Oilers Sign Draisaitl to Eight-Year Deal
The Edmonton Oilers announced the signing of forward Leon Draisaitl to an eight-year, $68 million contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s an annual salary-cap hit of $8.5 million, well above the $7 million annually that some (myself included) anticipated. No word yet if this will be front-loaded or how much might be paid out in signing bonuses. Factor in teammate Connor McDavid’s $12.5 million annual cap hit over eight years starting in 2018-19, and the Oilers will be paying those two a combined $21 million annually for seven seasons through 2024-25.
Still, it shouldn’t be surprising that the Oilers paid out this much for the 21-year-old Draisaitl. He followed up a promising 51-point sophomore campaign in 2015-16 with 77 points last season, plus 16 points in 13 playoff games. He’s a skilled playmaker who emerged from McDavid’s shadow in the 2017 postseason. The duo give the Oilers the most lethal offensive punch since the 1980s heyday of Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier.
Critics will argue the Oilers paid too much Draisaitl, just as they complained about McDavid’s giant contract a month ago. The fact is, however, the Oilers are simply following the example of championship teams such as the Pittsburgh Penguins (Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin) and Chicago Blackhawks (Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews), locking up their two young superstars in hopes of building a championship around those foundation players in the coming years.
As long as McDavid and Draisaitl play up to expectations over the course of their respective deals, it could be money well spent. For long-suffering Oilers fans accustomed to a steady parade of top talent departing Edmonton via trades or free agency since the early 1990s, it must be refreshing to see the club lock up their two best players to long-term deals.
Of course, in today’s salary-cap world, these contracts could eventually handcuff the Oilers as the contracts of Kane and Toews have for the Blackhawks. The trick for general manager Peter Chiarelli is to figure out how to work around that problem the way the Penguins did.
Draisaitl’s new deal could also affect the Boston Bruins’ efforts to re-sign restricted free agent winger David Pastrnak, who is coming off a career-best 34-goal, 70-point performance. It’s thought the Bruins want to keep his annual cap hit below that of Brad Marchand’s $6.125 million. Draisaitl’s new deal could tempt the Pastrnak camp into pushing for something closer to $7 million.