Just weeks before the opening of training camp and the Edmonton Oilers appear to have reached a standstill with restricted free agent (RFA) Darnell Nurse. The 23 year old defensemen’s three year entry level contract expired on June 30th and negotiations between the blue liner’s agent and Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli have stagnated. Now, Nurse has informed the team that he’s unwilling to attend training camp without a contract in place.
This development came to light in a brief interview with Sportsnet in which Nurse said, “No I wouldn’t come to camp without a contract. But hopefully we get something done before camp so I can be out there first day. That’s the goal.”
Nurse went on to explain that he’s surprised a deal hasn’t been consummated yet, but that he’s not the only free agent defenseman in this situation. “I’m not the only guy in this position. I think (Shea) Theodore and (Josh) Morrissey are in the same position.” Indeed both Theodore and Morrissey are in line for new contracts, as well. The difference between their situations and Nurse's however is the pool of money available to them.
For what it’s worth, the Oilers have approximately $4 million left in cap space for the upcoming season and it’s speculated that Nurse is seeking a deal that could exceed the team’s current resources. Check out this tidbit of information from Oilers insider Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal:
Oilers have no cap room but presume Darnell Nurse’s camp has looked at Hanifin’s $4.9 mil over 6 years as comparable. Hanifin was 3rd pairing guy in Carolina, Nurse definitely top 4 in Edm. Both shoot left. Hanifin 32 pts last year, Nurse 26.
Ouch… that could be a sticking point. There’s no denying Nurse’s size and physicality, but nearly $5 million per year for a 26 point blue liner… that’s a tough pill to swallow. If Nurse is adamant on sticking to his guns and earning top dollar, it could put the Oilers in a sticky cap situation. One that might necessitate a move to free up some cap money. Anyone up for a slightly damaged Milan Lucic? No returns or exchanges...