Threading the needle on Evan Bouchard's contract extension could also be Edmonton Oilers' high summer season precedence

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2022-23 Edmonton Oilers in evaluation
Evan Bouchard

Over the previous couple of summers, Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland has performed some contractual hardball with a really particular class of participant: a teen whose Entry Stage Contract has simply expired, however who has not but gained arbitration rights.

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Such gamers could also be extremely valued by the group, but left to the very finish of the negotiation window on account of their lack of bargaining energy. Kailer Yamamoto waited till Sep 18 of 2021 to get his one-year, $1,175,000 extension, considerably lower than some pundits had forecast. Final yr it was Ryan McLeod who waited till Sep 22 and actually the ultimate hour earlier than on-ice classes started at coaching camp, along with his wage of $798,000 seemingly manipulated to suit Edmonton’s final dwindling cap area.

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02 Bouchard

In 2023 it’s Evan Bouchard‘s flip. This time, nevertheless, there’s little probability the RFA-without-arb-rights might be misplaced within the shuffle till roll name at coaching camp. The 23-year-old exits his first contract on a serious roll which may appeal to different suitors ought to the Oilers develop into too laissez-faire with the Bouchard file.

Whereas provide sheets are uncommon, even the specter of one would possibly impression expectations and subsequent negotiations, so ideally the participant will get signed a while in June earlier than the market opens. The onus is on the staff to discount in good religion from the get-go, which from this distance appears to be a Ken Holland calling card.

Another excuse the Bouchard extension is healthier dealt with sooner than later, is that it might properly set limitations on what cap area is left for different strikes.

These limitations are more likely to deter Holland from the choice most Bouchard boosters would favor, a long-to-maximum-term pact. For a veteran like, say, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins the extra safety of prolonged time period causes the AAV to “common down” as decline years are factored in. For a participant Bouchard’s age, nevertheless, these further years challenge into the prime of his profession and are apt to elevate that annual common worth.

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One conclusion is that to maximise worth within the instantly upcoming season, a staff ought to go long-term with its older gamers and short-term with its youngsters. Counterintuitive, isn’t it? However when cap is as tight because it at the moment is with the Oilers, such measures look more and more atteactive.

Simply as Darnell Nurse was twice bridged by a staff that was squeezed on cap area, it appears seemingly Bouchard will too. May that be a 1-year deal for lesser (although not filth low cost) {dollars}? or 2 and even 3 years at a considerably larger AAV that may nonetheless depart the membership with RFA rights at its expiry?

Even the low finish is definitely considerably greater than the No 1 haircut that McLeod accepted 8 months in the past. Thoughts you, the speedy centre was a second-round choose making his solution to the NHL forward of schedule however with out the type of counting stats that command consideration.

Bouchard is completely different. Not solely did he accumulate a wage of $863,000 in his first 2 full seasons within the NHL, he earned most bonuses of $850,000 in each of these years. And that was straight on account of wonderful counting stats. Although the CBA will not be written that means, for negotiating functions his camp can appropriately assert that he’s already valued himself at a base of $1.7 million. And let’s bear in mind he’s nonetheless getting higher.

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Not that that’s instantly obvious in his year-over-year statistics. Humorous the way it labored with Bouchard, whose “platform season” of 2022-23 was virtually a statistical repeat of his nice freshman (although not formally “rookie”) marketing campaign. Certainly, if one have been to just accept the common season boxcars and counting stats as our information, it could be robust to make the case that the younger defender had progressed a lot in any respect.

Let’s undergo Bouchard’s set of “NHL Commonplace” stats on the splendid

Bouch boxes

Did I point out his boxcar stats have been very comparable? 82 video games to 81, and about that shut in each main class.

Bouch points

Bouchard noticed a decline in his even-strength manufacturing, sagging from a formidable 10-25-35 in his first season in comparison with simply 6-20-26 in 12 months 2. He picked up a lot of the distinction on the powerplay, particularly within the spectacular remaining quarter of 2022-23 that has redefined his upside. Extra on that in a second.

Bouch misc

Sudden to see his ice time decline in his second yr, although that may partly be defined by a stretch of 20 or so video games the place the Oilers persistently went with 4 proper defencemen. Within the postseason he averaged 23:00 an evening, practically 5 full minutes greater than a yr in the past.

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Most encouraging amongst these miscellaneous stats is the stable bounce in takeaways, the place his 66 steals ranked fourth (!) amongst NHL d-men, behind solely Adam Fox, Jaccob Slavin and Erik Karlsson. Fairly good gamers. Associated: a serious enchancment within the takeaway : giveaway ratio from 0.47 to 0.90.

Trying on the photographs columns, some surprising outcomes right here, together with an enormous drop-off in one in all Bouchard’s specialties. His variety of shot makes an attempt fell off by 5% from 400 to 380, however his photographs on aim by a surprising 24%. It is because his “Photographs Via Share” — shot makes an attempt that received by way of to really check the goalie — plummeted from 51% to only 41%.

