Days after returning to Toronto to continue his workouts as he waited for a new contract, Darnell Nurse now has a good reason to head back to Edmonton.
The Oilers announced on Monday they’ve handed Nurse a two-year, $6.4M extension. He’ll remain a restricted free agent when this contract expires after the 2019-20 NHL season.
“I was losing my mind sitting at home and not being able to be on the ice,” he told the Oilers website. “I’m happy it was only a few days and I can get on the ice again tomorrow.”
For Nurse, there was no doubt a deal would get done. He was confident this summer that it would all work out. Of course, he probably didn’t think he’d miss the first few days of camp, but he wasn’t making it sound like there was any negativity coming from either side in the quest to complete an extension — even if there was some disagreement on value between his agent and Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli.
The 23-year-old Nurse is coming off his best season in the NHL. He posted career highs in goals (6), points (26) and time on ice (22:15). His possession game (50.9 percent Corsi) was improved, and he credits the jump to working with Paul Coffey, who was hired by the Oilers in January as a skills development coach.
“Paul’s been a great help,” Nurse told Michael Traikos of the National Post in August. “He sees the game different than most people you get to work with… I think the offensive side of my game will continue to come out. I think last year I made a little bit of a stride. I was happy, but I wasn’t content with my offensive game. I know there’s a whole other level I can get to.”
Nurse, like Winnipeg Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey, who signed a similar two-year extension on Sunday, is betting on himself over the next two years to continue his development and cash in. If the salary cap ceiling continues to increase and the Oilers’ cap situation improves, he’ll put himself in line for a long-term, big money deal. But that’s something to worry about in two years time. The blue liner has plenty of work ahead of him before he can start eyeing that kind of extension.