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Bridge deal for Nurse could end up costing Oilers big time

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It took some time, but the Edmonton Oilers were finally able to re-sign restricted free agent Darnell Nurse on Monday afternoon. Instead of locking him up to a long-term deal, the Oilers opted for a two-year bride deal worth $6.4 million ($3.2 million AAV). But was that the right move?

It’s great that the contract is done. Nurse can now report to the team and the Oilers can get the talented defender to training camp. Of course, Edmonton is pretty thin on defense, so he’ll be a welcomed addition to the team. But you can’t help wondering if this was just a quick fix to a problem that will resurface in a couple of years.

There will be added pressure on the 23-year-old to perform, especially because Andrej Sekera is out indefinitely with an Achilles injury. Nurse is coming off a season that saw him put up six goals and 26 points in 82 games. He also had a plus-15 rating and 67 penalty minutes while averaging over 22 minutes of ice time per game.

After making it to the second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Oilers fell flat on their face last season. They were bad. But looking at the data from last year, it’s easy to see that Nurse wasn’t the reason they failed to make the playoffs. Most of the numbers he put up ended up being better than the team average. For example, his CF% was 51.05 percent, while the team’s CF% was 50.59 percent, per Natural Stat Trick. He was also above the team average when it came to SCF%, HDCF%.

Nurse’s primary defense partner last season was Adam Larsson. The pair played just over 820 minutes together in 2017-18. The pairings’ CF% while together was 50.92 percent. While they were apart, Nurse’s CF% went up to 52.35 percent. Larsson’s dropped to 50.06 percent. That’s not a huge difference, but it’s noticeable enough.

Nurse is still just 23 years old, so there’s room for his game to grow. Getting him signed for $3.2 million per year over the next two years is a great deal given the numbers he posted last season. The problem with that thinking, is that it’s a little short-sighted. GM Peter Chiarelli might be getting a bargain now but if Nurse keeps getting better, his next contract will be long and expensive. Sure, the 26 points he put up are modest, but his points-per-game have increased in each of his three seasons. It’s not unrealistic to expect him to top 30 points this year.

The Montreal Canadiens are one example of a team that got burned by a bridge deal. In 2012, they signed P.K. Subban to a two-year deal worth less than $6 million in total. Subban held out, but eventually came back and won the Norris Trophy that season. The next time his contract expired, he ended up getting $72 million over eight years.

Yes, Nurse and Subban play a different style. And yes, this is an extreme example, but when you’re paying Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl big money ($21 million combined), getting long-term bargains on other players is important. The Oilers will benefit from having one of their top defenders signed to a team-friendly contract for two years, but Nurse, who will be an RFA again when this deal expires, could make them pay for it the next time his contract is up.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

PHT Morning Skate: Anonymous player poll; McKenzie’s pre-season draft rankings

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• The Montreal Canadiens have stocked their roster with former first-round draft picks. There are currently 13 of them with them in training camp. (Montreal Gazette)

• Speaking of Canadiens first-rounders, Jesperi Kotkaniemi scored a goal during his first preseason game at the Bell Center. He’s starting to look more and more comfortable on North American ice. (Sportsnet)

• The Ottawa Senators have a new assistant general manager, and his name is Peter MacTavish. (Canadian Press)

• Speaking of the Sens, GM Pierre Dorion insists that despite all the drama, they’re still headed on the right track. (CBC.ca)

• Sabres prospect Alexander Nylander‘s professional career has gotten off to a slow start, but he was outstanding during Monday’s preseason game against Columbus. (Buffalo News)

• The Chicago Blackhawks have changed up their power play structure so that it looks a little bit more the one Washington ran last season. (NBC Sports Chicago)

• TSN hockey insider Bob Mckenzie came out with his pre-season draft rankings already. To no ones surprise, Jack Hughes is at the top of the list. (TSN.ca)

• The Sharks welcomed Erik Karlsson to San Jose with a huge billboard and an ad in the local newspaper. (NHL.com)

• Even though it’s unclear if NHL players will be going to the 2022 Olympic Games in China, commissioner Gary Bettman is committed to growing the game there. (Inside the games)

• TSN’s Frank Seravalli conducted an anonymous player poll. It sounds like certain NHLers believe that the Arizona Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres will get things turned around pretty quickly this season. (TSN.ca)

• Many players on the New Jersey Devils surpassed their expected goal totals from last season, but what will they have in store for us in 2018-19? (All about the jersey)

• Hurricanes forward Victor Rask injured himself in the kitchen, which is really unfortunate. He’s expected to miss “months,” according to Rod Brind’Amour, so it’ll be up to players like Lucas Wallmark to step up. (Canes Country)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Captain switch: Panthers give ‘C’ to Aleksander Barkov

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Often times in the NHL, the captain of a team is one of the better players on the roster. For the last few years, the Florida Panthers had been the exception to the rule, as Derek MacKenzie wore the ‘C’ on his jersey. But on Monday, the organization announced that they were removing the captaincy from MacKenzie and handing it to Aleksander Barkov.

The 23-year-old has arguably been Florida’s best player for the last three years, but the team obviously felt like he was still a little too young to burden such a responsibility. Now, a year after he posted a career-high 78 points and finished fourth in Selke Trophy voting, they feel it’s his time to take up more of a leadership role.

