The Edmonton Oilers have come to terms on a contract extension with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, according to Bob McKenzie of TSN. The deal will pay the 20-year-old forward $42 million dollars over the span of seven-years, which amounts to a $6 million annual average value against the salary cap, according to Darren Dreger of TSN.
The deal does not include a no-trade clause, according to Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet.
Nugent-Hopkins is entering the final year of his entry-level contract, which means he would have been a restricted free agent following the 2013-14 season. As is the case with most top-level talent, the Oilers felt compelled to extend Nugent-Hopkins prior to his previous contract's expiration date. Essentially, the team now has control of him for the next eight-years, which will led him into unrestricted free agency at the contract's completion after the 2020-21 season.
While several players have received extensions in the final year of their deal, teams have been increasingly more interested in pushing the concept of the "bridge" contract to restricted free agents. This allows the club to maintain control of the player, while buying some time before sinking a long-term, big money commitment into a developing individual.
The best examples of this was seen last year with Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban and this offseason with Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri. Both players pushed for long-term deals, but ultimately agreed to two-year extensions. Subban followed his agreement up with a Norris Trophy and now stands to earn a sizable raise with a maximum term contract, while Kadri hopes to use this season to prove his long-term worth.
Some questioned Edmonton's decision to give Nugent-Hopkins this kind of contract so soon into his career. While he registered 52 points (18 goals and 34 assists) in 62 games and was a nominee for the Calder Trophy (rookie of the year), the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft followed up his stellar debut with 24 points (four goals and 20 assists) in 42 games last season.
In addition, Nugent-Hopkins might miss the first month of the regular season after undergoing offseason surgery.
However, Nugent-Hopkins is a promising prospect who has a great deal of upside. In the event he stays healthy, he has the potential to develop into a legitimate top-line center. Considering the wealth of young talent the Oilers have collected over the years, this could mean years of dominance. Of course, potential is only as good as what it turns out to be and your opinion of this contract comes down to whether you believe paying upfront for a future service is a wise decision. The Oilers are clearly comfortable with it.
One of the smartest components of this deal (besides the exclusion of no-trade protection) is that Nugent-Hopkins' deal expires a year after Taylor Hall's (summer of 2020 unrestricted free agent) and two-years after Jordan Eberle's (summer of 2019 unrestricted free agent).
This means Edmonton won't have to negotiate more than one key contract extension per offseason (assuming they retain all three players, of course), which would have been a nightmare. All three of their young stars are carrying an identical $6 million cap hit, all are without no-trade clauses and all three have contracts that expire at different times.
Regardless of what you think of the contracts, that's smart business practice.