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Oilers’ 3 Worst Contracts of 2023-24

The Edmonton Oilers have signed everyone they need to except Evan Bouchard, and with limited cap space to sign him, the young defenceman won’t be among the three worst contracts on the Oilers this season. While the team has some very good contracts, others aren’t so good, and the team will have to manage them if they are to win a Stanley Cup. Better seasons in 2023-24 could soften the blow of the cap hits, and while that’s optimistic, it is entirely possible.

Jack Campbell

The goaltending didn’t go as planned last season, but where there were downfalls in Jack Campbell‘s game, rookie Stuart Skinner stepped up in a huge way. Campbell was given a big contract in free agency in 2022 and was expected to be the starter for at least a few years before things went sideways in a hurry. He found it difficult to live up to expectations early and found himself taking a backseat to the rookie.

Jack Campbell Edmonton Oilers
Jack Campbell, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Campbell only played 36 regular-season games for the Oilers in 2022-23, starting 34 of them. He lost the trust of the coaching staff, and when the postseason began, he never got the nod to start a game, even after coming in in relief four times. His $5 million average annual value (AAV) is way too expensive for a backup goalie, especially on a team trying to find any bit of money to fill out a 22-man roster. While there were some bright spots in Campbell’s game last season, and he did perform better in the playoffs, he has a lot to prove in 2023-24 to wipe away the criticism and burden he felt at times to the team on the ice. Everyone is rooting for him because of the type of person he is and because Skinner can’t handle the workload alone.

Darnell Nurse

When Darnell Nurse signed his latest contract, he was called overpaid even before playing a game on his new deal. Unfortunately, other number-one defencemen around the league were signing similar contracts, so the market was set; the Oilers could either overpay or lose their top blueliner without an immediate replacement. What hurt the team the most was signing Nurse to two bridge deals (at two years each), by the 2021 offseason, when he needed a new deal, he had entered his prime and put together some impressive seasons.

Related: Oilers’ Direction Will be Determined by Bouchard’s Contract

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There’s no arguing that Nurse does everything for the Oilers. While Evan Bouchard and Mattias Ekholm took a bit of the weight off his shoulders and allowed him to play a little less, he still logs the most minutes, can play in all situations, and is out there protecting the lead.

Part of the reason he’s considered overpaid is because he doesn’t average a point-per-game or play on the top power-play unit. This doesn’t mean he isn’t capable. He did man the point on the power play years back after Oscar Klefbom got injured and before Tyson Barrie and Bouchard arrived. The effort is there, and he will log a lot of minutes without tiring out, and he can score goals. Still, he’ll be labeled overpaid until he matches the offensive level of other top defencemen or becomes an elite defender.

Cody Ceci

If a top-pairing defenceman, who makes $3.25 million AAV, is one of the team’s three worst contracts, the Oilers are in a good position to succeed. The problem is Cody Ceci shouldn’t be a top pairing defenceman, it’s just how the team is structured. He contributes very little offensively but is fairly solid defensively – but not without mistakes. I would rank him as the fourth/fifth defenceman on the team in terms of effectiveness.

Cody Ceci Edmonton Oilers
Cody Ceci, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Ceci’s name has come up in trade rumours since he appears to be one of the most replaceable players on the team. This means he could be doing more in terms of his cap hit, or money could be better utilized elsewhere. Even though his contract length isn’t as long as Campbell’s or Nurse’s, and the money isn’t as high, two more years isn’t ideal, especially since he doesn’t work well at all with Nurse as a partner (from “You’ll probably disagree, but the Edmonton Oilers should hold on to this able player,” Edmonton Journal, May 22, 2023). Still, Ceci doesn’t have a horrible contract, and the Oilers are lucky they aren’t overflowing with players on bad deals.

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Unfortunately, all three players on this list have led to many goals against. At the very least, I’m expecting a better season from all three in 2023-24. We know all eyes will be on their every move.

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