Will Connor McDavid’s new mega contract break Oilers?

Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid is poised to break the bank on his second contract, as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports his new deal will net him $106 million over eight years, one of the richest contracts in NHL history.

McDavid still has one year left on his entry-level deal, and this mega-contract would kick in for 2018-19.

That’s an average annual cap hit of $13.25 million, blowing away the $10.5 million annual hits for Chicago Blackhawks stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, who had the previous high-water marks.

(The deal is on the way but not done as of Wednesday morning, due mostly to lockout protection considerations, per Pierre LeBrun.)

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The first thing I considered when this contract came into focus?

Connor McDavid’s face.

Remember this face, from the NHL Draft lottery in 2015?

Remember how we all thought it was a harbinger of McDavid’s eventual escape from Edmonton, because he was so glum that the moribund Oilers have won the lottery again and would claim him?

Well, that’s not the face of a guy who just committed eight more years of his NHL career to that franchise. From a term perspective, this is an enormous win for the Oilers.

Teammates know he’s there for eight years. Future teammates know he’s there for eight years. Fans, sponsors, everyone else knows that Connor McDavid will be the face of the franchise through 2026, barring something unforeseen like him meeting a model actress future wife from Los Angeles … but we digress.

But that money … let’s talk about the money.

A $13.25 million hit on a $75 million cap would be 17.6 percent of it. If the cap rises by four percent ($78 million) next season, it would be 16.99 percent. For reference:

* Alex Ovechkin’s 13-year second contract signed in January 2008 was 16.75 percent of the salary cap in 2008-09.

* Sidney Crosby’s second contract, a five-year deal signed in 2008 with an $8.7 million cap hit (as is Sid’s weird numerical want) was 15.3 percent of the cap.

(For further comparison’s sake, Crosby’s current contract of 12 years and an $8.7 million hit was 13.5 percent of the 2013-14 cap.)

By the fourth year of Crosby’s second contract, in 2011-12, his deal accounted for 13.5 percent of the cap. Assuming four percent growth, McDavid’s deal gets there by Year 7:


And that’s assuming four percent growth for a league whose revenues have plateaued during the span of Crosby’s contracts. But hey, who’s to say the NHL won’t have a franchise in China by 2020, considering that’s the only nation in the world spending money on anything these days. (They turned “Warcraft” into a hit, for Pete’s sake.)

The other factor in this McDavid signing is Leon Draisaitl, who has fast become the Malkin to his Crosby.

He’s a restricted free agent and eligible for an offer sheet that one assumes would come his way in a millisecond were his camp to actively seek one (and assuming the NHL isn’t always just a bunch of back-slapping old boys that won’t go after each other’s assets).

What’s Leon Draisaitl worth? North of $6 million annually, without question. When Anze Kopitar, his most common comparison, signed his second contract for the 2009-10 season, his $6.8 million hit was roughly 11.97 percent of the cap. Which would equate to an AAV of over $8.9 million in 2017-18.

Could the Oilers really end up with two players eating up $22.15 million by 2018-19? Potentially. Could it be even higher if someone offers sheets Draisaitl to the tune of $9.8 million? Oh my.

Would it be worth it to sign both? Unquestionably.

Look, we’re not talking “franchise stars” that are overpaid to ensure the time and effort put into developing them isn’t wasted. We’re talking about foundational talents where you start talking about Stanley CUPS, in plural. Especially in McDavid’s case, who’s a few defensive tricks added to his repertoire away from Best Player In The World status.

His contract is silly large, partially because the NHLPA has urged players of his ilk to get theirs before the lockout. But no player since Crosby and pre-crisis Ovechkin could get a contract ask rubber-stamped this quickly.

But the key to the CUPS aren’t McDavid and Draisaitl. The key is what GM Peter Chiarelli and his management team do to color around those guys. Stan Bowman knows this. Ray Shero knew this, and now Jim Rutherford knows this, because Ray Shero couldn’t figure it out.

The biggest concern if you’re an Oilers fan is, frankly, Chiarelli: How he fills out the roster, and at what cost? Because dealing Jordan Eberle out of financial considerations and having signed Milan Lucic through 2023 don’t exactly inspire much confidence in his ability to create a fiscally sound and fundamentally strong supporting cast around his young stars. His overcompensation of players in Boston was preposterously short-sighted.

But getting McDavid, for the next nine years, buys him time.


Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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