Connor McDavid is a team player. A really, really rich team player, but a team player nonetheless.
The Edmonton Oilers and their young star announced an eight-year, $100 million contract on Wednesday, with an average annual value of $12.5 million. That’s down slightly from the $13.25 million annual value that was reported last week, which was already less than the maximum hit, but still gives McDavid the highest cap number in the NHL beginning in 2018-19 when the contract kicks in.
(That $86 million of the $100 million is in signing bonuses shouldn’t surprise anyone, given the impending lockout in the NHL by 2020.)
The term was never at issue.
“Connor has been unwavering in his commitment to the Oilers for the maximum of eight years. Connor didn’t stray from that. Neither did we,” said GM Peter Chiarelli.
The money was obviously flexible. TSN’s Bob McKenzie heard that McDavid wasn’t comfortable with the initial salary cap hit, which spawned a cottage industry of stories about how the percentage of the cap he’d devour would adversely impact the ability of the Oilers to build a winning team.
So apparently, McDavid agreed to take about $750,000 less annually. Which isn’t a lot, but is the kind of wiggle room you need to build a championship or keep it together.
“Part of this partnership, as I called it, is building a team. Connor was emphatic, as was I, to keep this team competition,” said Chiarelli. The number arrived at was through much of productive discussion. Looking at the future, looking at rosters. It was a number that Connor and his people were comfortable with.”
How does McDavid feel about leaving money on the table?
“It really doesn’t matter how we got to this number or term or anything,” he said.
Of course, by taking an eight-year contract, he might have left money on the table regardless. “This might be one of the largest contracts in the history of the NHL, but I assure that it could have been higher and it could have been shorter in term,” said Chiarelli.
And by taking eight years, McDavid is ultimately making a high-stakes wager: That the Edmonton Oilers’ management will be able to do as the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins have done in winning Stanley Cups with star players eating up massive amounts of cap space and coloring around them with young and/or cheap labor.
Let’s face it: This is a leap of faith. Chiarelli has Milan Lucic and Kris Russell eating up $10 million in cap space in 2020. He has to play the Leon Draisaitl right. He has to figure out what the supporting cast for McDavid at the forward position looks like, because you can ask Sidney Crosby about how the bottom six can be the different between winning a Cup and not getting a chance to play for one.
Getting McDavid’s name on a contract for eight years and getting him to come down $750,000 – which could do everything from bridge the gap between Edmonton and Draisaitl to literally pay for a backup goalie – are both laudable. But they’re also easy lifting if McDavid was as committed to playing in Edmonton as he apparently was.
“I’m in it for the long haul. I want to win here,” he said.
So McDavid’s there for nine years. He’s a few improvements defensively from overtaking Sidney Crosby as the best player in the world. No one needs to worry about him as an on-ice performer.
“We have full confidence in Connor on the ice to lead, as he has confidence in us to ice a winning team,” said Chiarelli.
It’s now entirely up to Chiarelli and his staff to ensure that confidence wasn’t misplaced.
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