The Edmonton Oilers announced on Wednesday that they had locked up restricted free agent Leon Draisaitl to an eight-year deal worth $68 million. Drafted third overall by the Oilers back in 2014, the 21 year-old phenom from Germany will now earn $8.5 million per year until the 2024-25 season.
2017 has been a fantastic year for the Oilers. The team put together a 103 point season, earned their first playoff berth since 2006, won their quarterfinal series against the Sharks and, earlier this summer, signed Connor McDavid to one of the richest contracts in NHL history; an eight-year extension worth $100 million. Now with the signing of Draisaitl, Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli has locked up the one-two punch that’s sure to become the envy of the league in the seasons to come.
The Big Picture
Draisaitl had a fantastic season in 2016-17, finishing second on the Oilers in scoring with a 77 point campaign. He followed that up by leading Edmonton in the playoffs with 16 points, including 13 in the club’s second round series against the Anaheim Ducks. Draisaitl’s play not only proved that he’s capable of being a top scorer in the NHL, but that he is a necessary piece of the Oilers’ championship dreams.
Of course, with a massive new contract comes bigger expectations. Draisaitl will likely return to his natural centre position after playing on McDavid’s wing for most of last season, and will be tasked with anchoring the Oilers’ second line. This move may boost Draisaitl’s numbers if he’s able to find chemistry with his new linemates and take advantage of the likely weaker matchups he’ll be facing on a nightly basis.
But Edmonton has excellent depth at the centre position, and with the acquisition of Ryan Strome in the Jordan Eberle trade, there’ll be a lot of talented players gunning for Draisaitl’s ice time. If he struggles to match his production numbers from last season, he might find himself back on right wing pretty quickly.
The Cap Issue
According to salary cap website CapFriendly.com, Draisaitl’s annual salary of $8.5 million will make him the highest paid player on the Oilers in the upcoming season, but that’ll change once McDavid’s $12.5 million per year extension starts in 2018-19. That means after this season Edmonton will be paying a whopping $21 million to just two players.
Assuming the NHL’s salary cap remains at around $75 million, that would leave Chiarelli and the Oilers just $54 million to put the rest of the team together. Edmonton also has a number of contracts set to expire next summer, including other big name players like Patrick Maroon, Darnell Nurse and Drake Caggiula. But the Oilers believe that with a star like Draisaitl, depth players will be willing to take a pay cut just to play with him in Edmonton. To them, that risk is one well worth taking.
While I think that the price the Oilers are paying for Draisaitl is a little steep, it’s likely that McDavid’s new contract is part of the reason why. But in the end Draisaitl is an exceptional player, and having him in Edmonton is sure to make the Oilers contenders for Lord Stanley’s Cup every spring. With he and McDavid leading the charge, Edmontonians should have a lot more to celebrate in the next decade.
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