Darnell Nurse is the highest-paid defenceman in the National Hockey League this season.
Not that it’s weighing on him.
Nurse, who signed an eight-year contract worth a total of $74 million on August 6, 2021, isn’t letting a heavier wallet set the expectations on the 27-year-old rearguard.
“I worked to get to the position I’m in right now,” Nurse told media in Edmonton on Wednesday. “There’s a lot of responsibility that comes along with it, not just to myself but also to my teammates, and I don’t take that lightly. Not at all. I’m looking forward to reaching some of the goals and expectations I have set for myself and everything else is just noise.”
"If I was listening to people doubt me, I would have quit a long time ago. I've worked to get to the position I'm in now & there's a lot of responsibility that comes with it."
Nurse discusses his mindset heading into #Oilers Training Camp & the season. https://t.co/vdqh8gPk2T
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) September 21, 2022
Nurse’s cap hit of $9.5 million will rank him seventh among all blueliners.
In terms of actual salary, no defenceman will make more. Nurse and Erik Karlsson of the San Jose Sharks share the mark of highest-paid at $12 million for the 2022-23 campaign, according to CapFriendly.
Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic tabbed Nurse’s new deal as one of the 10 worst in the NHL in July. Luszczyszyn’s model suggests the contract of the Oilers defenceman has a surplus value of -$35.1 million.
“He too has a roughly one-in-five chance of living up to his $9 million-plus deal where the biggest issue is contract length for a 27-year-old,” Luszczyszyn wrote. “Nurse also eats minutes and scores, but is probably not a true number one defender. The talent is there to be more, but the price tag is still too high.”
In a salary-cap world, contract value is crucial in terms of which players are providing value — and which are not.
Today, @domluszczyszyn takes a closer look at the "nots" with his list of the NHL's 10 worst contracts in 2022.
📚 https://t.co/EKKiiaglFo pic.twitter.com/uiWT2P8gK2
— The Athletic NHL (@TheAthleticNHL) July 26, 2022
Nurse finished 44th last season among defencemen with 35 points (nine goals, 26 assists), and was 35th with a plus-18 rating.
“In all honestly, I can say for myself the expectations and goals I’ve put on myself and have put on myself since I came into this league, since I was 12 years old, are a lot higher than anyone in this room or outside of this room is going to put on,” said Nurse, who parleyed back-to-back bridge deals in order to land the payday and is unquestionably the best defenceman on the Oilers’ blue line.
“Outside noise is outside noise. I wouldn’t be in this position right now if I was listening to everything around me, if I was listening to people doubting me. I would have quit a long time ago.”