell Nurse by the end of the year. We all know Bouchard’s pedigree. But from what I’m told, the Oilers are particularly thrilled with Bouchard’s work off the ice It’s that combination of skill and commitment is why they bet on him in particular on the RHS.

2. The Oilers and Darnell Nurse made headlines this week by agreeing to an 8-year, $9.25m extension. The deal includes a no-move clause for the first 5 years and a modified NTC for the final 3. Is that a little more than I wish the Oilers could have locked him up for? Yes. I’ve been on record as saying that any extension would begin with an “8” and I had hoped it would come in around $8.5m-$8.8m. But at the end of the day, $9.25m was the cost of doing business in today’s NHL. Could have the Oilers held out to see if the market cooled off? Sure. But do you really risk Nurse going to free agency over $750k? I think not.

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Seth Jones is a fair comparable for Nurse. I do not hold it against Jones for his 8-year, $9.5m deal in Chicago. But after 2 seasons at an elite NHL level Jones has regressed over the past 3 year, a more pronounced sag in 2020-21. Now, I think Jones is still a terrific player and I’ll be fascinated to see how he rebounds away from a John Tortorella coached club. Nurse, on the other hand, has been on an upswing the past 4 seasons. I also like that Nurse won’t be 40 when this expires. At 26, Nurse is a good bet to still be productive when it’s up.

Some don’t like the Nurse deal. But if you don’t re-sign him you will have to replace him. Doing that internally is time consuming and filled with uncertainty. Doing so through free agency almost always comes with a limited selection (including whether those players want to play in Canada) and inflated prices. Doing it through trade costs valuable assets (see the Ethan Bear deal). It makes way more sense to keep your own.

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1.As long as the Edmonton Oilers have been in the NHL, their best drafted and developed players have ultimately left the market. And way too far often, that has happened for mere cents on the dollar. As fans, it was hard to watch and often just as hard to stomach. But when Leon Draisaitl inked his long-term deal (which was also roundly criticized at the time but sure looks like serious value today), I said that perhaps those days were over. My quote, from August 2017: “Thrilled to see #Oilers lock up Leon. Gone are the days we develop & then ship away elite talent. Major step forward for the franchise”.

The Darnell Nurse signing is the next chapter in a story that started in 2012 when Oilers ownership signaled that the selling off of top-tier, home-grown talent would stop. Daryl Katz approved long-term contracts for Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle as part of a commitment to change that narrative. The Nugent-Hopkins deal followed in 2013. And since then, we’ve seen McDavid and Draisaitl locked up, the Nugent-Hopkins extension and now the long-term deal for Nurse. Yes, Hall & Eberle ended up being dealt but not due to a lack of financial commitment from Mr. Katz, the man who ultimately pays the tab.

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So, why there are so many detractors of Nurse in this of all markets? Not only do the very best players now lock in, Darnell Nurse epitomizes so many qualities that are admired and valued by average, every day Albertans: He works his ass off, takes on the dirty work with pride, remains loyal to his home team, sticks up for his teammates and when he hits the jackpot by earning that sweet, once-in-a-lifetime job…his buddies are happy for him.

And if you don’t think that Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are both thrilled with this turn of events, then I’d suggest you haven’t been around too many dressing rooms. In fact, this development more than likely helps keep both 29 and 97 here even longer.

In the final analysis: If the Oilers win a Stanley Cup in the next 4-5 years the Nurse deal will have become one the most important long-term signings in the history of the franchise.

Find me on Twitter @KurtLeavins

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