NHL Analysis: Darnell Nurse’s Eight Year Extension with the Edmonton Oilers
Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse gets his extension so now what?
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Darnell Nurse is under contract with the Edmonton Oilers for the next nine seasons. Let that sink in a bit. Well, there is the potential anyway. One never knows for a variety of reasons what may happen.

The ink was not even dry as the speculation slowly built to the logical conclusion of a Nurse extension. This deal starts in the 2022-23 season and pays the defender $9.25 million AAV for eight years.

The speculation spiraled quickly into a debate of whether such a deal was even necessary. It was inevitable. This always happens anytime there are one of these huge signings.

Edmonton, for better or for worse, represents one of the best top-heavy teams in the NHL. When it goes well, it is great. When it does not, there are sweeps like what happened against the Winnipeg Jets.

Let’s dig into a few of the positives and the negatives of the deal.

The positives of the new Darnell Nurse extension

For the Edmonton Oilers, they have their top defenseman under contract for the next nine years. Nurse will be in his mid-thirties when the extension expires. The Oilers are buying eight UFA years of the defenseman. They hope that Nurse continues to improve and evolve in his game.

His on-ice shot percentage at even-strength continues to rise. This metric shot up to 12.3% this year and has been 9.5% or higher in the last three seasons. It is a number that should expect to be around double digits for the foreseeable future.

Nurse does see some pretty tough minutes at times for Edmonton. His defensive deployment last year ended up at 51.7%. Score effects in the playoffs tilted those numbers some but the defender showed the ability to be effective on the offensive side of the ice.

Edmonton believes that Nurse will keep improving defensively over time. There are times when he is brilliant and also jumps into the transition. The potential is possible at the least.

He should not regress too much right away and again, the hope for Edmonton is that the defensive deficiencies lessen over time.

The negatives of the Darnell Nurse extension

This is where it gets interesting quickly. Nurse produced arguably a career year last season in the shortened season (just 56 games).

How is this all going to translate over an 82-game schedule? The answer is few truly know but the expectations are not that bullish.

A few numbers jump off the page that scream a red flag. The first is the shot percentage of 10.4%. His career percentage is just 4.9% and is heavily influenced by that big number. If Nurse shoots around 6 or 7%, that is probably a win here but may not be likely in time.

Nurse is not going to score a goal once every 3.5 games again. Over an 82-game season that is approximately 24 goals. Could he come close to 16 again? Absolutely. With Tyson Barrie on the roster, Nurse is not going to see the power-play time needed to get to those totals.

His possession rates even mostly with Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, etc. are average to slightly below average relative to the team. Even last year, that relative was about -1.4%. That career average is -4.4% by the way.

The graphics of Darnell Nurse

This is where it gets interesting or frightening depending on one’s view.

Thanks again to Micah for confirming what was on the surface. Darnell Nurse, for better or worse, parlayed a career year into a contract that is Seth Jones like in nature.

The belief that this is a player-friendly extension is hammered home by Edmonton putting themselves in this position in the first place. Many forget the second bridge deal that paid Nurse $5.6 million AAV for two years. That set up this deal more than anything else.

When one comes back after the first bridge with a second, it often ends poorly in terms of pay for the team. In this case, Nurse plays often in the fun realm and gets helped little defensively. However, his defensive game, even then, is still a considerable concern.

Others have echoed this worrisome sentiment along with yes, the term and dollar amount.

Again, even in this environment, is Nurse a $9 million a year defenseman? Edmonton thinks so but a vast majority of people in the business do not. That is what this boils down to.

The degrees of bad or not so good do vary, however.

Again, the concern is in the later years of a contract. This is one, much like the Seth Jones deal, that could go south quickly. Jones already enjoyed that scoring spike with three seasons of 45+ points and one with 16 goals. The difference, even with him is that the high-water shooting mark (7.9%) still wasn’t close to Nurse’s.

Some final thoughts on the Darnell Nurse extension

Get your popcorn ready. Nurse is a nice player that keeps things from being dull but when the regression(s) hit, they are going to hit hard.

There is one more thing. THIS!

With the salary cap expected to go up only to $82.5 million in 2022-23, that is not a lot of wiggle room. Ken Holland, meet salary cap crunch!

It is almost inevitable that this contract is going to go south and maybe even before the second half of the deal. Darnell Nurse got one whale of a contract and it likely will be an albatross at some point.