The Edmonton Oilers were able to avoid a potential restricted free agent headache this summer by signing defenseman Darnell Nurse to a two-year contract extension on Monday.
Nurse’s new deal will pay him an average salary of $5.6 million during the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons. He will be eligible for unrestricted free agency when this deal ends. Had he not signed a new contract before July 1 of this year he would have been a restricted free agent this summer.
The Oilers drafted Nurse in the first round (No. 7 overall) of the 2013 draft. Over the past five years he has become one of the Oilers’ top defensemen, averaging more than 23 minutes per night. He has not missed a game since the 2016-17 season. In 55 games this season he has four goals and 20 assists.
Nurse said on Monday (via the Athletic’s Daniel Nugent-Bowman) that he did not want contract negotiations to carry over to the summer, and that the shorter term deal helped keep his salary cap number down. At 25 years old and with already 334 games in the NHL on his resume it seems unlikely that he has much development ahead of him. What you see at this point is probably what you are going to get, and what you are going to get is a good second-pairing defenseman on a contender. But if he can maintain this level of play during this contract, and perhaps show even some improvement, he could be in line to cash in as an unrestricted free agent given his age.