The young emperor has officially put pen to contract in Edmonton, but how will the Oilers look in 2015-16 based on the early moves made by new GM Peter Chiarelli?
Jack Eichel may have signed his entry-level contract with Buffalo first, but folks in Edmonton don’t care because Connor McDavid is officially under contract now.
The top pick in the 2015 draft signed his rookie year deal with the Oilers today, getting the maximum amount possible under the collective bargaining agreement: a base salary and signing bonus that added up to $925,000, plus a bunch of bonuses available that could push his total earnings as a rookie into seven figures.
But since NHL rookie max deals are pretty standard, there’s not a lot to say about the McDavid contract. We can, however, look at the lineup he will be joining.
Edmonton has infamously missed the playoffs the past nine seasons and barely sniffed the top eight in the West, at that. McDavid offers hope as a top-line center who can make those around him better and produce a lot of points in the process. With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins already in the fold, the Oilers have a nice 1-2 punch down the middle for scoring lines. And scoring punch from the wings won’t be an issue thanks to Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall, not to mention Benoit Pouliot, Teddy Purcell and (hopefully) Nail Yakupov.
New center Mark Letestu will help the bottom-six, as will winger Lauri Korpikoski. Where does 2014 third pick overall Leon Draisaitl fit in? That’s a great question.
On the back end, where Edmonton has been woeful, the team at least added another good veteran in Andrej Sekera, who has actually thrived on bad squads in the past (especially the 2013-14 Carolina Hurricanes). Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom will lead a promising youth contigent, while Eric Gryba brings more veteran depth.
Is it a great blueline corps? No. Is it improved? Certainly.
In net, the team picked up Cam Talbot, who was fantastic for the Rangers, albeit playing on a team with one of the best defense corps in the NHL. For me, the Talbot-Ben Scrivens tandem is a wait-and-see, but I’m willing to be optimistic thanks to the better blueliners in front of them.
Which takes us back to McDavid. He certainly has Calder Trophy aspirations and with Edmonton’s lineup, the opportunity for points and a big role is there. ‘The Nuge’ offers some cover up front, though he himself was gifted with offensive zone starts in 62 percent of his shifts this season and will have to be weaned off that.
Otherwise, expect McDavid to at least make the Oilers competitive in 2015-16 and remember that Crosby, Ovechkin and Tavares all missed the playoffs in their first NHL campaigns. So it will probably be one more year of early tee times, young emperor or not.