“Aleksander Barkov is ready to be the captain of the Florida Panthers,” GM Dale Tallon said in a release. “He has all of the qualities of a great leader: unrivaled work ethic, wisdom beyond his years and the respect and admiration of his teammates. Aleksander’s determination and passion for the game have made him one of the NHL’s best and most complete players. The time was right for Aleksander to be named the captain of this franchise and I’m certain that he will bring the same high standard of class and dedication to the captaincy that he brings to the rink every single day.”

If you’re expecting things to be awkward in the Panthers’ room now that they took the “C” away from one player only to give it to another player, it sounds like you have another thing coming.

“I’ve been honored to serve as Panthers captain and I’m proud to hand the captain’s ‘C’ off to a leader as mature and deserving as Aleksander is,” said MacKenzie. “We’ve got a strong team with a strong group of leaders going into this year and I’m extremely excited to be part of something special.”

Wearing a letter on your jersey in Florida doesn’t come with the same pressure as wearing it in markets like Toronto or Montreal, but it’s still an added responsibility. It’ll be interesting to see how Barkov handles being the guy everyone looks to when things aren’t going well. Of course, that responsibility doesn’t fall on his shoulders alone, but he’s going to be the one that will have to answer all the questions when things go off the rails.

Even though he isn’t the most vocal player in that dressing room, Barkov should be just fine.

MORE:
Panthers do one thing about as well as anybody in NHL
Three questions facing Florida Panthers

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

PHT Morning Skate: Flames visit Great Wall of China; 10 questions facing Ducks

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• The Calgary Flames were able to visit the Great Wall of China as a team. “To be honest, I never thought I’d ever be in China, let alone be on the Great Wall of China,” Johnny Gaudreau said “Growing up, always in history class you learn about these kind of things, but you never thought you’d be here. You have to take it all in because this is probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” (NHL.com)

Mike Hoffman‘s fiancee, Monika Caryk, isn’t interested in suing Erik Karlsson‘s wife, Melinda Karlsson, but she wants her name to be cleared of any wrongdoing when it comes to cyberbullying. (Ottawa Citizen)

• After a summer of partying with no regrets, the Washington Capitals are back on the ice trying to defend their Stanley Cup crown. (ESPN)

• Penguins forward Phil Kessel dismissed the notion that he struggled during the playoffs or that he played injured. He also didn’t want to get involved in the drama of trade rumors. (Pittsburgh Tribune)

• The Vegas Golden Knights used a series of clever roster moves to eventually land Max Pacioretty from the Montreal Canadiens last week. (Sporting News)

• The Montreal Canadiens gave associate coach Kirk Muller a two-year contract extension. (NHL.com/Canadiens)

• Speaking of Muller, he’s feeling healthy again after he battled Lyme disease. “I had the flu at first in July [of 2017] and then I just couldn’t do anything. I had no energy and then I just started to lose all my muscle mass. I couldn’t pick up anything off the ground without getting dizzy. I couldn’t even walk up a hill. I felt like I was 90. It’s hard to explain, but I couldn’t feel my legs. Physically I just felt like I was totally out of it. It was brutal.” (Sportsnet)

• Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is still getting used to the new goalie equipment he’s being forced to use. (Las Vegas Sun)

• The San Jose Sharks love Erik Karlsson’s mindset as much as they love his talent level. Karlsson proved that he’s willing to play when he’s banged up. (NBC Sports Bay Area)

• How much will Ryan Kesler be able to play? Who’s going to make up the third pairing? Anaheim Calling looks at 10 questions facing the Ducks this season. (Anaheim Calling)

Nikita Kucherov has been one of the more dominant forwards in the NHL over the last couple of seasons, but he’s trying to be as unpredictable as possible. (SI.com)

Connor Hellebuyck‘s new mask has a picture of Dustin Byfuglien fishing on it. That’s pretty funny. (In Goal Mag)

• Paralyzed Humboldt Broncos player Ryan Straschnitzki made his return to the ice on Saturday. (CBC.ca)

• Another surviving member of the Humboldt Broncos, Xavier Labelle, was hired by Saskatoon Blades as a hockey operations assistant. (Saskatoon Blades)

• The KHL’s Avangard Omsk team was forced to leave their home arena because structural defects were discovered in their barn. They ended up settling on a small rink that’s more than 2,000 km away from their city. (Reuters)

• Canucks prospect Jett Woo’s father, Larry, faced a lot of racism on the ice when he was younger. Thankfully, no one has gone after his son in that way. (NBC News)

• Did you ever wish that you could see Gaudreau ride a toboggan? If you did, here you are:

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Senators’ Gabriel Pageau out at least six months with Achilles injury

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It’s been a rough few months for Ottawa Senators fans, but their level of misery seems to have taken a serious turn over the last few hours.

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve heard, by now, that the Senators traded Erik Karlsson to the San Jose Sharks for a less-than-stellar return. But now, there’s even more bad news. Forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau tore his achilles tendon in his right leg while training yesterday. Pageau underwent surgery last night and he’s expected to miss at least six months of action.

Not having Pageau is less of a blow to the roster than trading Karlsson, but it just seems like bad news is pilling up.

The 25-year-old had 14 goals and 29 points in 78 games last season. He’s also just three years removed from a 19-goal and 43-point season.

There now appears to be a clear opening for Chris Tierney, who the Senators acquired as part of that trade with the Sharks yesterday afternoon, on the second line. Tierney put together his best season as an NHLer last year, as he had 17 goals and 40 points in 82 games last year.

MORE:
Karlsson on Ottawa: “I never wanted to leave this place”
Karlsson trade gives Sharks most explosive defense
Karlsson trade caps dream summer of NHL moves

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.