We mentioned this concern in a Sport Day characteristic on Mar 01 analyzing Bouchard’s new function with the staff; from there to the tip of the season his SThr% really dropped a bit additional. By season’s finish he really had extra photographs blocked (161) than on web (156) with an additional 63 that have been huge of the online.

Nonetheless that date of Mar 01 was a serious turning level for Bouchard. That was the day that his new associate Mattias Ekholm made his Edmonton debut,  furthermore that his pleasant nemesis Tyson Barrie was now not in his means. A proper shot like Bouchard, Barrie had soaked up a goodly share of the offensive minutes for the Oil together with a big majority of the cherished first-powerplay time. Identical to that Bouchard discovered himself an everyday on the second pairing with a top-notch associate, and a full-timer on that first unit. How would he reply?

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Brilliantly, if the numbers are our information.

Bouch quarterly

As likelihood had it, that Mar 01 recreation marked the start of the ultimate quarter of 2022-23, so the Ekholm /1PP time stands out. 19 factors in his final 21 video games. 17 factors in simply 12 playoff video games. An excellent 9-27-36 in 33 video games after the massive commerce.

Is that sizzling stretch the platform that his new contract needs to be primarily based on, or is the total season the higher information? Bouchard was in a funk within the first half, recording simply 14 factors with an unsightly -14 to match. He gave the impression to be in a hunch at each ends of the rink.

He righted the ship within the third quarter, largely enjoying with Philip Broberg on a sheltered third pairing, then answered the decision with Ekholm down the stretch. His 26 factors and +20 within the second half have been first-rate.

As for the playoffs, eye-popping stats which see Bouchard the best scoring rearguard within the league by some margin, with an 8-point lead over the one guys in place to overhaul him, Brandon Montour and Alex Pietrangelo. Excellent.

Maybe somewhat warning is so as. A startling 15 of Bouchard’s 17 factors have been scored on the powerplay, a class he nonetheless leads handily. Certainly, of these gamers nonetheless alive, just one (Matthew Tkachuk, 9) has greater than 5 PPP within the postseason.

Digging deeper, Bouchard recorded a staggering Particular person Factors Share of 88%, recording factors on 15 of the 17 powerplay objectives scored whereas he was on the market. That’s a staggering share for any participant by no means thoughts a d-man. For example, in changing into the one NHLer not named Mario Lemieux to attain 70 powerplay factors in a season, Connor McDavid‘s IPP was “simply” 82%. It’s in all probability honest to conclude that Bouch’s playoff run on the PP — which included 7 secondary assists — was unsustainable. So perhaps we must always let somewhat air out of these tires.

Bouchard could be frustratingly inconsistent, vulnerable to the more-than-occasional defensive gaffe or mind-blowing turnover. His positives typically don
’t stand out in the identical means. He’s excellent at subtly clearing harmful rebounds from the purple gentle zone. He does a few of his greatest defensive work removed from the online, deftly denying the tried zone entry on the Edmonton blueline. Take a look at this wonderful assortment of video clips put collectively by @NHL_Sid:

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Bouchard’s greatest talent could also be his outlet passing, be it a perfectly-timed-and-weighted 10-footer that hits a streaking McDavid on the tape (means more durable than it seems) or a 100-foot stretch cross zipped to the far blueline. Ekholm was excellent at getting Bouchard the puck in good spots, as was Broberg throughout their time collectively. To my eye Evan began to point out rising urgency to retrieve pucks as rapidly as doable, permitting himself that further cut up second to lookup and discover his goal — or maybe spot the hazard — earlier than releasing that buttery cross.

His “Bouch bomb” is a weapon whose greatest days stay sooner or later. His early years have been riddled with goalless stretches that reached 31, 20 and 43 video games. Regardless of these prolonged runs of futility he scored 20 objectives over these 2 seasons. To those eyes he’s able to scoring that many in a single marketing campaign as he matures, particularly in that powerplay function the place he related for 4 objectives in simply 12 playoff video games.

To date, Bouchard has performed his greatest hockey when paired with a veteran, first Duncan Keith, then Ekholm. The excellent news is that in contrast to Keith, the latter isn’t going wherever. #s 2 and 14 challenge as a partnership for the foreseeable.

However first, Bouchard additionally needs to be underneath contract. Finest guess is that the 2 sides agree on short-term, small(-er) cash pact, whereas each participant and hockey membership decide precisely what it’s they’ve received right here. This observer might be pleasantly stunned if it’s greater than a yr.

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Expectations for 2023-24: Determine that contract scenario in a well timed vogue, then give attention to the following step. After a pair of 40-point seasons within the NHL, the powerplay alternative opens the door to 60 or extra. Proceed to fill out his recreation on the defensive aspect of the puck, with “elevated reliability” the aim.

Not too long ago on the Cult of Hockey

McCURDY: Oilers signal farmhand Philip Kemp to 2-year extension

STAPLES: Nurse, Ceci must embrace the Cowboy Method

STAPLES: Yamamoto’s days with Oil could also be numbered

McCURDY: Robust path to enhancing Oilers for Holland

McCURDY: Score Ken Holland’s season, Half 2

McCURDY: Score Ken Holland’s season, Half 1

Comply with me on Twitter @BruceMcCurdy

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