The Edmonton Oilers are tight on cap space, currently with a hair under $5 million in projected cap space, according to Cap Friendly.
The good news? They really only have one player left to lock up, 23-year-old restricted free agent defenseman Darnell Nurse? The bad news? The lack of cap space might inhibit Edmonton from signing Nurse to a longer-term extension.
According to the Edmonton Sun, the Oilers lack of financially flexibility may mean settling on a two-year bridge deal. If that’s the case, Nurse would come off that deal following the 2019-20 season a 25-year-old, unrestricted free agent.
“They’ve sent us a proposal and we’ll see where that goes,” said Nurse’s agent, Anton Thun, to The Sun. “I don’t see with their cap space being what it is that they can entice us with much term.”
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Not only are the Oilers without much financially flexibility entering this season, but they’ll continue to have a large percentage of their cap tied into a smaller group of players. According to Cap Friendly, Edmonton has a little over $52 million committed to eight players for the 2020-21 season. Even if that cap has risen to upwards of $85 million at that point, it would leave roughly 33 million for 15 players. Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot is also scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
Nurse, who just played his third NHL season, averaged a career-high 22:15 of ice time in 2017-18, a mark that led all Oilers skaters. The 26 points he recorded also marked a new personal best, and came while shooting only 2.89 percent at 5-on-5. Some of his other underlying numbers were strong though: The Oilers outscored their opponents 68-57 during Nurse’s 5-on-5 shifts, and Nurse was second among Oilers defensemen in expected goals-for percentage (51.94) only behind Oscar Klefbom. Nurse wasn’t featured on the power-play, averaging 29 seconds on the man-advantage per-game a season ago, though he was a mainstay on the PK, his 2:14 of shorthanded time per-game third on the team, and his 182:50 total shorthanded time on ice tops on Edmonton’s roster.
“Those are things that we’ve been picking away at and expect them to be done,” said general manager Peter Chiarelli on July 1, with respect to the contract negotiations of Nurse and Ryan Strome (Strome has since been re-signed to a two-year contract).
The No. 7 pick in the 2013 Draft, Nurse just played the final year of his entry-level contract, after the first year slid when he played two games for the Oilers before returning to Sault Ste. Marie of the OHL. Colton Parayko, a big right-shot defenseman, recently signed a five-year, $27.5 million contract with the St. Louis Blues worth $5.5 million annually after completing his rookie deal. The Minnesota Wild gave Jonas Brodin a six-year, $25 million deal, struck right before the final season of his entry-level.
“At the end of the day, Peter (GM Chiarelli) and (cap specialist) Bill Scott control their cap space and their decisions,” Thun told the Sun. “They bought out Eric Gryba to add another player (50-man protected list), which cut into their cap and they signed the European goalie (Mikko Koskinen) for two-million and change, and that did the same to their cap space.
“If they’ve got $5 million in cap space (now), it’s not going to be a long-term deal.”