One of the biggest storylines this season is going to surround Darnell Nurse.
The 24-year-old rearguard had his best season in the NHL last year scoring a career-high 41 points in 82 games while playing a career-high 23:49 a night.
And at the end of this season, he’s going to be due a new contract as an RFA with arbitration rights.
It’s going to be an important storyline to follow because he could be due for a big raise beyond the $3.2-million he’s being paid.
Not only because he’s begun to produce strong offensive numbers as a defenceman, but too because he’s a homegrown talent — something the Oilers haven’t had on the backend in some time.
It’s important to look at who Nurse is playing with when taking into account his next contract.
Over the last two seasons, his most common defensive partner has been Kris Russell with the two playing nearly 1500 minutes together 5v5. Whether it be corsi, goals per centage, or scoring chances, Nurse is around five per cent higher without Russell than with him.
That’s significant as it shows Nurse being a much, much better player without Russell than with him. Nurse with his second most common partner, Adam Larrson, shows positive numbers in the aforementioned categories.
Now, it’s important to look at some contract comparables around the NHL for young, point-producing defenceman and there’s two that jump out to me.
First and foremost, Jacob Trouba.
Just last week he signed a seven-year, $8-million deal with the Rangers coming off a 50 point season. Last year was the best of his career, having only had a career-high of 33 points prior.
I think his contract would be considered to be on the high-end for a comparable, but I would imagine his agent, Anton Thun, would use Trouba as a close comparison.
There are a few other players who signed in recent years that I would think are more comparable to what Nurse could make on his next deal.
Matt Dumba signed a five-year, $6-million deal in 2018 coming off a 50-point season. Last year was shortened due to a pectoral injury. This, to me, would be the closest comparable for what Nurse’s next deal should look like.
It keeps him relatively cost-controlled while keeping him in an Oiler uniform for a significant time.
This all, of course, comes before his contract season.
It’s going to be an interesting season here in Edmonton as the team is projected to have around $24-million in cap space next offseason.
Edmonton gets out of contracts like Brandon Mannings $2.25-million deal, Gagner’s $3.15-million contract, and Kassian’s $1.95-million hit.
The team will have a plethora of re-signings to make, but it’s clear Nurse will be the biggest — and most important — of the bunch.
On Twitter: @zjlaing