Wednesday, July 5, 2017

{allcanada} Onus on Oilers to make Connor McDavid's contract worth it


One hundred million? He's worth it. One hundred percent.

The Edmonton Oilers signed center Connor McDavid to an eight-year, $100 million contract extension Wednesday. That is the richest contract signed under the current collective bargaining agreement.

After McDavid plays one more season on his entry-level contract at an NHL salary cap charge of $925,000, he will have a cap charge of $12.5 million. That's $2 million higher than any other player in the League.

But McDavid actually is worth even more, and this contract should be a reason the Oilers can compete for the Stanley Cup, not a reason they can't, under the cap. They have one of the best players in the NHL, if not the best, locked up for the next nine years, his prime years. Whether they surround him with a strong enough supporting cast will be a question of management more than money.

"We're confident that we'll be able to ice a winning team and one that can contend and win the Cup in short order," general manager Peter Chiarelli said.

McDavid, 20, was the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, a generational talent with speed and skill. He became the youngest captain in League history this season and led the Oilers to their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 11 years. He led the NHL in scoring with 100 points (30 goals, 70 assists) and became the third youngest to win the Hart Trophy as the NHL most valuable player.

The two who did it younger?

Wayne Gretzky and Sidney Crosby.

To put McDavid's place in the NHL and on the Oilers in perspective, he had 11 points more than anyone else in the League and 23 points more than any of his teammates, and his next-closest teammate was center Leon Draisaitl, whose 77 points (29 goals, 47 assists) were eighth in the League.

Multiple reports last week had McDavid signing for eight years with a cap charge of $13.25 million.

"This may be one of the largest contracts ever given in the NHL, but I can assure you, it easily could have been a lot higher in value and shorter in term," Chiarelli said.

Instead, McDavid chose stability and security. He gave his rights to the Oilers for almost all of his 20s. He worked with, and put his faith in, management.

"Being here for the next nine years is something that was important to me," McDavid said. "I wanted to show my commitment to the Oilers organization, the fans, the city, show that I'm in it for the long haul and I want to win here. This is a city that I think has such a rich history. It's so important that we bring that back.

"We got a taste of it last year. We certainly have some unfinished business. So with the help of all the great teammates and the management and the coaches and all that, I certainly believe we will win here. I ultimately think that we will do that."

It can be done, even though the Oilers still have to sign Draisaitl, 21, a restricted free agent. McDavid will account for 16.7 percent of the cap starting in 2018-19, if the cap stays flat. The closest comparable is Crosby.

Crosby signed his second contract on July 7, 2007, after his second season in the NHL, when he led the Pittsburgh Penguins to the playoffs for the first time in five seasons and won the scoring title and Hart. He had been named the youngest captain in history about a month before and was two months from his 20th birthday. The contract was for five years at a charge of $8.7 million. That represented 17.3 percent of the $50.3 million cap at the time.

The Penguins won the Cup in 2009, the season Crosby started his second contract. He accounted for 15.3 percent of the $56.7 million cap at that point. Penguins center Evgeni Malkin remained on his entry-level contract after signing a second contract identical to Crosby's.

Each signed a third contract as the cap continued to rise. The Penguins won the Cup in 2016 when Crosby ($8.7 million) accounted for 12.2 percent and Malkin ($9.5 million) 13.3 percent of the $71.4 million cap. They won it again in 2017 when Crosby accounted for 12.1 percent and Malkin 13 percent of the $73 million cap.

McDavid will have to live up to this contract the way Crosby has lived up to his.

"You want to earn that money," McDavid said. "You don't want to be somebody that signs a deal and kind of shuts it down. That's not going to be me at all. It's only driving me more."

It will be up to the Oilers to surround him the way the Penguins have surrounded Crosby.

"There's challenges in this salary cap world, and you look at teams that have high-paid stars, some teams have succeeded and some teams haven't," Chiarelli said. "We have full confidence in Connor and his ability on the ice to lead, as he has confidence in us to ice a winning team."

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