Things are starting to heat up with between Darnell Nurse and the Edmonton Oilers.
On Saturday night during Hockey Night in Canada, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that the Oilers and Nurse are making progress on an expected short-term deal. Nurse is on the final year of a two-year deal with a cap hit of $3.2 million and with Nurse patrolling the blueline for just under 23 minutes a night, the Oilers value him as a top-pairing defenseman.
Since Nurse signed his last deal, his 1.09 points-per-60 at 5-on-5 has been the best among Oilers defensemen. Nurse’s possession numbers aren’t pretty, but at least he’s on the ice with some guy who touches the puck a lot himself named Connor McDavid, right? Nurse isn’t a perfect defenseman and isn’t a league leader in any particular category, but at least the Oilers have been able to rely on Nurse to carry the load.
A short-term deal for the 25-year-old could be in the best interests of both parties. Nurse will be a UFA on his next deal, and if the Oilers aren’t happy with Nurse’s further development, defensemen such as Evan Bouchard and Philip Broberg should be ready by then. But in a year where the Oilers have four of its seven active defensemen requiring new deals and Adam Larsson’s contract to worry about in 2021 (assuming the team intends on keeping him, of course), Nurse’s next contract is one to keep an eye on.
The 2020 RFA class has a strong contingent of defensemen, including a handful of late-blooming young stars. Here’s a look at 10 of the best options after the halfway point of the regular season:
Anthony DeAngelo, 24 (NY Rangers)
Few defensemen have improved their stock as much as DeAngelo has this season. After bouncing around three NHL organizations, DeAngelo entered the 2019-20 season on a $925,000 deal – below his previous AAV of $1.26 million but higher than his $863,333 cap hit. His previous best scoring total was 30 points a year ago, but with 41 in his first 52 games this season, DeAngelo has been a massive delight for a Rangers team seeking positives. If DeAngelo’s production can be trusted, the 24-year-old is on pace for 60 points this season. If that’s the case, the Rangers have an interesting negotiation on their hands because DeAngelo might actually be the real deal.