The future of the Oilers rests on the contracts of McDavid and Draisaitl

a lot Edmonton Oilers‘ Plans for the next few seasons depend on the contracts of their two star players – their interest in re-signing, the length of their next contract and for how much money. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are arguably two of the best players in the NHL and their numbers prove it year after year. The Oilers offense runs through them and allows the team to be competitive every season.

I don’t see McDavid or Draisaitl enjoying playing with each other very much and leaving the other to be an amazing duo. But what will help or hurt the team’s chances at a Stanley Cup if they don’t win it over the next three seasons is how much everyone gets a pay raise. Considering how elite everyone is, the Oilers should give them what they want. Too much money can be detrimental to the team because there isn’t much money to spend on better complementary players or depth pieces. Although McDavid and Draisaitl are the backbone of the Oilers, it still takes a team to win, supported by the fact that they still don’t have a Cup, and one or the other has led the league in scoring in five of the last six seasons. .

Group-Friendly Contracts vs. Selfish Contracts

Right now, by chance or by design, the Oilers have several team-friendly contracts on their hands, and this has allowed them to carry more impact players on their roster. McDavid has the highest cap hit in the league this season and deserves every penny of it. But players like Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jack Hyman are underpaid for the production and contributions they’ve made this season.

Leon Draisaitl Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers
Edmonton Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Fortunately for the Oilers, four players will still be considered underpaid for several years and will give The Oilers have a great chance to win. McDavid, although he is the league’s highest-paid player this season, will not start next season. At $12.5 million AAV, most people would still consider it an underpayment. He leads the NHL in goals (40), points (88), power-play points (43) and more in just 48 games this season. He is on pace for his first Rocket Richard Trophy, fifth Art Ross Trophy, third Hart Trophy and fourth Ted Lindsay Award, all in his first eight seasons in the NHL. There wouldn’t be much of an argument if he had a max contract.

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Draisaitl is wildly underpaid by about $3 million plus. He is second only to McDavid in points this season (73) in just 46 games and over the last five seasons. What looked like a very team-friendly deal at $8.5 million AAV for two more seasons was questioned when he scored 25 goals and 70 points in the first year of that deal. Since then, he has posted three 100-point seasons, two 50-goal seasons and averaged 1.44 points per game over the previous five seasons. I’m sure to leave with an Art Ross Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award, and a Hart Trophy.

Two other players, Nugent-Hopkins and Hyman, were paid less in the second year of their contracts. Those two and Evander Kane are all in the tier below McDavid and Draisaitl, and all earn just under $5 million in AAV. Nugent-Hopkins is 11th in points, while Hyman is 13th in the league in points. They have a combined cap hit of $10.625 for five more years. In comparison, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and John Tavares all earned at least $10.9 million in AAV.

Mitch Marner celebrates John Tavares Timothy Liljegren Toronto Maple Leafs
Mitch Marner, John Tavares and Timothy Liljegren celebrate a goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

With that transition, it brings us to a team where players don’t accept team-friendly contracts to win. The feeling surrounding the Toronto Maple Leafs for years has been who can get the most money. The three players I mentioned on the Maple Leafs occupy 40.6 percent of the team’s cap and are three of the seven highest-paid players in the league. That’s why they can’t keep their talented depth going when they need a new contract and are constantly scrambling for help. That was true for Hyman, who now plays in Edmonton and is tied with Matthews and Marner in points. Both lead the Maple Leafs in that category.

The Maple Leafs have failed to get out of the first round in six consecutive seasons. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Boston Bruins have had nothing but team-friendly contracts for years, finally ending with Charlie McAvoy as a change in leadership appears to be coming.

In terms of the Bruins, the players’ choice Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara have been among the best in the league for years. Marchand and Bergeron can still be considered in the top class. Both have already signed multiple team-friendly deals after winning the Stanley Cup. Marcand took a four-year, $4.5 million AAV contract early in his career after scoring 20-plus goals twice, and putting up a good amount of points, earning Selke Trophy votes. In his next contract, despite scoring 85 points in 80 games in his contract year, he rebounded for eight more seasons at just $6.125 million in AAV. He is currently averaging better than a point per game for his seventh consecutive season and reached 100 points in 2018-19.

Patrice Bergeron celebrates with Brad Marchand Boston Bruins
Boston Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand celebrate a goal (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Similar to Marchand, Bergeron took a $4.75 million AAV on a five-year contract earlier in his career before taking a $5 million AAV on a three-year deal. He then opted to stay for eight more years at an AAV of $6.875 million. Bergeron never put up as many points as Marchand, but was great defensively, a record 11 seasons as a Selke Trophy finalist and counting. He is currently making $2.5 million AAV for the season and is once again one of the best two-way players in the NHL. The team’s two best forwards, and two of the NHL’s best over the past decade, gave their general manager a chance to get the right pieces around them to win. I also don’t want to forget David Pastrnak, who is producing $6.67 million in AAV over the past six seasons and is a tremendous talent.

Since their Stanley Cup win in 2011, the Bruins have reached the Cup Finals twice and been knocked out of the first round four more times. They are able to add impact players and keep their core around. The Oilers sit between these two teams. It would be a crime for McDavid and Draisaitl to earn half of what they make for eight years, but trying to get as much money as possible in each new contract won’t do them any favors in winning the Stanley Cup either.

Comparing contracts with McDavid and Draisaitl

When you compare McDavid and Draisaitl’s contracts around the league, you have to look at the best players in the NHL like Nathan McKinnon and Auston Matthews. But in their own ways, each of these two elite players is in a different situation than the Oilers stars.

McKinnon is set to surpass McDavid next season and become the league’s highest-paid player. This is payday because he was underpaid and the Colorado Avalanche won the cup. Now with a Cup and a delivery to a franchise on his resume, he’s getting what he deserves. If the Avalanche hadn’t won yet, I don’t see him making enough on his next contract to keep the other majors around to win them.

Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers Nathan McKinnon Colorado Avalanche
Colorado Avalanche center Nathan McKinnon skates against Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (Photo by Dustin Bradford/ICON Sportswear via Getty Images)

In Toronto, Matthews is in a very different position. He is one of the best players in the NHL. But he proved nothing When it’s time to win in the playoffs. He has a career high 0.84 points per game in the playoffs and has yet to help his team get out of the first round. He may have back-to-back Rocket Richard Trophies, but there is no indication that he, Marner or William Nylander will take a pay cut on their next contract, which is fast approaching.

The Oilers haven’t won anything yet, and the players know it. At this point in their careers, it seems McDavid and Draisaitl have their sights set on a Stanley Cup soon. They made it to the Western Conference Finals, which was a step in the right direction, but they have to make it. Both put together an amazing postseason and now have more capable teams around them. If McDavid raises the AAV to around $13 million in his next contract, it’s still considered a team-friendly deal and good for the team. If Draisaitl can resist jumping to the league’s second- or third-highest-paid player, that helps, too.

The cap will increase, and the Oilers will be able to accommodate that salary increase. Both Oilers stars know it’s hard for teams to find fair gems on cheap deals, or every team will (‘Buried Treasure: Has Oilers GM Ken Holland Discovered Few Other Edmonton GMs Ever Found?,’ Edmonton Journal, November 18, 2022). Instead of planning to leave as an unrestricted free agent and more than likely end up on different teams, their best chance to win is with the Oilers if they can do their part. The rest will be handled by Ken Holland and the supporting cast.

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