Oilers’ failure means end of Connor McDavid-Leon Draisaitl era

Rest easy, oil country. It will never happen again.

This is the last time the sun will rise over Edmonton in the morning after the city’s beloved NHL team, powered by the helmeted version of Batman and Robin, aka Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, has been eliminated of the playoffs.

The latest disappointment of the spring was made official Monday night, when the Florida Panthers beat the Oilers, 2-1, in Game 7 of their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 2006, which also ended in a seven-game loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.

It’s the sixth time the Dynamic Duo hasn’t reached the jump seat of a parade limo, following first-round losses to Chicago and Winnipeg, previous second-round picks against Anaheim and Las Vegas, and a happy but fruitless trip to the third round against Colorado that ended in a sweep two springs ago.

However, here we can definitively say that there will not be a seventh.

There is no chance.

But probably not for a reason that will make the “City of (once) champions smile.”

Because instead of the suits in corner offices finally quelling the angst and delivering rings by addressing chronic problems with scoring depth, inconsistent defense and porous goaltending, the question “Why can’t we win with 97 and 29?” The issue will be put out of its misery by one of the protagonists themselves.

“Boy Wonder” won’t be there.

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For those who don’t know, this playoff exit ended the penultimate season of an eight-year contract that the prolific German, now 28, signed as a precocious 21-year-old.

And given the five 100-point and three 50-goal seasons Draisaitl has produced since signing the extension, not to mention the scoring title and MVP he’s won, he’ll be looking for a gigantic raise from the $8.5 million average salary he’s been bringing home. from.

It is not an unfair expectation.

Considering that of the six NHL players with 106+ points in 2023-24, none had a minor impact on the salary cap. And only one player in the entire league, his teammate in the blue and orange cape, has more points since the contract went into effect in 2017.

Draisaitl is second, again behind McDavid, in playoff points per game (1.80 to 1.53 through Game 6) over that same stretch, well ahead of Nathan MacKinnon (1.28) in third and even more ahead of Mikko Rantanen (1.25) and Nikita Kucherov (1.23) in fourth and fifth.

And his career playoff point total (108) is good for third overall since 2016-17, though he’s come in far fewer postseason games (73) than the only non-teammate ahead of him. , Kucherov, who played 102, while Rantanen and MacKinnon have each played 81.

The difference?

Those other three guys, with four Cups between them, averaged $12 million in 2023-24.

Andrew Bershaw/Icon_Sportswire

Therefore, labeling Draisaitl (the sixth-highest-paid player in the series with the Panthers) as the sport’s greatest superstar is no stretch.

It is a fact.

It is another fact, or a series of them, that will make it unsustainable for you to stay where you are.

Although the salary cap appears to be rising at typical rates, there simply aren’t enough dollars to cover what Draisaitl would guarantee even as a “home discount,” considering the Oilers are still smarting from the $9.25 million dents Darnell Nurse will leave up 2030 and outlays of $5 million to AHL starter Jack Campbell through June 2027.

Ten players of varying importance are due to enter free agency in July alone, meaning any significant raise for Draisaitl would come at the expense of the factors that helped end the last “Cup or Bust” streak. And that’s not even considering the cash reserve that will be needed to entice McDavid to stay when his deal closes in 2026.

But let’s be real, there’s a good chance Draisaitl won’t want to stick around anyway.

While he and McDavid publicly appear no less than content kittens and haven’t strayed far from the company’s “we want to win here” line, the same can’t be said for Draisaitl’s relationship with Edmonton’s rabid media. Two years ago he was called “annoying” in a quarrel with Hall of Fame writer Jim Matheson and often comes across as impatient and uninterested in his role as team spokesman.

While writers in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and elsewhere would pose a daily challenge with aggressive questions, the combination of a change of scenery, a huge contract windfall, and the chance to make a real career as a C-1 in place of 1-A. They still make a farewell news conference at Rogers Place seem more like an easy task than a long shot.

That’s why it will feel more like a rebrand than a restructuring for the Oilers next winter (or sooner) as they face their imminent departure and try to recoup pennies on the dollar in return, effectively ending the most maddening era in the history of the franchise.

Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images

While remembering that legends Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier left town in one-sided trades remains difficult for those of a certain age, their jerseys were finally raised to the rafters along with the five championship banners they helped secure.

In the case of Draisaitl and McDavid, while the statistics are equally heady and Hall of Fame plaques are guaranteed, the long-term feelings will be much less satisfying.

Tricking the likes of Darcy Kuemper and Adin Hill into allowing the expert but less dynamic Nazem Kadri and Mark Stone to try on jewelry was difficult enough. But knowing that there’s an excellent chance that a preeminent couple like 97 and 29 will never find their way to northern Alberta again makes this Last Dance restart much more distressed.

Evan Rodriguez. Sasha Barkov. Thank you, Oilers fans. Drive home safely.

Meanwhile, hockey’s best one-two punch (certainly lately and maybe ever) shakes hands, offers platitudes and makes plans to clean out lockers during the week.

Without Cup.

Just arrested.

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