Darnell Nurse didn’t shy away from acknowledging the fact the economics of the NHL and the current marketplace largely dictated what he was going to do, and ultimately did with the Edmonton Oilers as he negotiated his new contract extension. Nurse signed for eight more years at a cap hit of $9.25 million starting at the end of the 2021-22 NHL season. It’s a huge deal, but one that is in line with many of the deals for NHL No. 1 defenseman that signed just days before he did.
As much as Nurse loves the Oilers organization and wants to see the team take another step forward, his conversation with the media certainly hints a team-friendly deal wasn’t in the cards. He didn’t come out and say as much, but his responses to how he talked through his thought process on a new contract note his intention to sign when it served his financial needs best.
While speaking with the media, Nurse admitted he was originally leaning towards a four-year extension with Edmonton. A shorter-term rumor leaked weeks ago and he acknowledged those reports were true. When asked why, he responded that he’d closely been eyeing the financial status of the NHL and reading what was going to happen with the new television deals, a flat salary cap and the league returning to a bit of normalcy with fans back in attendance. Clearly, he was well aware that his best financial situation was to sign a deal that would see him earn the most money. He didn’t care when he signed, only that he wasn’t putting himself in a situation to miss his chance to maximize his value.
Nurse said he’d bet on himself with short-term deals in the past and was prepared to do so again. He’d been motivated in the past to show he had faith in his ability long-term, even if the team didn’t necessarily think he was there yet. He was glad the Oilers felt confidence in him now and he’s extremely grateful to be staying, but his willingness to switch to conversations about an eight-year deal came the moment guys like Dougie Hamilton, Zach Werenski, Seth Jones and other defensemen who play big minutes signed their respective deals.
Essentially, the market had been set around $9 million and he was ready to sign if that’s where the numbers fell.
Nurse wasn’t asked about whether or not he thought he could live up to the lofty new deal. He was asked about what steps he could next take in his game and he noted that he works on a bit of everything in an effort to improve.
Nurse Now Needs to Exceed Expectations
Getting full value for what you’re worth is not a bad thing. Not taking a cut to lower your contract for a team you love isn’t a terrible thing either. It would be unfair to criticize him for wanting what he believes he worth in comparison to other defensemen. All this now means, is that by getting every dollar from the Oilers he could get on a long-term extension, he has to live up to and exceed expectations.
Right now, a lot of fans don’t think he can do it. Many are calling this deal a massive overpayment. Fortunately for Nurse, he’s proved people wrong before. He’ll need to keep taking steps in his development and show that he is truly an elite No. 1 defenseman. In short, he needs to make the doubters eat their words.
The best scenario for Nurse now is to have fans looking back at this deal and saying it felt like too much at the time, but turned out to be incredible value.
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